A Few Thoughts About “Testing”

happy kids

Just one word can probably elicit some strong emotions. Just. one. word. Are you ready for it? Testing.

Some hear the word “testing” and feel fear due to their own negative testing experiences. Some hear that word and feel failure due to the way a test defined them or their child. Some experience frustration due to conflicting information from various sources around the word “testing”.

As parents and educators, let’s take back the word “testing.” At ECS, we believe there is value in what can be learned from a test. ECS teachers use tests as a piece of a bigger picture — of assessment. Assessment provides an opportunity for celebrating student learning growth. Assessment goes beyond “giving a test” and uses the information in a way that creates valuable learning opportunities for your child. Together, let’s reshape how we think about testing and talk about assessment!

Why ECS chooses to implement effective and efficient assessment practices:

  • Quarterly STAR assessments, through the Accelerated Reader program, provide feedback to students related to their improvement in reading and comprehension skills.
  • Quarterly NWEA MAP* testing provides opportunities for teachers to have conversations with students to set learning goals. Testing results also provide information for teachers to design instruction that meets student needs at, above, or below grade level.
  • Teachers use classroom formative and summative assessments in all subject areas on a daily basis.
  • ECS celebrates student success and achievement. From student conferences to AR carnivals, students know their initiative and effort yields positive results.
  • As an accredited, nonpublic school, ECS participates in mandated statewide testing.
  • Regarding assessment data, ECS partners with parents and other stakeholders to acknowledge areas of growth, to create plans to support student learning, and to provide perspective for the learning happening in the classroom.

What ECS wants you to know about your child’s testing:

  • Actual testing time is limited. At ECS, teachers and administrators seek efficient testing practices by limiting the types of tests given, using efficient scheduling practices, and ensuring teachers are equipped with using the information effectively.
  • Testing allows for practical use of critical thinking skills and problem solving. Students demonstrate skill in completing multi-step problems, applying previously learned skills to new situations, and exhibiting literacy skills related to higher level thinking in reading, writing, and comprehension.
  • Students build and practice stamina. Students engage prior knowledge, maintain focus, and respond to rigorous questions and prompts.
  • Students experience technology in a practical setting. At every grade level, students are integrating technology in every area of learning. Whether preparing for high school, college, and beyond, technology use models authentic learning practices used in the classroom and in everyday life.
  • Testing allows students to show what they have learned. It is not designed to trick, confuse, or frustrate students.

Recently, AdvancED released some information about new legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, that replaces No Child Left Behind. AdvancED asked the question, “Are we ready to build a system of continuous improvement that lifts every learner, teacher, leader, and community?”. ECS is already pursuing this in partnership with families and teachers. God’s Word says, “Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, NLT). Thank you for your partnership in helping our students succeed!

In His Service,

Tyra Harnishfeger                                                                  Susie Masterson
Data and Resource Coordinator                                      PK-5th Principal

*ECS uses quarterly NWEA MAP (Northwest Education Association’s Measures for Academic Progress) for grades K-8. As a non-profit organization, they focus on helping educators recognize growth in students and identify what skills a student is ready to learn.

Teaching the “Whole” Child

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Partnership among all stakeholders in the ECS community requires checking in often to evaluate how we are meeting expectations, as well as ensuring parents and staff are aware of how we meet the needs of the “whole” child – spiritually, academically, physically, socially, and emotionally. We are currently collecting feedback from parents, students, and staff through AdvancED surveys to let us know “how we are doing”, so we can continue to build community and live the mission of ECS.

Our school accreditations provide opportunities for ECS to evaluate our programs and services, as well as how we communicate them to our families and staff. Recently during our AdvancED/ACSI onsite visit, we reviewed services the school provides “that support the counseling, assessment, referral, educational, and career planning needs of all students.”  It became clear that not all parents and staff were aware of all the programs and services ECS offers. As a result, we have updated our Student Handbook and Faculty Handbook to inform all stakeholders of the process used to coordinate programs to meet the needs of all students.

