Measuring What Matters During a Pandemic | #teachforamerica | #kids

At University Academy, Knapp and her team spent the first few weeks of the school year helping students and families get acclimated to distance learning and assessing whether they had the devices, technology, and support to connect from home. Knapp met with parents, caretakers, and even daycare providers to make sure students would be supported with remote learning.

Later in the fall, students completed their first round of virtual formative assessments. Knowing that young learners would need extra assistance, Knapp and her team met individually with each of their K-2 students for live one-on-one sessions over Zoom, often over multiple 20-minute increments. The team used an in-house assessment for math and The Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment for reading. Teachers and staff presented students with questions on math and English language arts, and students talked through how they arrived at their answers. 

Knapp and her team work together as a tight-knit unit, so she has a pretty good pulse on where teachers left off last spring, and which standards they didn’t cover. And for the most part, she is relieved at seeing the initial results from these assessments, given the disruptions last spring. Now that she has some baseline data, Knapp says she is focused on student growth this year, rather than what learning they missed.

“We’re not doing that because that does nothing but tear down the success that students have had,” Knapp says. “This is where they are, period. This is where they’re going to be in May of next year. And here’s how we’re going to get there.”

About ten miles north of University Academy at Kansas City Girls Prep, School Leader, Tara Haskins is also focused on assessing academic growth, the amount of learning her fifth and sixth graders will need to gain over the course of a year. A few weeks into the new school year, students took the NWEA MAP assessment to measure their growth since last spring.

“I want a student to be able to say, this is where I started, and look how much I’ve grown. And I want them to be able to connect the habits that help them get there,” Haskins says.

This was also the first time students at Kansas City Girls Prep took these assessments in a remote environment. In order to ensure things ran smoothly, they spent time preparing during advisory period working online in small groups or “prides” to run through the instructions, what to expect, and how to get help. The school team was also mindful of students’ test anxiety and held space for students to discuss their feelings about test-taking, especially in a remote environment. During these discussions, teachers were intentional about framing the test as a way to help students grow, not a reflection of their self-worth.

Students took the test online over Zoom together with their pride, while each pride leader proctored the test. Students could work one-on-one with their pride leader in a breakout room if they needed tech support. The school offered make-up days for students who ran into technical issues or needed extra time to find a quiet space for testing. 

After reviewing the data, Haskins is not surprised by seeing some of the skill gaps, such as reading which is an area where students also struggled last year. She’s also seeing that many students are on track to meeting their growth goals from last year. Haskins is encouraging her staff to celebrate the progress students have made and use this data to set individual growth goals for the year ahead.   

“I’m seeing some amazing things, despite the fact that they missed seven months of learning,” Haskins says. “Some students met their yearly growth and they haven’t been in school in seven months. This is incredible. And I can’t wait for them to see it and feel it and recognize it.”

Testing Out In-Person Assessments

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