Category : Academics
PVSchools Assessment Department: Collecting Data to Measure Academic Growth and Close Achievement Gaps
Wednesday , March 03 , 2021
Photo was taken in early 2020. Pictured from left to right: Melinda Villalovos, Coreen Weber, Jean Koeppen, Michelle Tonn, and Karen Romano.
Assessments have always been an important tool to measure a student’s progress. Throughout the school year, teachers are evaluating student performance on a consistent basis. Teachers, site administrators, and district administrations use the results to measure academic growth or achievement gaps, as well as provide students with academic enrichments and interventions.
Last March, with the school closures due to the global pandemic, teachers' and students' routines and normalcy were upended. As a result of when schools shifted from in-person learning to virtual learning models, school districts are now studying the impacts that COVID-19 has had on academic growth and the widening achievement gaps.
Why Data Is Imperative
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 in making 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 and schools 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.
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 the Renaissance Star Reading®; and to gain insight into their proficiency level in understanding state standards, which includes AzM2 and ACT.
Assessment data is not only vital for teachers, but for school administration and districts and provides an individual snapshot of the academic progress of 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.
Testing Students During a Pandemic
Last year, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) canceled the state assessments due to the pandemic. It has been determined at the state level that Arizona students will take the state assessments for the first time since Spring 2019. As an added layer, the ADE is requiring that students attend school in-person each day the assessments are administered.
Educators will review exam results and will evaluate the academic outcomes during school closures during the pandemic.
Arizona school districts will receive results in the Fall 2021.
On March 2, all PVSchools 11th-grade students will participate in the administration of a required, state-funded ACT test. This exam is part of statewide testing and will give the district valuable information about student’s reading, math, and science achievement.
This year, the pandemic has presented learning and teaching challenges for students and teachers. The information that is collected from the ACT state test will help administrators and teachers better understand the impact that this year has had on academic performance. The ACT data will provide information that will improve how students are taught, how teachers are coached, and how we can better support and prepare our high school students for graduation and post-secondary opportunities.
This spring, PVSchools students in grades third-eighth and 10th grade will complete the AzM2 state test. Statewide testing is very important because it is intended to objectively evaluate whether a child has mastered grade-level standards for their specific grade level. This year, the pandemic has presented learning and teaching challenges for students and teachers. The information that is collected from the state test will help administrators and teachers better understand the impact that this year has had on academic performance. The AzM2 will also provide information that will improve how students are taught, how teachers are coached, and how we can better support students.
Teachers assess students’ understanding throughout the school year, so they can offer the right levels of support. The AzM2 is intended to give teachers an objective measure of how each child is doing and measure how they are academically growing compared to other students in the state. Additionally, the AzM2 can provide benchmarks for parents and teachers, students, and schools. All public schools are required to administer state standardized assessments to fulfill the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Spring Testing Window for PV Students:
ACT (Grade 11) – March 2nd
- AzSCI Field Test (Grades 5,8 and 11) – March 22-April 30
- AzM2: Writing (Grade 3) – April 5 - April 16
- AzM2: Reading and Math (Grade 3) – April 5 - April 30
- AzM2: Writing (Grades 4-8 and 10th Grade(Cohort 2023) – April 5-April 23
- AzM2: Reading and Math (Grades 4-8 and cohort 2023 – 10th grade) – April 5-May 14
Supporting and Preparing Students for Test Day
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 AzSCI before the big day, sample tests are available at https://azm2portal.org/sample-tests.stml and https://www.azed.gov/assessment/sci
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 2. 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.
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.