Private School Tracks Performance in Earliest Grades and Individualizes Instruction with Computer-based Assessment
Nashville, TN | serving 400 students in Jr. Kindergarten – Gr 6
St. Paul Christian Academy is a cutting-edge independent school. It invests heavily in the latest technologies to ensure that students are well prepared to master skills that will serve them in their academic careers and beyond. iPads and laptops are used in classrooms starting in the Lower School. St. Paul has used the Children’s Progress Academic Assessment (CPAA) as an interim assessment in prekindergarten through grade 2 since 2008. The CPAA assists educators in informing instruction and evaluating each student’s progress year over year, starting from the time he or she enters the school.
The CPAA is like our little governor – it helps us keep our eye on the ball, making sure that we focus on the standards and always support our students in reaching high levels of achievement. We find the longitudinal data so helpful. Moreover, we are always impressed with the speed and professionalism of the support team. I don’t think I have ever had to wait more than 24 hours to receive a response.
Early Childhood Division Head & Director of the Learning Center
Prior to using the CPAA, St. Paul Christian Academy tried administering other assessments in the early grades. They found the process with paper and pencil tools to be “very frustrating and developmentally beyond what the students could do at that age” and the administration of one-on-one measures to be very lengthy. The school’s early educators needed a tool that would not be stressful for the students but would assess a wide range of content and provide instructionally relevant information.
St. Paul began using the CPAA in the fall of 2008. Teachers use it as an interim assessment to inform instruction throughout the year in prekindergarten through grade 2. It is administered six times: at the beginning and at the end of each season (fall, winter, spring). “With a handful of plot points, we can really evaluate where each child’s understanding falls and how it is progressing,” explains the school’s Early Childhood Head, Jane-Ann Myers.
St. Paul does not have a strict, formalized RTI process. Myers says that the process for helping any students who are struggling is very organic. She works with students and teachers to set goals and achieve them.
If any student continues to struggle in the classroom in spite of instructional grouping and other adjustments, Myers works with him or her one-on-one and also administers the CPAA again individually. “I find that administering the CPAA is very informative beyond just the scores. For example, I can learn so much just by watching a child sitting through the administration. It helps me determine individualized next steps that can help the child progress. Sometimes it’s the academics and sometimes it’s stamina, maturity and attention span,” Myers notes.
Since the CPAA is adaptive, it ensures that all students (including high performers) are challenged appropriately and that reports recommend ways in which teachers can help every child make progress in his or her learning. In the classroom, teachers at St. Paul make use of CPAA reports to inform their grouping decisions and choose activities that will help students reinforce key concepts.
As a technologically innovative campus, St. Paul often updates its computer equipment. Administrators appreciate the fact that the CPAA does not require special equipment beyond the computers they already use.
Informing Initial Screening for New Students
Myers mentions that the CPAA is one of several tools that St. Paul uses in the context of the initial screening process for new students.
“The CPAA is by no means the singular tool we use for this process, but it’s certainly very valuable in allowing us to determine where a child might fit into our group.”
Communicating With Parents
“We share CPAA reports with parents at the end of each school year, after our final assessment administration” Myers explains, “The progress reports covering several years help us express whether something is a singular or an ongoing issue and the summary reports provide an easy way for parents to see whether their child is on track overall.”
Learning from Longitudinal Data
“The ability to look at performance over the years is so encouraging and informative, especially at the beginning of each school year, after the summer break,” Myers says. She and the teachers use this data to determine how each child has progressed from the time he or she has entered the school. Educators rely on this information as they differentiate instruction throughout the next year.