Edmonds School Board adopts math assessment system, discusses SRO replacement plan

During the Sept. 8 business meeting, Edmonds School Board Director Nancy Katims (center right) states concerns about the i-Ready Math System adopted for the 2020-21 school year.

This story has been updated with corrections to the conversation regarding the officer liaison program.

Looking for a method of assessing students’ math learning skills, the Edmonds School Board voted last week to adopt the i-Ready Math System for the 2020-21 school year.

i-Ready is an online program used to assess students’ reading and/or mathematics skills. The goal is to help teachers at all grades determine students’ needs, offer personalized learning based on the data and monitor their progress throughout the school year.

At its Sept. 8 business meeting, the board unanimously voted to implement i-Ready for the new year. Prior to the vote, Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said there would be no mandate for teachers to use the program. He said the new system would be implemented over the next two years to ease concerns from teachers who may find learning a new assessment system difficult as they struggle to handle remote learning.

“We understand the stressors of a mandate during this time of remote learning could bring to some of our staff,” he said. “I’d like to really provide more flexibility in terms of rolling this out in our district with the goal of continuing to assess the product.”

The i-Ready system can be used for students across all grade levels, starting with an adaptive diagnostic assessment. It also offers online instruction, math learning games and standards mastery assessments for K-8 students, and PDF lesson plans for students at all grade levels. During an assessment, questions become gradually more difficult when students offer correct answers. If a student misses a question, the assessment regresses to simpler questions.

The program has been used in the Everett, Evergreen, Northshore, Shoreline, Tacoma and Vancouver school districts.

The need for an efficient method of gathering and assessing data regarding students’ math skills has been a topic of conversation for some time, said secondary math lead Teresa Lynd in a public comment submitted to the board.

“Teachers need an assessment tool to guide their instruction to inform the professional learning communities, and they need this now more than ever,” she said. “Curriculum, instruction and assessment provide a triad that provides a balance of support. i-Ready is the tool that teachers want and need.”

During the 2019-20 school year, the program was piloted by more than 200 teachers and more than 5,000 students district-wide. Since, district teachers who used i-Ready in their classrooms have praised the program as an effective program for both them as well as their students. In a submitted public comment, Beverly Elementary School teacher Dixie Ussery said the program was an essential classroom tool for determining students’ learning needs.

“(i-Ready) supports students at all levels whether they are at kindergarten level or eighth-grade level,” she said. “The professional development offered by i-Ready is priceless and directly instructed teachers how to use reliable data to drive instruction.”

Board Director Nancy Katims said that while she agreed the district needed a way to gauge students’ math skills, she had some concerns about the effectiveness of i-Ready — including whether the online assessment done by K-2 students would reflect their math abilities.

“There’s not strong research to support how well kindergarteners, first- and second-grade kids can do on an online multiple-choice test,” she said.

Katims said she also was concerned about using the system in higher-level high school math classes, and encouraged all teachers to provide honest feedback to district staff about how efficiently i-Ready works in their classroom.

In other business, district staff updated the board on its efforts to reinstate the school liaison program after voting to remove school resource officers (SRO) from school campuses.

In response to concerns about students of color being disproportionately policed compared to their white peers, the board unanimously voted earlier this year to terminate contracts with the Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments as well as the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office — effectively removing armed SROs from schools. 

Under the program, officers from local agencies would be assigned high schools in their jurisdiction – and would monitor and respond to those schools in the event of an emergency, if they are available. In the event the primary liaison is unavailable, a back-up liaison will take that officer’s place. Instead of walking the campus halls, the liaison officer would periodically check in on the campus while patrolling and work with school administrators to establish a safety plan for the campus.

The officer liaison program was previously used from 2010-18 when the district put a hold on the SRO program due to budget cuts. Unlike the SRO program, which was a shared cost between the district and local agencies, the liaison program is free.

According to Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab, the Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments would be open to assigning patrols at Edmonds-Woodway, Meadowdale and Mountlake Terrace high schools respectively. However, he added that the sheriff’s office — which provided Lynnwood High School’s SRO due to the campus’ location in unincorporated Snohomish County — would not be able to do so.

“While they would like to be able to support it, they are unable to,” he said. “It does not have anything to do with their willingness, it really has to do with how they assign their deputies to patrol areas. They do not assign their deputies to do regular patrol areas, they assign them based on need in the county, so it’s really difficult for them to identify deputies that could…serve in a liaison officer capacity.”

For Lynnwood High School, Schwab said the district could place an unarmed, non-uniformed guard on campus similar to what has been done at Edmonds Heights K-12 and Scriber Lake High School, which are co-located on the former Woodway High School campus at 100th Avenue West in Edmonds. Schwab said the guard would be a trained district staff member.

Schwab added that the district is continuing its conversations with local law enforcement to figure out to provide on-campus security for students.

Also during the meeting, the board was briefed on the district’s career and technical education (CTE) program review and the new five-year work plan for 2020-25. The annual review occurs at two levels — individual programs and a general program review — and identifies the program’s strengths and where there is room for improvement.

One change to the CTE program under the new plan includes switching Mountlake Terrace High School’s jewelry and metals class to a manufacturing innovations course under manufacturing pathways. In the district, CTE courses can only be offered for jobs in areas that have a significant job demand. According to Director of Career and Technical Education Mark Madison, that no longer applies to the popular jewelry and metals class.

Additionally, the computer science course piloted last year at Brier Terrace Middle School will not be offered this year due to schools being closed this fall, but Madison said the course will be offered next year.

Madison said staff has also approached Lynnwood High School about offering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Pathway that would be similar to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program offered at Mountlake Terrace High School.

The CTE program also helps high school students gain access to job and internship opportunities in which they can earn high school credit while getting paid. Last year, 55 high school students earned credits through the CTE program. Internships were also available through AGC Biologics Bio-Manufacturing and offered students opportunities to work in carpentry or with Madison at the school district.

In addition, the district recently partnered with T-Mobile to pilot its first — and only — high school internship. The Full Stack Web Developer Internship is a two-year commitment for high school juniors that offers a paid internship during the summer after their junior and senior years. During their senior year, students can earn a web development certificate through Edmonds College. As a result, after they complete their second internship, they are eligible for direct entry into the full stack development field.

“That historically has only been a field that has been open only to those who have a bachelor’s degree,” Madison said. “This program is actually creating a fast track one-year certificate program (and) getting our students into that program.”

–By Cody Sexton

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