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Testing, Teacher Evaluation Changes Coming to Madison Schools

New standardized tests are taken on computers and adapt to students, and half of a teacher's assessment will depend on student performance.

Next school year, seventh-graders will learn about robots, freshmen will take physics instead of biology, and second-, third- and sixth-graders will be taking the MAP standardized test instead of the Terranovas, according to a presentation by Lee Nittel, director of Curriculum and Instruction for Madison Public Schools.

The Curriculum and Instruction presentation given to the Board of Education at the board's last meeting gave an overview of recent changes to Madison schools, some changes that are coming next year and some changes that Madison anticipates in the next few years.

In the presentation, which is attached to this article and posted on the district website as a PDF, Nittel said the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment, piloted in second grade, will also be used for third- and sixth-graders next year.

The test will be given instead of the Terranovas and is taken on a computer. It gives students different questions depending on how students do on previous questions.

The test is designed to measure student growth from kindergarten through high school and teachers expect to use MAP data to "differentiate instruction, create flexible groupings of students and inform intervention strategies," the presentation said.

Administrators will use the test to "predict proficiency on high‐stakes tests and use data to find and fill gaps in the curriculum and instructional programs."

The results are available immediately, so teachers and administrators can start using the date right away, Nittel said.

Nittel said pilot programs using computer software for language instruction for grades 3 to 5 was successful, and could be used for kindergarten through second grade programs, Nittel said.

The software also was used to teach English to students who speak another language at home and, through Project Community Pride, a group of Hispanic parents was able to use the program to learn English, too, Nittel said.

Among the math and science changes coming to Madison schools:

  • Algebra III will be a new high school course next year.
  • All freshmen take physics their first year instead of biology.
  • Seventh-graders will take a 10-week robotics class.
  • Number of Virtual High School seats has doubled.
  • Engineering and robotics could be coming to the high school at the start of 2013.
  • The district is looking to replace decades-old math books in the elementary schools.

As part of new state and federal initiatives, Madison is anticipating students will need to pass the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers) tests to graduate. Fourth-graders could be the first students who will take the test to graduate instead of the HSPA, Nittel said.

Changes to curriculum to meet new state standards are underway, and include more nonfiction books, more rigor in reading and writing, and "fewer, clearer" standards for mathematics evaluations.

Modified teacher assessments will still be done using Danielson Frameworks, which evaluate teachers' delivery, planning, environment and other professional responsibilities.

"We need to reframe it so it fits into the new framework," Nittel said, including having 50 percent of evaluations based on student performance.

Teachers will have more frequent evaluations, and Madison anticipates some of the evaluations will need to be performed by faculty from other buildings.

Teachers also could have access to a new system to update the district's curriculum regularly, instead of every several years.

"We know things are moving so fast in education and the world," he said. "(Teachers) are making constant changes, whether it be a new and exciting lesson, changing technology, adding a unit—we want to keep it open so it may be revised regularly, daily if you want to."

Other technology changes are also in the works.

Parent Portal is expanding to elementary schools next year, the district website is expected to be updated in August, and the district is working with a vendor that sells a system for students and districts to maintain digital portfolios of students' work, which officials hope to bring to Madison as a way of tracking and highlighting students' work over the years.

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