The Edmonds School Board Tuesday night continued its discussion regarding a proposal to continue using the i-Ready Math System to assess students’ math skills.
At its June 8 business meeting, the board held a first reading (taking no action) to adopt the i-Ready program — an online assessment used to help teachers determine students’ needs and offer personalized learning based on the data while monitoring their progress throughout the school year.
The board previously discussed the matter at its May 25 business meeting, during which staff proposed adopting the program for the 2021-22 school year. Last September, the board voted to adopt the online i-Ready math program to assess students’ reading and/or mathematics skills.
During the May 25 discussion, Director Nancy Katims said she was concerned that the program — which is designed for students in grades K-8 — would not yield accurate data from younger students like kindergarteners, whom she said were too young to be assessed. At the Tuesday meeting, Katims voiced those same concerns again.
“Kindergartners are most likely not (going) to understand what they’re doing,” she said. “It is not something that is likely to gather valid information, particularly for low-income kids and our kids of color, who come in less ready on technology than some of the more privileged children.”
Additionally, Katims said she had heard feedback from some teachers who said they did not believe i-Ready was the best program. Katims also said she would not be ready to vote in favor of the program until she saw teacher survey data that the board previously asked for and had yet to receive. In addition, Katims said she wanted to hear more feedback from kindergarten teachers about the program.
In response, Executive Director of Student Learning Rob Baumgartner said kindergarten teachers were involved in the program’s planning process and that this was the first staff was hearing about Katims’ concerns. He also disagreed with Katims about the program not being appropriate for young learners.
“We’re happy to provide the data and continue looking at this issue,”
Referring to teacher feedback, Katims said the test sometimes takes too long and kindergarteners get restless. According to Katims, doing poorly on an assessment to advance them could make young learners feel discouraged about learning all together.
The program is funded by the voter-approved 2019 tech levy.
The program has been used in the Everett, Evergreen, Northshore, Shoreline, Tacoma and Vancouver school districts. Director Ann McMurray asked if all of the districts employed the assessment for kindergartners and suggested staff could use them as a model.
“If they’ve already gone through this, I think it would behoove us to learn from their experience,” she said.
In response, Superintendent Gustavo Balderas said that the Everett School District is currently assessing first through eighth grade students and plans to start testing kindergarteners next year.
Closing the discussion, Baumgartner said staff would look into the board’s inquiries but added that these concerns were being brought to the table at a “late stage” in the conversation.
However, he was cut off by Katims, who pointed out that this was not the first time the board had discussed whether kindergartners were too young to assess. She also reminded Baumgartner that the board previously denied staff’s request to require testing for kindergartners and said they should have known it was a matter of concern.
The board will continue discussing the matter at a later date.
In other business, the board voted to relocate five portable classrooms from Spruce Elementary School, where they are no longer needed. Martha Lake Elementary School will receive two, and Woodway Elementary — scheduled to open to kindergarteners only this fall as Woodway Center — will receive three.
Also during the meeting, students from Chase Lake Elementary School in Edmonds spoke to the board about their school’s community garden. The garden maintained by students, who have worked with the Snohomish County Master Gardeners and other community partners. It was featured in a past Edmonds in Bloom Garden Tour.
With the garden, students learn resiliency, how to grow their own food and giving back to their community. Last summer, students donated produced from the garden to families who received grab-and-go meals from the district.
During staff’s school building re-entry update, Superintendent Balderas said that based on data from the student intent surveys, more than 90% of students intend to return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. He also said nearly 6% will be attending class online. The remaining number intend to leave or have already left the district. Families will be able to change their intent in August, he added.
“We do have a good chunk of kids wanting to come back in person,” he said.
Balderas also provided an update on Class of 2021 graduation ceremonies, which will take place later this month at the Edmonds Stadium located at Edmonds-Woodway High School.
Staff are in the final stages of planning, which includes 50% seating capacity with each graduate allowed to invite four family members to attend the ceremony in person. Seating will be assigned and face masks will be required. The ceremonies will include live performances by bands and choirs. All ceremonies will be live-streamed for those unable to attend in person.
–By Cody Sexton