Monday, January 9, 2017

January Letter from the Principal

January 9, 2017
Dear Parents/Guardians,

Formative assessments play an important role in education. A formative assessment is a tool for evaluating student learning during teaching in order to gauge whether students are understanding the material at that identified time. It is a learning tool, not a final evaluation of mastery. Formative assessment helps teachers alter their approach to the learning objectives if students are struggling with or exceeding grade level standards.

New this year, we are using Star 360 as a formative assessment in kindergarten through grade 10. This assessment replaced the former assessments, Aimsweb and NWEA, that were utilized as a “snapshot” to check on student growth in the areas of reading and math. The Star 360 assessment provides more intuitive information that will help to plot the course for what each student needs in their learning. This assessment is only one of several methods used to monitor progress and achievement over the year.
Star 360 assessments are computer adaptive and automatically adjust each question based on how the student answered the previous prompt. This reduces testing time and limits frustration and boredom. We will compare students’ progress in reference to normal expected growth and toward criteria for mastery of our state’s standards three times per year.
The first round of testing for students in grades 1-5 occurred in September and in the coming weeks, kindergarten through grade 5 students will participate in the next round of testing. Time spent on testing will be minimal as it will typically take a student 20-30 minutes to complete each session of reading and math. That being said, those students who require the full allotted time or specified testing accommodations will continue to receive such. Student results will be sent home by early February.
We are very excited about the possibilities of Star 360 and are confident that your child will have a positive experience. We encourage students to try their hardest and do their best while recognizing that any assessment is an in-the-moment snapshot and not the final word on a child’s understanding or skill. Certainly, a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast will go a long way toward minimizing test anxiety and we appreciate your support in this regard.
Feel free to contact your child’s teacher if you have any questions about the upcoming Star 360 assessment. As always, please feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions and feedback. I am available through email at and by phone at 222-1050.  
Becky Fortier, Great Falls Principal