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St. Lawrence Central School teachers attend summer training

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BRASHER FALLS - It was back to school this week for St. Lawrence Central School teachers, who were preparing for assessments that would gauge how well their students were learning the material and what they could do for those who weren’t on track.

“We’ve been working all this week on Race to the Top so they get an understanding of the student learning objectives for courses that don’t have a state exam and local assessments that are required as part of the Race To the Top initiative,” Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said.

Race to the Top emphasizes several reform areas in education, including designing and implementing rigorous and high-quality assessments and a teacher evaluation system that’s based in part on how students perform on the assessments.

The teachers met Monday through Thursday in the high school cafeteria, broken down by grade levels and subject areas. A number of handouts were available, with titles such as 14 Rules for Writing Multiple Choice Questions; Designing Effective Test Questions: An Introductory Workshop; Evaluating the Quality of an Assessment; Assessment Methods: A Set of Four Options; and How to Write Better Tests.

“They have been working on interim assessments. It varies from grade level and subject area to how much they’ve accomplished,” Mr. Putman said.

What they had accomplished was reported out to the group at the end of Thursday’s session, with participants from each table telling others what they and their team members had done over the four days.

Social studies teacher Thomas Morrison, president of the St. Lawrence Central teacher’s union, said the week focused on several assessments that would tell them how well students were performing over the course of a year.

“Student learning objectives are coming directly from the state. It’s a way of measuring teacher effectiveness based on state tests or other assessments,” he said.

One way of measuring student performance is through pre-tests and post-tests, he said.

A pre-test is given in the fall when students return to school, and they receive a post-test at the end of the course to measure how well the student has grown.

Pre-test scores are also measured against state scores to compare how much a student has improved and how well they met the course standard, he said.

In St. Lawrence Central, they’ll also be introducing interim assessments that will be given every eight weeks.

“Logically you want to evaluate along the way. It covers going all the way back,” Mr. Morrison said.

The first interim assessment, for instance, will cover the first eight weeks of material. The second interim assessment, given at the 16-week mark, will cover the first 16 weeks of course material.

The district will also be leading the way in the use of a database program through the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Mr. Morrison said the eDoctrina program will allow them to create their own interim test, along with an answer sheet. When the test is completed, it’s faxed to a company that will evaluate the data and compare each question’s answers to the standards. The company will then email that information back to the teacher so any student deficiencies can be addressed.

For instance, he said, if 10 out of 20 students missed a standard in world history, he’ll know he has to go back and focus more on that subject.

The program and the data inputted by teachers will also be available to other teachers in the 18 component districts in the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES region, which Mr. Morrison said will make it a regional effort between schools.

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