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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nashua Board of Education sees presentation for iReady programs

NASHUA – The Board of Education saw presentations on the iReady pilot programs from the Elm Street Middle Birch Hill Elementary School representatives.

Elm Street, Birch Hill and Fairgrounds Elementary had all participated in pilot programs, although Fairgrounds is still in the process of reviewing results, said Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Seusing. ...

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NASHUA – The Board of Education saw presentations on the iReady pilot programs from the Elm Street Middle Birch Hill Elementary School representatives.

Elm Street, Birch Hill and Fairgrounds Elementary had all participated in pilot programs, although Fairgrounds is still in the process of reviewing results, said Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Seusing.

Superintendent Mark Conrad compared iReady to the NECAP in terms of gathering information on students.

Conrad said NECAP’s primary purpose was to measure how the school and district was doing for standards in reading, writing and math, but it wasn’t really meant as a teaching tool.

“It doesn’t have much value as a teaching tool,” Conrad said.

He said to think of it as a diagnostic tool for teachers. “iReady on the other hand, was purchased with the sole value of giving teachers a diagnostic tool…to give feedback on their students,” said Conrad. He said teachers could receive results the same day of a test.

“This is the first district-level assessment that’s aligned to the new standards,” said Conrad. He said results will look lower than the results under NECAP, but that’s to be expected during the transition to the Common Core Standards. “We’re testing students on standards they didn’t come through the grade levels with.”

Seusing said iReady was piloted to test the validity of the program.

The Elm Street Middle School Team gave feedback of the iReady pilot to the board.

Board member Dorothy Oden asked the team to differentiate between NECAP and iReady.

Elm Street Principal Mike Fredricksen said, “They’re evaluating different curriculum...so to draw a direct correlation was difficult.”

Math teacher Cathy Belanger said the tests are different in that iReady is an adaptive test while NECAP was not.

English teacher JoAnne Del Greco said students are actually more enthusiastic about the iReady tests than the NECAP because their teachers will see the results immediately and share it with them. Also, since the test is adaptive, students are motivated to try harder because they don’t want to get the remedial questions, said Del Greco.

Fredricksen estimated about two-thirds of students tried out the pilot. Belanger said every student in foundations and extensions could make use of the program. Fredricksen said roughly two-thirds of students are foundation or extension students.

Seusing said Smarter Balanced and iReady is estimated to have a 70 to 80 percent correlation, according to a preliminary review by Curriculum Associates, iReady’s mother company. She said the major difference is that iReady does not have open-ended questions like the Smarter Balanced Assessment does.

Kristina Hedberg of Birch Hill Elementary said part of the benefit of iReady is that it gives a broader picture of the student. It also gives the opportunity to address remedial computer skills. She said some students had to learn how to use the mouse. However, those skills could then be carried up through the grades.

Hedberg said iReady would give students good practice ahead of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Board clerk Kimberly Muise said she agreed with iReady use as a diagnostic tool, but said she was worried about moving forward with Smarter Balanced in terms of anticipating low-test scores. “I’m really worried about teacher frustration and public opinion as those test scores start to come out.”

Currently, the on-level and below level results show that many of the students participating in the pilot programs tested below grade level for reading and math.

“This was a very high bar that was set for the students,” Seusing said of the iReady test results.

“The standards have just come into place, and they have not come up through those standards,” Conrad said.

He said the growth and target growth figures would be more telling. For the growth figures, math and reading results were much closer to iReady expectations.

Conrad said that with the upcoming transition from NECAP to Smarter Balanced, iReady would provide the district with additional data on student strengths and areas of need.

“Our focus here is really on student growth over time…over multiple grade levels,” he said.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402 or tforbes@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Forbes on Twitter (@Telegraph_TinaF).