Noblesville Schools curriculum leader embraces new student assessments
By Mark Ambrogi
Among the many changes and additions in Noblesville Schools in 2015-16 school year, one change clearly stands out for Annetta Petty, the district’s executive director of learning.
The district is adding a new student assessment tool with Northwest Evaluation Association testing for kindergarten through eighth grade to provide more accurate, timely and thorough student progress data so teachers can better tailor individual instruction.
Petty said ISTEP will continue, but those spring results aren’t returning until October.
“It’s useful information but more programmatic and not for individual students,” she said.
The NWEA testing is adaptive, starting out with the students getting a question on their grade level.
“If you answer that right, you get a slightly harder one, and that goes on,” Petty said. “ISTEP measures if the student makes the baseline. This one doesn’t have a ceiling, so it is much more tailored to the individual student. It also will be more frequent. The feedback is immediate and there are associated tutorial units and other kinds of interventions when there are certain areas that are identified as needing attention on the student’s part.
“We’re really looking forward to having that kind of data and having some consistent data over time so we can see how students are developing and compare them. It’s individual by student so it provides the information that we need to intervene with individual students, whereas with ISTEP, we’ll get the real broad-brush results. That might tell me something as a curriculum director that (for example) geometry scores are consistently low among elementary students so we need to look at that. But that NWEA data is more precise.”
Petty also is excited about the enhanced elementary literacy curriculum.
“They have focused on writing units specifically,” she said. “There are implications for reading as well. It’s the latest phase of understanding of how students learn and … learn to write and therefore how teachers need to approach the teaching of literacy through the writing.”
- Stronger background checks: A more extensive background check procedure for school visitors and volunteers will go into effect in August. In the past, visitors to the schools are screened against sex offender registries and a limited background check is performed for volunteers with substantial access to students. The new process identifies three different levels of requirements based on the type of access to students. The new procedures will require more comprehensive checks to be performed on a wider population.
These parameters were developed in the interest of balancing the safety needs of children versus cost and convenience for school visitors. The most cost effective and adequately thorough options were selected, according to Marnie Cooke, the district’s director of marketing and communications.
- Key habits: Stephen Covey’s Eight Habits of Highly Effective People are being integrated into the learning process at Promise Road Elementary. The habit street signs will be posted along the school’s parking area.
“They teachers talk about why they are effective and why they are valuable,” Petty said.
The habits are: 1. Be proactive; 2. Begin with the end in mind; 3. Put first things first; 4. Think win-win; 5. Seek first to understand; 6. Synergize; 7. Sharpen the saw; 8. Find your voice.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
- The 1:1 (one-to-one) student iPad initiative expanded to fifth graders, making the schools 1:1 in grades 5 through 12.
- Noble Crossing fourth graders will begin a 1:1 student iPad pilot program.
- New high school courses in sculpture, theatre, financial algebra, culinary arts and hospitality and fashion and textiles. Petty said it is the first time NHS has had textiles classes in approximately 20 years.
- Expanded Science Technology Engineering Mathematics, or STEM, curriculum including biomedical, computer science and engineering at the elementary level. The district is one of only a few districts in the nation with Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum implemented K-12.
- Implementation of Makerspaces K-12 (creative Do-It-Yourself spaces in media centers where students can gather to create, invent and learn using traditional tools, sewing, 3D printers, crafts, electronics, etc.)
- Increased challenge and coordination in middle/high school advanced curriculums
- Approximately 40 new teachers and two new assistant principals added (Katherine Reed, Hinkle Creek Elementary and Robert Williamson, Noblesville East Middle School)