Dear Van Allen Community:
This week is one of the more important weeks of the school year for our students and school. Starting Tuesday and finishing on Thursday, our students will be taking the Iowa Assessments, which monitors a student’s academic growth from February 2014 to February 2015. As we all know, this assessment is a traditional fill-in -oval blank assessment, presented in a series of questions, with students responding by darkening the appropriate oval, and timed for a specific number of minutes. We all realize the limitations of this form of a one–time assessment, unfortunately it is how a student’s growth and a school’s effectiveness are gauged, and the basis for identification as School In Need of Assistance. Last year Van Allen students demonstrated sufficient growth, which provided the school a “Safe Harbor” designation, and if our students once again demonstrate sufficient growth, we would be able to remove the School in Need of assistance label.
Our challenge is that taking an assessment, which can be very stressful for some students, or an activity with little motivation or interest for some students. Students’ motivation is unknown factor, and can greatly impact the test results. Furthermore, the assessment is not directly aligned to our class instruction, nor is the results included in a student’s report, and to be honest, filling-in answer blanks is not a highly engaging learning activity for students or even for adults! Our task is to identify ways to motivate students to do their best, and accurately demonstrate their learning during the past year.
For our students, to create a level of motivation for a non-motivational task, we are proposing a three-tier goal program, including individual recognition, recognition as a class, and a school-wide goal to create “interest” in this activity.
Each student in Grades 3-5 who reaches their growth goal, set by the assessment and based on the score earned in last year’s test, in either math and reading, will receive a “Silver Achievement” medal, and a student who reaches both growth goal, receives “Gold Achievement” medal for reaching their growth.
Prize # 1: Class with the highest student percentage in achieving their yearly learning goal: Lunch at a restaurant of your choice in town.
Prize # 2: Class with the second highest percentage of students reaching their growth goals: Pizza Party at School
Prize # 3: Class with the third highest percentage of students reaching their growth goal: Ice-cream party.
And as a school, we reach 80% of our students attaining their individual growth goals, and then we will provide an all-school prize such as a movie at the local theater, or some other special student treat.
What can parents do to help their child with the Iowa Assessment?
As we have worked hard all year, as the level of support received by our parent community is truly fantastic, demonstrated by the number of parents attending parent conferences, attending our special events, and completing reading logs, we have done our best, and for this week, your support is most appreciated in three simple steps:
Dialoguing with your child to remember to do their best, and help students understand that though this assessment is not a “grade” for their report card, doing their best is important for a student and for us as a school.
In doing their best, this is a simple message, but we also want student to understand that the assessment is challenging, and not to stress, panic, or worry, just do their best without anxiety. And we all know this is easier said then done!
Send your child well rested, on time, and prepared for the day, like any other school day!
Thank you and best wishes for a great week of learning!
And remember that you are all invited to the February District PTA Meeting, which will be held – Thursday, February 12th at 7 pm at the Middle School.