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Posted on Thu, May 26, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Ann Arbor school board approves test that officials expect will accurately measure student growth

By Kyle Feldscher

Ann Arbor students in the elementary grades and at Scarlett Middle School will take a new test next year as a part of the district’s attempt to better measure student progress.

The Ann Arbor school board approved the purchase of the Northwest Evaluation Assessment, a computer-generated test that students will take three times during each school year.

School officials say the test will be able to provide teachers with an accurate measure of student’s progress during the school year to allow them to customize their instruction.

Interim deputy superintendent for instruction Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley said the test is dynamic and adjusts on a question-to-question basis to each student’s understanding of the material.

“It’s extraordinarily helpful,” she said. “If a student is having difficulty answering questions, the test adjusts to them. It could adjust up or down and pull in another bank of questions. The unique aspect is it customizes the assessment on the spot for each student taking the test.”

The NWEA would not be a replacement for standardized tests such as the Michigan Educational Assessment Program. Officials estimated the test takes about 20 minutes for kindergarten and first grade students and about 30 minutes for second grade students and the test is age appropriate for each grade level.

Many other districts in the area, such as the Chelsea School District and the Ypsilanti Public Schools, use the test.

The school board approved the purchase of the test for all elementary students and students at Scarlett for $92,701.50 unanimously at Wednesday are meeting.

Trustee Andy Thomas, who has written in support of the test in a guest column for, said the test could be used as an assessment for teachers to show how much student achievement was growing under them in a given year, but said that was not the primary function.

“The purpose of the test is to provide a student assessment tool,” he said. “There may be some secondary benefits, as far as uses for teacher assessment, but that is really secondary.”

The district expects to expand the test to the middle schools in the 2012-13 school year. Dickinson-Kelley held off on recommending the school board approve a purchase of the test for the middle school level because new computers would have to be bought to support the test.

Trustee Glenn Nelson said the delay in implementing the test at the middle schools and high schools to buy new equipment showed that the equipment purchased through the 2004 school bond is already going out of date.

“That technology we were able to buy with the 2004 bond and subsequent phases is now becoming inadequate for what would be a modern, excellent school system” Nelson said. “We need to think of how to remedy that problem.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Dr. I. Emsayin

Fri, May 27, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

With "dynamic" tests taken on a computer, guessing does not work in the way it does on a paper/pencil test. The question dumbs down to the ability level of the right answers and fewer points are given for those easier answers. The college testing companies use these tests in some circumstances and often the scores turn out lower than when taken on paper. The national and state standards already require that teachers teach to standards that are then tested. At the high school level exams are based on those standards and students do not pass if they do not achieve a level of proficiency. I agree that there is money to be made by testing outfits who make these tests and it is only for oversight and the convenience of the number crunchers that these tests are "necessary." Ann Arbor is a community with a gap in measured achievement between the most and least successful students. Since the BOE is dedicated to closing the gap, they are also dedicated to measuring it. There are certainly other types of intelligence that are not as readily measured, but still allow students to have success in the classroom and in careers. Teachers who have made an emotional difference in students' lives or have nurtured a passion of a student, do not always receive the accolades (and potentially the monetary reward through the evaluation process) that a school district receives when students test better. Finding a way that students and parents can evaluate and praise teachers besides on this website would make the school system a more encouraging, friendlier place for the educators who seem to be trying their darndest to learn and deliver new material for each new mandated test.


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

Teachers are continually assessing their students. None of them are waiting around for a standardized test to tell them how the kids are doing. Maybe what they need is not another assessment but a way to better communicate about the assessments they are already doing.


Fri, May 27, 2011 : 5:23 a.m.

My guess is that neither Andy or Glenn would pass this test. Seems all we do is take tests. Dickensen-Kelly is worthless. So, when the students don't do well on the test who do you blame. Can't blame the principal at the school anymore she is gone. Blame the teachers. Dickensen-Kelly hidding her failure again and blaming everyone else. The biggest problem with this test is that teachers teach it and everyone passes. Ask the surronding communities. The people on the East side should be outraged. Then again what better to place to experiment with children than on the east side where those in the AAPS administration feel prents don't typically have the IQ to understand what is happening to their children/students. Take a couple of years away from the students classroom experience so that Dickensen-Kelly can make a name for herself by experimenting with our children and sacraficing their future. Go experiment with your own children Dickensen-Kelly. The reason everyone "hates" this test is that it doesn't work. It is a waste of time. It is a waste of money. It is not progress. It is just nonsense comming from the lips of Dickensen-Kelly.

Patrick Haggood

Fri, May 27, 2011 : 5:09 a.m.

At about $170/student, If this test improves outcomes then it's quite a bargain.

Bob Seagal

Thu, May 26, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

My kids' school already uses it. My experience: 1. The teachers don't like it 2. It takes more time than reported here. 3. It costs money. 4. Some tests are not age/skill level appropriate 5. I get the strong impression that my school uses the results for more than helping teachers (marketing?) 6. Since the test is admistered by computers, it can be more of a test of computer operation than of the subject matter. 7. It may be a round about way of weeding out poor/undisirable teachers, and unfortuately this may be necessary.


Thu, May 26, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Another test. That's great. AND they can come up with the 92 thousand even though just the other day they were considering sharing Principals to accomodate budget cuts. What i want to know is: are they all mad?


Thu, May 26, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

What is interesting is that teachers are trained to assess the learning style of the children and make adjustments to the curriculum for the differences. Tests and quizzes help to identify areas that may need more concentration. If the teacher utilizes the training they have received, the new evaluation test will only confirm what they should already know.