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Pleasantdale District 107 Board members take shots at assessment test switch

Pleasantdale Elementary School reading specialist Karla Boehnke reads with second-grade students last spring sa part of a program that gets all teachers reading with students. | File photo
Pleasantdale Elementary School reading specialist Karla Boehnke reads with second-grade students last spring as part of a program that gets all teachers reading with students. | File photo

Pleasantdale Elementary School District 107 will be changing the way students’ reading and math progress are assessed.

Moving to Renaissance Learning’s STAR assessment could cut the time for such assessments by three-quarters, according to school district officials. However, at least one School Board member is concerned that the move doesn’t line up with the assessments of other Lyons Township High School feeder districts. Pleasantdale has been using the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which is the assessment test that other feeder schools use.

“Why are we not doing what the high school wants us to do?” board member Gina Scaletta-Nelson asked.

Superintendent Mark Fredisdorf noted the STAR assessment was revamped in 2011 to be aligned with Common Core Standards, which are national guidelines for developing critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills that students will need to be successful at the college level and in the workforce.

“Why are no other (local) districts using that?” Scaletta-Nelson asked at the meeting. “How can we be that different, doing things differently than everyone else?”

The School Board approved the change to STAR by a 4-3 vote, with board members Kim Barker, Kristin Violante and Scaletta-Nelson voting against the move.

Fredisdorf had previously noted that there is no assessment program in the country that ranks as high as STAR in independent reviews.

Pleasantdale Middle School Principal John Glimco, who has experience in assessment testing, said there are positives with both STAR and Measures of Academic Progress, another assessment test that was considered by the district.

He noted a big advantage of STAR assessments is that they cut testing time by three-quarters, going from 12 hours of testing per grade level with MAP to three hours of testing with STAR.

“In revisiting this, we are aware of MAP and STAR,” Fredisdorf said. “It is our recommendation that as things change in every district regarding progress monitoring, (STAR) is the right assessment tool.”
Scaletta-Nelson was concerned that Pleasantdale’s assessment switch may not be the best move for the district.

The STAR assessment will start in the district with the 2014-15 school year.

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