10 Training and Professional Development

Chapter 10 of the Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM®) Alternate Assessment System 2015–2016 Technical Manual Update—Integrated Model (Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium, 2017a) describes the training that was offered in 2015–2016 for state and local education agency staff, the required test administrator training, and the optional professional development provided. This chapter presents the participation rates and evaluation results from 2019–2020 use of the required training and optional instructional professional development. This chapter also describes the updates made to the required test administrator training and professional development system during 2019–2020.

For a complete description of training and professional development for DLM assessments, including a description of training for state and local education agency staff, along with descriptions of facilitated and self-directed training, see Chapter 10 of the 2014–2015 Technical Manual—Integrated Model (Dynamic Learning Maps Consortium, 2016).

10.1 Required Training for Test Administrators

The 2019–2020 Required Test Administrator Training for states using the instructionally embedded model, including the modules, process activities, and post-tests, were all new because of the adoption of the instructionally embedded model beginning in 2019–2020.

Test administrators are educators who administer the DLM alternate assessments to students. Training is required annually for all test administrators. For first-time test administrators, the required training consists of four modules, each with an activity and a post-test. This training is offered in two formats: facilitated (in-person training) and self-directed (online). For returning test administrators, the required training consists of a single module and a four-part post-test with select questions taken from the post-tests for the four modules for new test administrators. The required training for returning test administrators is offered in the self-directed format only.

10.1.1 First-Time Test Administrator Training Content

Module 1 began with an overview of the DLM Consortium and a description of the student population for whom the DLM alternate assessment is intended. The module then introduced the vocabulary the DLM assessment uses (e.g., Essential Elements, test blueprint, linkage levels, nodes, learning map models, mini-maps, testlets, etc.). The module also introduced the Kite Suite components used for test administration. Then, participants were shown the characteristics of the DLM system that were designed to be optimally accessible to diverse learners. The Personal Needs and Preferences (PNP) Profile was introduced. The categories of supports the DLM system offers were explained. Finally, the module explained the test security standards all persons involved with the DLM alternate assessment must follow.

Module 2 showed an example of a computer-delivered testlet and a teacher-administered testlet. The module began with an explanation of testlet structure (i.e., engagement activity followed by items) as well as the types of items used across testlets. The example testlets were introduced using the context of their corresponding mini-maps and Testlet Information Pages (TIPs). The “familiar texts” from the DLM website were also explained in the context of the example ELA testlet.

Module 3 focused on explaining the key features of the instructionally embedded model of the DLM assessment. The fall and spring windows were explained, and the process for using instructionally embedded assessments throughout both windows was described. A cycle of instruction, assessment, reporting, and evaluating was used to illustrate the instructionally embedded process. Participants were shown how to use the test blueprints as a guide when choosing Essential Elements to ensure blueprint requirements are met for both assessment windows. Then, the First Contact survey was explained, including how teachers’ responses to the First Contact survey questions are used to help the system recommend a likely appropriate linkage level for each Essential Element. Next, use of the Instruction and Assessment Planner was described, with screen shots. Finally, the scoring process was highlighted. A distinction between progress reports and individual student score reports was made. Participants were referred to the score report helplets on the DLM website.

Module 4 concluded the required training with a tour of the DLM website. The module walked participants through the main tabs, pages, and layout of the site most pertinent to test administrators to help participants understand where to access the resources mentioned throughout the other modules of the training. The module also included a tour of DLM’s professional development website located at dlmpd.com. Module 4 concluded the required training with an explanation of the technology considerations that must be made in advance of test administration and considerations for planning assessment sessions based on school calendars and unforeseen circumstances. Allowable test administration practices and practices not allowed were listed and explained. Finally, participants were guided through the checklist for test administrators that appears in the Test Administration Manual.

10.1.2 Returning Test Administrator Training Content

This module was for returning test administrators and was provided in self-directed format only. The module was comprised of important slides from the four modules for new test administrators described above. The module focused on reviewing the components of the DLM alternate assessment system, how to use the Instruction and Assessment Planner, and test administrator responsibilities.

10.2 Instructional Professional Development

The DLM professional development system includes 51 modules that address instruction in English language arts and mathematics and support educators in creating Individual Education Programs that are aligned with the DLM Essential Elements. The complete list of module titles is included in Table 10.2. The modules are available in two formats, self-directed and facilitated, which are accessed at the DLM professional development website.

