State assessment testing causes concerns
The time and effort put forth by school teacher and administrators on preparing for the state assessments has been creating problems for them each year.
"It's frustrating from an administrative standpoint, and it's frustrating for the teachers," Vinland Elementary School Principal Bill Scott said. "It takes a lot of time, and a lot rides on the tests."
Baldwin Junior High School Principal Connie Wright said the preparation for the tests takes an enormous amount of time.
"It is hours upon hours," Wright said. "It's a lot of time. As we give more tests, more time has to be spent. It takes an incredible amount of time. From Jan. 1 to the end of assessments, that's what I will be doing."
Staffs at the schools spend August through February preparing the schools and the classes to take the assessments. But most people don't know how much work is done to make sure everything is set to run just right.
Tom Mundinger, Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center principal, said his school has to fill out a form about every student. This form includes many generic questions about the student, but all of the information has to be correct and current.
"There is a lot of clerical paper work, like making sure your 'Is' are dotted and your 'Ts' are crossed," Mundinger said. "We have to make sure we have accurate biographical date for all of our students, because they pre-slug the tests. Then we have to go through it all, because typically there are mistakes."
After all of the information in entered correctly for each student, the schools have to begin to arrange the testing schedules.
"There is lots of scheduling changes that take place," Mundinger said. "You have to adjust your normal schedule so you can protect blocks of time."
When one class period is changed for the test, it throws the entire day off for the other classes. So many classes are shortened or even taken out during a testing week.
Mundinger says the scheduling changes aren't too much of a problem if everybody is aware that the tests are the main focus.
"You have to make sure that everybody in the school has a clear understanding that the priority is the testing," Mundinger said. "Everybody has been real supportive. So for a month, that is what everything becomes scheduled around."
Spielman said that scheduling is also a problem at BHS, because of the number of computers.
"A lot of time went into when everybody could take the tests, because of the shortage of computers," Spielman said. "When you have 127 kids trying to take a test, and we don't have 127 computers, so scheduling was a big headache. Also trying not to interrupt class time as much as possible. Interruptions were made to classes, there is just no way around that."
Wright also said that computers are a problem at BJHS, because of the number of tests that are administered.
Wright gave a case scenario for next school year that would make preparation even more difficult. Wright said there are three parts to the reading test, which has to be taken by an average of 100 kids per grade level, which totals 900 tests being taken. But then BJHS also has to give the math test, which is another 900 tests.
Wright also said the state said that the children perform better on computer assessments, which presents problems for schools with computers. Then Wright said she has to make 1,800 tickets for next year so all of her students are able to take the assessments.
Alica Thomas, VES teacher, said that computers weren't a problem for them, because they don't even have enough to do the computerized assessments.
"We don't have enough computers on the right operating system, so we don't do the tests on the computers," Thomas said.
Another problem that for the schools is the changes that are made by the state leading up to the start of the assessments.
"They make changes constantly," Connie Wright, Baldwin Junior High School principal, said. "You have to be on top of it. You have to be constantly aware of the changes that they make."
Mundinger said that finding staff to watch the children during the tests also presents a problem for the schools.
"There may be a student who works better by themselves in a quiet space," Mundinger said. "So we would need to find a staff member who would be available while that class takes their test. They would take that student to maybe the conference room, and let that student work quietly by themselves there."
Mundinger said one of the hardest things for him before the tests is making sure everyone knows the importance of the tests without placing too much pressure on themselves.
"The most difficult thing for me is trying to have a good balance between raising people's awareness and expectations without putting too much pressure on them," Mundinger said. "From my standpoint, maintaining a safe balance is the most difficult thing."