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Administrator’s Corner: An explanation about various student assessments

By Julie Eaton

Julie Eaton

Following protocol established by Minnesota Department of Education, Albert Lea Area Schools annually administers statewide assessments in grades three through 11. There are different assessments that make up the Minnesota assessments. The standards-based accountability assessments taken by most students are the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA). Students who receive special education services and meet the Minnesota Test of Academic Skills (MTAS) eligibility requirements may take the MTAS. The MCA and MTAS are available in mathematics, science and reading. These tests are designed to provide the state, districts and schools with a snapshot of student progress towards meeting the Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards. The results provide a window into equitable learning opportunities across the state or a district for students to show mastery of the standards. The English language proficiency accountability assessments taken by most English learner (EL) students is the ACCESS. Students who receive special education services and meet the participation criteria may take the Alternate ACCESS. Schools use these scores to determine if a student is ready to exit an English language program.

We know that opportunities to learn have changed in the midst of the pandemic based on the different learning models offered to students in the district, as well as, our focus on social-emotional learning and relationship building being prioritized. We, and leaders in our state, are aware of the concerns about the impact of the pandemic on learning, and are expecting student results to look different from previous years. When the assessment is administered correctly, the scores will still represent an accurate snapshot of student learning of the grade-level content standards or proficiency in academic English at the time students test.

We are currently wrapping up the administration of the ACCESS assessments. Testing went very smoothly over about a two-week period. Our EL teachers created schedules that minimally impacted students instructional time and administered the tests in small, socially distanced groups. Students from our Distance Learning Academy were invited to participate at their “home” building or Brookside on Fridays. Testing areas were cleaned before and after students arrived. Transportation was provided as needed.

Teachers and administrators are now preparing for the administration of the MCAs in April. We will uphold all of the same COVID-19 protocols that have been in place since the start of the school year. We also work very hard to ensure testing impacts student’s instructional time as minimally as possible. Surveys have been sent to our Distance Learning Academy families regarding the upcoming MCAs. If students are in our distance learning model and families do not want their student to go in to the school to test because of concerns for health and safety related to COVID-19, they can choose for their student to not take the test.

As assessment season is upon us, please reach out to me or your building principal with any questions.

Julie Eaton is the teaching and learning coordinator/district assessment coordinator for Albert Lea Area Schools.