Assessment plays an important role in measuring student learning over time. Given the increasing legislative focus on annual standardized test results over the past 15 years, the term assessment has developed a negative stereotype.
For years, teachers have used different types of assessments to determine what students are learning, what they may be struggling with, and where each individual student is in their learning process. Many of us remember taking spelling tests, weekly quizzes and unit or chapter tests when we are in school. I'm sure many also remember getting a quiz back from the teacher with score (20/25) at the top, and that score is what went into the gradebook. What is changing in CCA schools is the structure of the those daily, weekly and unit tests and the way we use assessment data.
CCA is in the process of aligning our curriculum to Iowa Core standards in Reading and Math. As we do this work, teachers are learning to use assessments that are aligned to curriculum and standards to help them better understand how students are learning. Teachers are working together to better understand what assessment scores mean and to help identify areas where students are learning well and areas where students need additional help. Teachers then use this information to determine how best to address student learning needs, either on an individual basis or as a group.
This collaborative work is being done on Wednesday afternoons in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). These PLCs look a bit different between elementary, middle and high school, but that's OK because student learning needs are different at each level. A big step at the elementary level was bringing teachers from all of our elementary buildings together to do this work. District-wide teams in grades K-5 are meeting every week this year.
The best known assessments we use are the Iowa Assessments (formerly known as ITBS and ITED). These assessments are given every year in April for grades 2-11. CCA Iowa Assessment performance information can be found at the Iowa Department of Education website.
The district is also a long standing user of the Northwest Educational Assessments MAP tests in reading, math and science. These assessments are designed to provide information about how students are learning through the course of a school year. The results of these tests are shared with families during PLP meetings.
Elementary schools started using the FAST suite of assessments for K-5 in 2012. These tools are provided by the State of Iowa and are given three times during the school year to measure student growth in reading rate, accuracy and comprehension. In an effort to limit the use of standardized tests, elementary students who take the reading comprehension part of FAST do not take the reading MAP test.