Are You Prepared for State Testing?

An Interview with Principal Eva Luna, California

Yolo

As spring comes into view, classrooms across the country are preparing for state assessments. For decades, sharpening pencils and paper practice tests have been strategic for awakening students to the testing season. This year, many states are transitioning to online assessments and creating new strategies in order to overcome obstacles associated with these new computer-based assessments.

Our Stride Academy Customer Experience Specialist, Cate Powell, had the privilege of speaking with Eva Luna, Principal at Yolo Middle School in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District in California, to talk about the challenges of testing season and how her staff is staying positive in preparing for upcoming assessments.

Stride Academy: What are some of the common obstacles or challenges you face every year when it comes time for test preparation?

Principal Luna: This year is the first operational administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), so Yolo has been preparing for the transition from taking the California Standards Tests (CSTs) to the SBAC. In addition to the Common Core Standards transition, there are other obstacles in the transition from paper and pencil tests to an online format. One of the first obstacles we faced is making sure that our students are computer literate. They are tech-advanced, but using technology in an academic setting is very different than playing Minecraft. Students must know and understand the terminology used in testing, like “drag and drop” or “highlight and click.” They must also be able to access the computerized tools that are part of the SBAC. This requires our teachers to go over the terminology and tools used in the tests and help make the connections clear for all students.

Stride Academy: What is the mindset of your students during this time?

Principal Luna: This window of time is challenging for teachers because they feel the intensity and pressure of state testing and want students to perform well. Students are intuitive and feel the intensity as well. We really want to get away from heightening intensity because our teachers are working hard on student’s technology skills and engaging in standards based instruction all year long. Since this is our first year using the SBAC, there is heightened anxiety because there is a sense of “this test counts”, and we don’t have a baseline already established to be able to show growth. We will have to rely on other forms of data for that.

Stride Academy: For this reason, it is important to check mastery on state standards periodically throughout the school year using tools like the Progress Monitoring Assessments. Custom-made interim assessments created in the Quiz Builder app are also valuable.

Stride Academy: How do you alleviate test anxiety? 

Principal Luna: This year when the SBAC interim tests were released, we met with teachers and coordinated a time for them to administer these tests to students. It was a valuable opportunity for teachers and students to gain a broader sense of all the aspects of the test. The more familiar the students and teachers are with it, the less anxiety occurs. Students are already online and use the internet, but there is a big difference between getting online and being able to effectively take an assessment online. Overall, we already know the SBAC has a high level of rigor to it. We want students to be familiar with what things look like when they are being tested and to see similar questions that will appear on the test. When they are familiar with these aspects of the technology-based assessment, they can spend their test-taking time more wisely, focusing on close reading of the academic texts and questions. Using practice tests (interim tests, block tests) that closely resemble the SBAC give students a sense of what the real thing is like.

Stride Academy: Stride Academy offers Technology Enhanced Items Types that directly mirror those item types utilized on the SBAC tests, PARCC, ACT Aspire, STAAR and other technology-based assessments, providing that essential practice. The TEI formats include: Drag and Drop, Evidence-Based Selected Response (Part A/Part B), Multiple Selected Response, Drop-down Menus, Written Response, Highlight Text, Plotting Points, True/False and Ordering.

Stride Academy: Prior to test dates, do you explain the purpose of the tests and how the results will be used?

Principal Luna: I am planning to have conversations with students in their classrooms to explain what the tests mean for our school and for them. I want to focus on the bigger picture of why these tests are important and how that narrows down to them individually. After we take our tests, I plan to meet with various stake holders to share our results, discuss areas that need attention and develop a plan to address those needs. We may also use the data to determine class placement, more specifically if a child needs a support class.

Stride Academy: Do your teachers find it a challenge to integrate test preparation without sacrificing their classroom instructional plan?

Principal Luna: No. Our curriculum at Yolo is standards based. The Common Core is focused and outlines the knowledge and concepts we need to address. Right now, we may not know the exact number of questions each standard will have on the SBAC tests, but our teachers know the important skills that every student needs to know. They plan and prepare from the very beginning of the year. We realize that teachers won’t have all the material covered by test taking time, but they are not teaching to a test. They do not “cram” for the test but prepare students all year long with standards based day to day teaching.

