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Evaluating Our Students

Elodie Resurreccion & Emily Kaltenbach
When most people think of evaluations for students, their mind goes straight to formal testing from a testing agency like NWEA (MAP Growth), or the French Ministry of Education (National Evaluations). These tests are given high importance and provide valuable information, but they are not the only types of assessments happening in the classroom!
1. What evaluations do teachers use?

When most people think of evaluations for students, their mind goes straight to formal testing from a testing agency like NWEA (MAP Growth), or the French Ministry of Education (National Evaluations). These tests are given high importance and provide valuable information, but they are not the only types of assessments happening in the classroom!

To illustrate this point, imagine an iceberg. At the top, we can see the French National Evaluations and MAP Growth tests are highly visible. These are discussed regularly and are seen as ways to provide benchmarks for our students’ development. In truth, educators work on evaluations continuously, and tirelessly, even on a daily basis. The types of evaluations below the surface of the water are the types of ongoing authentic assessments that inform our teaching and help us better support your child.

2. Different types of assessments

Diagnostic Assessment - What does this student already know?
Teachers start the school year by using diagnostic assessments to establish a baseline of where a child’s level is in many domains. This snapshot can help teachers develop a vision of how to initially pace their curriculum and develop support plans as needed. At EB, diagnostic assessments include evaluating letters and sounds in K & G1, reading levels in G2-G5, and the French National Evaluations in G1 & G2. The G1 French National Evaluation focuses on knowledge of letters, manipulation of syllables and phonemes, and comprehension of oral language. In mathematics, students are assessed on geometry and the use of numbers up to ten (reading, writing, counting, comparing, calculation, and problem-solving). The G2 French National Evaluation focuses on the mastery of reading, writing, and the understanding of oral and written language. In mathematics, students are assessed on their understanding of numbers, both mental and written calculations, problem-solving, and observing geometric figures. 

Formative Assessment - How is this student learning? 
Formative assessments help provide feedback to the teachers about how the learning is going. This is similar to when a chef tastes the meal as they are cooking. They can analyze variables that need to be modified for a more positive result. In the classroom, these take the form of day-to-day assignments, activities, quizzes, exit tickets, and discussions. These formative assessments are done continuously to provide information to the teacher on what is working and what is not.

MAP testing is used as an interim formative assessment because teachers are able to use this data to guide their teaching. After the next testing session in the spring, however, it can be used as a summative assessment to see how much the student has progressed between those two testing periods.
G1 and G2 also take a mid-year French National Evaluation which provides teachers with up-to-date benchmarks on the growth made by students, in addition to the observations made in class. These new benchmarks enable the educational teams to assess progress and define the adjustments to be made for supporting students.

Summative Assessment - What did this student learn?
Summative assessments are similar to a chef serving the meal in order to see how the end product is received. It can be used to assess which concepts have been understood at the end of a unit or module, like an end-of-year test or term paper. Teachers want to see how the course or semester went. This type of summative assessment in its purest form is used most often in high school and university to obtain a degree. However, foundational learning is a spiral in elementary and middle school, building on past concepts with increasing complexity.


3. How to prepare your child for an assessment

It is normal for your child to have some anxiety around testing, whether they are new to the process or have been taking tests for many years—we all want to do well! Discuss the test with your child ahead of time to emphasize that we want them to try their best and that you are proud of them, no matter the results. Try to avoid adding pressure to the already potentially stressful testing time. Remind them to take their time and use their testing strategies. Praise their effort, hard work, and progress so they develop a growth mindset. 

Use a shoe-fitting analogy with your child. Teachers use evaluations to discover your true size, much like when a salesperson gives you one shoe size to try on. Maybe it’s uncomfortable because your feet have grown, and you are ready for the next size up. Or perhaps, the shoe is too big, and the student can feel lost inside it. Teachers can see that a smaller shoe is needed and will keep trying until the perfect fit is found. Students should never feel bad because their feet don’t fit! Their size is personalized to them, even if it’s different from their neighbor’s size. In the end, we want our students to feel comfortable learning from their mistakes and work to develop their perseverance.

Finally, a good night’s sleep and hearty breakfast also ensure that they can focus on just the questions, not their grumbling stomach!

4. Results

Communication between families and teachers is what makes the learning process truly work at its best. Teachers use the data from tests to inform their general class curriculum and intervention groups, as well as to identify areas where your child might need additional support. Discussing the results with your child’s teacher can help provide greater context for these results and how they might present in the classroom. MAP test results will be released before the fall Parent-Teacher Conferences. Take a moment to look over the results in advance so you can use the time effectively with your child’s teachers.
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