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Standardized Testing at AHS 2016-17



Dear Osprey Students and Families,

At Animas High School, we use a multifaceted approach to assess student learning; in addition to traditional methods such as papers, quizzes and exams, our assessment toolbox includes innovative strategies like Exhibitions, Student-Led Conferences and Presentations of Learning.  We strive for authentic assessment in our work with students, emphasizing real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential skills and knowledge, in front of authentic audiences.

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.  The SAT and ACT play an important role in determining college options for our students, and we are proud of the fact that our students’ scores on these college entrance tests continue to surpass local, state and national averages, as reported in this recent article in The Durango Herald.

The Colorado Department of Education requires that all public schools–including charter schools–administer certain standardized tests at specific grade levels each school year.  As legislators and administrators at the state and national levels continue to debate the issues surrounding standardized testing–examining which tests are best and how much time we should devote to them–we recognize that the only constant is change.  Each year, we see some shifts in which tests we administer to our students, and we want to be sure to keep you all up to date.  The world of standardized testing is filled with acronyms and can be a bit challenging to navigate.  We’re here to help, and we’re happy to answer questions as you make your way through it all.

2016-2017 Standardized Tests per Grade Level

This year, our 9th grade students will take the PARCC English Language Arts and Math tests on April 17 and 18.  Testing will take a total of approximately 9.75 hours over the course of these two days.

10th grade students will take the PSAT 10 on April 12, which will take approximately 3.75 hours.

Sophomores also have the option to take the PSAT/NMSQT at AHS with the juniors on October 19, 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.

Our 11th grade students will take the PSAT/NMSQT on October 19 and the SAT on April 11.  The PSAT will take approximately 2.75 hours, and the SAT will be about 3 hours long.  For juniors, PSAT scores are used to determine qualification for the National Merit Scholarship.  We are awaiting word from the state about whether juniors may also be required to take the CMAS Social Studies, English Language Arts or Math test in the spring; we’ll keep you posted.

We do not plan to administer any standardized tests for our Seniors, and no students will participate in interim assessments such as NWEA this year.

All of these assessments 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.  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 19.  All tests listed above will be administered during regular school hours on campus.

Preparing for the Tests

Statistically speaking, our students perform above state and national averages on college entrance exams, and we believe that being engaged in their learning is a key contributing factor.  We do not place a lot of emphasis on direct teaching-to-the-test preparation for standardized tests; rather, our teachers are intentional in the way they teach content and skills that the ACT and SAT measure, and this has proven to be successful.

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.  Kahn Academy has partnered with College Board to offer online test prep that is free and personalized; you can access that here.  For more resources, visit the Assessment page on the AHS website here or the Testing tab on AHS College Counselor Jess Adams’ digital portfolio here.

As you may have heard, College Board redesigned the PSAT and SAT this year to better reflect the key skills necessary for success in college and career.  You can read about the changes to the tests here.  Being familiar with the format of the test and doing a few practice tests ahead of time can help students improve their scores.  Arriving on the day of testing well rested and fed, helps, too!

Accessing and Understanding Individual Test Scores

The fastest way to access PSAT, SAT and ACT scores is by creating student accounts on the College Board and ACT websites and then checking those about three weeks after taking the exams.  Students will always receive scores before the school does for college entrance exams.

Students and families can access individual scores for standardized tests through Infinite Campus, under the assessment tab.  To learn more about how to interpret the scores, you may:

  • Visit the College Board website for PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT
  • Visit the ACT website
  • Attend the Junior College Night on September 28 or the Sophomore College Night in November with AHS College Counselor Jess Adams
  • Email Assistant Head of School Libby Cowles for individual reports for last year’s PARCC or CMAS exams

In addition, once we receive paper scores for October’s PSAT/NMSQT, we will share those with juniors in advisory.

Opting Out

We recognize that some families have strong feelings about standardized testing and choose to opt out of them.  It’s important to understand how opting out of standardized testing can impact both the student individually and the school as a whole.

As a school, if we drop below a 95% participation rate on any test we administer, we can potentially lose our accreditation or have it downgraded.  This would lead to additional oversight from outside agencies, at the expense of the school, thus potentially diverting money away from the classroom.

For students, taking the tests that lead up to the ACT and SAT can help improve their performance and scores, as they become more familiar with the format and practice the skill of test taking.  Most colleges rely on the SAT and ACT scores in determining college admission, and we take seriously our goal of preparing all students for college and postsecondary success.  A large aspect of doing well on standardized exams is familiarity and since our students do not take a lot of traditional exams, participation in the state-mandated exams enables our students to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage when the time comes for them to take the ACT or SAT.

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 based on the impact to the school and your student.  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.

All best,

Libby

Libby Cowles ::  Assistant Head of School ::  Animas High School
Tel: (970) 247-2474 | x2334
libby.cowles@animashighschool.com | www.animashighschool.com