By: Yvette Aranas
The idea of “fidelity” is often discussed in the context of interventions. Interventions should be implemented with fidelity, meaning that the teacher is doing it in the way that it is supposed to be done. We can't be certain that an intervention is working if it is being implemented incorrectly. This is why many intervention programs include scripted procedures so that teachers can do them correctly and consistently.
The FastBridge Learning team believes that fidelity is just as important when administering assessments. We are aware that there are times when we may be tempted to go off script and make a few tweaks to the administration rules. For instance, the procedure of a test may seem complex, and some examiners might make changes to the procedure to make it a little easier to administer. Or sometimes, an examiner might choose to disregard the test guidelines in order to give a struggling student a chance to succeed.
When administering any test, we urge test examiners to look at the assessment procedures carefully before administering anything and to follow the procedures exactly how they were written. These procedures are often created for a reason. With FastBridge Learning, our administration and scoring procedures were developed based on research and expert advice, and we cannot assume that a student's performance is measured with validity if the assessment was done without fidelity.
Fidelity is important when administering any type of assessment. For example, when using the same screening assessment to identify struggling students within one grade level, we want to make sure that the same procedures are being done across all students; otherwise, we might end up missing students who should be identified. Fidelity is also crucial when monitoring students' progress. When collecting data on students' progress over a period of time, many students' data aren't always clear due to various factors. Because students' progress monitoring data may fluctuate and fail to show a clear pattern of improvement, we especially need to make sure that we are administering the assessment tools correctly and in the same exact way from one testing session to the next. Failing to do so could contribute to the inconsistency in students’ data.
How can examiners make sure that they are administering an assessment with fidelity? Assessments should have a way to train users how to administer an assessment. On the FastBridge Learning website, we have many training modules for our assessments that include video demonstrations and opportunities to practice administering and scoring. We strongly recommend users to go through these training modules before using the assessments.
Many assessments also provide a fidelity checklist, which outlines all the steps that an examiner must do to administer an assessment correctly. One experienced test examiner can use the checklist while observing a peer and provide feedback on the areas that need improvement. Here at FastBridge Learning, we have fidelity checklists for most of our assessments in the training section.
In addition to fidelity checklists, FastBridge Learning also has a certification process so that teachers and other examiners could master an assessment before using it with students at their schools. Certification includes a quiz and a few opportunities to give an assessment to a student from a pre-recorded test administration. District managers have the option to require educators to pass the certification process before they benchmark or progress monitor their students.
Yvette Arañas is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. She was a part of FastBridge Learning’s research team for four years and contributed to developing the FAST™ reading assessments. Yvette is currently completing an internship in school psychology at a rural district in Minnesota.