What is the purpose of testing and what tests do our students take?
Assessment is important because our goal is student learning. We may have taught the information, but until we test or assess students, we aren’t sure if learning has occurred. There are definitely multiple ways to assess students, some as easy as observing them as they perform regular work in the classroom. We give a math test at the end of a unit to see if they can perform the newly learned skills. We test math facts to see if students are gaining needed fluency. We do a weekly spelling test to know if students have mastered the spelling patterns introduced that week. Generally, after each lesson throughout the school day, some type of assessment is given to students so they can show by their performance their understanding of the concepts. The teacher uses the information gained from assessments to direct their efforts in the following lessons.
We also have some more general types of testing in our school. Three times a year we administer the CBM tests in reading and math. These are quick assessments that let us know school-wide how students are doing. The reading test is three 1-minute readings of passages on a student’s grade level. The math is an 8-minute computation test. We think of it as a “temperature check.” It tells us the overall health of a school, grade, or class. It helps us allocate resources where the greatest need is. When students score lower than expected on these assessments, we can then administer other longer types of assessments that help us diagnose what holes there may be in a student’s learning. Reports from this testing are sent home to parents, and it tracks a student’s progress from all previous grades.
The state requires that we inform parents of students in 1st through 3rd grade of their reading progress. The CBM testing gives us that information. This helps parents to provide additional support for their students who may be struggling.
Our biggest high-stakes test is the SAGE. This state-required assessment is for students in 3rd -12th grades. It replaced the former state testing known as CRTs (Criterion-Referenced Tests). This test is a longer, more in-depth test that assesses the state standards taught at the grade levels. It is done at the end of the academic year. It is not just a multiple-choice assessment. Students are asked to construct responses, manipulate graphs or tables, and choose all answers that may be correct.
As with all testing, we want to be sure we are adjusting our teaching and allocating our resources to best meet the needs of students. Student learning and success is our ultimate goal.
--Principal Julie Fielding