Spring testing is in the air, WG students prepare for SAT

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Superintendent Mike Page

WG Superintendent Corner | Mr. Mike Page

Is March really over? Wow, wasn’t it just March 1st? I guess time really does fly. As we begin our last quarter of the 2015-16 school year, I’m reminded of how few days we have until the Class of 2016 is walking out of the gymnasium into the real world. I’m sure the countdown will begin over in the high school any time now, probable already has! As we welcome students back from Spring Break for the final stretch, a very important time in our school year is upon us. On Monday, April 11, we will begin administering PARCC exams to our students. PARCC is Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a multi-state consortium Colorado joined in 2012, and the PARCC tests are computer-based assessments in Math and Language Arts/Literacy. PARCC exams are designed to help teachers, schools, students and parents determine whether students are on track in their learning for success after high school, and to assess mastery of updated Colorado Academic Standards. Assessments will run from the 11th to April 28th for grades 3-11. Our 3-9-graders soon will begin taking the statewide assessments that are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards and measure real world skills like problem solving, communicating and thinking critically — skills that are critical to success in college and careers for the 21st Century. These assessments, called the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests, examine students’ knowledge in English/ Language Arts, Math and Science will be given over the three-week window.

We are mandated to administer the tests as a public school in Colorado, where they have taken the place of the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) and CSAP. We recognize that there is a healthy debate in Colorado and nationally about standardized testing and we absolutely understand that people have strong opinions on the matter. In response to concerns about the length of the tests, the math and English language arts tests were shortened by about 90 minutes for most students. In addition, the administration of the tests was consolidated to one three-week window in April. We will be administering all testing computers in each of the buildings. Check out the details at https://www.cde. state.co.us/communications/cmas2015-16 at-a-glance.

CMAS tests are aligned to the Colorado Academic Standards which set high expectations for students in every classroom in the state. CMAS tests are therefore aligned to what students are already learning in school and should not require any additional test preparation. You can see what the tests are like by visiting https://parcc.pearson.com/practicetests/. Students in grades 10 and 11 are no longer required to take CMAS tests in English/Language Arts and Math. Instead, 10th grade students will take the PSAT this year on April 20. Eleventh graders will take the ACT on April 19. Juniors will also be taking the Science CMAS on Tuesday, April 26th. Next year’s 11th grade students will take the SAT. Check out more information about PSAT and SAT at https:// www.cde.state.co.us/communications/ psat-satfactsheet.

It is important to understand that our overall goal is to ensure that all students are prepared for college or careers when they leave high school. These tests provide a snapshot of how our students are progressing toward that goal and how our teachers can better help them achieve it. The tests are aligned to the work already being done in the classroom and the results can help teachers improve or modify their instruction to meet the child.

It is also important to know that these tests are just one measure of a student’s progress, but they are the only common measurement across the state that helps parents understand how their children are doing compared with their peers around the state, how the school is performing and how the district is doing overall. The information from the tests also helps policymakers identify what schools or districts need help or which ones should be celebrated for their successes. Our school district uses the NWEA MAPS assessment. These assessments are computer based and we get results the next day. We administer the MAPS in the fall, winter and spring. This gives us an overall picture of how each student is progressing and growing in the areas of English/Language Arts, Math and Science.

But the information is only good if students take the assessments. In the notso- distant past, students were graduating without the skills necessary to be prepared for college or careers. Students, parents and educators were shocked at the results or the remedial classes that were necessary to bring college freshmen up to speed. Current assessments are designed to help reveal how students are progressing toward that goal. But the information won’t be there if students refuse to take the tests. Last year the state reduced the number and length of tests for our students in an effort to answer the call from parents who were unhappy about the overload.

This spring’s tests will inform parents on what their children know, empowering families with knowledge and information to ensure their children get the best education possible. But it can only happen if students take the tests. Perhaps the best way to understand what the tests are all about is to take a practice test.

Our 10th graders not only will be taking a test that will help determine how they are progressing academically, but they will be able to take advantage of a suite of opportunities provided by the testing company that could help them improve for next year’s college entrance exam. This is the first time Colorado sophomores will be taking the PSAT, a test administered by the College Board. The PSAT replaces the 10th grade PARCC exams in English, language arts, and math that were part of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessment system. The PSAT is still aligned with Colorado’s standards, and the results can help identify students who need help.

But the distinct advantage of the PSAT is in its programs to help students prepare for the following year’s SAT college entrance exam is that all 11th graders will be taking it in 2017. Interested students taking the PSAT can receive a free, personalized SAT study plan tailored to the student’s strengths and weaknesses and using official test materials and support from the Khan Academy.

The free resources include interactive questions, video lessons and reference articles; thousands of practice questions; official full-length SAT and PSAT practice tests; and a mobile app for daily practice. Students can opt in to a service that will provide them free information about admission and financial aid from colleges, universities and scholarship programs.

The PSAT is not an exact duplicate of the SAT, but it can provide a good introduction to the SAT that the students will take the next year. The questions and test format are similar. It is comprised of three tests: Reading, Writing and Language and Mathematics. But it is shorter than the three-hour SAT by 15 minutes.

State officials chose the PSAT as a way to reduce the test burden and find a more meaningful statewide assessment for our 10th graders, who now can also take advantage of some very helpful benefits. With that in mind, here are some suggestions to help your student be successful with these assessments:

• Physical Preparation –

1. Make sure that your child gets a good rest the nights before the scheduled tests. Students who are tired are less able to pay attention in class or to handle the demands of the assessments.

2. Feed your child a nutritious breakfast on the mornings of the tests.

3. Plan ahead to ensure that your child is present and on time for the test. Do not plan any medical or dental appointments on testing days, if at all possible.

• Ask your child to:

1. Read the directions carefully when the teacher hands out test.

2. Read the questions carefully and all of the answer choices.

• Remind your child:

1. If you don’t know an answer to a question, skip it and go on.

2. If there is time at the end of the test, return to the unanswered question.

3. It is helpful to eliminate some of the answer choices that you think are wrong.

4. It is better to tackle each question one-at-a-time, rather than thinking about the whole test at once.

5. If you finish early, check your answers.