RE-2 teachers ‘look at trends’ in PARCC data
Director of Districtwide Services
The recent release of the State’s Colorado Measures of Academic Success illustrates to our stakeholders how our students performed on the state-wide assessments. The math and ELA components of CMAS were developed in collaboration with a consortium of states known as the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC).
It is important to note that CMAS represents a shift for Colorado students and educators. The 2014-15 school year was the first year for the new ELA and Math assessments. CMAS is a more rigorous assessment that asks students not only for an answer, but it requires critical thinking skills to why an answer is correct or evaluating another person’s work. Additionally, the way CMAS is administered has changed. Paper and pencil assessments are giving way to online assessments on devices like iPads and Chrome books and include activities and simulations.
For teachers in Garfield Re-2 the data has been anticipated because teachers want to see how their students performed compared to the standards and they want to know how to improve their instruction in the classroom to help every child become a 21st century learner and thinker.
“It’s all about workforce readiness. It’s about having our kids be critical thinkers, make deep connections to concepts and be able to collaborate and problem solve,” said Kathryn Senor Elementary Fourth Grade teacher Alli Rickert. “Students need to not only be able to solve a problem but know the why behind it.”
Rickert said that while it is difficult to look at the new scores and not compare them to the TCAP and CSAP scores of the past, using them as a baseline and a springboard to better classroom instruction is her focus.
“We mostly look at trends,” she explained. “We look at the areas that we did well in and areas that we need to grow in. We evaluate individual standards and see how kids did in those standards and what we need to do better to prepare our students for the workforce, for college, for whatever the world gives them next.”
Graham Mesa Elementary teacher Eunnyung Davis said that having the data come back late this year because of the necessary norming that must occur has been a challenge, but she hasn’t waited for the data to get deeper into the Colorado Academic Standards.
“It takes three to five years to really see the impact of this kind of change,” Davis said. “We’ve been doing deep professional development into the math standards and learning more and more strategies to engage all students and foster those critical thinking skills. We are asking more of our students and they are responding. I’ve seen it in my classes already.”
Rickert concluded by saying that assessment data, and how teachers use it to improve their professional craft is about one thing — kids.
“It’s all about the kids. It’s about what I can do to support my kids. The scores can be difficult to look at sometimes, but we are moving forward and improving.”
Graham Mesa students featured in video
Students from Graham Mesa Elementary didn’t have to audition for their performance for a statewide video production last week. They just had to work hard and be willing to fail along the journey to finding the right answers.
Video crews from Climb Higher Colorado were at Graham Mesa Elementary last week filming fourth grade students, parents and math teacher Eunnyung Davis about techniques, philosophy and expectations used in Mrs. Davis’ math class. Climb Higher Colorado is a Colorado nonprofit organization whose message is “every child deserves the benefit of high expectations.”
One of the strategies that occurs in Mrs. Davis’ class — and many others across the district— is the use of performance based math tasks. This is a different take on traditional math instruction — one that requires trust of the teacher, trust of their classmates, and belief that sometimes you must struggle and fail to get to the right answer.
“The traditional model of math instruction is ‘I do’ as the teacher, ‘we do’ together as a class and then ‘you do’ as a student,” Davis said. “It’s a very slow release of your control as a teacher. By the time the students are working independently on the problem, they really get very little independent practice.”
Performance based math tasks begin with the students digging into the work prior to the teacher modeling the correct pathway to the answer. Once the students have worked as far as they can on the task on their own, the instructor regroups them into homogeneous or like-groups based upon where their skills began to break down in the question. Those groups of students begin to work through the problem together with the teacher asking guiding questions to help them solve it.
“Performance based tasks change the role of the teacher from the purveyor of knowledge to a facilitator,” Davis said. “The most important part of the lesson is the teacher finding a task where students of varying skill levels can be successful in engaging with the problem to some level. Some students will not get very far.”
“It’s a different way of looking at math,” added fifth grade teacher Amber Tharp. “It takes extra time to do these tasks, but I’ve been amazed at how the tasks have increased the mathematical thinking in my classroom. It causes the productive struggle. At first, they really struggle through the task.”
Davis added that the productive struggle is a skill that all students should be able to carry with them through life.
“We’re building a life skill,” Davis said. “A pattern of learning habits — that it’s OK to fail, but that through perseverance and continual learning, you can arrive at the answer.”
Rifle Middle gives awards
At the December school board meeting, Rifle Middle School honored William Allen, Mimi Allen and Kristy Slife as Staff Members of the Month for their ongoing mentoring support at RMS, Kathie Bernat and Lynetta Trevathan as Volunteers of the Month for their extraordinary support of RMS students and staff, and Columbine Ford as Business of the Month. RMS also honored eighth-grade student Garret Robinson with the EGGO award and Librarian Roberta Garcia for her 41 years of service to Garfield Re-2.
The next regular Garfield Re-2 school board meeting is January 12th at Coal Ridge High School at 5 p.m.
Theresa Hamilton is the director of districtwide services for the Garfield School District Re-2, serving Rifle, Silt and New Castle. Contact her at 970-665-7621.
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