Across the state of Nebraska, the “hot” topic of conversation has been NeSA-Reading results. School districts are reflecting on their results and are asking questions such as: What do we do with the results? So what can we do as a district to make the NeSA tests meaningful to students? And, now what can we do to improve NeSA tests scores?
What do school districts do with NeSA-R results? The results of NeSA-R should serve as baseline data for schools. Mitzi and I hope that the results will be used in correlation with other data schools collect in their continuous improvement efforts to improve student learning. We encourage schools to continue with the implementation of research-based instructional strategies that provide students with the knowledge and skills they need for success. In addition, we recommend schools take proactive measures such as using formative assessments to check for understanding, teaching test taking skills that can be applied in any testing situation and providing added opportunities for students to take tests online.
So what can school districts do to make the NeSA tests more meaningful to students? In recent conversations with teachers and administrators in the ESU 4 area Mitzi and I have heard several noteworthy and positive approaches schools are considering in order to motivate students to do their best on the NeSA tests. Some schools are planning on making testing days “Big Event Days”. On these days the focus will be on establishing positive learning climates for test taking. Students will not be given homework on testing days and will not be penalized for missing a class during a scheduled testing period. Schools are also looking at their master calendars to determine the opportune time to administer the NeSA tests. Some school leaders are also giving consideration to the time of the day they will be administering the NeSA tests. Furthermore, several school districts are making plans to send letters to parents with information regarding how they can best support their child(ren) during the testing period.
Now what can schools do to improve NeSA test scores? First of all, have you aligned your language arts and math curricula to the Nebraska State Standards? By aligning curricula, school districts can ensure that the state standards indicators are being addressed at the appropriate grade levels. Teachers also should examine the Table of Specifications that can be downloaded from the Nebraska Department of Education website. The Table of Specifications for reading and math indicate which standards will be tested and at what depth of knowledge. Another step that can be taken is to download the practice test software from the NDE website. Students can practice taking a similar test in reading and math in preparation for the actual testing date.
Now is the time to “rally the troops” and forge ahead. Mitzi and I encourage you to keep the focus on the students and remember . . . "Success is a journey, not a destination.”