NEWTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Wednesday, September 8, unanimously approved a pilot implementation of the i-Ready Districtwide Assessment from Curriculum Associates.

Anne Uberti, assistant superintendent of schools, explained that the district had been using Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress state-aligned, computerized adaptive tests.

The system was introduced to the school district in October 2013 as a universal testing platform, with the goal of using MAP to show the instructional level of each student and measure growth over time.

Over the years, the test has been administered to students in grades 1 through 8 approximately two to three times per year.

Staff received training but provided feedback indicating they don’t believe the tool is easily used to inform instruction.

This year, additional training and support was provided with the hope of changing that feedback but teachers still find it unfriendly as a tool for identifying learning strengths and weaknesses.

Ms. Uberti cited a lack of tools for targeted instruction, which is what teachers need; an investigation into alternate tools identified NWEA’s competitor product, i-Ready.

After Ms. Uberti noted that teachers would support a transition to i-Ready, Dr. Frank Purcaro, director of teaching and learning, presented a summary comparison of the two platforms and a rationale for implementing a pilot of i-Ready.

He first described MAP, specifically pointing out that the student results on this test are a normed reference test, which does not directly link to the students’ performance against individual grade level standards.

Now would be a good time to switch to a new system because the NWEA contract is expired and due for renewal.

Dr. Purcaro said i-Ready provides user-friendly dashboards and clear reports with actionable data and teachers can determine each student’s on-grade level proficiency based on state and national standards.

i-Ready is willing to provide an historical crosswalk of NWEA scores to i-Ready scores.

The pilot would be used in grades 2 to 8 for one year and include classroom teacher training. The board would receive feedback from teachers after the first year.

Following the presentation, the board considered how learning loss could be tracked without NWEA, noting that a crosswalk might contain gaps.

Dr. Purcaro pointed out that the district would like a tool that links to grade level expectations; NWEA does not at this point.

Ms. Uberti cautioned that comparisons to the recent past years would be impacted by the pandemic and this is another reason that the timing was good for a change.

She addressed concerns from the board, reassuring the members that a priority is placed on getting information to the teachers so they can deal with learning gaps.

In other business, the board considered a confidentiality contract with Cricut, an American brand of computer-controlled cutting machines.

A world language teacher has been using a machine to create what Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue described as beautiful door decorations.

The teacher had approached Dr. Rodrigue with an offer from Cricut, which would provide its product in exchange for photos of her work. 

Those photos would not be identified as coming from any particular school or town.

The machine would stay at school and the teacher will work with other teachers and perhaps students; as the machine could be considered personal gain, the contract requires board approval.

The board postponed the discussion to a future meeting.

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