School board "befuddled" at assessment data

Several board members frustrated with inconsistent data from principals


 FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Community School Board wants tighter data on student performance metrics.
At a workshop Wednesday night at the district central office, school administrators including principals at all levels, gave a data dump to the board that demonstrated comparative testing data by class.
But several board members questioned the validity of the data after board member Amy Thacher said the data isn’t comparing apples to apples –
"These are different assessments across. So we’ve switched our default many times. Even though it’s a good dipstick the longitudinal data probably isn’t super accurate. It’s good to know that.," Thacher said.
Board member Mio Santiago asked for clarification that the tests haven’t been the same that were shown on a graph.
Thacher said the data is good to have, but it can’t be correlated across the classes because they aren’t seeing results from the same test.
“I guess going forward, that would be nice to know so we know we are comparing apples to apples and not oranges to grapes to tomatoes to whatever,” Santiago said.
Thacher said the district tests are good approved screeners, but they’ve flip-flopped back and forth over the years so that linear data isn’t the same for each year,” she said.
Board president Josh Wykert asked what the pros and cons to each tests were. Thacher said there are several types of tests some in which the student work alone, computer adaptive, at a computer, and others they work with a teacher.
She said her point is that it’s hard to tell whose growing from this data.
Santiago said with variables in the testing changing it has to be hard to tell which students are growing and which aren’t. He said the board is making some decisions based on the reports the schools bring each trimester.
“My point is for the growth purposes over time, you probably can’t look at the screener data over time until you’ve taken the same screen tests over time, if that makes sense.” Thacher said.
Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said that could be a good workshop to have – further study in the fall to get into some examples of what some of the tests are looking for and see some growth.
Slater said you have be careful looking at things longitudinally because class mobility changes and therefore a lot of those angles change.
“We’ve chosen to do screener data as a board because we’re not doing classroom data, not doing CFAs, because those are student-specific and that’s not appropriate for the board to be looking at student specific data.
“This is an opportunity to look at classroom data instead of where it’s just once a year at the end of the year.”
Santiago said he was a little frustrated that they are just finding this information out now and the board has been looking at the data each trimester for some time now.
“This wasn’t brought up until Amy just mentioned it,” he said.
Wykert also expressed some frustration during the high school report.
“Even though we’ve talked tonight about inaccuracies of the data that we're using to make decisions, how do we balance that?,” he said.
“We’re switching tests, we’re allocating resources. I don’t see the point in testing all the time if it’s not meaningful.”
He said he loved encouraging kids to perform in the fall and winter when it matters with allocation of resources. He said the spring tests just show how the kids have done and there is an ISASP (Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress) test for that.
“I’ve got four sheets of information in front of me and they're all different. And we’re throwing other numbers around here and I can’t match it to anything other than this sheet as we’re going through it. Our ultimate goal as a board is to provide resources and provide all the structures we need to improve performance and I don’t know if we’re doing that. I’m confused. I’m befuddled,” Wykert said.
FMHS Co-principal Adrian McKay said data analysis is complex, but asked the board to trust the process because research around universal screening, whether it be a “dipstick” or a “snapshot” proves to be fairly accurate when it comes to student performance.
Slater said she will look into  re-examining how the administrators present data. Santiago said he would like to see an executive summary of the data points on student testing. Slater said there could also be some together learning with the board, including some history with the assessments, that could be helpful.

Fort Madison Community School District, work session, assessments, ISASP, MAPS, screeners, teachers, students, principals, data, news, education, Pen City Current


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