Thursday, January 22, 2015

Common Formative Assessment (CFA)

Benton Community has been part of a consortium of school districts working together to create common formative assessments across grade and content alike groups @GWAEA.  We are hoping to continue this work next year with more schools involved in the process.

You can find more information here on the work.  

PK - 2nd grade CFA groups

MS/HS Science and SS CFA groups

3rd-6th grade CFA Groups

6th & 7th grade Math CFA groups

8th grade and Algebra I CFA groups

Iowa Assessment Results

Recently we received our Iowa Assessment Results from our testing during November of 2014.  We reviewed the information with students and then sent the results home with students.  As a school system we are reviewing our Iowa Assessment  data and looking at three-year trends in our data.  This work ties directly into defining our Priority Standards and defining Learning Targets (I Can Statements) to those standards.  We are also triangulating our Iowa Assessment data to our classroom assessments and observations to make possible adjustments to our curriculum.  

As you may be aware, in 2011-2012, the new Iowa Assessments test replaced the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) and Iowa Tests of Educational Development (ITED).   The Iowa Assessments offer new and different data, and because of this, you may need information to assist you in interpreting your student’s scores.  The Iowa Assessments may provide valuable information about the yearly academic growth of students. It may also provide strong indicators of college readiness.  Student academic growth is monitored based on something called a “standard score”.   Interpreting Iowa Assessment Results

National Standard Score (NSS)

The National Standard Score, or NSS, describes performance on a continuum from kindergarten through high school. The continuum is based on scores from testing thousands of students and determining where students at certain grade levels fall within a range.

The achievement continuum connected with the Iowa Assessments is divided into three categories: Non Proficient, Proficient, and Advanced. Using these scores allows teachers, parents and students to track not only proficiency at a test time, but year-to-year growth.   Standard Score Ranges for Achievement Levels for Reading, Math and Science

National Percentile Ranking (NPR)

The Iowa Assessments also include a National Percentile Ranking (NPR). This compares a student’s score with others in the nation in the same grade who took the test at the same time of year. The NPR is based on a scale of 1 to 99, so if a third grade student receives an 75 that means the student did as well or better than 75 percent of other third graders in the nation taking the test at the same time.

In past years this NPR has been the more important score on the ITBS or ITED. With the switch to the new Iowa Assessments the NSS will be the more important indicator of student achievement, as it will be easier to track one student’s growth year to year, instead of compared to other students.   Interpreting National Performance

Here's a snapshot of our Iowa Assessment Results from 2000-2014 based on percent proficient in grades 3-11.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Learn for Free

Are you a learner and bargain shopper at the same time?  Need something to do on these cold and snowy winter days and nights in Iowa?  The information below is for you!

Now that we are all back and focused on the rest of this school year, we thought it was a good time to remind all of you about the FREE NTC Resources and courses that are available to all teachers GWAEA.

The below document provides you a summary of all of the opportunities available to you and if you have questions please feel free to contact Meg Gillette (

Monday, January 5, 2015

Check out these learning opportunities for students and staff

Welcome to 2015,

As we begin this year -- we focus on providing opportunities to increase the skills of students and staff of Benton Community.  We've gathered a few resources (from the Iowa DE and SAI recent newsletters) that may give staff some ideas of learning opportunities for the students in their classrooms and/or for themselves.

1.  Juneteenth essay contest for students:

  • Iowa students in grades 9-11 are invited to celebrate 150 years of Juneteenth by entering an essay contest. Juneteenth is an international observance marking the end of slavery on June 19, 1865.  The purpose of the contest is to help young people appreciate scholarship, cultural diversity, and community relations. This year’s essay theme is: “How does education influence freedom, liberty, and responsible citizenship in a culturally diverse society?”The deadline for entries is March 31. Winners will be honored with trophies and gift cards at the Iowa Juneteenth Observance Community Appreciation Banquet in Des Moines on June 11. Contest requirements and entry forms can be found here. For more information, contact Celeste Lawson at the Iowa Juneteenth Observance at

2.  Teacher leadership, Iowa Learning Online
  • Iowa Learning Online can provide scheduling solutions for Teacher Leadership and Compensation schools. Iowa Learning Online makes it easier to continue to provide your students with top-notch teaching while sharing the talents of your local instructional coaches and mentors. Partnering with Iowa Learning Online also could include an offer and teach capacity, when approved by a short waiver.  For more information, visit or contact Iowa Learning Online director Gwen Nagel at
3.  Early Literacy Implementation Waivers
  • The Early Literacy Implementation (ELI) page on the Iowa Department of Education website has been revised so that you have access to all recorded webinars, Power Point slides and related support documents such as a parent contract example, parent letter example, and teacher observation tool.  In January, the Department will host six webinars, listed below. If you have identified an area in which a webinar is needed, email the ELI contacts.  There will be weekly Iowa TIER-FAST-IGDIs question-and-answer webinars on Friday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the following dates: Jan. 9, 16, 23, 30, and Feb. 6.  Another webinar on criteria/rubric to identify evidence-based literacy interventions will be held Jan. 14 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.  Webinars are hosted at the following website. Read more about early literacy at the ELI page. For more information, contact Barbara Ohlund at or Amy Williamson at
4.  Why project based learning?
  • The Buck Institute has outlined eight essential elements for PBL, including significant content, a driving question, opportunities for inquiry and innovation, and high levels of student voice and choice. Typical classroom “projects” lack these essential elements and thus are mostly busy work. The content isn’t significant because it’s just recall and regurgitation. There is no big question driving students’ efforts. And every student work product looks the same, which, as Chris Lehmann notes, means that it isn’t a project, it’s a recipe (e.g., 20 identical student posters of a cow’s digestive system!). 
  • There are many different models for creating high quality PBL experiences for students.  The Iowa BIG School in Cedar Rapids has organized its entire school day around rich inquiry and problem solving. The Spirit Lake, Okoboji, Newell-Fonda, North Union school districts all have two-week PBL sessions in January or May in which students spend 50 or more hours immersed in deeper projects. Some Iowa teachers are experimenting with “genius hour,” 20 percent time or other structures to facilitate student passion projects. 
  • John Dewey famously reminded us that we learn what we do. If students spend 90 percent of their time making a poster or mobile and 10 percent of their time writing down facts that they quickly looked up, we can’t really say that significant learning occurred. The products look nice but there’s little substance behind them. Walk around your school and look at the “projects” that your students do. Ask yourself if the creation of those student work products required deep, complex thinking and problem solving. 
5.  EdCamp for your own learning
  • EdCampIowa (Jan. 31, 2015) is coming up FAST and is likely the most powerful day of learning you and your staff will have all year. Sign up today and encourage your teachers, parents, and students to attend too.  Five locations means that there’s one near you!
6.  StuCamp for student learning
  • StuCamp, a student-oriented unconference in three simultaneous locations across Iowa, is on February 28.