Talon News - Good Local News

By Kirk Carpenter
Aztec Schools 


Assessments, the key to improvement


October 20, 2017

You often hear people say we test our kids too much. I agree, that is why we use assessments. Tests are things done to our students. Assessments are things done for our students and more importantly they are used for learning. In the Aztec Municipals School District we have an assessment continuum that consists of very formative assessments to those that are more summative in nature. We expect our teachers to assess in class each day what they have taught to their students. Most of this is done informally through a Daily Learning Objective (DLO). The DLO is a four part question that answers what is going to be taught; how it will be taught; why it is important; and how the teacher will know the student has learned it. This DLO relates directly to the standard that is being covered that day. This is not to say that each day we do not cover more than one standard or that we do not spend several days on the same standard, but the DLO should have different learning activities and should have a measurement of the learning that takes place each day. This form of assessment is the most formative in nature. Daily assessment separates a learning environment from a teaching environment. This separation is important because this lets the teacher know who understands what was taught during the lesson on that day so the teacher can plan accordingly for the next day.

Another important formative assessment component that drives instruction is the Common Formative Assessments that are given every 2-4 weeks. These are small in size and measure learning of only a couple to a few standards, but they do provide teachers with information that drives their instruction, interventions and enrichment for their students. After each CFA, teachers meet during their Professional Learning Community (PLC) time, which happens every week on our early out Mondays to decide how they will address the needs of those students who need more help and those students that have mastered the standards and need enrichment.

Right now we are in the middle of our interim assessments, which we give four times a year. These are larger than our CFAs and usually occur at the end of a grading period. They are more summative in nature, but they also require our staff to break down the data. From these assessments our staff will meet to gather important information on what critical next steps need to be taken in their instruction, interventions and enrichment. Administrators will also be working very closely with our teachers to develop Teacher Action Plans (TAP) to help identify specific action steps they will take in the classroom to improve instruction, and more importantly, the learning for all students. These plans will also be inspected by our principals as they do their walk-throughs each week in each classroom to ensure that steps identified on the plans are being carried out. As the old saying goes, "You cannot expect what you don't inspect." This is not the only cycle of assessments that we go through each year.

We are working very hard to align all of the assessments and the instruction we do in our classrooms, with the level of rigor that we see on the PARCC test. The PARCC test is currently used to determine whether or not a student is proficient enough to graduate, to rate our schools, determine our school grades, and it counts for a large portion of the teacher's evaluation rating. With all of this in mind, it is important that the students take this test very seriously. We know that we are a very competitive district regarding our athletic teams. We need to exert the same attitude, energy, and the behavior we spend on athletics around academics. We need to help our students realize the importance of all assessment including the PARCC. We are working harder than ever before to improve learning. When it comes time for the PARCC test, it will be just another day, because this year our students will more prepared than ever before. Let's raise the rigor and master the PARRC test in 2018. Everyday is game day in AMSD.


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