|Dear Osprey Students and Families,
At Animas High School, we assess learning in lots of ways, using innovative strategies like Exhibitions, Student-Led Conferences and Presentations of Learning in addition to more traditional methods such as papers, quizzes and exams. Standardized tests are a piece of the assessment puzzle, too, as they provide data that helps us examine student growth and how we’re doing as a school. Our administration, staff and School Excellence Committee analyze test scores annually, looking for trends and refining our practices to support student success.
We are proud that for every year in our entire history as a school, the Colorado Department of Education has named AHS a Performance School, their highest performance rating, based on achievement and growth on state assessments along with postsecondary measures such as graduation rates, drop-out rates, college entrance exams and college matriculation rates.
The SAT and ACT can play an important role in determining college options for our students, and we take seriously our role preparing them for these tests. We have students practice for the SAT by taking a grade-appropriate PSAT tests in 9th, 10th and 11th grades, following up after they’ve taken the tests to help them see where they were most successful and where they can focus to do better the next time around. This helps them build skills to do their best when they take the SAT in the spring of junior year.
2019-20 Standardized Tests by Grade Level
This year, our 9th graders will take the PSAT8/9 on April 14, which will take about 2.5 hours for students to complete.
Our 10th graders will take the PSAT10 on April 14, which will take approximately 2.75 hours.
Sophomores also have the option to take the PSAT/NMSQT at AHS with the juniors on October 16, though this is certainly not required. Those who are interested in this option should register with Dusty Grannis, our IT Director and Assessment Coordinator. There will be a $14 fee which the individual family will need to pay. We have limited spots available for sophomores, and will fill them on a first-come-first-served basis.
Our 11th graders will take the PSAT/NMSQT on October 16 and the SAT on April 14. The PSAT will take approximately 2.75 hours, and the SAT will be about 3 hours long. For juniors, PSAT/NMSQT scores are used to determine qualification for the National Merit Scholarship. Juniors have the option of adding the essay section to the SAT on April 14 at no extra cost. Our College Counselor, Jess Morrison, will help juniors who choose to take the essay section register for this piece.
We will have early release for the juniors on October 16; they will be released at 12:30 or once they have finished taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Juniors will not be expected to attend XBlock on this date and their absence will not be counted against their attendance.
Juniors will also take the CMAS Science tests on April 21; the CMAS exam is about 2.5 hours long.
We do not plan to administer any standardized tests for our 12th graders.
In addition, we will administer the ACCESS language proficiency assessment to our English Language Learners mid-January to mid-February.
The CMAS will be administered online rather than with pencil and paper; we have determined, in consultation with staff and parents, that this is the most efficient and effective method and the AHS Board of Directors has approved this decision. ACCESS is only available as an online assessment. The PSAT8/9, PSAT10, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT will be administered using pencil and paper. There is no cost to families for any of these tests, with the exception of sophomores who choose to take the PSAT/NMSQT on October 16. All tests listed above will be administered during regular school hours on campus.
Accessing and Understanding Individual Test Scores
The fastest way to access PSAT and SAT scores is by creating student accounts on the College Board website and then checking there about three weeks after taking an exam. Students will always receive scores before the school does for all college entrance exams.
In Advisory yesterday, sophomores and juniors spent time reviewing their individual PSAT score reports from the testing they did last April. Students received paper copies of their score reports that include information about how they did on different sections of the test. They used the resources on the College Board website to understand what their scores mean and how they can pinpoint areas to focus on moving forward. Once we receive juniors’ paper scores for October’s PSAT/NMSQT, we will share those in advisory as well.
To learn more about how to interpret scores:
Preparing for the Tests
We believe that being engaged in their learning is a key contributing factor to student success on standardized tests. Our teachers are intentional in the way they teach content and skills that the PSAT, SAT and ACT measure. That said, there are many resources available for students to do independent preparation beyond what we offer during the school day at AHS, some for free and some with a cost attached.
We have received a grant which will allow us to offer an SAT Preparation elective in partnership with Durango Academic Coaching during second semester this year. We are still working out the details, and will share more information once we are ready to launch this new class.
Kahn Academy has partnered with College Board to offer online test prep that is free and personalized; you can access that here. Being familiar with the format of the test and doing practice tests ahead of time can also help students improve their scores. Arriving on the day of testing well rested and fed, helps, too, of course.
For more resources, visit the “testing” tab on AHS College Counselor Jess Morrison’s digital portfolio here.
We recognize that some families have strong feelings about standardized testing and choose to opt out of them. It’s important to understand the impact of opting out of standardized tests.
Many colleges rely on the SAT and/or ACT scores in determining college admission, though some do not. For students, taking the tests that lead up to the SAT can help improve their performance and scores, as they become more familiar with the format and practice the skill of test taking. You can view a list of over 1000 colleges that are test-optional in their admissions process here.
Also, when we are evaluated, as a school, by our authorizer–the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI)–and the by the Colorado Department of Education, student test scores are a key data point. Having all students participate in standardized testing gives us the most accurate picture of our data.
That said, we also want to be clear that no students or family will face negative consequences from the school for opting out of state assessments. We recognize and respect that this is a decision you will each make individually, and only ask that you make an informed choice.
If you do choose to opt out, please submit a letter expressing your decision to the Main Office, signed by a parent/guardian. Parent refusal notices will be gathered and maintained by Libby Cowles, Assistant Head of School.
We will keep you posted if we make any changes or additions to the testing schedule outlined here. As always, please don’t hesitate to share your questions, thoughts and concerns with us.
P.S.–Join us for the AHS Parent Coffee tomorrow morning at 8:30 to check in on the start of the year and get any questions answered!