Sunday, May 25, 2014

McMahon Kindergarten Standardized Assessments (Updated 7/31/14)

 Because I got SO much information when I met with the Asst. Principal again, I am going to continue this in a new post instead of updating here. 

This post is by no means an attack on McMahon as a school or its teachers.  Rather, it is a way of sharing information with other parents.  I was shocked when I learned that my local school administered a computerized standardized tests with in weeks of the start of school for Kindergarteners.  I want other parents to know what I have learned.  All of this information on which tests and resources are used was given to me by the school.  

This is a work in progress.  I will add to it the more I learn and collect.

Before I get to the assessments, a couple points about why you should care about assessments used:
  • Standardized tests do not show a full, or sometimes even accurate, picture of a child.  
  • None of these tests are designed to rate teachers or schools, but are being used to.  
  • Testing and the activities necessary to prepare go against research and best practices about early elementary education.  

  1. Kindergarten Screening (I did not write down the name of the test). 
    • Interview assessment. Asks child to count and identify colors, letters, body parts, and basic personal information. Asks child to preform gross and fine motor skills.
    • Administered at K screening, but public PreK students compare scores to four year old version to determine a growth percentage.
  1. NWEA (Northwestern Evaluation Association)
    • Computerized multiple choice exam. Students K-2 (?) wear headphones to hear the text read by the computer program. Literacy and math. Designed to test local standards. Administered fall, winter, spring.
  1. Fontas and Pinnell (Hienmann)
    • Interview assessment. Uses a sight word list and leveled readers. Test administrator completes error analysis to identify reading problems. Also a comprehension component. Administered fall, winter, spring.
  1. Aimsweb (Pearson)
    • Interview assessment. Short and timed. Early literacy and early numeracy. Focuses on speed because testing fluency. Administered fall, spring, with winter as necessary.
  1. Smarter Balance – Coming Spring 2015?
    • Computerized multiple choice exam. Specifically aligned to CC standards.  
    • Replacing NECAP and SAT.  
    • This article from Ed Week explains that Smarter Balance is the company 17 of the states writing CCSS tests are choosing to use.  

Fall= ?
Winter= ?
Spring= late April / early May

Even though they are not standardized assessments, I would like to include the following information.

For literacy instruction, McMahon uses the Daily Five approach.  It was a book written by two teachers sharing a way to manage literacy instruction time.  Here is their web site.  It is primarily whole language based with only time for phonics instruction during the word work time.

For math instruction, McMahon has purchased for the 2014 school year the My Math series of textbooks published by Pearson / McGraw Hill.  Best link I could find right now. 

My current list of questions about these assessments:
  • Who made the decisions to adopt these assessments? 
  • Are the same assessments used across the district?
  • Which months correspond to the administration of each test?  Currently, I know Spring NWEA is late April for literacy and early May for math.  
  • Do all three assessments count toward the 20% of teacher evaluations?  Currently, I am under the impression that it is only the NWEA. 
  • How are scores used to calculate teacher effectiveness?  Currently, I believe that students are given a target goal for their end of year score.  If the student does not hit the goal, that is a failure towards the teacher.  
  • Do standardized assessments count toward promotion and retention?
  • Why use three standardized assessments?  How are they not redundant?  
  • Why are these assessments better than locally created assessments, especially considering the skill level involved for K content?
  • How do these assessments relate to CCSS obligations?
  • How are the assessments explained to the students?  Also, what rewards and consequences in place for performance?
  • For each assessment, how is the data used?  Especially, is it used to group students?
  • For each assessment, is test prep done?  Frequency? Duration? What does it look like?
  • Are local / teacher created assessments used to collect the same data?
  • For just NWEA: How can I know which standards the test covers?
  • For just F&P: 
    • Is a packaged literacy program also used?
    • Are the students choices about what to read ever limited by their letter score?
    • What about pre-readers?  Wouldn't that yield no data if they could  not read the sight words or decode the reader?
  • For just Aimsweb: 
    • How often is it administered, including formal and practice?  (Web site states you can do it bi-weekly with their 33 varieties!)
    • If using daily five, do all the skills for this test get practiced during word work time?
    • How often are students given timed assessments like this in class?
    • Why use a standardized assessment for these skills?
My most recent request for a meeting (6/1 via email) to discuss these questions has thus far gone unanswered.  Should be meeting with the Asst. Principal 7/31 and will be asking all of these questions.  I will revise with the answers. 

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