As part of our new reading adoption each child has a thick assessment booklet (about an inch and a half thick in first grade!) It includes a baseline assessment, assessments at the end of each of the ten themes in our newly adopted Core Curriculum to see how well the students understand the stories and skills that are taught through the Core stories (Selection assessments), and also cold assessments at the end of each theme that assess the skills and strategies that were taught but that are not tied to a specific story (Benchmark assessments).
At Chets Creek we have always given our own overall reading assessment three times a year and on-going individual assessments such as running records anecdotal records, quick quizzes as we teach a skill, and by observing and taking a reading “on the carpet.” Although we believe that the pendulum has swung too far into the formal testing arena, and especially this extra layer of county suggested assessment, we do believe that data drives the instruction in our classrooms. We must know how our children are progressing in order to know what to teach tomorrow. So...now that we have these new assessment booklets for each child, how should we use them? As we come to the end of this first nine weeks which parallels the end of the second theme in our new Core Curriculum, we are interested in knowing if our first grade children at Chets Creek are keeping up with their peers across the district. While we are incorporating every part of the Core that fits easily into what our experience tells us to be true (such as the sequence of skills and the scope of strategies and skills for first grade), we have really struggled with what Lucy Calkins refers to as "pop around" mini-lessons that jump from one focus to another instead of the in depth work we have done with a single strategy over time (such as that proposed in Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning). With 96% of our children last year at Chets Creek scoring 3 or better on the Florida FCAT, it would be malpractice for us to abandon the very practice that put us on the trajectory of really reaching 100% of our students. So we have moved very slowly and carefully into areas that seem contrary to our previous training and experience. On the other hand, we know that we are all (the researched-based Core curriculum and our eight years of training and experience with the America's Choice reform design) coming from the same research base and it's just the details that we are trying to figure out.