By: Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP and Terri Soutor, CEO
Put our customers first.
It’s a simple statement, but it’s at the core of our values. More importantly, it’s been the driving force behind our Summer Release, which is full of new innovations and improvements for the 2017-18 school year. These enhancements are designed to make the system faster and easier for teachers and administrators to use.
First and foremost, this release debuts our next-generation application platform, which leverages best practices in cloud-based application and data architecture. We’ve made a significant investment in staff and consultants, a state-of-the-art technology architecture, and best-in-class quality testing procedures. We’ve employed third-party experts to consult with us through every step of the architecture, development, data migration, quality, performance, and volume/capacity testing, and deployment of the FAST application in our vastly improved tech environment for next school year. This work will provide your district with the best formative assessment solution to support MTSS/RTI with the very best technology framework for long-term, sustainable, scalable use for years to come.
But that’s not all! Additional application enhancements will include:
- Updated system navigation
- Improved and updated online training modules
- Optional paper-and-pencil version of earlyMath assessments
- Updated benchmarks and norms for the 2017-18 school year
Updated System Navigation
Recently the FAST application was updated with a “facelift” and additional features. In July 2017, users will see a new menu system. This new layout will make it easier for users to find and use key features with fewer mouse clicks. Key enhancements include a user “home” tab as well as function tabs for training and resources, screening, progress monitoring, and reporting all on the main page. In addition, specialist and manager users will be able to “toggle” between user types more easily.
Revised Training Modules
With the release of many new assessments in the last two years, the training modules have been updated to include more details about each assessment. There are also more practice activities now for the individually administered items (e.g., earlyReading, earlyMath, CBMreading). All of the certification quizzes have been updated, however, it will be up to each school to decide whether staff will need to re-certify. Prior certifications will remain in the system. There is a new training module about FastBridge reports, as well as an updated module that shows the new navigation and layout of the application.
earlyMath Paper-and-Pencil Option
A paper-and-pencil option for administration and scoring of earlyReading items has been available for several years. Based on many user requests, we have now created a paper-and-pencil option for the earlyMath tool. The downloads for this version will be located with the other downloadable files. Please note that all FastBridge assessments were designed to be administered and scored online in order to save teachers’ time. We strongly recommend the online method instead of paper-and-pencil but understand that some users have limited technology resources and need a paper-and-pencil option.
Updated Benchmarks and Norms
All of the benchmark scores and norms have been analyzed by our team of researchers and psychometricians and updated to reflect the additional data collected during the past school year. In many cases, the scores have not changed, but in some cases they have been adjusted. Users are encouraged to consult the FastBridge Benchmark and Norms Interpretation Guide available in the application for more information about interpreting assessment scores. Also, note that many reports now include more details about both benchmark and norms.
Training and Support
In order to assist users in learning about and using the enhanced application features, we will be providing a number of new resources. The online Knowledge Base provides a searchable database of information about all FastBridge tools. The revised online training modules are available on-demand at any time for all users. We will continue with our webinar series, Ask the Experts, to provide information about how to use FastBridge tools as part of a multi-tier system of support (MTSS). Additional webinars that introduce users to the system, as well as the new navigation, are planned as well. The Help Desk and Live Chat features remain available for individual questions.
We are excited about the forthcoming enhancements (available July 10, 2017) to the FAST application and hope that they will make your work easier in the upcoming school year. Until then, enjoy the summer!
Dr. Rachel Brown is FastBridge Learning’s Senior Academic Officer. She previously served as Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Southern Maine. Her research focuses on effective academic assessment and intervention, including multi-tier systems of support, and she has authored several books on Response to Intervention and MTSS.