Academic
• Provide parents with a list of available tutors
• Offer after school help classes and test prep
• Implement 504 Plans, ILPs (Individual Learning Plans for English Language Learners), and ISPs (Individual Service Plans, known as Individual Education Plans in public school) and meet for annual conferences (or as requested by parents)
• Utilize Response to Intervention process for  students to provide support and/or begin identifying behavior or learning needs and to provide resource instruction
• Meet as an Education Intervention Team with parents and teachers to plan interventions
• Collaborate with Local Education Agencies for referral, testing, evaluation, and identification of student needs (including learning disabilities, speech, other health impairments, and other needs as eligible)
• Collaborate with Local Education Agencies for professional development and intervention development
• Offer parent education opportunities
• Administer classroom diagnostic screenings, formative assessments, and achievement testing in order to determine how to best meet student needs in collaboration with parents and teachers (K-8 NWEA MAP testing)
• Work cooperatively with outside agencies for referral and support, with parent permission
• Implement differentiated instruction in all grade levels

Physical
• Provide physical education classes and athletic programs for 1st through 8th grade
• Provide health classes in PK-8th grade
• Provide recess daily for all grades
• Implement  a school-wide wellness plan
• Employ full-time health coordinator
• Provide emergency response materials in each classroom
• Conduct school safety drills
• Follow individual health plans for students as needed
• Provide a lunch program at each campus
• Collaborate with school liaison officer at each campus
• Conduct health screenings

Social
• Provide referrals as needed to Department of Children’s Services, or outside agencies with parent permission, counselors, and physicians
• Offer information regarding Free and Reduced Lunch Program, Textbook Reimbursement, SGOs, School Vouchers, and Tuition Assistance
• Complete forms and assessments from outside agencies with parent permission
• Collaborate with counselors and other professionals on behalf of students with parent permission
• Collaborate with local agencies such as fire department and police department to conduct presentations as part of the curriculum

Emotional
• Collaborate with resource staff, parents, and teachers to create behavior support plans
• Counsel students as needed
• Provide referrals for outside counseling
• Collaborate with counselors and other professionals on behalf of students with parent permission
• Provide additional data and feedback for parents from classroom observations and use of diagnostic tools
• Demonstrate a culture of encouragement and support from staff

Spiritual
• Provide Biblical curriculum which includes chapels, small groups, Bible studies, prayer, Bible class instruction, and Biblical integration in all classes
• Promoting programs offered by church partners and the community
• Maintain a Biblical focus through extracurricular programs
• Equip teachers through staff devotions, prayer, and professional development; pray with students and families
• Offer mission opportunities, local and world-wide

Reflecting on the programs and services ECS provides, and communicating with our families and staff, enriches our partnership!  We are investing in the future, one student at a time.

 

World’s Best Practice Rebounder

As a child, I had a violent temper that reared its ugly head any time I lost, and manifested itself  in kicking basketballs into windows, throwing board game pieces at my siblings, and being sent to my room.  I hated losing (and still do), and challenged my family’s ability to patiently love me through every rant, outburst, and loss.

In middle school and high school my dad and I would go to the gym before school so I could shoot and work out.  I have never been a morning person, and to start some days by missing shot . . . after shot . . .  after shot . . . would exasperate me into punting the basketball across the gym as a release of my frustration.  My father’s response: go dig the ball out from whatever bleacher it was wedged under, run back to the basket, and give me another pass.

Despite my father’s incessant self-proclamation of being the “World’s Best Practice Rebounder”, I consider the number of times he hunted the basketball down and brought it back to me again to shoot another lousy shot, and I have to admit that he really was the best.  And as we so often see in our earthly fathers a reflection of our Heavenly Father, it was in those moments that I began to understand God’s love for me defined as both long-suffering and kind.bball

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, Paul says love is the ability to “…suffereth long, and is kind; …” (KJV).  To love someone means you develop a kind of loyalty and commitment that boils down to choice far more often than emotion.  There is no way my father felt like chasing the basketball that I had kicked across the gym – and some days he expressed this truth; however, he still chose to do it because he needed me to know two truths: he loved me, and he was in it for the long haul.

