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Test Item Analysis

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Proof Points...

There is a fine distinction between teaching to a student Learning Expectation and teaching to the test. Instruction aimed at helping students meet targeted student learning goals provides a rich and deep learning experience that offers much greater potential for being retained by the student than through approaches whose primary goal is success on the test.

The Test Item Analysis is an approach that employs released test items as the starting points for designing standards-based instruction. After the test item is thoroughly analyzed, the focus shifts toward researching the associated Learning Expectation using information found in the national standards documents. The TIA process outlined in provides a mechanism for developing an engaging standards-based lesson with an accompanying formative assessment.


The Way It Works...

The Test Item Analysis (TIA) follows a three-step guided format that employs a number of tools found in As with most STEMresources tools, prompts are included to help teachers complete a structured template.

  • During Step I: Item Analysis, teachers use the Standardized Test Item Finder tool to locate a released test item from 50 state websites or NAEP and ACT sources. Often teachers will look for items in testing categories for which student performance has lagged or in topic areas that have proven to be problematic for instruction.

The selected test item is then subjected to a careful review. Teachers identify the major Concepts and Big Ideas that students would need to understand to successfully complete this test item. The requisite process (inquiry or problem solving) skills that are embedded in the test item and the cognitive demand as indicated by the Webb Depth of Knowledge level are identified.

  • In Step II: Standards Alignment, attention shifts to making a link between the test item and the student Learning Expectation with which it is associated in the Tennessee standards. Teachers use the Content Clarification tool to investigate issues related to teaching and learning this content. The template also directs teachers to a website where the Atlas of Science Literacy’s Strand Maps can be downloaded.

  • In Step III: Instructional Alignment, teachers select a template from the Lesson Builder Collection and an assessment for the Assessment Collection to design a learning experience that is directly related to the content found in the original test item.

Completing a TIA enables a teacher to forge careful links between standards, assessment, and instruction. includes a number of Teacher Work Samples that contain instructional materials that were developed through the TIA process.


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Solomon, P.G. (2002). The assessment bridge. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.