District eliminates winter NWEA test for most K-8 students

Dearborn Public Schools has suspended winter NWEA tests for most elementary and middle school students after receiving clarification from the state.  Tests were scheduled to occur this month (January 2021).

Students in kindergarten through third grade will still take the reading portion of the NWEA to meet other state requirements.

The district usually gives the national Northwest Evaluation Association test to our elementary and middle school students in fall, winter and spring.  The national test allows teachers and schools to measure student progress across grades and shows specific areas where students may be struggling.

This school year, the fall test was also used to meet a state requirement that districts measure where students were academically after the spring school closure due to COVID-19.

Dearborn was planning to use the winter test results to meet a state requirement to report student academic standings again in February.  However, the district recently received clarification that schools would not be required to report test data in February, but will have to report student progress using other performance measures.

“We know what a stressful time this is for online only instruction,” said Jill Chochol, executive director of student achievement for the Edsel Ford High School feeder track.  The district felt the time in online learning was better spent in class instead of testing.

Also, while many schools were able to bring in students in small groups for the fall testing, that was not feasible this month for the winter tests because community COVID numbers are too high.

Read by Third Grade

The one exception to postponing the NWEA test is for students in Young Fives/kindergarten through third grade.

Those children will still take just the reading section of the exam.  For those students, the NWEA is a benchmark assessment to track how well students are learning to read.  Monitoring reading growth is required under the Read by Third Grade Law enacted in 2016.

Read by Third Grade was supposed to take full effect last year.  State M-STEP tests would have been used to recommend third grade students who should be retained because they were behind in reading.  However, the spring school closure canceled M-STEP, so the first class of students were all spared from the retention recommendation process.

Read by Third Grade is still on books, and the current third grade students could face possible retention recommendations if the state tests show they are more than a grade level behind in reading this spring. The district’s goal is to partner with parents to ensure students make as much progress as possible, including extended day and summer instruction for students who are below grade level.  Any retention recommendations will be made thoughtfully and in partnership with parents.

Spring tests still scheduled

State-required M-STEPs for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the SAT for high school juniors are still expected to be required this spring.  Spring NWEA tests for elementary and middle school students are also still scheduled as district measuring tools.

Michigan has twice asked the U.S. Department of Education for permission to waive the annual state testing requirement again this year.  Both those requests were denied, but there is still a possibility the tests could be waived given that a new administration will soon take office and that COVID case numbers are still soaring around the country.

The next state required tests are WIDA exams to determine proficiency for English learners.  Those tests are still slated to start in February and continue into March.