It's time to get back to school, and that means youngsters all over southern Colorado will soon be learning all sorts of new things. But before they can do that, teachers have to figure out how proficient each student already is with the material, and that can take some time.
One school district is tackling the problem with a new approach to getting back to school. Pueblo City Schools District 60 has dedicated the first two days of school as proficiency transition days.
It's an attempt to save hours of wasted classroom time. Before instruction officially begins on Wednesday, students’ abilities in key areas are being tested.
At Irving Elementary school more than 300 students will go through a one-on-one proficiency test for reading and comprehension. Like other D-60 schools, scheduling of the testing has been left in the hands of the administrators.
The tests themselves are still the same proficiency tests that would have been taken later in the year. Irving Elementary is using the more recent version of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literature Skills (DIBELS) test. Some grades will also go through a math proficiency test as well.
Irving's new principal, Ted Johnson says, "If you do the same thing all the time don't expect different results. I think what we are really trying to say is, lets try some different things and see if we can get some different results." Results that D-60 would like to see improvement on. Over the summer, the districts declining proficiency scores were released.
To get things back on track, or at least headed in the right direction, the district wants to give teachers more time in the classroom to do their job. "We're hoping that by having these assessment transition days built in, that we are going to be more effective with the time that we have those kids in our classroom," says Rhonda Holcomb, Executive Director of the Elementary Education Program for D-60.
Because effective use of classroom time falls on the teachers’ shoulders, they say these two days will make a huge difference. "It's going to allow me to start my differentiation, adjusting the levels that my kids are getting special lessons at, from day one of week one rather than a month into the school year," explains Sandii Frazier, a first grade teacher at Irving.
Teachers aren't the only ones who are excited about this testing process so early in the year. Parents say, their students are going to benefit greatly from this. "It helps them to know where they're at, instead of going through the whole year not knowing," says Gina Salazar, a parent of a third grader at Irving.
Salazar also says, this approach to testing proficiency ahead of instruction would have helped her as a student. "It would have got my low points, it would have helped stress them more so I could have brought those up, instead of falling behind on those subjects or what I needed help in," explains Salazar.
School administrators, teachers and parents hope this becomes a normal procedure. The school district plans to take a look at how the testing goes later this week, and plans to explore options on how to streamline the process and make it easier to implement next year.