Chamisa Shares PARCC Testing Lessons Learned

Chamisa Principal Debbie Smith
LAPS Prevention Specialist

The window will soon come to a close after the first round of PARCC testing made an entry into Los Alamos schools in recent weeks.

The wisdom of the students was shared with their upper classmen before the testing session began.

“Third graders reflected after the testing and indicated they liked the computer format – liked the tools available for their use to highlight, flag, review, and go back to other questions,” Chamisa Principal Debbie Smith said. “Fourth graders did a written response about what they liked/disliked, how it compared to previous NMSBA, and what suggestions they had for us to pass on.”

Smith and her staff empowered the elementary students to share and what they got back was astounding, Smith said.

“I am so impressed at how they reflected on the experience, moving away from an emotional response to think about how to improve it,” she said.

Some of the comments included how students enjoyed that there were fewer questions and they could spend more time on each, they enjoyed that it was only three days rather than two weeks on NMSBA. While not everything worked perfectly, perhaps we can learn from the youth that the media buzz created by adults, may have prepped some for misery when in fact in the end the kids seemed to take it in stride.

One thing that is certain, “All students loved the snacks, funded by PTO,” Smith said. “One teacher provided creative little motivational notes to accompany the snacks.”

Options for snacking were provided and as always chewing gum was a hit. Smith said several students mentioned that the gum “helped them think”.

Chamisa staff arrived prepared, collaborating beforehand to practice navigating the tools and helping students feel ready. They also worked together to create a schedule that would allow student schedules to remain as normal as possible, swapping times so that students could have special classes as breaks between testing sessions.

“Our tech support was tremendous, from a district level and school level,” Smith said.“Our newly hired site tech Gary Penny spent hours, even on weekends, understanding classroom needs, preparing equipment and software updates, and responding to test environment glitches.”

The result, was the team was able to complete all testing within the scheduled times, adjusting for a couple of individual machine issues in a timely manner. Her staff was appreciative of Penny’s positive, calm and immediate responsiveness. This allowed her staff to respond in kind also contributing to the improvement process.

“The biggest shout-out goes to Michaelangelo Lobato, who like the other school counselors, navigated the entire process from start to finish, said Smith. “His advance preparation and training, along with his attention to detail, made the process so much more manageable for everyone.” Smith agrees that Lobato will probably need the upcoming, well-deserved Spring Break to recover.

The staff and student reflections about what worked and what needs improvement will guide PED and PARCC test development, and that it will open the door for productive conversations about the number, type, timing, and use of all testing for students in Los Alamos and New Mexico. Smith honored their participation and feedback, by communicating the feedback to PED.

“I have sent and received emails from PED, specifically Hanna Skandera,” Smith said. “I plan to follow up with the specific glitches and suggestions for improvement as soon as the make-up exams are completed.”

First reports from staff are that the test itself seemed like a good test, and they were just waiting to see if the information helps guide their instruction, Smith said.

“We also need to look at the entire year and determine the right tests to give and the appropriate amount of time we should spend testing versus teaching,” she said.

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