We tried something new on the evening of the Eagle Update on March 29. We added a 40 minute session to discuss a topic that is of interest to everyone: academics. That interest was re-iterated in the school survey that happened in February. The format of this MCA Shaping session was discussion-based. Questions were presented and everyone had an opportunity to voice opinions, insight, and ask questions. Feedback from parents was encouraging that the session was helpful both in the opportunity to be heard and to hear.
I started the discussion by asking the question, “How do you measure the success of academics as it relates to your child?” Some responses were:
- Standardized testing scores like ACT or Terra Nova
- Grade point average
- College acceptance and scholarships awarded
- Feedback from alumni on how well they felt prepared
- Knowing about plans for improving academic performance
- Communication from teachers that convey individual care for students whole education
- How the Academy presents itself: website and other communications are accurate and grammar and spelling are correct.
- Curriculum compares well with other schools, especially public schools
- Use of technology is effective compared with other schools
Next Mr. York and Mrs. Watt reminded everyone of all of the standardized testing that is currently in place:
- Terra Nova – Given to 3,4,5,6,7 and 9th grades
- Request from parents was to provide more help in understanding what the results are saying
- Explore – Given to 8th graders; intended to help 8th graders determine how to plan their high school courses, prepare for the PLAN and ACT tests, and start thinking about a potential career.
- Plan – Given to 10th graders; this is a preliminary ACT test. ACT, Inc. claims that it predicts success on the ACT.
- PSAT – Given to 11th graders; administered by the College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in the United States. The scores from the PSAT are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program
- DIBELS – Given to Elementary students; The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills from kindergarten through sixth grade. And the DIBELS math measures are used as indicators of the essential skills that every child must master in order to become proficient in mathematics.
A parent asked what we are doing with the information we are learning from these tests. Here are some of our responses:
- Science – test scores indicated that we were missing some Earth Science curriculum for our junior high school students. We have added that curriculum to both junior high science courses
- ACT Prep – some teachers have added activities in their course work specifically designed to help students with the ACT tests, e.g. how to read and outline a question so that they can most efficiently tackle the questions.
- Math – revamped many areas of our approach to math: converted to Saxon math for grades 3-6; added a math readiness assessment test for those entering junior high; adjusted high school curriculum paths to meet needs of students with varying abilities and interest in math.
- Uncovered a reading comprehension opportunity that could help our students score better on standardized tests. A task force for exploring this opportunity will investigate how our approach to reading from Elementary through High School could change to better equip our students.
The final part of the discussion centered on how MCA can support students who are outside the normal distribution of learning abilities whether having learning challenges or are gifted in learning. With the increased ability to diagnose different challenges, we are more aware of these students with exceptionalities. It is time for the Academy to relook at this need, so the committee charged with examining academics as part of the re-accreditation effort will work to define the Academy’s approach including admission policies and support structures. Experts, parents, our teachers will all have an opportunity to shape our approach.
My next blog will summarize the content of the Eagle Update session.