Curriculum Associates Connects Assessment & Instruction

February 19, 2021: Volume 28, Number 4


Curriculum Associates (N. Billerica, MA) designs research-based print and online instructional materials, screens and assessments, and data management tools that can provide teachers and administrators with resources for teaching diverse student populations and fostering learning for all students.

The company is best known for i‑Ready, a comprehensive assessment and instruction program that connects diagnostic data and personalized instruction. User-friendly dashboards and reports with actionable data are generated to give teachers a foundational understanding of students’ strengths and areas of need based on each student’s on-grade level proficiency relative to state and national standards.

CA executive director of personalized learning and assessment Ken Tam told EER providing data on students relative to the standards for their grade level is one of the differentiators for i-Ready from other programs that use national percentile norms to evaluate student progress. National norm information can have more than a one-year time lag. This year, more than ever, teachers need to know where their students are and where to focus their instruction, Tam said.

Another differentiator is one system connecting instruction and assessment. When using multiple resource providers it can be harder to maintain alignment. At CA, instruction and assessment teams collaborate on a regular basis to prioritize creating lessons that address areas where students are struggling, according to Tam.

Responding to Pandemic

CA has released more than 100 updates in the past year, accelerating items in its product road map based on what the company was hearing from districts. Requests included more tools to address unfinished learning—when students are missing skills taught at earlier levels.

For math, prerequisite reports were created to group students based on the skills they need to be successful in the unit the teacher is about to cover. For reading, additional assessment forms for reading fluency and companion tasks on oral reading fluency were added.

Educators embraced at-home learning packs which provided materials teachers could download and send home to students as learning moved remote or hybrid. Teaching and Learning in 2020 Kits for leaders and teachers—both free and available online—provide multiple resources containing tips, best practices, printable guides and templates for managing and delivering online personalized instruction and teacher-led remote instruction using i-Ready.

CA also added a question to its assessments asking students whether they were taking the assessment in school or remotely to see and learn from differences in the two environments. In-home children performed better than in prior years and in-school children performed lower, which Tam said could indicate children at home might be getting assistance in understanding and responding to questions.

CA saw learning loss across the grade levels, with elementary students most impacted and more math deficiencies than reading. Product was adjusted to address the needs seen.

CA created additional tools for students one level below grade and other tools for students two or more grade levels behind. Teachers were encouraged to focus on grade level and maintain their expectations, but also were given scaffolding tools to provide just-in-time help to struggling students.

CA develops its own products, but also sometimes works with publishing partners. For example, if a school in California is using curriculum from Benchmark Education (New Rochelle, NY), lessons from Benchmark will appear in a teacher report.

Looking Forward

CA is creating a new reading program, initially for the middle grades, that will leverage findings from science of reading research. The company also is working to drive student engagement through culturally responsive teaching, with equity being an important element. CA wants to provide students with a mirror that reflects self and a window to the world, Tam said.


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