Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Explanation of the difference between ARIS and Acuity.

I asked our "data specialist" to write something up to explain the difference. Below you can see what he wrote. We are still checking to see if there are other ways for teachers to assign groups in Acuity instead of individually. Before the "enhancement" it was much easier to assign groups. I think one of the key issues is "time". When do teachers have the time to access and communite with others with these DOE tools? Lisa North, teacher.

Subject: ARIS vs. Acuity

Acuity is a CTB/McGraw-Hill corporate contract application with the DOE, offering occasional hard-copy student assessments, and online reporting for teachers and instruction for students. This is how they describe it:

Acuity includes Predictive, Instructionally Targeted, and Item Bank Assessments. Predictive Assessments simulate New York State Tests and measure student growth. Instructionally Targeted Assessments (ITAs) were designed with New York City educators to measure skills commonly taught within a specific instructional period, and may be further customized by individual schools. The Item Bank may be used by educators at any time to build assessments or create classroom assignments.

Once students' have taken these city-wide scheduled ELA and Math assessments, the results are posted on the Acuity web-pages. Teachers access their class results and assign students instruction on those skills they have failed. Utilizing their User IDs and Passwords, students take online tutorials, reviews and tests. (With headphones, these can be read to them.) Teachers monitor their progress mastering these skills. Teachers can assign skills tutorials at grade levels, and lower or higher grade levels. Students with home Internet access can do this work there.

Teachers report that this is a very useful application, but requires their savvy computer skills and time to assign and monitor student progress. School-based Testing Coordinators can access all student/class data, assign instruction, generate Excel reports, and fix errors. Acuity offers free professional development opportunities to schools.

ARIS, on the other hand, is a DOE ATS-based reporting application. Here is its online front page description:

The New York City Department of Education’s Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS) provides a single place where educators can find important information to use to accelerate student learning.
ARIS provides New York City educators with a secure online platform for:
  • Exploring data they can use to improve student outcomes
  • Sharing what they have learned by publishing documents and taking part in discussions and blogs
  • Finding other educators facing similar challenges
  • Creating collaborative communities to solve problems together
  • Parents log in to ARIS via the Parent Link

It reports class and student data, for all students in the system. Class pages include assessment data for current students, with links to individual student pages. Student pages include biographical, attendance, and standardized assessment data. Attendance and assessment data are cumulative; each student page includes data for the last four years since ARIS has been in existence. This data is organized by current class and classroom teachers can only access their class data, like in Acuity. ARIS data is also available for parents through the Parent Link, so that parents can track data online for their own children. ARIS allows for the grouping of students for inquiry purposes, but not for assigning them study or test through ARIS, unlike Acuity.

Additionally, teachers and administrators within a school must now create Inquiry Teams through ARIS to look at student data and share strategies to address particular teaching and learning praxis. This sharing is now also taking place among teachers, administrators, and DOE bureaucrats citywide through the Connect application in ARIS. One may belong to several different communities besides school-based ones depending on one's responsibilities and is used as a communication tool within that group.

For instance, I belong to the Data Specialists and North Brooklyn Tech Liaison communities and receive notices and shared information from many contributors citywide; anybody within the community can post resources through the Connect application, which also includes Discussions, Blogs, Wikis, and Resource tabs. I found the Resource page very useful when the DOE posted item analysis for NYS's ELA and Math tests for our 4th and 5th grade students. With this I was able to use to create Excel spreadsheets for each current class detailing exact standards that students got wrong on those tests. This gave teachers a sense of what common weaknesses existed in their students' understanding of key concepts or skills and could, then, inform their differentiated groupings and instruction.

There are levels of access to ARIS data: Teacher, Testing Coordinator, and Administrator. I have the status of Testing Coordinator, which allows me access to the data of all students in all classes. With this access I can generate cross-class and cross-grade graphic reports, in the Reports interface, useful to compare student achievement by class or grade.

Deb Meier commented:
I read this and it gives me chills. Start the paragraph below that beings "Once students' have taken..." and see if this matches any good definition of what teaching or learning or being educated is all about. It feels like a satire from 1984 or the like.

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