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At-Home Progress Monitoring During School Closures

by Victoria Locke, PhD on May 6, 2020

The worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on schools across the country. School and district administrators are considering whether using Istation at home, especially the progress monitoring tool, is an effective way to monitor student progress and provide online instruction for their students during the school closures. 

What does Istation provide to districts and schools?

Istation provides formative assessments, known as Istation’s Indicators of Progress (ISIP™), for progress monitoring in reading, math, and Spanish literacy. Istation also provides supplementary curriculum for students. Istation will route a student to a place in the curriculum based on their score on the formative assessment. Istation’s at-home curriculum, known as Ipractice, allows students to select activities that are appropriate for their reading or math ability. Schools and districts have the option to select the formative assessment, supplementary curriculum, or both.

Istation made progress monitoring available at home shortly after schools closed in March and April of 2020. Progress monitoring provides teachers and parents valuable information regarding a student’s progress in critical reading and math skills. When used correctly, formative assessment can help teachers provide individualized instruction based on students’ needs.

Testing at home is different from testing under more controlled conditions at the school, and several considerations need to be taken into account before schools or teachers make a decision on whether the scores obtained at home can be considered reliable and valid for informing instruction.

Access to Technology

The first consideration is whether students have access to technology at home. Some households will have a limited number of devices with multiple children needing them for school. Other students may not have access to tablets, computers, or headphones, and other students may not have access to the internet or a reliable internet connection.

Home Instruction

There will also be differences in the amount and type of instruction the student is receiving at home. Students who have access to technology and can have video or phone conferences with their teacher will have an advantage, as will students who have parents in the home who can help them with assignments or homework. Other students will not have these advantages and may receive little or no instruction.

Testing Environment in the Home

Typically, the Istation assessments are administered in the classroom with proctoring by a teacher. The teacher is responsible for ensuring that the classroom is quiet, the students are on task, and the testing conditions are conducive for students to do their best on the assessment. Testing conditions at home will vary widely, students may receive assistance from parents or siblings, and the environment may be disruptive.

Are ISIP Scores Reliable?

Preliminary analysis of Istation assessments administered at home indicates that most students have scores similar to previous months that could be used to inform instruction if educators take into account students’ individual home environment situations. However, we do not recommend they be used for any high-stakes decisions.

Teachers can identify the reliability of the assessment by looking at previous months’ data and the student’s overall trendline. If the student’s score is unexpectedly high or low, then the score is unreliable and should not be used to make instructional decisions.

Recommendations for Administrators and Teachers

Students who have access to technology, teachers, and parents who can help deliver instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely experience less learning loss than other students when they return to school. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds will likely experience more hardship, and teachers may not always be aware of what occurs in the home that may prevent students from participating in online instruction. Therefore, Istation is making the following recommendations for the use of progress monitoring and the Istation curriculum.


    • Note that Istation flags assessments that were administered at home.
    • Scores from these assessments can help inform instruction, guide students and parents for at-home learning, and monitor progress.
    • Scores from tests administered outside the school should not be used for any high-stakes decisions.


    • Teachers should evaluate the scores based on the previous trendline to determine if the scores are valuable for informing instruction. If the scores appear to be out of pattern, teachers should make instructional decisions based on the overall trendline and not the score obtained at home.
    • We recommend students be assessed monthly. If a student’s scores appear out of pattern, an on-demand assessment can be administered.
    • Remind parents that the assessment will help place students in the supplementary curriculum.
    • Students should not be penalized if they do not participate in online instruction using Istation since they may not have access to the resources to do so. Students who are participating may have advantages that other students do not have.
    • Visit our school closures page to find resources, videos, and more to help parents get started with Istation at home.

Looking for ways to share this important information with students’ parents and guardians? Visit this blog for detailed information on what parents will see at home.

Topics: At Home, Educator Tips