School Scoop: A ringing endorsement
In an attempt to acknowledge first graders’ progress in reading, co-principal Kristine Monje recently explained she and first grade teacher Laurie McTeague devised a means of sharing the children’s accomplishments within the school community.
The advancing reader is sent to the principal’s office to select one [of three bells on her desk] to ring in the school’s main corridor — announcing his/her success to one and all! Often Monje invites the youngster in to read to her. Many a budding scholar has been seen emerging from her office with a radiant smile on his or her face.
PARCC tests to replace NECAPS
Monje pointed out that recently for a period of two and three days respectively, fifth and tenth graders have been taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests, which are eventually meant to replace most of the NECAPs.
Noting the local school was “part of a field test — a practice test,” she said the process of taking the test might have been a bit more difficult for some students [particularly the younger ones] because all responses had to be made on the computer.
“This makes us evaluate,” she added, “whether we’re teaching typing skills early [enough]. When this [PAARC testing] gets going, it’ll begin with the third grade.” To that end, there will be a renewed effort to hone students’ keyboarding skills, Monje added.
The Partnership involves a group of 17 states, including Rhode Island, developing assessment tools that “measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.” The PARCC assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which is an educational plan to establish consistent standards throughout the states on “what students should know in English Language Arts and Mathematics at the end of each grade.”
The Common Core, which has generated some controversy across the country, is described as seeking “to establish educational standards across the states” to guarantee that high school graduates are prepared to enter accredited two or four-year colleges “or to enter the workforce.”
The Common Core had its beginnings in the 1990s in the “Standards and Accountability Movement” begun in the United States, when states began writing standards determining what students were expected to know at each grade level. As part of this effort to reform education, in 1996, governors and corporate leaders across the country founded Achieve, Inc.—“a bi-partisan organization [created to] “raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments and strengthen accountability in all 50 states.”
The development of the PARCC tests is an outgrowth of previous research and development in the long process of educational reform resulting in the Common Core. PARCC tests have been described as “high-quality, computer-based K-12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy” and are designed to inform teachers, students and parents about “whether the students are on track in their learning and for success after high school.” It is hoped that these tests will “help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.”
The PARCC assessments are scheduled to be administered during the 2014-2015 academic year, Monje said.
She pointed out that in the fall of this year, the tenth grade will take the last NECAP test required for graduation. After that, students will take the PARCCs. Though most NECAP testing will be discontinued, it will be maintained in science. Monje said, “The PARCCs will slowly take over the state’s mandated assessment program.”
School Improvement Team meets
Monje also reported on a meeting of the School Improvement Team that took place on March 25, at which the group made up of professional staff and parents, examined assessment data in order to revisit our four goals,” Monje said.
Those goals are to “maintain and improve educational excellence in writing instruction; to nurture and support students’ mental health; to increase communication among and between [members] of the school community [and] to foster an engaging and challenging curriculum through the use of technology.”
The role of team members continues to be to find ways to support these goals—through advocacy for appropriate actions and by defining the responsibilities of those intended to achieve them. One project under consideration is to create a parent-teacher newsletter, Monje said. The next meeting has been scheduled for April 17.
Yearbook advisor and teaching assistant Amy Dugan announced that the 2014 graduating class yearbook has gone to print and will be shipped to the school on May 31. It will be available “in color,” she said, creating “a sense of a time capsule and have some surprises!”
On April 9 and 10, ninth and tenth graders will visit Mystic Seaport, a trip jointly sponsored by the island school and the Block Island Yacht Club.
(Sources for this article included several official online sites on the PARCC tests and the Common Core.)