In the coming years, Minnetonka Public Schools will have to tackle many complex issues. Patch asked this year’s School Board candidates about how they’d handle some of the major issues facing the district.
Today’s question is:
- What is the appropriate role for assessments in Minnetonka Public Schools?
There are several roles for assessments in our schools. From a strategic perspective, the overall assessment portfolio provides valuable insight into how our program is performing, how each child is learning, where they are excelling, and where they need additional support. The board and community need assessments to gauge the overall progress students are making. The parents and students use them to measure progress to state standards and academic progression from fall to spring. Teachers and administrators use the assessments to ensure that we have our students in appropriately challenging curricula and make ongoing improvements to our program. I get a lot of questions from parents on assessments so I would like to provide a little more context on 3 specific assessments, MCA, NWEA and Minnetonka. The MCA test is a state test that measures the proficiency of each child in Reading and Math. The answer is binary, meaning the student is or is not proficient. The NWEA test allows us to pinpoint where each child is on their learning curve and design an individual curriculum that is both appropriate and challenging. We use Minnetonka assessments to understand how well our learners are grasping the content, and the overall Minnetonka program which is grounded in the 21st century applied learning fluencies, not just overall subject knowledge. The assessments and the Minnetonka curricular program work together to deliver the personal achievements that we see in our students today.
Assessments are a reality in education and serve many purposes. Often when we hear the word “assessment” we think of standardized testing as a means of meeting state and federal requirements.
At an aggregate level, standardized assessments like the MCA’s, ACT’s, SAT’s and GRAD (Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma) are assessments of standardized learning. They provide students, parents and our community with a measure of how our school district is performing. They gauge the progress toward state and national standards and performance relative to other districts.
By these measures, Minnetonka performs exceedingly well. However, this is only part of the role assessments play in Minnetonka.
Assessments within Minnetonka Public Schools are an essential tool for learning. Assessments for learning are embedded in the educational process. Computerized tests like the NWEA’s provide teachers with student level information critical to differentiated learning. By using the test data to identify student’s strengths and growth areas, teachers ensure students receive support at all levels from increased challenge to early intervention.
Classroom/ curriculum assessments are also a critical tool for learning. This information provides educators with timely insights into what a student understands. This enables educators to guide instruction and provide feedback to students. Using the assessment as part of the learning process is important toward differentiating learning within Minnetonka Public Schools.
Assessments are the critical measurement tool that Minnetonka utilizes to insure that each student is learning what he/she needs to learn. Teachers utilize assessments like the NWEA and other assessments to determine if students have grasped and understood critical learning concepts or if there is additional instruction needed to insure this learning. These are key to insuring academic success for each student. Used appropriately, these tests all give key information for our teachers allowing them to provide individualized instruction to students.
In addition, the state requires MCA tests to insure that students are on track overall. High School students take ACT and SAT tests for acceptance into the college of their choice.
Measuring student achievement is very important. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. However teaching to tests and over testing is taxing on both teachers and students. Rote memorization is no longer the way our students learn. Some of the current standardized tests still require them to do so. Tests that better measure learning and subject mastery allow both teachers and parents to more effectively meet each student’s needs.