Stride Academy: Does it help to have an online-program that is accessible after school hours to assist with test preparation?

Principal Luna: Yes! We use Stride Academy in our site based After School Program. We also run contests for students to challenge them to use Stride Academy on the longer breaks from school (winter recess, spring recess, etc.). Stride Academy use supports students in the acquisition of standards based skills and knowledge. Students using Stride Academy on their own time is a good thing!

Stride Academy: How will you use Stride Academy to support test preparation this year? 

Principal Luna: Stride Academy fills a lot of niches and helps identify areas where students need help. We make Stride Academy part of our daily routine and continue to find ways to generate more interest and time on it. Teachers have stressed to their students the importance of doing well on Stride Academy in order to provide useful data. We use Stride Academy as a support tool, and it helps support the acquisition of skills and knowledge that students need to progress to more rigorous academics.

We would love for you and your school to weigh in on the challenges of test preparation, and how you are using Stride Academy to help. To share your story, please email Cate Powell at cpowell@ltsed.com.

 

 

Pushing to Greater Heights at Woodson K-8 in Houston, TX

Students at the Woodson K-8 21st Century after-school program are staying late nights and “banking on” all of their hard work in Stride Academy to help them push to greater heights to meet STAAR standards this year, says Barbara Shelby-Roberts, Program Specialist.  Woodson 6

“We Love Our Badges and Collect Our Coins” 

This is the motto of the young scholars at Woodson. While some Stride Academy students are all about the Star Points and point leader contests, Woodson scholars are focused on earning academic badges and mostly… collecting the coins!

Teachers say the kids are constantly talking among each other about how many coins they have, who has the most, and challenging each other to earn more. “They actually look at collecting coins like they are collecting actual money,” says Mrs. Brothers, a third grade teacher, “So when they can earn more, that is the highlight of their day!” What a great way to insert teachable moments about working hard to earn rewards, saving for something you really like, and making choices on how to spend your earnings!

Top Coin Earner:  Emanuel Champs

Top Coin Earner:
Emanuel Champs

Top Coin Earner:  Tyler Groggs

Top Coin Earner:
Tyler Groggs

Top Coin Earners:  Taylor Smith & JaDaria Groggs

Top Coin Earners:
Taylor Smith & JaDaria Groggs

Tyler Groggs, a third grader, is one of the after-school program’s top coin earners. She now has 700 coins saved!  Tyler told us in an interview, “What I love about Stride Academy is the math part because it really challenges your brain!”  Keep up the good work, Tyler!

1:1 Tutorial Leads to Increase in Skills Performance Woodson 5

Barbara Shelby-Roberts, Program Specialist, reports that benchmark tests and weekly tests created by the Woodson teachers show an increase in skills performance since students began using Stride Academy.

“This particular program offers our students a 1:1 tutorial that is effectively helping them to achieve at much higher levels than before, even for our Kindergarten students. Stride scaledown and up where a particular student needs to focus, and that is making all the difference for them.” – Ms. Shelby-Roberts

Ms. Campbell, a Kindergarten teacher, says her students are seeing their high-frequency words in the Stride Academy reading passages. “This is excellent practice and reinforcement for them. They appreciate being able to listen to the passages being read aloud to them, as well, and this is assisting them in growing in their reading abilities.”

Dinner Will Have to Wait

Woodson 1Woodson students are known to make their parents wait when they come to pick them up (as late as 7 pm!), so they can finish what they are doing in Stride Academy.

“Many of these students do not have access to computers at home. The excitement and rush of using Stride Academy in our computer lab has made ‘computer enrichment’ the most popular tutorial piece in our after-school program,” says Ms. Shelby-Roberts.

Some of the incentives that Woodson teachers and staff are putting into place to further motivate students are: 1,000 coins at the end of the year earns you a seat at the end-of-year pizza party. They will also be organizing a Stride Parade where students who have exceeded their goals in the program will be able to showcase their achievements.

As you can see, we cannot say enough about Woodson K-8 scholars! These students are a great group who deserve to be recognized and commended for their hard work!

Many, many thanks to the wonderful staff at Woodson K-8 (pictured below) for welcoming LTS Education Systems to your school, and allowing us the privilege of getting to know your students! 

