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Monday, August 22, 2011

Computerized testing, report cards, and more

Wondering about how your child's progress is monitored, assessed and evaluated?

Well, the teachers have all sorts of ongoing systems and strategies, and you can find out more at Curriculum Night on September 15, where you'll have kid-free time to talk to the teacher about this stuff, and at Parent-Teacher Conferences just before Thanksgiving (either the three days before t-giving, or if you take that week as vacation, you'll schedule an evening time somewhere around then).

Here are a few:

Computerized MAP testing (Measures of Academic Progress)
  • Computer-based adaptive reading and math assessment, last year given in fall, winter and spring, but this year maybe only twice... can't remember the final decision on this but I remember it as a topic at PTA meetings.  
  • Non-readers use headphones.  Yup, kindergarteners take the test, too.
  • Allows parents and teachers to see student's progress from one period to the next, compare to national averages on a percentile-type basis, and identify need for additional class material, etc.    
  • Hugely contentious in its inaugural first year, for the standardized testing component, the computer usage, the extra work for teachers, and the amount of time it takes for students/staff/volunteers, so it will be great fun to see the politics of how things pan out in 2011-2012.   My kid *loved* the MAP tests and personally, I liked seeing that his test scores increased over the year (quantifies actual learning, to me), but I understand the myriad parental and staff concerns.
  • It's supposed to be used as another helpful teaching tool, rather than a numerically comparative test, BUT it is used as the basis for entry into the AP (Advanced Placement) programs, like Lowell... last year students had to score 85%+ to even be considered for AP testing.  There are probably workarounds, and it might have changed this year, but I don't know - wasn't something we had on our radar.
  • Possibly useful link: http://www.nwea.org/products-services/computer-based-adaptive-assessments/map%C2%AE-primary-grades

Report Cards
  • Report cards are prepared and sent home in kidmail three times a year - the first time will be right before the Thanksgiving parent-teacher conferences, so you can review together.
  • Shows progress in reading, writing, math, art, gym, social skills, science, etc.  Most items are measured on a scale of 'above standard', 'at standard', or 'still working on it'.  Generally pretty comprehensive.
  • Although there are no set parent-teacher conferences after the November ones, you can always schedule a time to chat with your teacher.
  • I feel like there is a lot of detail in these assessments

Ongoing reading and writing assessments
  • Last year, our student had weekly or biweekly reading reviews with the teacher.  Each week, the students brought home a book appropriate to their reading level based on these reviews.  The books had been given an alphabetical label for difficulty (A=easiest), so you'd see your child moving from A at the start of the year, through maybe K by the end.  Different for every kid, of course.
  • Ask your teacher about reading and writing workshops, and science journals.

One last thing - if your kindergartener isn't reading at all yet, that's normal.  If your kindergartener is reading chapter books without pictures already, that's normal too.  Mixed grade classes are better able to adapt to a wide range of abilities, and allows matching of experienced readers/writers with newer reader/writers.

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