From AAPSNews Service
The Ann Arbor Public Schools will begin using the Northwest Evaluation Association student evaluation tool next fall, which is expected to give elementary school teachers real-time feedback on student performance and adjust more quickly to student needs.
The program will be purchased for use with students in grades K-5 and in grades 6-8 at Scarlett Middle School.
The Ann Arbor school board approved purchase of the tool on May 25 at a cost of $92,700. Of that amount, the district has applied to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation grant for $47,700; if the grant is approved, the outlay from the district will be reduced by that amount.
The testing will not replace standardized Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP tests, but will be used in addition to those tests, allowing teachers to get immediate feedback on how students are understanding concepts and moving forward in their learning.
“This adjusts in real time for students,” said Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley. “It generates a profile of what the child knows and shows us what objectives a student needs to improve upon. We’ll be able to give a much clearer picture of what our student achievement is and what we’re doing to improve it,” she added.
Dickinson-Kelley said although the mandatory MEAP will continue to be a measure for districts and individual schools, those tests are given in the fall so measure learning from a previous year. And, with results not given to the district until spring, the data is older than instructional staff would like.
The NWEA tests will be given at three points during the school year in September, January and June, and will be scheduled as assessment times as to not interfere with the use of computer labs for other learning, she added. The tests are interactive, allowing students to be asked questions based on their knowledge level of a particular subject. Each test in K-2 takes about 20 minutes; NWEA assessments in grades 3-5 will take an average of 40 minutes.
‘It will permit much more timely feedback regarding how well students are doing, will permit an assessment of student progress at various times throughout the year, and will allow teachers to make adjustments in student interventions according to what is and is not working.’ – Andy Thomas, Board of Education member
Feedback from the tests will allow teachers to immediately address concerns with students not making progress on a particular lesson and also allow students who are making great strides in an areas to move ahead at a faster pace. It will offer pre and post assessments for summer school and help the district to measure intercessions during school breaks in the Mitchell-Scarlett Partnership with the University of Michigan School of education.
The NWEA is also expected to play a greater role in giving parents feedback about their children’s progress. “It’s student-driven instead of top-down,” Dickinson-Kelley added. “It’s in real time and will allow staff to have meaningful conversations with parents.”
The program comes to Ann Arbor at a point in which the state Department of Education is changing the standards by which it measures student MEAP results next year. Dickinson-Kelley said the NWEA will allow districts to get ahead of the curve in helping students and raising the bar on what they learn. This is particularly important, she said, for students making great progress, but who have not yet reached proficiency targets.
Professional development for staff is expected to take place over the summer, with implementation in the classroom beginning in the fall. Dickinson-Kelley said the program could eventually expand to grades K-8, assisting the district with assessments as algebra reaches down into middle school grades.
In May, AAPS Board Trustee Andy Thomas wrote an opinion column for AnnArbor.com explaining his view of the NWEA program. He noted that this will be the first time that Ann Arbor students in grades K-2 will be tested, as MEAPs are given starting in the third grade. “So the NWEA product will allow teachers to identify struggling students and provide appropriate interventions at a much earlier age,” he said.
“I strongly believe that the NWEA product will be an outstanding tool for teachers in our district,” he noted. “It will permit much more timely feedback regarding how well students are doing, will permit an assessment of student progress at various times throughout the year, and will allow teachers to make adjustments in student interventions according to what is and is not working.”