Edmonds School Board approves i-Ready math assessment program, new high school chemistry curriculum

Edmonds School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas (top right) speaks to the Edmonds School Board at the June 21 meeting.

After much discussion, the Edmonds School Board last week voted to adopt the recently piloted i-Ready Math System, which will be used to assess students’ math skills.

The i-Ready program aims 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 June 21 business meeting, the board voted 3-2 — with Directors Nancy Katims and Carin Chase voting against — to continue using the program in the 2021-22 school year. During discussions regarding the program, Katims has repeatedly said she was concerned that the assessment cannot gather appropriate data from some young learners like kindergarteners. According to Katims, the assessment — which is given using a touchscreen interface — is not suitable for all students.

“I’ve heard from numerous kindergarten teachers and parents based upon their observing children randomly clicking on answers,” she said.

During the 2018-19 school year, staff conducted a needs assessment focused on grades 5-9. The following school year, two diagnostics assessments were piloted, with the i-Ready math program being expanded at the request of several teachers. Last September, the Edmonds School Board voted to adopt the online math program used to assess students’ reading and/or mathematics skills.

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 standard mastery assessments, and PDF lesson plans for students at all grade levels. During a test, 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. It is funded by the voter-approved 2019 tech levy.

Prior to adoption, the board unanimously approved an amendment recommended by Superintendent Gustavo Balderas to continue using Acadience Reading screener to test kindergarten students for dyslexia. Following the vote, Katims proposed that the i-Ready program not be required for kindergarten students, stating it would be worthless.

“It’s garbage in, garbage out when a test is not valid and so you’re looking at the scores and pretending that they mean something,” she said.

Chase also said she would not support the adoption because she did not trust the data, although she added that she appreciated staff’s work.

After Katims’ motion failed by a 3-2 vote — with Directors Gary Noble, Deborah Kilgore and Ann McMurray voting against — the board voted in favor of adopting i-Ready.

In other business, the board unanimously voted to update the district’s high school science curriculum for general education. 

Under the new curriculum, high school students will use the “Living By Chemistry” textbook and instructional materials. According to staff, the last update to the curriculum was in 2005. The adoption also includes an upgrade in learning materials across the district, which Science Curriculum Coordinator Jennifer Hageman said will create more opportunities for students at schools with fewer resources.

“This has created inequity and institutional barriers for students across the district for many years,” she said.

The piloted chemistry program began in January 2019 and was extended to June of this year. It was used by four chemistry teachers across five schools, included 175 students and covered weather, toxicology and alchemy. According to student feedback, 80% said it met their learning needs and more than 90% said they enjoyed the work.

While response from parents was minimal, Hageman said 70% supported the curriculum.

A majority of teachers who piloted the program (90%) said it met their teaching needs. However, one teacher said she was concerned the new curriculum was not challenging enough for students in advanced and honors classes.

During the discussion, Hageman cited other benefits for the new curriculum, such as how easily it could be integrated into other online learning systems like Canvas, and that its computer adaptive testing and assessment items allow teachers to customize assessments for students.

Hageman said the district plans to have physical materials for staff by the end of the year. Training for teachers on the new materials will take place over the summer. The total cost for the new curriculum and learning materials is $389,000. 

When asked by Kilgore if implementing the curriculum would conflict with lessons taught in advanced classes — like AP, IB and college-level courses — staff said there would not be since those classes are funded separately.

During the board’s regular school re-entry update, Superintendent Balderas said staff are still preparing for the return to in-person learning in the fall and are continuing to follow the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) guidance.

Per the DOH, masks will still be required for students returning to classrooms with 3 feet of social distance in classrooms and 6 feet when possible. Though the district is still working out logistics like navigating hallways and lunchtimes, staff said there will be no more required daily health screenings (attestations) before entering school buildings.

Executive Director of Student Learning Rob Baumgartner then updated the board on plans to offer summer learning programs for all students. Some students in grades K-8 can participate through in-person learning, while an online option will be available for all.

Programs for K-8 students will run from July 6 to Aug. 5 from 9 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. High school programs will run from July 6 to Aug. 12 and will include a morning session from 8-11 a.m. and an afternoon session from noon-3 p.m., with the option for students to stay through both sessions.

Around 3,000 students have signed up for programs and the district is currently working on staffing needs for summer. When asked by Kilgore if the district is having to turn away any student, Baumgartner said there have been staffing challenges, but the district still has the capacity to take the students who have signed up.

“We didn’t invite anyone we didn’t have room for,” he said.

–By Cody Sexton

  1. i-ready; I don’t understand why it was necessary to approve this test for all grade levels when there seems to be a real question about it’s suitability for kindergarten students. Why not just start using it at first grade?

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