Ann Arbor school board approves test that officials expect will accurately measure student growth
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.
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 AnnArbor.com, 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.”