The self-directed modules were designed to meet the needs of all educators, especially those in rural and remote areas, offering educators just-in-time, on-demand training. The self-directed modules are available online via an open-access, interactive portal that combines videos, text, student work samples, and online learning activities to engage educators with a range of content, strategies, and supports. It also gives educators the opportunity to reflect upon and apply what they are learning. Each module ends with a post-test, and educators who achieve a score of 80% or higher on the posttest receive a certificate via email.

The facilitated modules are intended to be used with groups. This version of the modules was designed to meet the need for face-to-face training without requiring a train-the-trainers approach. Instead of requiring trainers to be subject-matter experts in content related to academic instruction and about the population of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, the facilitated training is delivered via video recorded by subject-matter experts instead. Facilitators are provided with an agenda, a detailed guide, handouts, and other supports required to enable a meaningful, face-to-face training. By definition, they are facilitating training developed and provided by members of the DLM professional development team.

To support state and local education agencies in providing continuing education credits to educators who complete the modules, each module also includes a time-ordered agenda, learning objectives, and biographical information about the faculty who developed and delivered the training.

During the 2019–2020 year, the professional development team at UNC Chapel Hill and the implementation team at ATLAS worked together to update several professional development modules to ensure they reflect the most recent implementation of the DLM alternate assessments. The group updated three modules: Who are Students with Significant Disabilities, The DLM Essential Elements, and DLM Claims and Conceptual Areas. The professional development team at UNC Chapel Hill also packaged professional development modules into topically-related 5- and 10-hour units to support schools and school systems in offering coherent professional development programs for their teachers who work with students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and participate in the DLM alternate assessments in English language arts and mathematics. There are five different packages at the professional development packages section of the DLM professional development website.

Other work to support teachers in providing instruction aligned with the DLM alternate assessments in English language arts and mathematics includes the development of extended descriptions of Initial and Distal Precursor linkage levels. These extended descriptions are intended to help teachers understand how these linkage levels align with the associated Essential Elements and how they can address the skills in the linkage levels in ways that support growth toward the associated Essential Elements.

10.2.1 Professional Development Participation and Evaluation

As reported in Table 10.1, a total of 10,682 modules were completed in the self-directed format from September 1, 2019, to August 31, 2020. Since the first module was launched in the fall of 2012, a total of 131,522 modules have been completed.

Table 10.1: Number of Self-Directed Modules Completed in 2019–2020 by Educators in DLM States and Other Localities (N = 10,682)
State Self-directed modules completed
Colorado 1,980
Utah 1,546
Wisconsin 1,502
New York    713
Maryland    645
Iowa    438
Illinois    432
Missouri    356
Delaware    350
Kansas    225
Arkansas    217
New Jersey    144
Rhode Island      65
Oklahoma      53
West Virginia      41
North Dakota      31
New Hampshire      21
Alaska        2
Non-DLM states and other locations 1,921

To evaluate educator perceptions of the utility and applicability of the modules, DLM staff asked educators to respond to a series of evaluation questions upon completion of each self-directed module. Three questions asked about importance of content, whether new concepts were presented, and the utility of the module. Educators responded using a four-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. A fourth question asked whether educators planned to use what they learned, with the same response options. During the 2019–2020 year, educators completed the evaluation questions 90% of the time. The responses were consistently positive, as illustrated in Table 10.2. Across all modules approximately 84% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with each statement.

Table 10.2: Response Rates and Rate of Agree or Strongly Agree on 2019–2020 Self-Directed Module Evaluation Questions

In addition to the modules, the DLM instructional professional development system has a variety of other resources and supports. These include DLM EE unpacking documents; extended descriptions of the Initial Precursor and Distal Precursor linkage levels and how they relate to grade-level EEs; links to dozens of texts that are at an appropriate level of complexity for students who take DLM assessments and are linked to the texts that are listed in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards; vignettes that illustrate shared reading with students with the most complex needs across the grade levels; supports for augmentative and alternative communication for students who do not have a comprehensive, symbolic communication system; alternate pencils for educators to download and use with students who cannot use a standard pen, pencil, or computer keyboard; and links to Pinterest boards and other online supports.

10.3 Conclusion

During the 2019–2020 year, new modules, process activities, and post-tests were introduced in the required test-administrator training for the instructionally embedded model. The professional development team at UNC Chapel Hill and the implementation team at ATLAS updated three professional development modules, packaged modules into units, and also provided extended descriptions of Initial and Distal Precursor linkage levels. Educators provided consistently positive feedback regarding the importance and relevance of the professional development modules.