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New testing in La Crosse monitors students year-round

By Jenna Troum, jtroum@wkbt.com
Published On: Sep 15 2011 05:28:35 PM CDT
New testing in La Crosse monitors students year-round

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- La Crosse teachers have a new tool for evaluating their students' progress. After testing it at a few schools in the area, the program is now being implemented district-wide.

It's called AIMSweb, and what makes it different from other testing is that it provides benchmarks of students' progress throughout the year.

2nd grade teacher Shelly Long is a busy woman. She has 18 students to keep track of. So monitoring their individual progress in reading, writing and math can be a challenge.

"I'm preparing them right now for 3rd grade, but they're going to need all these skills that they're being tested on for the rest of their life-- reading a newspaper, filling out a job application. And these are some of these early indicators that we're looking for," said Long.

But now she has a new tool: AIMSweb. It's a series of one-to-eight minute tests that students in kindergarten through 8th grade will take three times a year.

"We've got a lot of different assessments in our district. The beauty of this is it's just one piece of a larger puzzle. We recognize that waiting for results from a one-time high-stakes assessment like the WKCE doesn't give us the timely feedback we need to make sure that students are progressing on their educational journey," said Assoc. Superintendent of Instruction for the School Dist. of La Crosse Troy Harcey.

It's a new program for many schools in the district. North Woods International Elementary is one of them. And Principal Sandy Brauer says the quick tests give teachers a snapshot of their students' learning.

"I really equate it to going to the doctor and having your weight checked. It's just a way to kind of take a quick look at where our students are at in reading and math.... Just like height and weight really don't tell you exactly how healthy your child is, it's one measure that, if there's a problem, you can look into it more deeply," said Brauer.

And Long says the program makes it easy to figure out right away which students need extra help and which ones need tougher challenges. In fact, the hardest part might just be learning the program at the beginning of a school year.

"On top of starting the school year, it's new. Teachers are learning these new things that they have to implement. Find the time in your day, while you're trying to learn your new kids and get to know them. So that's the challenging part.... But I think once we learn that, I think the benefits are going to outweigh the challenges," said Long.

So Long is still busy, but at least this program gives her an extra tool to keep her students on track.

The AIMSweb program costs the School District of La Crosse $6 per student. Comparable programs they considered cost more than twice as much.

As teachers continue to record the data of their students' progress, they will be able to compare their achievement with students all over the district.

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