Woodson Staff

SNHU and LTS Education Systems Announce Game Design & Development Program

School of Education will Design Digital Learning Games to Support K-12 Students

SNHU logo

MANCHESTER, NH - Southern New Hampshire University undergraduate students in the School of Education are teaming up to compete for the title of America’s next top designer of learning games. SNHU is launching the first-ever Stridebuilder™ Game Design and Development Program in partnership with LTS Education Systems, veteran publisher of digital game-based learning platforms for K-12 education since 2001.

SNHU faculty in the Gaming Department and LTS organized the collegiate program in response to a common challenge shared by K-12 educators across the country: the increasing difficulty they face in engaging today’s digital generation using conventional teaching methods in the classroom.

“The Stridebuilder Game Design and Development Program is an opportunity for tomorrow’s educators to gain invaluable experience creating meaningful and captivating game-based learning resources for elementary, middle school and high school students under the mentorship of their professors in the SNHU School of Education, Schools of Arts and Science, and an industry leader in the educational gaming arena,” said Raymond J. McNulty, Dean of Education.

“SNHU undergraduate teams will be comprised of education majors — the ‘dreamers and designers’ — who bring diverse skills to the drawing board. Upper and lower classmen with experience in technology-focused courses, as well as educational pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, will combine their expertise to design an entry for the best learning game,” said McNulty.

To build their games, teams will utilize the Construct 2 HTML5 game engine and visual development studio by Scirra Ltd.™, designed specifically for 2D games.

Game entries will be evaluated on several criteria, including a simple but compelling game design and effectiveness in filling a very specific learning gap in a K-12 subject area, such as mathematics, reading or science.

The Stridebuilder program runs from February through March 2015. Winning teams will be awarded cash prizes worth $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place, and $1,000 for third place. Winning game submissions will also earn a place in LTS’ award-winning Stride Academy game-based learning platform, which serves K-12 students across the country with anytime, online learning accessible on tablet devices, PC and Mac.

SNHU embraces the game-based learning methodology, offering undergraduate courses in Game Design and Development, such as Character Design, Environment Design, Character Animation, Physics for Games, Artificial Intelligence for Games, and Studio Environment.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a nonprofit, regionally accredited, private university with an 80-year history of educating successful professionals. SNHU has a total enrollment of over 50,000 students in more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, available online, at our main campus in Manchester, NH, and at our five regional centers in New Hampshire and Maine. The university is regularly recognized with “Best of Business” Awards for best online degree programs, and as a top-military friendly school. Learn more at http://www.snhu.edu.

LTS Education Systems has spent 14 years engineering innovative, personalized and motivational online educational programming. LTS’ development team strives to enhance the 21st Century student’s learning experience through an adaptive, digital game-based learning methodology that has been recently recognized by Dr. Bill Daggett and the International Center for Leadership in Education as a major trend in successful educational practices to promote college and career readiness. For more information, visit http://www.LTSeducation.com or http://www.strideacademy.com.

4 Effective Resolutions for Your Classroom in the New Year

 

celebrate this new year

Welcome to 2015 and second semester! The New Year is a time for planning how you can make this year even better than the last. We’d like to recommend Four Effective Resolutions for Your Classroom in the New Year. Get inspired to… 

1. Stay Positive. The second semester stretch to summer can be arduous with standardized testing in queue. Keep a positive attitude. You’ll be amazed at how contagious your positive energy can be:

  • “Let’s get this over with.” WRONG!
    When talking about test prep, a negative approach can cause students to immediately disengage and reduce their chances of doing well. Maintain an outlook that builds confidence and compels your students to do their best. Speak about testing practice as an opportunity for exploration and sharpening skills well in advance of test dates. “We’ve got this!”

Be plentiful with positive reinforcement. Stride Academy offers oodles of feedback, allowing you to find positive points for all students as they work hard to fill in skill gaps. Congratulate them on their academic badges, coins earned, and Star points in class-wide contests. Even their total questions answered, total minutes worked and percentage after school show incredible perseverance!

