Assessment expected to help teachers keep students on track

Domoniqua Whitfield (center) and her classmates take a Par exam during an English language arts class at Tutt Middle School. The exams, begun by Superintendent Frank Roberson last year, are given every 15 days to track progress.

 

Richmond County schools are putting a stronger focus this year on a tool used to monitor student progress and catch students before they slip too far behind.

Teachers are required to administer a 10- to 15-question test every 15 days, which is scored but does not count toward a student’s grade, to see where help is needed before moving on to the next concept.

Superintendent Frank Roberson implemented the Periodic Assessment Reviews, or PARs, shortly after he was hired in August 2010, but not all principals were requiring teachers to administer the tests.

At a retreat in August, school board member Patsy Scott said principals were not administering the PARs regularly. Missoura Ashe, the executive director of middle schools, said she worried teachers didn’t have the training to use the data effectively.

This school year, officials said they are making PARs a requirement to
get a glimpse of student achievement in shorter intervals.

“It gives everybody the opportunity to take a little pause, make sure you’re getting what you’re supposed to be getting and fix it if you’re not,” said Tutt Middle School Principal Nathan Benedict.

Teachers in all core subjects – such as science, math and reading – normally give the tests at the beginning of the class period. The multiple choice answer sheets are graded electronically.

Benedict said if a teacher sees a student has not fully grasped a concept, they try to intervene in the next two days. This could mean asking a student to come to school 30 minutes earlier or stay after dismissal to get one-on-one help.

Benedict said before PARs, administrators depended on nine-week math and reading assessments to judge progress. The 15-day assessments give teachers a more immediate picture so gaps can be filled before too much time passes, he said.

Roberson said millions in federal funds have been spent on remediation, only to find the intervention occurs too late.

In an e-mail, Georgia Department of Education director of communications Matt Cardoza said he had never heard of 15-day assessments. Benchmark assessments given every eight weeks would be more common.

Roberson said the data from the assessments will be studied by school officials and central office administrators to help make changes in the district.

“The 15-day assessments give us a more immediate review of what things are in the way of learning,” he said.

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