A Brief Guide for Selecting and Using Pre-Post Assessments
NDTAC has developed a guide titled A Brief Guide for Selecting and Using Pre-Post Assessments for State, agency, and/or facility administrators who provide education for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent, or at risk (N or D). The guide provides basic information about the ideal characteristics of a pre-post test and highlights important features to consider when requesting and evaluating information from test publishers.
The guide is intended primarily as a resource for those who are in the process of choosing a new pre-post assessment or who wish to evaluate their current testing procedures. Although few tests will have all the characteristics of an ideal pre-post test, this guide should help administrators select and use an instrument that best meets the needs of their student population.
What is meant by “pre-post testing” and why is it important?
"Pre-post testing" refers to academic achievement tests (in reading, math, and other subjects) that are given to students to assess their academic progress at the beginning and at the end of a program of instruction. Applied to students who are N or D, the tests may be administered when students enter and exit a facility.
The results of the pretest ideally reflect a student’s abilities upon entry to an educational placement and provide a baseline for the student’s current achievement level. Differences between the pretest and posttest should reflect the learning that occurred while in the facility or program.
Pre-post testing does not have to be limited to administration at entry and upon exit. Because many students leave facilities with little or no notice, there is not always time for posttesting before their next placement. Regular posttesting of academic achievement ensures that students leave a facility with as complete an educational history as possible. However, a posttest should not be given more times than the number of unique forms available for the test, and frequency of administration should follow the testing guidelines outlined by the test publisher. Computer-adaptive tests are one possible option for programs that conduct more frequent testing, as these programs often have large item banks to ensure that students will be given non-overlapping sets of items across pre- and posttest administrations.
Pre-post testing is a valuable tool for all of those involved in N or D programs.
- Students: Pre-post testing illustrates and documents students’ individual academic gain. Timely pretesting allows for accurate placement of the student upon entry to a new program, and consistent posttesting ensures that students leave a facility with updated educational records and receive credit for their progress. In addition, showing students evidence of their progress can be a powerful tool to keep them invested in their education.
- Teachers: Pre-post testing allows for real-time progress monitoring. Because multiple posttests can be administered throughout a student’s enrollment, educational gains can be monitored and instruction adjusted appropriately. Measuring academic progress through appropriately administered pre-post tests can be a useful tool in providing teachers feedback about how to better meet students’ academic needs.
- State, local, and program administrators: Aggregated
results of students’ academic progress can be used for
evaluating and improving educational programming on a broader
scale. Collecting data on student progress
Pre-Post Testing Checklist
Make sure the assessment selected is designed to be—and is used as—a pre-post test.
Verify that the test is appropriate for the populations of students served given their ages, skill levels, backgrounds, etc.
Check that the test measures the content area you want it to measure.
Consider using the same assessment as your peers (e.g., other N or D programs in the State).
Try to ensure that the conditions under which the student takes the pre- and posttests are as similar as possible.
Clearly, there are a multitude of advantages to administering pre-post assessments. However, in order to maximize these benefits, it is essential that the assessment selected be appropriate both for pre-post testing and for the specific population. For more information on these and other features of pre-post testing for the N or D population, please refer to the full document (PDF).
Related Resources from Other Federal Programs Using Pre-Post Assessments
The NRS website provides access to a searchable database of tests used in adult education programs, test characteristics, and publishers’ information. Some of the reading and math pre-post tests used in adult education programs are also used in N or D programs, especially in adult correctional facilities that serve youth who are N or D.
As part of its common measures and performance accountability system, the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) requires WIA programs to report on literacy and numeracy gains of out-of-school youth who are basic-skills deficient and receive services through the WIA. To maintain consistency with the Department of Education (ED), the ETA has aligned policies for the outcome of educational gain with the NRS. For more in-depth information about ETA’s accountability system, view a copy of the guidance letter (PDF).
Published April 2006