From time to time folks contact me to review things (books, products, etc.) on the blog. Depending on the item, I may or may not take the bait, but recently, I reached out to a company and asked if I could review their software – something I never do.
Last year, I discovered ESGI Software (Educations Software for Guiding Instruction) and I can’t speak highly enough for how it has transformed the often tedious job of assessing my students. Developed by a former kindergarten teacher, the software takes the often slow and painstaking process of one on one assessments and turns it into an interactive web-based process.
Here’s how it words in a nutshell. I call a sprout over to my laptop. I pull the test up and begin. I give some very simple instructions (‘Tell me the name of the letter’ or ‘What sound does this make’) and position my fingers on the Y and N keys. If they get it right, I click the Y and if not, the N. That’s it. What used to take me up to two weeks to complete is done in a day or two.
But it gets better. Before, I had pages and pages of data, but no quick or easy way to organize and utilize it… so I didn’t really use it effectively. When I got ready for conferences or report cards, I’d go through each child’s papers and make note of what I needed to report out. It was clunky, time consuming, and not very helpful.
With ESGI, I simply click on a student’s name and I can get quick simple graphs of data. I can see, in an instant, what the child knows and, more importantly, what we still need to work on.
But it gets better. I can also see my entire class data for a skill in one snapshot. With a click I can see what letters my entire class knows, and what are the letters (or sounds, or numbers, or rhyming patterns, etc.) they do not know. This is powerful stuff.
But it gets better. With my report cards and at conferences, with one click, I can print out parent letters that simply explain what letters (or sounds, numbers, etc.) the child knows and needs to work on. The software will print the letters in Spanish too – something I need!
Oh yes, it gets better. You can also print out flashcards for each child with a click to send home. Parents were amazed at the attention to detail offered at my conferences this week. ‘My child doesn’t know seven uppercase letters and you’re giving me pre-made flashcards to work on those letters at home?’ Even I was impressed with myself!
I was worried the software wouldn’t meet my needs. So far, there was only one test I needed to create to meet the specific criteria of my assessments. There is a sight word assessment built in, but it wasn’t the specific words I need to assess. I simply copied the test and then modified it to only contain our words. The entire process took me about fifteen minutes to figure out and compete.
My kids love coming over and working on the computer with me. While there are buttons on the screen for you to click with your mouse (Y or N), personally, I prefer to just place my fingers on the Y and N keys. The kids can’t see what I’m pressing and have no idea if they are acing or bombing a test, something I like.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to standard paper and pencil testing again. The company has wonderful support and any time I’ve had a question or issue (I was using the wrong login for two days and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it…) they have been prompt, helpful, and supportive. I also know they are constantly evaluating and updating the software. And since it’s web-based, as long as you have a computer with an internet connection, you can use it. It’s easy for me to log on at home and run reports or check data for planning.
Head on over to ESGI and check out their introductory video. They offer a free two month trial to feel it out. Setting up your class takes only about ten minutes. Give it a try and stop wasting so much time assessing and get back to teaching!