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Preparing for the DLM Assessment

What exactly is the DLM assessment, and how is it administered? Read on for some tips and tricks to make testing season run smoothly in your classroom!

What is the DLM Assessment?

A young boy wearing headphones is sitting in front of a laptop computer.
A few key preparation steps will set your students up for success on the DLM assessment!

In the United States, students in grades three and up are given annual standardized assessments. The DLM Assessment is one option for administering standardized assessments to students who have significant learning needs. The assessment is available in two formats: the instructionally embedded model and the year end model. Each test involves administering 8 or 9 short “testlets” to students in ELA, math, and science (if applicable- only students in certain grade levels take science assessments).

Read more about what DLM is and how it works here.

Teacher Training

A computer monitor displaying the Kite Portal is shown. It shows a red log-in box on a white background.
The Kite Portal is where you and your students will log in for the assessment.

The Kite Educator Portal is your home base for all things related to the DLM assessment. The first thing teachers must do is complete the required test administrator training. You will not be able to access any other parts of the test until your training is complete. The training takes about an hour, and will go through everything you need to know to operate the computer program on which the test is given. In addition, you will learn all of the rules and regulations related to the test.

Student Surveys for the DLM Assessment

After you complete the test administrator training, the First Contact Surveys and Personal Needs and Preferences Profiles will become available. These surveys need to be competed for each student. Your answers will inform how the test is delivered to each student.

First Contact Survey

The First Contact Survey is a set of questions about each student’s academic and functional abilities. The answers you give will allow the program to determine which testlet the student will begin their DLM assessment with. The information collected in the survey includes placement information; sensory and motor capabilities; communication needs; and academic levels. Make sure that you click on each tab in the survey, and scroll to the bottom of each page, so that you give an accurate view of each student!

Personal Needs and Preferences Profile

The Personal Needs and Preferences Profile allows you to create accessibility accommodations for students to use when they take the test. Visual, language, and audio accommodations are available. One thing to keep in mind is that one of the allowable accommodations is to have the test items read by the computer. However, the DLM assessment manual does allow for the teacher to read items out loud to students. Therefore, it is important to consider which format will work best for the individual student.

Make a Testing Plan

A view of an elementary school classroom. Several student work tables surround a blue rug.
You will need to choose a quiet area in your classroom or school building to administer the test.

The DLM is given to students individually. Students work one-on-one with the teacher to complete testlets. Generally, students will complete 8 or 9 testlets per subject. Since the testlets adjust themselves based on student performance, it may take about 15 minutes for the next one to load.

Another thing to consider is where you will administer the test. The DLM guidelines allow you to test in your classroom, as long as there is a barrier between the test-taker and the rest of the class (so they can’t see the test). If your classroom environment does not allow for a separate test-taking environment, you may need to test in a different room. (When I gave the test that way, I used a CST member’s office.) Bear in mind that this will require a substitute teacher for the rest of your class!

Prepare Your Students

A screenshot of the DLM assessment welcome screen. The test reads "Welcome back, Lisa 40!" There are two button options: take a test, and practice first.
DLM practice tests can help acclimate your students to the assessment.

One way that you can prepare your students for the test is by familiarizing them with the program. My students use a touchscreen computer to take the assessment. Others response methods may include switch systems, eye gaze, or a traditional computer mouse. Whichever way your students will express their answers, you must ensure that they are comfortable with the method. I do this by making one of my centers the computer center. My students play games or read books on the computer. So, they become acquainted with using the computer they will use for the test.

In addition, the DLM has practice tests that students can complete in the Kite Portal. These practice tests give you and your students the chance to see what the testlets and accommodations look like before you take the actual test.

Gather Materials

A variety of objects are shown on a table, including white index cards that are paper clipped together; two boxes of crayons; some colorful craft sticks; and a pink and blue striped pencil.
Many common classroom objects are used in DLM testlet questions.

One of the unique aspects of the DLM is that some of the questions utilize physical objects. On the DLM website, you can find lists of materials collections for each grade level. These lists can seem daunting! However, gathering your materials is a lot easier than it looks. First of all, you will not need every material for every student! Some students who are working at higher levels don’t require physical objects at all. Secondly, most of the materials are pretty common classroom items. Index cards, identical matching items, photographs of familiar objects (I use Stages cards!) (affiliate link), counting manipulatives, (affiliate link) and items used for art or writing are some of the common materials.

You will know which items are needed for each testlet by reading the TIP. The Testlet Information Page, or TIP, accompanies each item on the test and explains exactly what you will need. If you read the TIP and find that you don’t have the necessary items available, you can simply wait to give that testlet to the student.

After my first year of giving the DLM assessment, I decided to keep all of the items I used in a “DLM Kit” for myself. That way I have most of my materials ready to go year after year! Whenever a new item is indicated on the TIP, I just add it to my collection so it will be ready for next time.

Administer the DLM Assessment

A black computer monitor is shown on a table in a classroom. There is a keyboard and a pair of headphones next to the computer.
Students will take the DLM assessment on a computer.

After all of that hard work and preparation, you will finally be ready to administer the assessment! While there are a lot of steps leading up to the assessment, the administration is really the easy part. And I have to admit, I really enjoy the one-on-one time I get to spend with my students while they take the assessment! Plus, the feedback I get from the results is so valuable for lesson planning.

Learn more about DLM here!

Do you utilize the DLM assessment, or other standardized test, for your self-contained students? Share your tricks and tips here so we can all get through testing season together. You got this!


Use a (free) visual self assessment to encourage students to assess their own learning. Many teachers are required to provide self-assessments for student work in state testing portfolios. Use these all year long to build that skill! Grab the free visual self-assessment sheets here.

Learn more about self-assessment here.



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