Every teacher has undoubtedly recognized the choice we are asked to make daily on behalf of our students: to love them with long-suffering and kindness; to choose daily to commit ourselves to their development intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually; to hold them accountable in their work and actions; to cheer on their identity, character, and excellence.  Furthermore, parents and students alike are asked to love their teachers with long-suffering and kindness; to trust their judgment; to know that every teacher chose their profession with students in mind.  When teachers, students, and parents respond to each other in this way, we extend grace and reflect a partnership that must make God proud.  He epitomizes a long-suffering love and kindness towards us as he daily chooses to withhold his righteous judgment towards us and honor our faith in His Son, Jesus.

So thank you, Dad, for pointing me toward God’s character.  Thank you, students, for trusting me as your leader.  And thank you, parents, for choosing to send your students to Evansville Christian School.  I can promise you that every teacher here deeply desires for your children to know the same truths my father expressed to me many years ago:            we love them, and we are in it for the long haul.                                                                          

In His Love,                                                                                                                                                                 Paige Rudolph                                                                                                                                                           5th Grade Literature & Language Teacher

Quality, Commitment, and Christ

best-quality-graphic“There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit…” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Olivia Hallisley, 16 year old sophomore at Greenwich High School in Connecticut, crosses the stage with a nervous grin to receive the top prize at the 2015 Google Science Fair. This young woman has created an expedient Ebola detection kit to meet the growing need worldwide. She was inspired after watching 10,000 people around the world die from this ravaging disease. (Huffington Post)

Her heartfelt rationale to TIME Magazine for this project was simple: “We have to work together to find answers to the enormous challenges that threaten global health, our environment and our world.” This young woman has been educated, empowered and now entrusted with a great calling to lead her generation.

As she excitedly took her trophy and prize in hand, she no doubt recognized the enormity of her work and the far-reaching impact her efforts will have. But, she stood alone. Olivia alone was honored. Olivia alone was praised. Olivia alone was rewarded.

However, I believe this one young woman represented dozens of educators who, through the years, were committed to developing Olivia’s inquisitive nature, challenged her academic thinking and offered a safe place to develop as a learner. The goal of her educators, both in the classroom and the home, was not to take the stage themselves, but rather to engage, equip and empower Olivia for greatness.

In the five years I have had the opportunity to be a part of the dynamic team of educators at Evansville Christian School, it has not escaped me that a group of such quality, committed and Christ-minded people under one roof is a rare find. The words of Emerson quoted above are embodied by the faculty and staff of ECS. As our ECS team is pursuing excellence and growth in the ever-changing world of education, there is not even the consideration of leaving someone out of the conversation when it involves student learning. We are many parts that function as one in our pursuit of excellence. We are not driven by competition but rather collaboration.

When a student, regardless of all factors, is surrounded by a team of professionals willing to tailor learning, accountability and relationship based on his/her individual needs, the result will be student achievement. While external measures and assessment for each student will absolutely be unique to the learner, those scores will be far outweighed by the long-standing, unmeasurable changes occurring in our classrooms as children transition from students to learners.

While the list of accolades our team of educators have earned is growing with every passing year; the true source of this excellence comes from the work begun at ECS by the Lord over 40 years ago. It is by His name we have been empowered to do the work of teaching and training and by His Spirit that the hearts of so many have been turned toward eternal salvation in Jesus Christ. Not for our praise but rather His glory. When our eyes are fixed on making disciples rather than earning praise, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

In Service,

Nicci St. Clair
English Teacher/Middle School Team Leader
Evansville Christian School