Third-grader Sabastian Hershiser reads aloud during a Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test while Deb Durbin, a special education/Title I paraprofessional, listens Monday afternoon at Sandrock Elementary School. DIBELS and other tests issued in the fall can help teachers evaluate where their students stand academically at the beginning of the school year.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Third-grader Sabastian Hershiser reads aloud during a Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills test while Deb Durbin, a special education/Title I paraprofessional, listens Monday afternoon at Sandrock Elementary School. DIBELS and other tests issued in the fall can help teachers evaluate where their students stand academically at the beginning of the school year.

Schools conduct fall testing to pinpoint student skills, track progress

At a glance …

• Moffat County schools conducting beginning-of-the-year tests to gauge where students stand academically.

• Tests include Measures of Academic Progress, which school district officials recommend schools conduct in fall and spring.

• Teachers also look at other data, including Colorado Student Assessment Program test results and informal classroom tests.

Quotable

"What’s nice about MAPs is we get instant feedback. The child finishes the test (and) we get a score that pops up right away so they know how they did.”—Kamisha Siminoe, Sandrock Elementary School principal

For Moffat County School District second- through 10th-graders, the beginning of the school year entails more than memorizing a class schedule or getting acquainted with a new teacher.

It also includes tests — specifically, Measures of Academic Progress tests, an assessment that can evaluate students on subjects including reading, math and language usage.

Testing students at the beginning of the school year may seem counterproductive, but educators throughout the district contend it’s an essential component in determining where students stand in the fall and tracking their progress in the months to come.

These tests offer a “snapshot in time of where (students) are at that particular moment,” said Kamisha Siminoe, Sandrock Elementary School principal.

Teachers can use the information to make decisions early in the school year.

In Julie Sperl’s third-grade class at Sandrock Elementary, she’ll use MAP test results to group students with the same abilities together so she can teach to their needs, she said.

And, when students at Sandrock take MAPs again in the winter and the spring, teachers can compare those results to the scores they’re getting now and determine if they’re making progress or where they need extra help, Siminoe said.

The school district recommends schools give MAP tests twice a year — once in the fall and again in the spring — to all students in second through 10th grades, said Marlene Knez, the district’s technology director. Schools can also test in the winter.

MAP testing is underway at other schools this week, including Moffat County High School.

This year, as at Sandrock Elementary and Craig Middle School, MCHS students will take the test three times in the school year.

“It gives us a pretty early picture” of student abilities, MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said, adding that it can function as a kind of diagnostic tool by identifying the students who may need extra support or help from a specialist.

Bill Toovey, Craig Middle School principal, agreed.

If a student has lost ground academically over the summer, “this is a wonderful tool to allow us to get a hold of exactly where this student, or any students, stand and if there are any gaps that need to be addressed,” he said.

MAP tests can be useful in other ways. They can help teachers identify students who may not score well on Colorado Student Assessment Program tests, Knez said, and allow them to give extra help.

But, unlike CSAP, teachers don’t have to wait for several months to get the results.

“What’s nice about MAPs is we get instant feedback,” Siminoe said. “The child finishes the test (and) we get a score that pops up right away so they know how they did.”

But, MAP tests are only part of the picture.

Teachers look at other data, including results from CSAP and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills tests, and do less formal assessments in the classrooms to gauge their students’ abilities, Siminoe said.

At the beginning of the year in Sperl’s class, for example, students will read passages aloud and Sperl will follow along, noting when a child skips a line or shows other indicators he or she needs more help in reading, “so that I’ll have a picture of what kind of reader they are,” she said, adding she does the assessment two other times during the year.

“It’s a good chance to sit down with … each student and get a feel for where they’re at,” she said.

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