Saturday, March 4, 2017

Winter Assessments in the Burlington School District

Assessments demonstrate current levels of student performance to those interested in students’ academic growth. Midyear assessments, which occur in January and February annually, provide “progress monitoring” that informs teachers on their students’ strengths and weaknesses. In schools across Vermont and the country, elementary classes spend brief periods of time on quick assessments to avoid significant disruption to class instruction.


The Burlington Schools teach and assess with Fountas and Pinnell, a comprehensive elementary literacy program. Three times a year, classroom teachers work one-on-one with each student to observe and document their progress in reading and writing. The window for teachers to carry out these short assessments opens on January 17 and closes on February 15. At any point within this timeframe, all first graders participate as well as any students in gr. 2-5 who did not achieve proficiency last fall. Students who did perform on or above grade level will participate in a reading assessment from Columbia University. Each student meets with their teacher for a brief verbal and written check on their skill levels. For more information on Fountas and Pinnell, visit: www.fountasandpinnell.com. For more information on the Columbia literacy assessment, see the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at http://readingandwritingproject.org.  


In order to assess student performance in mathematics, Burlington schools administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) math interim assessment. Students in grades 3-5 participate in this national exam, which takes 40 to 60 minutes to complete. Champlain students take the SBAC interim test during the week of February 6. Unlike Fountas and Pinnell, students work on a computer to answer questions which vary based on each response, drawn from a huge databank tested by national experts. In May, gr. 5-8 and gr. 11 students participate in SBAC exams in both literacy and math, as required by the State of Vermont in adherence to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA replaced the law, No Child Left Behind, last year. For more information on SBAC, visit: www.smarterbalanced.org and for ESSA, see: www.ed.gov/essa.

This winter one more exam awaits fourth grade students around the country on February 2. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only national exam administered in every state to measure “what America's students know and can do in various subject areas” (National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). While NAEP assesses students in grades 4, 8, and 12, this does not include every school in America every year. The scope of NAEP tests can encompass math, reading, writing, science, the arts, geography, economics, civics, economics, history, and technology. Individual student results are not published; instead each state earns scores comparable to other states. When determining the top states for educational achievement, NAEP is usually the chosen assessment. For example, Education Week magazine drew from NAEP and other indicators to rank the best states for education. In 2016, the top state was Massachusetts, followed by New Jersey, Vermont (#3), and Maryland (Education Week Resource Center). For more information about NAEP, visit: https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about.   

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