Busy spring quarter

OPINION — The final nine weeks of the school year began on Monday. The home stretch to another successful, yet challenging, school year. April and May are always busy times for educators, students and families. The last nine weeks will go by quickly.

Assessments and testing takes on a focus during this time. Most seniors have finished ACT testing and are now in search of the post-secondary institution that will best meet their needs.Many will continue their education at technical schools, some will enter the military, some will find a job and begin their life of work. Hopefully we have prepared each senior for whatever they choose to do next.

Career and technical education will continue to gain momentum. No longer do students need to think only about a college or university to meet their future goals and needs.Earlier this year all seniors completed the National Career Readiness Certificate assessment (NCRC) Benefits for students doing well on the assessment enables each to rank above other job applicants who do not have needed skills; shows prospective employers concrete proof of skills; increases the chances they will be hired after graduation; enables each to see the importance of all high school courses; improves success in entry-level and subsequent jobs. Seniors will receive full reports of results later this month.

Sophomores recently completed the Pre ACT assessment. SHS provides this test on a yearly basis at no cost to all sophomores. This assessment is a part of our continued efforts to prepare all students for academic and post-secondary success for those seriously looking at college or university attendance to further their education.

Results on the Pre ACT predict future success on the ACT test and provide both current achievement and projected future ACT test scores on the familiar 1-36 ACT score scale. ACT Interest Inventory results provide each student with a personalized view of interests with college and career alignment and insights to help educators, parents and students make important decisions for the future.

Results will be given to sophomores later this month. Parents need to look over the forms with their child and have a conversation regarding the scores, information and what is needed to become college “ready”.The individual student summary provided by ACT includes the composite score, detailed results in math, science, English and reading, career information, and an item analysis of each question on the test.Parents and students will also see “Ideas for Progress” in each of the 4 subject areas.

ACT remains the test of choice for our students. Colleges and Universities still put a great deal of weight on the ACT and everyone takes it very seriously.A minimum ACT score is also required to receive the South Dakota Regents scholarship valued at $6800.

Sophomores need to take the Pre ACT-results seriously and continue to register for and take the upper level courses designed to prepare students for post-secondary success.

This is yet another step we are taking to prepare our students for the future. Teachers, students and parents can use the results to adjust instruction in all classes. Students will see strengths and weaknesses and take classes that will enhance their preparation.

Juniors will complete South Dakota assessment tests on April 20-21. This state required test includes sections in Language Arts, Mathematics and Science. The test scores can now be used for automatic admission into South Dakota colleges. Guaranteed general acceptance is automatic eligibility for admission into any of South Dakota’s six public universities and four technical institutes, based on the SD assessment test or ACT scores. South Dakota students who earn a Level 3 or 4 on the English language arts and math portions of the 11th grade assessment or an ACT composite score of 18 or higher earn guaranteed general acceptance into the South Dakota public university or technical institute of their choice.

Busy spring quarter

Junior assessments measure student achievement in relation to our state standards in the areas of English language arts and mathematics. In addition to providing overall scores in those two subjects, score reports will provide information on student performance in the following areas: English: reading, writing, listening, and research. Math: concepts and procedures; problem solving and modeling/data analysis; and communicating reasoning.

Don’t think the freshmen are left out! Freshmen completed the fall NWEA assessment in September and will complete the spring assessment on May 9.

NWEA MAP tests are “smart” tests, adapting to each learner’s level of learning, meaning they are not too hard or too easy, and give us a more accurate picture of the skills freshmen are ready to start developing.Each student will take the math and language arts tests two times this school year to demonstrate growth and progress. Since results are available within days, data for each student can be instantly used to enhance education at each student’s level.

SHS staff will study the results to enhance the educational opportunities of our freshmen.

Why do we do this? We believe in smart data! The information provided to us about each learner is vast and we use this data to create learning goals, adapt our curriculum to meet student needs, and provide appropriate resources to students. Taking the test twice allows us to celebrate growth and track goals throughout the year along with multiple years that students are enrolled with us as the test is given in both the elementary and middle schools as well. This is just one point of data we use to understand learners and provide meaningful and personalized instruction.

NWEA scores also give predictions as to how students will do on college entrance exams (ACT). This helps us make recommendations for preparation and planning for college admissions.

The DOE accountability system holds schools accountable through annual public reporting and classification of schools. The expectation is that the model will be used to inform school leaders, teachers, parents and the public as to how schools are progressing. With its emphasis on continuous improvement, it sets a high bar for ongoing reflection and goal setting.

Our goal is to assure each student is fully prepared through day-to-day instruction.Obviously, testing and assessing can tell us certain things and to some extent, it is necessary.Students and teachers should never be held totally accountable from testing alone.Teachers have more to offer through day to day instruction.

Since we prepare all students through day-to-day instruction, there is no need to study in preparation for any of the assessments. We do, however ask that students try their best and get plenty of rest during testing times. We also need students in attendance on the scheduled test dates. Please do not schedule appointments, etc. on the days listed.Making up a missed test means time out of class and losing important learning time that cannot be made up.We are required to have over 90% of our students complete the testing. Please do everything you can to help us reach that goal.Thank you for supporting your child during testing time.

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents” ~ Andrew Carnegie

Steve Morford is the principal of Spearfish High School.

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