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New test implementation going OK, school officials say

Hall, Gainesville schools completed portions of the Student Learning Objectives in August

POSTED: October 18, 2013 10:57 p.m.

New pretests were administered for the first time this year in public schools after local officials developed the materials over the summer.

“By and large, pretesting went well,” said Terry Sapp, high schools school improvement specialist with the Hall County system. Both Hall and Gainesville schools completed the pretest portions of the Student Learning Objectives at the beginning of the school year in August.

Schools have been tasked with developing the pre- and post-assessment exams for courses not tested by the Criterion-Reference Competency Tests or End of Course Tests. The resulting scores on the new tests will play a large role in measuring teachers’ effectiveness, something that could lend itself to merit-based pay and bonuses.

Shenley Rountree, a teacher at Lanier Charter Career Academy, was involved in the test creation process for two separate marketing classes.

“The test is aligned exactly with the standards that we have with each course,” Rountree explained. “We basically looked at those. I believe I had 12 standards for both classes. You look at those standards and said, ‘OK, how am I going to evaluate this?’”

For this first year, schools were asked to have at least one assessment per teacher. For example, a high school instructor may teach four different classes. If she has one class that uses the End of Course Test, she would not need to implement a new assessment this year.

“The long-term plan is that this is supposed to be a test for every course number that gets taught,” said Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction with Gainesville City Schools. “But right now, (the state) just said every teacher needs one (assessment).”

Hall County officials have written tests for about 130 subjects so far but not all were administered this year, Sapp said.

Unlike the EOCT or CRCT, the new tests are handled almost entirely by school systems. The teachers and administrators collect the data, which is then turned over to the state.

“Overall, it was a pretty easy experience,” Rountree said, explaining it was much like grading any other test. “I think it was probably easier than I expected.”

Students were not as thrilled.

“Since students don’t know the content, they were a little wary,” Rountree said. “They’re trained as students to do well on exams all the time. For them to take a pretest and be expected not to know a whole lot. ... I think that was a little challenging for them.”

At Gainesville, 119 assessments were given this year. They are still in the process of developing post-tests for later in the year.

“The unfortunate piece for us is, we feel like it takes up a lot of instructional time,” Moore said. “However, we know it’s something we’ve been asked to do by the state, so we’re able to use it to inform our instruction.

“We have teachers that know how to take the data and use it to inform what they’re teaching to their students, which makes it a valuable tool in the classroom.”

Those 119 subject assessments led to around 12,000 pretests being administered, just at the beginning of the school year.

“Just think, that will be more than double when the full year is done,” Moore said. “We’re going to be up over 25,000 assessments, just to meet this state requirement.”


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