Dashboard: Academic Badges by Student

Dashboard: Academic Badges by Student

2. Have a Growth Plan. What goals will you set for each student to reach by year-end?

  • Utilize PMAs. Two more Progress Monitoring Assessments are available to you in second semester. Use them to identify remaining gaps and measure growth. (Form 3 is open Jan. 10 to Feb. 14, and Form 4 is open Feb. 15 to April 4). 
  • Keep watch using your Dashboard and real-time reports.

Help your students visualize their growth. Using visual means to show student gains is proven to engage students in their lessons and help them understand the value of the work they are doing. Allow them to see the graphs and data from the Individual Student Details view of your Dashboard or their Student Progress Reports.

Dashboard: Student Details View

Dashboard: Student Details View

3. Give Individual Time & Attention to Students. Find a way to focus on each student individually. Schedule regular one-on-one time or assign individual classroom jobs. Nurture a relationship, and you’ll find students are more comfortable communicating with you about their academic concerns (and even personal matters if they need you).

  • Tip: Assign (and rotate) meaningful classroom jobs that your students are capable of, like media/computer monitor, running errands, taking attendance or watering plants. Reward them with extra coins and let them know they did a good job of meeting your expectations

Enjoy your students more while you can; by year-end, you’ll be saying goodbye to a great group of kids.

Rewards: Transact Coins

Rewards: Transact Coins

4. Stay Organized: Teach Smarter, not Harder. Second semester is an easy time to get overwhelmed as you push toward end of year objectives. Use technology to your advantage:

  • Use Student Grouping Reports to organize small groups of students with similar skill abilities/deficiencies.
  • Design your own reporting system. Decide when and how often you need to analyze student data via your Dashboard and real-time reports. Is it on Friday − weekly or biweekly? Set reminders on your email calendar for periodic data review. Be sure to also schedule emailed parent reports via the Reports tab.

Use Quiz Builder to easily create quizzes that reinforce unit/lesson plans, or retest students on specific skills. Share quizzes with your fellow teachers, so no one has to recreate the wheel. Remember that Stride Academy’s curriculum unpacks your state’s standards for you. It doesn’t get more organized than that! 

Choose Skills in Quiz Builder

Choose Skills in Quiz Builder

As always, our Customer Support team is here to help you with your teaching goals and getting the most from your Stride Academy subscription. To reach them, email support@LTSed.com or call toll-free: 866.552.9192. 

Happy New Year from LTS Education Systems and Stride Academy!

Citrus County School District in Florida Invests in Technology to Benefit Teaching and Learning

photo © 2012 Brad Flickinger | more info

LTS is proud to partner with the Citrus County School District of Central Florida through technology investments in Stride Academy helping prepare students for college and career readiness. Stride Academy assists to personalize learning through a powerful combination of adaptive technology, customized educational resources, and game-based incentives.

With a recent increase in high-speed wireless internet and iPad usage across the district, many educators are seeing how technology is transforming learning inside and outside of the classroom. Learn more about how Citrus County is using technology to engage students in and mark achievements here.

 

Stride Academy Fall Writing Contest WINNER!

Thank you to all the teachers who entered their students in the “What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You” writing contest. Students shared how they were thankful for everything from friends and family to football and food.

Excellent entries came in from all over the country from second graders to eighth graders. In the end, Cassidy A.‘s entry, from Mrs. Brewer’s 3rd grade class at White Plains Elementary School, stood out among the rest. Read her entry below to see why.

Thanksgiving

Congratulations, Cassidy, on winning a $100 gift card from Papa John’s Pizza for your class! We will be contacting your teacher to deliver your class’ prize!

HAVE A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Keeping Your Class Healthy This Winter

Temperatures are steadily dropping, which can only mean cold and flu season is right around the corner. No one likes getting the sniffles, and everyone hates getting the flu. We’ve pulled together the best tips for keeping your class healthy through the upcoming winter!

1. Have your students wash their hands with soap and water. Warm water is best with foaming or liquid soap. Find a fun scent or cheerful dispenser for your classroom, and squirt enough for each student as they line up to wash up before meals or as they’re coming back from recess! 

2. Use proper hand-washing techniques. Hand-washing should be done often: before and after eating, after using the restroom, after sneezing or rubbing a running nose, and after playing outside. Teach students to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice through as they scrub their hands. It takes about 20 seconds to thoroughly kill germs. They’ll have clean hands and have fun singing while they wash up!

3. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. Read labels to find ones with above 60 percent alcohol content, but don’t look for “Antibacterial” or “Antimicrobial” since those will kill even the good germs. Have your students use hand sanitizer any time they aren’t able to wash their hands. A quick squirt after a sneeze is the perfect example!

4. Cough and sneeze into a sleeve. Elbows and upper arms are better at blocking germs from spreading than when you cover a sneeze with a hand. Learning this trick at a young age will make it second nature and keep down the number of germy hands in the future!

5. Use tissues only once before tossing. Using a tissue once, then it throwing away and washing your hands after is the most effective way to stop the spread of germs. Always make sure students throw their tissues away as soon as they use them, that’ll help stop germs and keep the tissues from being left on desks.

6. Suggest students not share drinks, chap stick, etc. with friends. Explain to your students why it’s important not to share things like water bottles or utensils with others since they have germs all over them, and they’re an easy way to pass on sickness.

7. Make sure everyone eats a healthy diet. A healthy well-balanced diet makes for a healthy immune system. Encourage parents to prepare lunches rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and iron, or if students are assigned snack days, request that parents look for healthy options that will boost immune systems.

8. Disinfect high traffic areas. Use a diluted bleach solution or products with antiviral agents to wipe down tables, writing utensils, white boards, door knobs, books, and other commonly touched surfaces. This is probably easiest to do at the end of every day and when you have a break during lunch or recess!

9. Ask for help in keeping your classroom healthy. It might help to send a note home to parents asking for donations of tissues, hand sanitizing wipes, and other tools to keep the classroom environment as healthy as possible.

10. Put an air purifier in your classroom. Good air purifiers will improve indoor air quality by removing allergens and harmful particles. You can keep your classroom’s air cleaner with little hassle.

Even following these tips, it’s inevitable that you’ll still wind up with sick students. Don’t let them get behind! Stride Academy is here to keep your student’s learning even when they can’t be present in school!

Stride Academy Spotlight: Thompson Elementary, Houston, TX

Testimonial of a Stride Principal

Mr. Cleo Wadley, Principal of Thompson Elementary School : Houston, TX

kids with comp

Stride Academy is the best interactive learning program we’ve used with our students, hands down. The software is directly aligned with the state TEKS, effectively ties into our curriculum, and compiles easy-to-read reports that detail our students’ strengths and skill deficiencies. The system generates tailored study guides for various concepts that our students have not yet mastered. These study guides provide students with additional practice materials based on their specific learning level without a teacher having to put together different packets and various assignments in order to differentiate amongst the students. The software does it all!

We love how the program automatically adjusts the curriculum up or down based on the student’s individual needs and performance. This discreet scaffolding allows our learners to be successful because they’re answering questions based solely on their comprehension level. We really appreciate that the system works in real-time and allows us to make adjustments to our students’ curriculum paths, create quizzes, and modify other options at our discretion from any computer.

This program is easy to use and keeps our students engaged and motivated by earning coins for correct answers, which can be redeemed for the built-in gaming. They enjoy the bold graphics, exciting games, and the ability to compete against classmates during friendly gaming competitions. In addition, the software can be adjusted to present the questions in various languages, which can be extremely helpful while working with our large number of English Language Learners.

Best of all, Stride Academy allows students to use the software from home with their personal access codes. Our students enjoy the program so much that they willingly use it after school and even on the weekends. Since incorporating Stride Academy as a learning tool in our classrooms, our students have shown marked improvement in a variety of content areas. Our many success stories include a student, who struggled with specific skills and scored poorly on a school assessment as a result.  After using Stride Academy for only about 3 weeks, the same student was reassessed and scored almost 50 points higher on the same skill set.  As a school, we absolutely love this program!

One of our students who is in Tier III interventions has a behavior modification plan and has difficulty complying with rules and expectations. As an individual intervention, one of my third grade teachers uses Stride Academy to keep him engaged as well as scaffold his learning up or down as needed. With Stride Academy, he can pre-select certain concepts that he needs the student to experience. Moreover, the video lessons and printable lessons supplement the teacher’s face-to-face time with him. It has been a great tool for Thompson Elementary.”

