Marking a shift, Arkansas signs on with digital assessment company


The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has given a leading pre-K-12 company’s assessment product approval for use in K-2 classrooms, marking a switch from paper to digital assessment technology for the state.

Renaissance Star 360, the new assessment suite from Renaissance, “allows educators to see grade-level mastery down to the sub-skill level — making it possible to know precisely what students have mastered, the goals they need to reach and the optimal path for proficiency,” according to an official release announcing ADE’s approval.

Kimberley Friedman, spokesperson for ADE, told EdScoop that the decision to move toward a “computer adaptive assessment” was a two-year long process for the state, beginning in 2014.

The contract between Renaissance and Arkansas could run through June 30, 2024, and represents a shift away from the traditional method of assessment, Friedman said, and a “move to something that was immediate, age-appropriate and useful for instructional purposes.”

The introduction of new assessment management software into K-12 classrooms has become critical for educators and administrators to get right — a recent market survey conducted by Canvas by Instructure, in conjunction with the new release of Gauge, its AMS product, revealed that just 50 percent of teachers receive actionable student performance data from their assessment systems.

The Renaissance assessment tool provides educators with research-validated, state-specific data in under 20 minutes, according to the company, and fits the ADE’s assessment solution standards.

“Star 360 provides educators more information in less time,” said Thelma Forte, superintendent at Mineral Springs School District in Arkansas, in an official statement. “The program assesses the breadth and the depth of the Arkansas standards, and the resulting data and reporting makes it easy for us to track student mastery.”

“It helps us answer key questions about our students — everything from the skills and concepts they’ve mastered and what they’re ready to learn next to which students may need intervention, or how they’re responding to the intervention,” Forte added. “Instruction is meaningful, individualized and effective due to information derived from the assessments.”

Renaissance has participated in ADE-hosted K-2 assessment events this summer, and is “offering districts regional professional development and product training as part of the Star 360 approval,” according to the statement.