Oregon helps design new K-3 assessment

System will monitor growth of young students

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Oregon is part of a nine-state consortium awarded a $6.1 million grant by the U. S. Department of Education to develop an assessment tool aimed at tracking the development of the state’s youngest students.

The consortium, which is led by North Carolina, will develop a K-3 assessment system capable of producing a child development profile that monitors student growth. Teachers will focus on tracking the development of students in five areas: physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional growth, approaches to learning, cognitive development and general knowledge, and language and literacy development.

“One of the important things to remember is that this will not be a test,” said Brett Walker, the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Initiatives coordinator.

Walker said the state will produce a formative assessment, a term used to describe a set of formal and informal evaluations meant to gauge a student’s development and steer instruction to the student’s level. Walker said he “anticipates the assessment being integrated into the daily life of the curriculum and instruction.” He gave the example of noting how a student performs in a group exercise and also spending one-on-one time to explore whether an observed weakness exists.

“It’s a way to check in and make sure students are learning at the right pace,” Walker said. “If they’re not, it gives teachers information to help them reteach and course correct.”

Walker compared the purpose of the assessment to an annual medical check-up.

“You give the child a set of diagnostic exams, checking heartbeat and blood pressure and what not, and it’s all in the service of making sure the child is growing in a healthy way,” Walker said. “This is basically the same concept; we want to give teachers a check-up system that is common across districts so we can have consistency regardless of a community’s size or location.”

Educators see the K-3 period in a student’s life as lacking in checks to identify poor development. There is an Oregon Kindergarten Assessment and a third-grade assessment, but nothing in between to track a student’s progress.

“We know that reading on grade level by the end of third grade is an important predictor of future academic success,” Walker wrote in a message co-authored by Jada Rupley, ODE Early Learning System director. “A comprehensive formative assessment system will allow schools to measure student learning, progress and development over time, so that they can provide appropriate and immediate supports and interventions for students who are at risk of falling beyond.”

Walker stressed the assessment is in the development phase, and before anything is created, parents, teachers and other stakeholders will be consulted.

“While it’s a while off, I’m excited for the potential it has for helping ensure students have the skills and knowledge early on that will put them on a trajectory for future academic success,” Walker said.

The consortium has until autumn 2017 to complete the assessment.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com