Alert Solutions Blog

When Snow Falls, So Do K-12 Student Test Scores

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Dec 29, 2015 @ 11:12 AM

According to most recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment, the U.S. placed an unimpressive 25th out of 64 countries in math and 27th in science.

Did you know students in the USA spend much less time in school than students in many industrialized countries around the world? Many wonder if this could be a contributing factor.

To support this belief, researchers compared how certain K-12 schools in Maryland and Colorado fared on state assessments in years where there were frequent weather-related school closuresThey compared this data to other schools in those states that had relatively mild winters.

Here is what they found:

  • Each additional inch of snow in a winter reduced the percentage of 3rd, 5th and 8th grade students who passed math assessments by between .5 and .7 of a point.
  • Winters with average levels of snow fall (17 inches), the share of students testing proficient was 1-2 points lower than winters with little to no snow.

The advantage of using snow as a factor is that weather is outside the control of school districts and provides a source of variation in instructional time that should be otherwise unrelated to student achievement.SnowDayBus.jpg

Collectively, this research suggests that expanding instructional time is as effective as other commonly discussed educational interventions intended to boost student achievement, including increasing teacher quality and reducing class size.

Although the evidence is mounting that expanding instructional time will result in learning gains in k-12 students, evidence on the costs of extending the school year is startling. A recent study in Minnesota suggests increasing the number of instructional days from 175 to 200 would cost nearly $1,000 more per student per year.

Despite this financial burden, some k-12 schools and districts across the country have already begun modifying or extending the school year.  For example, the Massachusetts 2020 initiative has provided resources for several dozen schools to increase the number of instruction days from 180 to about 200.

Is your school or district revisiting the academic school year? Share your thoughts with us on our blog!

Topics: school announcement, school tests, power announcement, powerschool, education

New Common Core Standards - Seven Strategies for Transitioning K-12 Educators

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Feb 04, 2014 @ 13:02 PM

Educators across the US are struggling to come to terms with the implementation of Common Core Standards.  K-12 teachers and school administrators are challenged with how to change curriculums and practices in order to accommodate these new standards.

Although the Common Core Standards have the intention of improving student learning and making K-12 students more college and career ready, there are some apparent challenges brought on by their implementation, including:

  • A lack of professional development and curriculum materials aligned with the Common Core.

  • Inadequate technology infrastructure.

  • Changing assessment practices.

  • Rushed implementation with little regard for practicalities.

  • Minimal guidance for educators needing to adjust what they teach and the way they teach it.

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Major curriculum publishers are doing their best to develop comprehensive professional development materials that will assist K-12 educators with the transition.  Some K-12 school districts have also produced their own materials and offered resources.  Also, the implementation is up to the districts, which adds to the inconsistency in the application of the Common Core Standards.

Since the Common Core Standards are an obvious hurdle for K-12 educators and their curriculums, here are some strategies recommended by eSchool News to help create a successful transition:

1.       Understand the expected student outcome for each standard and determine the skills that students must master in order to achieve expected learning results.

2.       Personalize learning experiences for all students and provide intervention or remediation for underperforming students.

3.       Break down lessons into manageable concepts, and provide multiple teach/model/practice opportunities for different kinds of learners.

4.       Support grade-level reading of complex texts by providing students with appropriate reading materials, including vocabulary instruction that applies the Three Tiers of Words:

a.       Common Words

b.      High-frequency Words, and

c.       Domain-specific Words.

5.       Demonstrate all forms of writing with students, and provide detailed explanations so they understand different writing forms.

6.       Reinforce conceptual understanding of key ideas in math instruction, and require students to justify why an answer is correct.

7.       Infuse instruction with cross-curricular concepts to embed key ideas, and take advantage of repeated opportunities to integrate, apply, and synthesize standards.

Check out some of our other education blog posts!

Check Out More Blog Posts!

Topics: school announcement, school tests, power announcement, powerschool, education

A Change in Math and Reading Skills for K-12 Schools: 1970s-Now

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 15:07 PM

Since the 1970s K-12 schools have seen a change in math and reading skills.  Although an improvement has been seen in elementary and middle school students, high school students’ skills have plateaued.

The tests, entitled Nation’s Report Card, were first given in the 1970s and follow the government efforts to improve achievement in education.  The scores were first compared to those recorded in the 1970s in 2008, and were recently compared again in 2012.  Many K-12 school administrators find this test valuable to see both progress and problems that lie within their school districts.

Here are some of the statistics found by Nation’s Report Card:

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  • 13-year-olds were the only age group to show significant gain since 2008.

  • 15-percent of 13-year-olds could understand and summarize complicated literary and informational passages.  This is an increase from 10-percent in 1971, and 13-percent in 2008.

  • 6-percent of 17-year-olds showed they could learn from specialized reading materials, which is extremely close to the statistic shown from the 1970s.

  • Black and Hispanic students have made greater progress in both reading and math skills than white students since the 1970s.

K-12 schools are using these statistics to improve their education practices and to increase student learning.  Through tracking the report card grades of their students and students’ grades on standardized tests, school administrators and teachers can continue to compare the results and gauge the growth of students.

Read the full article to check out the rest of the statistics found by the Nation’s Report Card tests.

Topics: school tests, power announcement, powerschool

K-12 Schools’ Standardized Testing Divides Central New York

Posted by Cassie Breen on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 15:04 PM

K-12 schools across the nation administer standardized tests throughout the school year.  Recently, these school tests have caused a great deal of controversy as parents, students, teachers and administrators are divided as supporters and opponents.

Supporters of standardized testing say the exams are a valuable tool.  They say the tests provide a measurement of what students have learned throughout the school year.  Also, the tests unveil a student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Recently, one of the largest groups of standardized testing opponents has been seen in Central New York.  Many parents from this area are participating in the Opt Out movement, a movement seeking to end high-stakes testing in New York State and across the nation. Opponents of standardized testing believe the tests stress out students and that there is too much emphasis on these tests’ scores.  Opponents also explain the grading system only allows for a limited look at student capabilities.  They state that because some tests require rigorous preparation, valuable teaching time is taken away from the students to focus on test preparation instead of learning and creativity. 

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The parents express their concerns about the stress the tests puts on students, and the position their children are put in, with the difficulty of standardized tests rising yearly.  Many also disagree with the scoring system of these tests.  Standardized tests give a single score and some teachers, parents and administrators feel this scoring system is not dynamic 

enough.Although the New York State Department of Education says parents cannot choose to “opt out” their children from testing, those who are against the tests are removing their children from school at the start of a test, giving their children books to read during test time, or have the students politely hand their tests back to their teachers. 

Some Central New York administrators are trying to counteract the opposition by explaining the benefits they see from the standardized tests.  These proponents believe the tests keep students on track and shows where a student stands on the path to college and career readiness.  Administrators are also concerned a lack of student testing in this area may result in reduced funding. In New York State, schools that test fewer than 95-percent of their students are seen as a “failure” to meet adequate yearly progress.

So, as tests are administered through the upcoming weeks, some students will be bubbling in answer sheets, while others may be taking test time for other activities.

How do you feel about schools’ standardized tests? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Topics: school tests, testing, power announcement, powerschool, education

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