According to the Center for Assessment, “Opportunity-to-learn (OTL) has evolved from a focus on whether students have had sufficient access to instruction or content linked to particular concepts, to a more robust conception regarding the conditions and resources provided to schools to enable students to succeed.”[1] To enhance educational equity and accelerate student learning recovery post-pandemic, adding OTL items to your assessments is a sound strategy.

Tip 1: Design OTL Questions with the End in Mind

Before you begin implementing OTL in interim or even classroom testing, determine what you want to do with the data. OTL can focus a lens on issues such as:

  • Equity, for example: “I had the materials I needed to study [concept] at home” or “The materials available at my school helped me understand [concept].”
  • Instruction: “My teacher covered this material in a way I could understand” or “The independent study work that I was given helped me understand what my teacher was covering in the classroom instruction.”

Tip 2: Craft OTL Questions as—or More—Carefully as Any Other Assessment Item

OTL questions, by their very nature, delve into potentially uncomfortable areas. Design OTL items with sensitivity to both the teacher and the student to obtain useful, honest answers. For district-level interim assessments, you may be able to promise anonymity, but that’s not possible for classroom assessments. If you are designing these questions at the district level, make a bank of them available to your classroom teachers, so they don’t have to craft their own. Benefits include teacher ease of use; uniform, aggregable data; and consistently sensitive questions for students across all of their classes.

See our blog post “10 Tips to Writing Better Assessments for Measuring Student Achievement” for more tips on writing high-quality test items. These tips apply to OTL questions just as much as they apply to subject-area questions.

Tip 3: Actually Use the Data You Receive

Nothing is more frustrating than being asked for feedback you know will be ignored. Before you begin including OTL items in your assessments, have a plan to act on the intelligence you receive from them.

  • Create a plan outline that defines what you will do if the answers indicate an issue. Do students need more or better materials? Make sure you know how and when you will provide those before asking. Is there an issue with a teacher’s capabilities around teaching a concept? Have a plan in place to provide support and enhanced PD.
  • If you’re a district leader, plan to educate your teachers on how to use the OTL data to enhance their interpretation of test scores.
  • If you’re a teacher, have a plan in place for how (or even whether) you can address uncovered issues in the classroom.


Adding OTL items to your assessment strategy can be an effective way to uncover systemic and situational issues you might otherwise never learn.

Did you know? Scantron has tenured, expert assessment developers ready to help you with OTL questions or any other assessment development support you nee