Teachers, administrators, parents and students are racing to get ready for the first day of school. Superintendent Dean Koppelman said the school needs help from parents to get students registered for classes and bussing.
North Dakota requires 175 days of classroom instruction per academic year, and with the amount of required testing students face, Koppelman wondered at Monday’s school board meeting if students are tested too much.
Koppelman said the school board begins planning special activities in the spring for the following year, and has had to turn down several opportunities for groups to present to students.
“In the spring, we try to set a schedule for the next school year, and I can say to everyone tonight that it’s always amazing to us as school administrators, we could probably have someone or an agency in our building almost every day of the week,” Koppelman said. “We get numerous requests for people to come in and work with our kids, and that’s great, that’s all good, and many groups have great programs looking at values and good decision making and all those things, but we have to always keep in mind our No. 1 purpose for our kids to be in school is to improve academic learning.”
Koppelman said the school has already had to turn away numerous requests for the fall, including one local organization that was hoping to get some elementary students for an afternoon.
“We couldn’t do it because in September is when we start our academic testing called Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) and we have to do that testing for grades 3 through 11,” Koppelman said.
MAP testing shows teachers and administrators where students are when it comes to meeting various standards. Koppleman said the school has hired a data consultant through the Regional Education Association to come to Valley City from Fargo one day a week to analyze test data.
The school district is also facing the first consequence of failing to meet the standards set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act, and will have to work hard to get the required number of students to pass the Adequate Yearly Progress tests later this year.
“Unfortunately testing is becoming such a driving force in schools and becoming a topic nationwide by many people: ‘Are schools starting to do too much testing?’” said Koppelman.
“Every student in our school system, we’ve calculated, spends easily two to three days in various testings. Whether its the MAP testing we do throughout the year, ACT tests is pretty much an all-day affair, we have other testing programs for different age levels that students are involved in, for the most part all of our students average two to three days alone just for testing,”
Koppelman said at 175 days, the North Dakota school year is one of the shorter academic years in the nation. Taking out three days for testing, along with time for field trips, career fairs, visits to the vocational center, career counseling, extra curricular activities, illness, doctor’s appointments and family functions, he is continually surprised at times how much school kids will miss.
“When you take all those other things into consideration – and many of them are education related, but many are not – it really gets to be a juggling act for administrators when we go to schedule programs for the upcoming school year,” Koppelman said.