K-3 N.C. Assessment Think Tank, a group of 22 teachers and education experts, aims to develop the best assessment format for students from kindergarten to third grade.
In 2015, kindergarten through third-grade teachers across the state will begin using the new assessments.
Once a student’s assessment is completed, the data will be used to create a “child profile” that will remain in the state’s database.
Kenneth Dodge, the think tank’s co-chair and a Duke public policy professor, emphasized that it is an “assessment for learning” rather than an “assessment of learning.”
Dodge compared the assessment to basketball coach Roy Williams’ assessment of a player’s various skills.
“It is of little value to get one overall test score, but Roy assesses every day that player’s progress in footwork and lateral movement, and he then knows what to emphasize in practice,” Dodge said.
North Carolina was one of three states to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 to develop its kindergarten assessments.
Eight other states and the District of Columbia are in a partnership with North Carolina, and officials are looking at North Carolina’s pilot program to enhance it for use in their own states, said Cindy Bagwell, the K-3 Assessment project administrator.
Participating teachers in North Carolina were trained this summer for professional development.
Dodge said each kindergarten teacher in the pilot program will repeat the assessment throughout the year and in future grades as the program expands.
“It will include input from the parents, the child and the pediatrician, as well as direct assessment and observation by the teacher,” he said.
The pediatrician would let teachers know if the student has any health conditions that could affect learning.
The role of the pediatrician would be voluntary, but Dodge said it would involve a two-way interaction between teacher and pediatrician, given parental consent.
Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, said he thinks the assessments are generally a good idea.
“Just like any other assessment, there are shortcomings,” he said.
He said drawbacks could include differences in teacher proficiency and the large amount of time teachers would have to spend evaluating students and recording results.
Bagwell said she has heard from a lot of teachers in the pilot program that assessments take away teaching time in the classroom.
Providing teachers with more resources, Bagwell said, should help with the program.
She added that many participating teachers have given positive feedback.
“They will be trained and supported at every step,” Dodge said. “They are the masters and heroes of this effort.”