Board pushes back on new tech initiatives

Eric Cravey
Posted 10/11/17

FLEMING ISLAND – Two teaching and assessment programs approved by the Clay County School Board in May were the focus of criticism and frustration at the board’s October meeting.

The Clay …

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Board pushes back on new tech initiatives

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Two teaching and assessment programs approved by the Clay County School Board in May were the focus of criticism and frustration at the board’s October meeting.

The Clay County School Board failed to even get a motion to approve the state-mandated district testing calendar due to confusion and complaints surrounding iReady and Achieve 3000.

“I proved that we’re testing less hours and minutes. I proved that we have less assessments, so I’m going to push back on each of you, respectfully and honestly, and push you to tell me what you’d like to see differently in this document,” School Superintendent Addison Davis said after the item failed to get a motion for approval.

Prior to the issue coming up for a full board discussion, Davis gave a 25-minute presentation showing the number of tests given this school year compared to last year. He also discussed in depth the merits of the two computer-based programs.

He said iReady and Achieve 3000 are research-based tools that allow students to meet grade-level expectations, but “have enrichment expectations as well. And it allows us to have to tool that offers predictability. So, at the end of the year, we’re able to see...where we are at the end of the year and have predictive measures on how well our students are going to fare on the [Florida Standards Assessment] and the FSA is a true indication on whether or not students can be successful at grade level on grade level standards,” Davis said.

Three members of the Clay County Education Association teacher’s union spoke out against iReady and Achieve 3000 before the discussion.

“This is a heartache for us. We are constantly increasing the assessments throughout the state of Florida. These kids are inundated with assessments. Our teachers are inundated with assessments,” said Renna Lee Paiva, president of the CCEA.

Under state Department of Education rules, Florida school districts are required to adopt the state’s assessment calendar and add any additional local tests to their calendars and submit the modified calendar to the state by Oct. 1 each year.

Davis pointed out how the two programs can be used to “help to reduce the number of ‘extra’ assessments that students take, because students would be required to take these assessments before they are able to use the program for instructional goals,” he said.

Before school board members shared the feedback they received from teachers and parents, Davis challenged board members to provide him solutions, not simply complaints.

“I hope you don’t veer away from a program that you spent a lot of money on and approved and tell people we’re not going to use it because, without the diagnostics, this doesn’t work. I don’t want to leave here without each of you telling me what you’d like to see in this and how we’re going to problem-solve because it’s easy to say, ‘hey, it’s a problem, we over-test’,” Davis said.

Board member Betsy Condon was the first to discuss the challenges she had received about the two programs. She said it appears that the district simply doesn’t have uniformity in the technology that is needed to deliver the test. However, she also said the number of tests given to students each year causes a drain.

“You’re not getting a good assessment of kids because they are fatigued on test day, so that brain drain and fatigue – they’re not giving you the output that’s really reflective of where they are – these are the teacher’s words not mine,” Condon said.

According to Condon, there are number of parents who have discussed pulling their children out of the district because of too many computer-based tests. She called the increased deployment of technology “an ideological decision.”

“They want to have their voice heard and we, as a school district, want to go in that direction towards the more digital pathway, that’s an ideological decision or do we want to go the other direction because it directly contradicts what we fought for on the elementary level to do paper and pencil testing,” Condon said.

Vice Chairman Carol Studdard agreed with Condon and added that teachers need training on the programs so buy-in would increase.

“I understand we’ve got to have some accountability, but we’ve got these new programs and I understand the iReady and Achieve 3000 are good programs and I can understand – and I’m not an educator – and you’ve got these new programs and you want to test and see if they’re working if that’s what we need for this county,” Studdard said.

Davis said there is a huge generation gap from the school board to today’s students. He implored board members to prevent that gap from preventing them from adapting technology as a teaching tool.

“I challenge everyone in here not to put your learning path in the way of what these digital natives can do. It is our job to meet them, our job to support them and our job to educate them,” Davis said.

After the discussion, the board agreed to discuss the issue further in a workshop with the ultimate goal of approving the assessment calendar at its November meeting.

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