Transition to Proficiency
New Assessments in
York Schools are working to improve! Using research as our guide, we are helping teachers learn new classroom strategies that help increase student achievement. What helps students learn and achieve? In a word - clarity! Using learning standards, teachers work collaboratively to develop clear goals for students, called learning targets. Teachers provide criteria for students to meet the goals and even exceed them, for motivated students. Regular feedback is provided to students as they move to the learning target, to help both student and teacher monitor learning progress. This is the heart of PROFICIENCY BASED LEARNING (PBL), an approach that has existed for years (known also as standards based learning and competency based learning), but has more recently gained a foothold as schools work to create classroom learning experiences which reflect our changing information age. Instead of focusing on what they are teaching, educators are focusing on what students are learning. Knowing that students have vast amounts of information at their fingertips, how students use the information, and how they assess their own learning, become much more valuable skills in our evolving economy.
The state of Maine has endorsed the use of PBL by requiring that high schools award proficiency based diplomas to students instead of traditional diplomas. In York, this transition will begin with the Class of 2020 (current 7th graders). High School transcripts for these students will reflect attainment of a series of graduation standards, in addition to the list of courses taken.
Although all York Schools are committed to helping teachers learn proficiency based learning approaches, how student learning is shared with parents (proficiency based grading and reporting) is still evolving. It is important to remember that using proficiency based learning approaches in the classroom does not necessarily require changes in grading practices or the awarding of diplomas.
At Village and Coastal Ridge, report cards are still delivered on paper. At York Middle School, changing instructional approaches led to an interest in piloting a new online grading and reporting system called MasteryConnect to try to better reflect student learning. At York High School, changes to grading and reporting will evolve slowly over the next few years, keeping in mind the importance of developing a system which will be advantageous to York students in the college admission process.
For more information about Proficiency Based Learning in York, visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page above.
Visit the York Middle School Website!
York Middle School Principal Dave Williams and YMS teachers have been sharing information about PBL and blogging about their teaching and learning! Visit the Proficiency Based Learning page and the Teaching and Learning page to learn more about their journey.
Students will experience changes this year in the assessments given to measure achievement, both locally here in York and at the state level.
In the York Schools, we made a switch from using the NWEA and CPAA assessments twice per year (fall and spring) for students in Grades K-9 to using STAR Assessments. Why the switch? STAR Assessments have all of the same features as NWEA, but have significant improvements that will benefit our students and teachers.
1. Shorter test administration (online, takes about 30 min)
2. Better teacher and parent reporting (easier to read, understand, and use)
3. Able to use frequently for students who need closer monitoring
We have administered this assessment to all students in Grades K-9 this fall. Many students will also have a winter test, to check on progress, and everyone will have a spring test, to measure student achievement growth for the year. Parents will receive a report at the end of the school year, but can request an interim report at any time from their child's teacher.
The state of Maine has instituted the second big change in assessment for Maine students, with the switch from NECAP/SAT assessments as the school accountability measure to the new Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) provided by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. What is the difference? The NECAP assessments measured learning standards agreed upon by regional states (Maine, RI, Vermont, New Hampshire). The new MEA assessments are measuring the Common Core Standards, adopted by 43 states. The other big difference is that the new assessments will be given online, instead of paper and pencil, and are adaptive, meaning that the test will adapt (provide a harder or easier question) depending on how a student answers the previous question.
In York, our biggest challenge is administering the assessment online during April and May, given our aging network infrastructure in our schools. We would ask that parents be patient with us as we try to spread out the administration of the assessment over a number of weeks to assure that students have a successful experience.
Helping Our Students with Reading and Writing
For the past few years, York teachers have been working hard to develop a comprehensive reading and writing support system for our students, Kindergarten through 8th grade. This has involved a partnership with the University of Maine that has allowed many of our teachers to undergo extensive training to help students who struggle with reading and writing. The result is a model system that draws educators from other districts to visit and learn, and will help us reach our goal to have 100% of our students reading and writing on grade level by the end of 4th grade!