Dear NRE Families and Friends,
The first two months of school streamed by and we are arriving in October at NRE. A fabulous first months of friendship building and learning the rituals and routines that shape our days as a learning community.
We have all noticed that the Fall is coming to our neighborhood, the leaves on the tree in the front yard are turning and the air in the evenings now requires a light comforter for a night’s sleep.
But during the days at Northridge, the building hums with activity of children busy with learning and at playtime they still bask in 80 degree weather.
Rituals and Routines ~ Teachers focus on the rituals and routines during these first 8 weeks of school, protocols for moving around in a classroom and school building, managing our relationships with each other as learning community members, practicing our approaches to learning…using materials and resources, caring for our environment.
Norm Referenced Assessments ~ We have been conducting numerous norm-referenced assessments to understand the proximal levels of understanding for each student across school subject knowledge. Every student in K-3 is assessed with our DIBELS assessment tools, for knowledge and understanding of print. We are committed to literacy proficiency for all children by Grade 3. We use the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to track reading proficiency: fluency and comprehension across grade-levels. This is the principal benchmark literacy assessment for Grades 4-6. But throughout the school days and the work of becoming proficient Readers & Writers, teachers gain and apply formative observations and assessments of every students progress in all subject knowledge, skill and understanding. They use each child’s growing profiles as learners to differentiate their planning and teaching in response to the changing levels of understanding that children demonstrate.
In these immediate weeks, additional assessments are made across grade-levels and for all 3rd and 6th graders using the CogAT abilities test in reasoning and problem solving using verbal, quantitative, and nonverbal (spatial) symbols – See more at: CogAT Abilities Test- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt . This assessment is used as one criteria to differentiate teaching and learning for children who demonstrate advanced learning needs in various subject areas.
Parents of last years 5th graders will receive individual Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test results. The Colorado implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment results from the 2015-16 school year will soon be released. Before PARCC, Colorado had tests called CSAP, or Colorado Student Assessment Program, and then TCAP, or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program. The TCAP tests were given to students in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as Colorado transitioned to the Common Core Standards and the Colorado Academic Standards.
All of these assessments are used to provide general norm-referenced benchmark measures of student knowledge, learned reasoning and current levels of performance against the norms in the kinds of learning activities that traditionally occur in schools.
These assessments do not measure intelligence or many facets of knowledge, skill or understanding outside of traditional methods to measure school learning. They do not measure the holistic dimensions of a child’s growth and development.
They do serve to support teachers in approximating and planning for traditional school learning activities. These kinds of measures of school success are required elements of the Colorado legislatures measures of school performance, and they do serve in narrow ways to ensure a student’s success throughout their traditional academic careers. All of these assessments are snapshots in time using a controlled assessment tool. They do not fully predict a child’s growth mindset or capacity.
Holistic and Formative Assessments ~ Teachers are talented observers and data collectors about their student learning. Observations, incidental, informal and teacher developed criterion-referenced assessments help teachers gauge actual student performance under multi-varied circumstances, over time and in real-time performance. They support teacher understanding of a student’s thinking, so that a teacher can understand the developmental shape of a child’s understanding whether it is about decoding words, mathematical thinking, a scientific concept or other kinds of learning.
Learning occurs as a spiraling activity. As an individual learner or a cadre of learners approach the study, understanding and interaction with a subject, they approximate their understanding and make their best guesses about the world around them. We easily observe young children approximating their understanding of text and print, both decoding text and making sense, comprehending text as literal or inferred meaning.
Academics, scientists, athletes….all approach understanding and application in the same way. Take for example the study of gene transfer across species, as it contributes to another potential understanding of evolution among living systems. A spiraling approach brings new knowledge, new connections and new approximations toward achieving increasingly accurate understandings and performance.
Earth Geologists use their understanding of Earth geological systems to make approximations about the formation and changes of the surface of Mars. Olympic athletes train continuously toward perfecting neurological, muscular and cognitive memory and function that result in increasing competence, sometimes achieving a gold medal performance.
The instructional staff at NRE use the continuous progress monitoring that occurs throughout each lesson and across the trans-disciplinary studies in primary education to support each learning at their proximal point of understanding, helping them make connections between past assumptions and knowledge approximations and new information or experiences so that students refine their understandings.
Teachers collect this formative data from individual students and their class through continuous observations, notations, progress over time measures, capturing spoken, written, and performance-task observations. They record these using multiple tools and multiple measures. It is through this collection of unique and collective measures that teachers make decisions on re-teaching concepts, or create evolving lessons that spiral toward greater complexity of information, extending connections between old and new knowledge and across disciplines, and evoke increasingly complex reflection and analysis of current and potential understandings.
Please make use of our Teacher & Parent Conferences in the next week to ask those essential questions about your “whole child’s” learning needs. Listen and inquire about academic goals, social and collaborative goals, and aspects of “PRIDE” that your child demonstrates.