Teachers around the country have a lot of questions this fall. How will the lack of summative assessment data from last spring impact the school year? How quickly can I determine what students may have missed in the chaotic close of the 2019–2020 school year? Are remote assessments accurate? How can I parse the interim and formative assessment data of incoming students and focus on the areas that will provide the greatest return?

The answers will vary from school to school, but across the board, assessment is going to be critical in getting students back on track.

Missing and Remote Assessments: Do We Have the Data We Need?

The majority of schools closed in the spring before they had a chance to perform their standard end-of-year summative assessments. That’s one source of data that teachers didn’t have as they planned for the new academic year.

Compounding this issue, students’ abilities are likely going to be far more varied than they are at the beginning of a typical school year. Again, there are many unanswered questions: What material did students still need to cover when school buildings closed? How much new instruction was provided via distance learning? Did students have internet access? Did students stay engaged or disconnect from school completely? Did students have family members who were able to step in and support their progress, or were they struggling along alone?

Teachers will have to more heavily rely on fall assessments to understand where their students are, and what learning gaps exist within their classroom. Of course, many schools are starting the fall with virtual instruction, raising the question of whether remote testing is as effective or accurate as in-person assessment.

The folks at Imagine Schools, a charter network with 30,000 students at schools in seven states and the District of Columbia, answered this last question by 1) conducting remote assessments in the spring; and 2) commissioning a study of that data. Dr. Bill Younkin of the Biscayne Research Group examined the scores of approximately 5,000 students at 16 of Imagine’s schools and found that remote assessment was as effective as in-person assessment, with a couple of minor exceptions.

“Particularly low scores were a little less common among students being assessed remotely,” noted Younkin, “while exceptionally high scores were slightly more common. These effects were both observed at the lower grades, but virtually disappeared at the higher grades.”

Research shows that reading at least 20 minutes a day, every day, all year long, can make a world of difference for students at all levels. We know that daily reading practice helps students avoid the dreaded summer slide that can rob them of gains they’ve made during the school year.

The challenge is how to get and keep students engaged in reading over the summer months, without regular contact with teachers, school librarians, and others who provide that reading message during the school year. The solution is a summer literacy initiative that motivates students with the support of both families and community partners.

A successful summer initiative should mirror the school culture and serve as a connector between the prior school year and the upcoming school year. Well-executed summer initiatives that become part of the fabric of a school community result in an expectation that “Of course our students will continue reading over the summer months. Why wouldn’t they?”

Creating a just-right summer initiative

• Planning is key. Some schools and districts begin planning for the following summer as soon as their current summer initiatives have wrapped up. Others tackle it early in the calendar year. Still others may wait until Spring. Regardless of when planning begins, an important first step is to identify a summer literacy coordinator who can lead the planning and implementation processes.

• Ensure students have access to engaging material for summer reading. This can include partnering with public libraries and other local organizations that provide kids with access to print and/or electronic books over the summer. Increasingly, schools and districts are also adopting digital reading platforms to give students unlimited, 24/7 access to books on a variety of topics and at a range of levels—both during the school year and over the summer.

• Establish goals and success indicators, along with a plan for monitoring progress. Here, it’s important to take advantage of the critical school-to-home connection by providing families with resources to encourage reading outside of school. Explain that providing a reading space and setting aside time in their student’s schedule every day to read—independently or together with family members—is essential. Also, share the student’s current reading level, so they can help their student find just-right books.

• Communicate information about the summer initiative to staff, students, and families. Be sure to distribute summer reading information to students and families at the end of the school year, before the summer break begins. Often, community partners can then help to reinforce the message through a variety of channels—signs and posters, local media, social media, and word-of-mouth.

Next, drill down into the elements that will make the summer initiative engaging and effective. These include several key recommendations:

Tip #1: Select a summer reading theme and create reading challenges that enable students to strive for their personal best to boost engagement.

Tip #2: Work with partners to recruit and train volunteers to support summer reading activities within the community. Plan events that can be co-sponsored by one or more community partner organizations, to involve multiple stakeholders in kids’ reading success.

Tip #3: Remind families to ask their children questions before and after reading. Also, help families understand how they can extend a reading experience by finding, reading, and discussing other books on a popular topic or theme.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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