math test

Category : Academics

A Journey of Excellence: The Assessment Department

Wednesday , March 11 , 2020

Melinda Villalovos, Coreen Weber, Jean Koeppen, Michelle Tonn, and Karen Romano

Pictured from left to right: Melinda Villalovos, Coreen Weber, Jean Koeppen, Michelle Tonn, and Karen Romano

Data is one of the most powerful tools to inform, engage and create opportunities for students along their educational journey. Since students are at the forefront of all decisions that are made at PVSchools, data is imperative to help make connections that lead to insights into students’ progress, curriculum effectiveness, teaching strategies, and improvements. 

Working behind the scenes are the members of the Assessment Department who coordinate efforts with several district departments to ensure that students have what they need to accurately capture data about their progress. 

Jean Koeppen, director of the Assessment Department, explains, “We work with the Informational Technology Department to ensure a safe, ‘user-friendly’ assessment experience. Departments such as Special Education, Language Acquisition and Title I use assessment information to make critical decisions about programs, achievement progress and gap analysis for our subgroups. The Curriculum Department works with us to analyze district and school trends to guide leadership and training needs.” 

After sifting through and analyzing student academic data, the Assessment team provides aggregated data to support instructional decisions at all of the PVSchools campuses while managing district assessments, as well as required state achievement tests. 

“My hope is that my role and my department’s role is to help students, teachers, and leaders embrace a growth mindset. Abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Data can help us challenge ourselves to get better every day and create a love of learning. Data is not about passing or failing a test, it is about learning, documenting, and celebrating growth,” Koeppen added.

Collecting Data

Throughout the school year, students take different types of assessments that create a picture of academic growth. There are assessments to test their comprehension of the material being taught in class, which includes weekly and end of chapter or course tests; to monitor their development of literacy and reading skills such as Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills® (DIBELS) and Renaissance Star Reading®; and to gain insight into their proficiency level in understanding state standards, which includes AzM2 and Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) Science.

Assessment data is not only vital for teachers, but for school administration and districts and provides an individual snapshot of the academic progress for each student. Individual assessments give educators information about student performance in individual classes; summative and formative assessments give teachers feedback on classroom instruction; and standardized testing unearths district, school, and grade-level data. Each of these very different data sets can be used by individual teachers, grade teams and professional learning teams to inform and improve their classroom teaching.

“These assessments provide information about student learning, inform instruction, measure the effectiveness of our guaranteed and viable curriculum, measure student learning, and close achievement gaps. Assessments are most effective when both students and teachers gain information to guide learning,” said Koeppen.

Arizona Standardized Tests

Each spring, students in selected grades take state standardized tests – AzM2 and Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) Science. These state standardized exams are just one example of a student’s developmental growth and receive more attention than other assessments that students take throughout their school careers. 

Koeppen added, “Teachers use the test results to identify the strengths and needs of individual students, which can lead to interventions and personalized learning plans. Teachers, principals, and district administrators use aggregate results to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching, programs, and resources. The rigor of the AzM2 tests, for example, has started to transform expectations and instructional practice in the classroom. In PVSchools, this has led to improved professional development opportunities and curriculum alignment across the district.”

Students in high school will see a change in Arizona State Assessments, so the name was changed from AzMERIT to AzM2. High School students will no longer be taking End-of-Course (EOC) tests; instead, only students in Cohort 2022 (typically 10th grade) will participate by taking the grade 10 English Language Arts and Math assessments. For Math, this test includes the Algebra I and Geometry Standards. Since there are no EOC tests, students in grades 3-8 must take their grade-level assessment. 

The testing window for PV students to take the AIMS Science and AzM2 exams:

  • AIMS Science (grades 4,8 and high school) – March 23-April 17
  • AzM2: Writing (grades 3-8 and cohort 2020 – 10th grade) – March 30-April 10
  • AzM2: Reading and Math (grades 3-8 and cohort 2020 – 10th grade) – March 30-April 24

Parents can support their child and help prepare them physically and mentally for any type of test throughout the school year by:

  • Ensuring that your child has good attendance at school.
  • Staying in communication with your child's teacher. 
  • Encouraging your child to read as much as possible. 
  • Emphasizing the importance of increasing their achievement over time.
  • Making sure your child always eats a healthy breakfast and gets adequate sleep.

It’s important to talk to your child about doing their best and celebrate all the amazing skills they have learned. If your child wants to practice taking the AzM2 or AIMS Science before the big day, sample tests are available at https://azm2portal.org/sample-tests.stml.

A-F Letter Grades

Each year, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) releases A-F School Letter Grades based on data from the previous school year. The system measures student proficiency and growth in English Language Arts, Math, and Science of all students within a school, in addition to other indicators such as attendance, participation in advanced classes and graduation rates at high schools. In determining a school’s letter grade, AzM2 results comprise more than 80 percent of a K-8 school letter grade and 50 percent of a high school letter grade.

It’s important to remember the letter grade system gives school districts information regarding academic performance on one specific state assessment; however, it does not provide a full picture of each school. For example, it does not take into account other measures of academic performance and learning within classrooms and schools, nor does it consider the unique programs and characteristics of each school, student and parent satisfaction, schools’ climate and culture, or other significant accomplishments.

College and Career Readiness

The Assessment Department also supports high school students in College and Career Readiness. College and Career Readiness standards are designed to be relevant to the real world, allow students to master more critical-thinking and unique problem-solving skills, and reflect the knowledge, skills and social foundations that our students need for success in both college and work. Evidence of being college and/or career ready is collected for each graduating senior and reported to the state annually. Each high school receives a portion of their school letter grade points from these measures. 

Knowing how valuable ACT data can be to PV students as they plan their post-secondary journey, PVSchools will provide a free ACT assessment for Math, English, Reading Science to all of our high school juniors on March 24. The funding for the ACT is provided by the Arizona Department of Education as part of the new menu of assessment options being offered to Arizona schools. 

“The ACT assessment reflects the achievements of our students and is an indication of the extent to which they are prepared for college-level work. The ACT is designed to measure the skills needed for success in first-year college coursework,” said Koeppen.

Supporting Teachers

Throughout the school year, the Assessment Department provides training and support to teachers. The members of the Assessment Department support teachers by:

  • Providing campuses with data analysis support for all district-required assessments in order to gather guiding, comparative information for our campuses;
  • Clearly communicate assessment requirements to allow for proper planning at the campus level;
  • Supporting all assessment needs for campuses requiring data for federal and state mandates; and
  • Providing systematic training on the district assessment system, SchoolCity (internal assessment system).

The Assessment Department is helping each student realize that their individual Journey of Excellence is a continuous path in which PVSchools learn more and more every day.

Learn more about Assessment in PVSchools.