Thursday, October 16, 2014

Assessment bulletin for Manchester's families

Information about Manchester School District's local assessment program
The Manchester School District is working very hard to improve teaching and learning in our schools. To reach this goal we have implemented a robust district-wide assessment program that will assist us in helping all children succeed because it ties together standards, curriculum and student achievement.
The 21st century educational system is a real-time learning cycle in which students are constantly practicing the 21st Century super skills - communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. School districts must have an effective assessment plan so that the cycle of teaching and learning, for both the teacher and the student, move in a positive direction. Assessment has evolved from the days of 50 multiple choice questions and those always tricky true/false statements, to real life connected applications of content and skills practiced daily in the classroom and beyond. When students participate in relevant and ongoing performance tasks, the teacher, student and parent team can get ongoing information about what growth a student has made and what barriers may exist. The assessment program now shifts from a "gotcha" one-time test, to a critical tool for measuring ongoing student learning and achievement.


Nuts and Bolts
The Manchester School District Assessment Program currently consists of locally-developed assessments in reading, writing and mathematics (“locally-developed” means they were created by our classroom teachers from across the school district) in accordance with the Manchester Academic Standards and the aligned curriculum. They are intended to provide ongoing information for parents, teachers and students about how students are progressing toward achieving the standards, as well as how teachers can shift their instruction to meet student needs. They are not tests with a finite end, and they do not count against a student’s grade. But they are a tool to inform instruction and learning opportunities for both teacher and student, and that is a critical component of improving education in our city.


Think of assessment as a compass. To a pilot or sailor, the compass gives direction and provides information about where they currently are in the air or sea. To a teacher and student, the assessment program gives information about where the student is in his/her learning and direction on which way he/she needs to go. The information taken from the assessment provides the teacher with a map to ensure delivery and mastery of the intended curriculum, or what students are supposed to know and be able to do.


Assessment is not the same as testing. Testing is a part of an overall assessment program and is used to assign a grade to a student record of achievement. Testing can take the shape of a performance task, project, investigation, or objective battery of questions (multiple choice, etc. as mentioned above). It is usually summative only after the student has demonstrated progress toward a desired learning objective. The test permits the student to demonstrate how well he/she has mastered the learning objective.


The information from the assessments, are stored in our data warehouse called Performance Plus (P+). Teachers and principals are able to generate reports that help them identify which standards are not being met at each of the schools, classrooms and even among students. Teachers use this information to discuss teaching strategies and compare lesson plans so they can offer the same high level learning opportunities to all students regardless of the school in which they are enrolled. This model of collaborative work is called Professional Learning Communities and has been proven through research and experience to raise student achievement in school districts everywhere.


Frequency of Assessment
Students in K - 8 will be assessed each month in math facts, math computation, writing, reading, and unit assessments. Most of the assessments range in duration from 2 minutes to 20 minutes and do not detract from the learning in the classroom. Performance assessments at the end of an academic term or trimester may require more time, and schedules will be adjusted accordingly. Instruction will not be interrupted by the assessment program, and we believe instruction will actually be enhanced because of it. Teachers will have a better sense of where students need additional support and be able to apply the necessary interventions before it is too late. “Too late” is defined as the day of the big test.


Summary
Manchester School District wants to become data rich so that decisions about individual students as well as entire schools are supported by factual information that makes sense. Our vision is to “be a dynamic system focused on the realization of student aspirations.” With sound practice in common assessment supported by effective instruction and a rigorous curriculum, we believe you will see success in a short time.

Always feel free to contact the Superintendent’s Office with any questions you may have about this or any other programs in the Manchester School District. You may call 603-624-6300 x122 or email superintendent@mansd.org.

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