Upcoming Important Dates
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus night GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 15 – 8th Grade Celebration planning meeting 6:00 pm GMS Library
Friday, April 17 – Spring School Break Begins at dismissal of students, 2:15 pm
Monday, April 20 – Last day to order Yearbooks online
Monday, April 27 – 8th Grade students begin the MEA Assessment
Let’s Talk About the MEA (SBAC) Testing
Beginning the week that we all return from the warm April Vacation (maybe warm!), GMS will begin our administration of the new MEA. There are lots of questions about this assessment, and I hope to try to answer some of them with this post.
Let me state for the record that these opinions are my on, they do not reflect the opinions of anyone else, I am solely responsible!
Why do we need to do these assessments and why can’t we just use the NWEA that we have been administering for years?
I think the answer is a multi-faceted, meaning there are multiple reasons why schools administer large scale, high-stakes tests such as the MEA. This assessment, when administered to a large sample, state-wide for example, can yield results about the quality of education within the state of Maine relative to standards outlined in the Maine Learning Results. These results, because they are administered in every public school in the state at grades 3 through 8 and 11, should be able to give us a good read on how we are doing as a district relative to the rest of the state.
The NWEA’s, on the other hand, are widely used but not universally used throughout the the state. Also, the results we get from the NWEA are good in helping us determine individual student growth, but not school or district growth without some real work on a spreadsheet and some knowledge of how to work a spreadsheet. And, since the NWEAs are not universal and some schools use differing versions and don’t administer the same assessment, there would be too many vagaries in the results to render a judgement about how we are doing as a state or a district.
The MEA’s, on the other hand, are universally administered within the state to all students in the designated grades, so we can get a better picture of where the state is relative to the Learning Results, how well each school achieves, relative to the criteria of the Learning Results, and we should get some really good student data on how well each student is achieving, relative to the criteria of the Learning Results.
Is the MEA solely used to measure student performance for governmental/funding purposes, or does it have personal value to my child (e.g. class placement, or informing curriculum for my individual child)?
The simple answer to this question is “No”, but we all know there are no simple answers to these kind of questions.
With the landmark legislation, signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), states were required to demonstrate that all students were “meeting the standards” by the year 2014. The law also required that all students in every subgroup met the standards.
What are subgroups you ask? Subgroups are include the ethnic background of students, students identified with disabilities, different racial groups, students identified with Title 1 services, students who were new English language learners, to mention just a few.
So, while the answer to your question is no, there are lots of intricacies in the way we are measured that could (emphasis added) have ramifications.
The positive of getting the results of these assessments is significant though. We are able to get loads of information about how well we are doing towards the standards. In the past, we have done some really good analysis on each of the released items and this helps us make determinations about how and why our kids answered the way they did. Sometimes seeing the wrong answers gives us more information than seeing the right answers!
The last “no” answer is about do we use this information for class placement or informing curriculum for individual students. Again, this “no” is a qualified one because we do use the information to inform us on what strengths or weakness a child has exhibited, but this is used with other type of information about a student, including teacher assessments This information can help us when determining what kind of supports a student may need in math or reading, could they benefit from some extra support in a Learning Lab or should the math teacher look to extend their lessons to get this child into a more complex area of math or reading more complex books.
So we do use this information, but not in a negative manner.
“Why has it not been publicized that parents can opt their children out of the testing and how to go about doing it?”
Parents have always had the opportunity to opt their children out of large scale testing, dating back to the old MEA. It might be a bit naive of me to say that there is no pressure being applied, but honestly, there is no pressure being applied. I know there is a lot of news stories about different communities and different groups who are dead set against this testing, so they are espousing the opt outs, but, their opposition to the testing seems more politically motivated.
And, yes, there is a process for opting out of the testing. It begins with an email or a phone call to the school. I can tell you that, while I am not crazy about the time this has taken from the school year, I do value the information we have received in the past. We have been able to make some very good adjustments to how and what we do based upon these results. So, I would encourage every student and family to participate in these assessments.
“Why is the MEA needed when our kids already take the NWEA?”
As I stated above, the information we get from these two assessments differ. The NWEA give us a score measure by a Rausch Unit or RIT score. This is a great score to use when measuring individual growth of a student, year over year. It is not a good measurement when we try to make determination about where our students are not demonstrating strength or weakness, without some serious manipulation of the data we receive.
It is also a much more of an individual assessment. The NWEA’s adaptiveness (is that a word), doesn’t allow for, in my opinion, enough of a common thread to make comparisons within the student base. If it does, we have yet to be able to isolate that component of the results. (That’s for the people at NWEA & SBAC, who will no doubt pick this up when they scan social media!)
We all realize that we have taken an inordinate amount of teaching time to dedicate to this upcoming assessment. Time that we could be using to engage students in the joy of learning (and, no that is not an oxymoron!). We are putting this time in now so we won’t have to in the future.
Since large scale testing has been a part of our school year for so very long, we accept that it will continue to happen. What we try to do is make sure that the testing assesses what our kids are supposed to know in the particular content areas, and not let this become first a technology test. In other words, if the kids don’t know how to manipulate the testing platform, or they do not understand the type of question being asked, that could impede their ability to supply correct answers.
If the sample questions that we have been given on the practice tests are an indication, these questions are vastly different from those on past assessments. Some questions ask for all the possible correct answers from a bank of 4 or 5 possible. So it is important that our kids see some of these style questions prior to the actual testing.
This has been a real upward learning curve for our faculty as well as our students. I believe we do some very fine work here at GMS with our kids. I believe they enjoy (most of them) coming into our building and that they feel safe when they are here. I believe that they feel their teachers challenge them fairly and honestly and with respect for the many different learning styles we have here everyday. But, this has opened our eyes quite a bit. The manner in which this assessment is constructed is vastly different than we have seen before. It has challenged each of us to take as second look at what we are doing in our classes and with our lessons that get our students into that zone “just above comfort” that we call the “Learning Zone”.
I hope I haven’t further confused anyone here. This is far longer than anything I have down in the past, and, to be truthful, if you are reading this I have either accidentally hit the “POST” button, or I have reviewed what I have said several times.
Time to Purchase Yearbooks
If your child was contemplating purchasing a yearbook, that will be filled with the memories of this school year, the deadline is fast approaching. If you want to purchase through the school, all order forms and checks must be given to the Office by Friday at 2:00 pm.
You will still have the opportunity to purchase online by going to http://www.ybpay.lifetouch.com and using school code 3788215. Lifetouch accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express.
Until next time…