News Column

Tests, educator evaluations will change in the Eau Claire school district

August 31, 2014

By Blythe Wachter, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.



Aug. 31--As students return to Eau Claire schools this week, they will notice an increasing use of tablet computers for tests and assignments.

What they might not realize is another change in the classroom -- the brand new system being implemented to measure student achievement and educator effectiveness, said Mark Goings, president of the Eau Claire Association of Educators.

Agenda 2017 is the Wisconsin Department of Education's plan to make sure each student graduates from high school ready to succeed in college or a career, said Eau Claire schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck.

"I think what's new this year is just a continuation of the work we've been doing the past two to three years," Hardebeck said, noting Agenda 2017 reflects the district's vision for post-secondary success for every student.

"Agenda 2017 is about raising the bar in terms of what kids are supposed to be able to learn and about how they are taught and their success," she said.

The district has been working to get to the point where it could implement all components of Agenda 2017, Hardebeck said.

Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsin's state student assessment system will work off the Common Core academic standards for English language arts and mathematics. The technologically-supported Smarter Balanced Assessment system will replace most of the current Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam.

This will be the first year that all third- through eighth-graders take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, using the district's new iPads. However, the district had a pilot project on how the tests would run the past two years in third through sixth grades, said Jim Schmitt, the district's director of technology and assessment.

High school students also will be using new tablet computers in the classroom and for testing. Chromebooks now are used only in high school English classes, but the district will be piloting their use in other areas, including science, Schmitt said.

"We will also use them to administer the ACT Aspire assessment. That is a new online assessment required by the DPI for grades nine and 10," he said.

Also new this school year, the district will begin using the state's new Educator Effectiveness System that evaluates the performance of teachers and principals, Hardebeck said.

The district will use a model based on promoting professional growth for teachers, identifying aspects of their professionalism they want to enhance and tying evaluations to student learning objectives, she said.

This model evaluates how effective teachers' methods are in promoting increased student achievement, she said. "The other piece of this is it really gives teachers an opportunity to work with one another to meet student goals and discuss with principals what is needed to help students meet goals and get a high-quality experience in the classroom."

"I think we're off to a strong start this year. We've done a lot of work in preparing teachers ... this year we'll put a lot of training into practice," Hardebeck said.

After receiving training last spring and as part of staff development time, teachers are "cautiously optimistic" about the new evaluation system, Goings said. "It's all about good teaching."

There's been a lot of dialogue between the school board, district administration and staff that has made for an easier transition, he said.

The tone the district has set is, "We are in this together," Hardebeck said.

Wachter can be reached at 715-830-5828, 800-236-7077 or blythe.wachter@ecpc.com.

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(c)2014 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

Visit the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.) at www.leadertelegram.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)


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