Early assessment is meant to jump start learningThe first day of the new school year is still most of a month away, but Rosemount Elementary School principal Tom Idstrom was already knocking on some of his students’ doors last week.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The first day of the new school year is still most of a month away, but Rosemount Elementary School principal Tom Idstrom was already knocking on some of his students’ doors last week.
Idstrom is excited for the start of school, but he might be even more excited about something happening before that. On Aug. 21 and 22, every elementary school in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District will meet with their teacher or another staff member at their school for an evaluation of their literacy skills. The idea is to give teachers a good idea of who excels and who is struggling so they can be ready on the first day or school with additional challenges or a little extra help.
That’s what Idstrom’s house calls were all about. He and other principals in the district are doing everything they can to make sure as many students as possible show up for the assessments.
Evaluating students’ skills at the beginning of the school year is not new, but in the past teachers have had to take time out of their regular class schedule for one-on-one sessions with students. It’s a process that can take weeks, if not months.
This year, the district adjusted its schedules to give teachers two additional work days before the start of school Sept. 4. Teachers and other school staff, including Idstrom, went through two days of training on a new form of assessment that will give teachers a clearer idea of exactly where students are struggling.
“We know if they’re stuck at a reading level or are missing some of the important pieces in what we understand are the tools students need in order to read, in order to be literate,” Idstrom said. “We can then address those specific areas.”
The plan only works if students show up, though. Letters went out to parents earlier this month asking them to sign up for a session. At RES, Idstrom has been making phone calls and using the school’s voicemail and email mailing lists to contact parents. And if those don’t work, there’s always face-to-face.
Idstrom said response so far has been good. So did Red Pine Elementary School teacher Gary Anger, who said “easily more than 75 percent” of families had signed up by Monday afternoon.
“I believe that the parents in this district trust the schools and trust us as we talk about the importance of having these assessments done before school starts,” Idstrom said.
Idstrom said the information the assessments provide will be valuable to teachers once the school year arrives. It will allow teachers to better fit their approaches to each individual student’s needs.
“It’s not just having the assessment and having the information,” Idstrom said. “The excitement I have is working together with teachers as we look at the information and the data that we’ll get in August. It’s what we do with the data afterward that’s exciting.”
The 45-minute assessments will be done between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Aug. 21 and 22. Appointments are available on a first come, first served basis through an online scheduling system on the main page of each school’s website or by calling the school.