|Back-to-school starts early with two new testing days|
|Written by Darci Tomky|
New to this year’s August schedule are two testing days prior to the start of school, an innovative change that the Re-1J district anticipates will be beneficial to both students and teachers.
Letters are being sent out this week to inform students in grades K-10 of their four-hour testing time either Monday, Aug. 13 or Tuesday, Aug. 14. The schedule groups together families by last name, so only 10-17 kids per grade will be testing at a time.
Superintendent Bret Miles said Holyoke is trying this new approach for two main reasons: to better inform teachers and to increase instructional time.
“It’s our desire to get more relative data to the teachers more quickly,” said elementary principal Kyle Stumpf. This way they will have the most current data on the first day of school and can plan more effectively based on the various academic levels in their classrooms.
Results from Colorado’s TCAP assessments (formerly CSAP) are just becoming available from last spring’s testing. This data will be paired with results from the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests given during the August testing days.
Grades 1-10 will use the computer labs to take the NWEA tests, which cover reading, math and science. This test is used for growth comparison since students will be tested before the school year, in the middle of the year and at the end of school in the spring.
Results of the NWEA are available immediately, so teachers can begin using the information as they plan for the first day of school.
Part of the school’s mission is to use data to drive their instruction, said Stumpf. They can now analyze the data from both TCAP and NWEA assessments during teacher inservice days, especially in their “data dialogue” sessions.
It all ties into curriculum, said JR/SR high school principal Susan Ortner. “We want to deliver instruction appropriate to each kid.”
Ortner added that these tests are part of the older students’ incentive plan for finals exemption. The students really want to do well on the tests, and they even have goal cards to see what kind of a score they should strive for.
In addition to the NWEA assessments, students in kindergarten through third grade will work one-on-one with a teacher on the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) reading assessment.
Students enrolled in the ESL program will also be taking WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment), a new statewide English language proficiency assessment.
Individual teachers may also choose to give additional pre-tests to their students during the August testing days.
Besides the valuable data gained from the before-school testing, students and teachers can now establish routines during the first two weeks of school without being disrupted by testing windows.
“We’re helping make every day count,” said Miles, noting the importance of setting schedules and routines the students can rely on, especially in the elementary school.
Before-school testing days have been used by other schools in the area, so Holyoke hopes to find it successful for its students as well.
District staff encourages all students to make every effort to attend their scheduled testing time on either Aug. 13 or 14. Those who do not test early will be pulled out for testing during school and will miss out on something else.
Stumpf said they have some flexibility with the Aug. 13-14 schedule, so parents should call the school if they need to arrange a different time. There will be extra staff at the school to help with students if their siblings take longer on tests than they do.
The district is also excited to be able to use the testing days to have parents complete student registration. New to this year is the ability to register on a computer, so parents won’t have to fill out the same paperwork year after year.
If parents can take a few extra minutes while their children are testing to fill out the registration, the teachers will have accurate information on their students’ individual needs before the school year even starts.
Between gaining valuable student data, freeing up the school schedule and making registration more convenient for parents, district staff thinks these new testing days will be worth the effort, and they hope the community will be supportive of it.
Anyone with questions can contact Miles at 854-3634, Stumpf at 854-3411 or Ortner at 854-2284.
Holyoke Enterprise Aug. 2, 2012