We would like to thank Mr. Wadley for sharing how Stride Academy has impacted his school.  We love hearing from our Stride Academy educators and parents! Do you have a Stride Academy story to share from your school or organization? Contact Cate Powell at cpowell@ltsed.com.

Stride Academy Fall Writing Contest

What Does Thanksgiving Mean to You?

thankgiving

The holiday season is around the corner! Here at LTS we’re celebrating what we’re thankful for all month long. We want to hear from your students and see what they’re thankful for in our Fall Writing Contest!

LTS and Stride Academy are offering a chance for your students’ essay to win a pizza party for their class by participating in the Fall Writing Contest. One student’s paper will be selected by a panel of judges and showcased on our Stride Academy blog! Grade level writing capabilities will be taken into account as we are looking for age-appropriate originality and creativity.

Guidelines: 

  • Teachers should submit individual students’ papers on the topic: “What does Thanksgiving mean to you?” (1 page maximum).
  • Submissions should be sent to cpowell@ltsed.com and must include the student’s first name and last initial, grade level, class name and school name. Entries must be sent by the classroom teacher to be accepted.
  • All submissions must be received by 5:00pm CST on Friday, November 21. Late entries cannot be accepted.
  • The winning essay will be announced on Monday, November 24 and featured on all LTS social media platforms.

Prize: 

  • The teacher’s class with the winning entry will receive a $100 Papa John’s gift card for a class pizza party and will be featured on our blog.
Questions? Contact: Cate Powell, LTS Customer Experience Specialist, at cpowell@ltsed.com

New Features on the Teacher Dashboard!

Check out the NEW Stride Academy Teacher Dashboard!

Stride Academy 2

While the work of a teacher is more complex as focus shifts from the class to the individual student, our New Teacher Dashboard has some exciting updates to continuously track student performance and incorporate personalized learning in the classroom.

This real-time dashboard allows you to quickly access needs and prescribe appropriate curriculum for your students. Here are a few highlights of these new features:

Class Performance

Easily view your students’ progress, above or below grade level, by looking at these bar graphs. Click on any section to drill down to student data.

*Don’t miss important notifications for your class posted at the top of your Teacher Dashboard.

Oct 2014 - Teacher Dashboard 1 - Edit

Students At-A-Glance: Adaptive Engine event indicators reveal problem points at a glance. Students are organized into three convenient groups – Students Potentially at Risk, Students on Pace and Students Thriving. Clicking on an individual student name links to individual student results.

Clicking on the View link for any student who is potentially at risk will lead you to a more detailed explanation of the issue.

Oct 2014 - Teacher Dashboard VIEW EDIT

Academic Badges: Academic badges are awarded when a student has, (a) answered at least 80% of the available questions in a skill category, and (b) scored at least 70% correct for all of their answers in the skill. This includes a student’s correct answer on the second attempt at a question.

Click View All Student Academic Badges to see a complete list by student.

Oct 2014 - Teacher Dashboard 3

Individual Student Performance by Subject

Clicking on any student’s name will lead you to the Individual Student Performance view revealing at-a-glance information for general performance by each subject.

Print this screen (or Save in PDF format). Use this real-time report of the student’s skill performance to plan differentiated instruction, targeted skills practice, and monitor progress on specific standards over time.

Oct 2014 - Sample Student Performance 1 - Edits

Student performance is organized by curriculum and broken down into standards to identify areas of need. Quickly assign available educational resources aligned to skills.

Oct 2014 - Sample Student Performance 2 - Edits

Oct 2014 - Sample Student Performance 3 - edits
Graphs show performance by both grade level difficulty and subject. Mouse over the graph to see percentages.

Red signifies less than 50% correct answers. Yellow signifies 50-70% correct answers. Green signifies 71-100% correct answers.

Oct 2014 - Sample Student Performance 4 - edits

Don’t Miss the New Teacher Dashboard Webinar!

Mark your calendars to join us Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 3:30pm CST for our New Teacher Dashboard Webinar hosted by Tamra Barron, LTS Director of Training. To register, click here and complete the form. You don’t want to miss out on learning about these new updates!