Week 4 – NWEA MAP Testing

It is usually about this time that we celebrate finding our stride for the year as we complete the “getting to know you” phase of our annual journey. No more poignant than this is the assessments we do to determine readiness for the tasks ahead of us.

One of our usual tools for this is what we refer to as the MAP test. This is the short name for the Measures of Academic Progress that has helped assess and understand the dynamics of the academic growth of students over many years in our school along with other students and schools around the world. We use this tool in conjunction with other measures of student progress to plan and tune our program each year to meet the specific and special needs of students. This year, in particular, it is an important benchmark for how kids are doing despite the circumstances of our challenges.

There are many instruments of this nature that we refer to as achievement tests. An achievement test is most easily understood as a comparison between your child’s level of performance and the average range of thousands of other kids of similar age and accomplishment who have taken the same measurement. It’s a statistically measured test that uses mathematical formulas to estimate current placement and growth over time. We never use the MAP test by itself in measuring academic growth, but look for MAP to help inform us along with other classroom measures and teacher observations of student performance. But, MAP can help us look both at individuals for greater understanding and at groups of students to determine how we might focus our attention for support, professional training, and resources.

Remember that we are also equally focused on social-emotional growth, so measurements of this kind should inform our teaching and learning, but should never be used in isolation as a grade or judgment. In order for instruments of this nature to be accurate, we must remove all stress associated with the activity and allow students to demonstrate the best of their true abilities. The best decision coming from this, or any other assessment, is to plan more effectively for the next best learning activities.

Middle School is partway through this process and High School and Elementary will follow shortly. We look forward to sharing our insights from these tools as part of our ongoing collaboration with you through meetings and conferences in the near future.

Cafeteria is Serving Up a Great Lunch!!

I just want to offer a shout out to our cafeteria, Solivoda, for the wonderful job they are doing under difficult circumstances. For elementary, they are serving individually packaged lunches with extra care for our youngest learners. For Upper School, kids have a selection of lunch choices served in special containers consistent with our hygiene protocol. I can’t applaud them enough for their efforts in bringing a healthy competent lunch to us and following all of our guidance for packaging and safety, including the compliance of all their staff for testing and daily survey. Please consider reviewing the menu and joining the program online at https://asw.solivoda.com/

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And, We’re Back!

Last week shook us a bit and, although not unexpected, we all felt like it was a bit early. But, like I wrote last week, we learned much from it and, despite our general success, we can now move to improving our response and solidifying our practices. Middle School returned yesterday and settled back into class without losing a beat. Everything is, thus, generally on track.

Please help us on morning surveys. This is our main issue right now with entry and a critical component of our STOP plan. Daily morning completion of the survey is required and we would like to get our numbers down much lower in order to manage our systems in this regard. This is the reason for the 7:30 a.m. deadline each morning (except Wednesday and weekends). We need the time to check on any issues and we must have this in order to avoid checking children with you based on our lists. There are very few remaining application related issues. The vast majority of our challenge is the 100 -150 entries to the survey that come closer to 7:45 or 8:00. That overwhelms us and is critical to being prepared in the morning and being able to direct our time elsewhere.

To help with this, we are making some changes this coming weekend that we believe will help streamline your survey completion and minimize absences. Mainly, we will be moving to a four symptom focus:

  • non-productive dry cough
  • serious unusual tiredness
  • loss of taste or smell
  • serious muscle aches and chills

Please read the attached letter for details on the change and how this will help us focus on the most concerning symptoms and separate them from allergies and common cold symptoms. The link to the document below:

We will also be changing the time period AFTER symptoms and reducing the exclusion to 24 hours, with a requirement for re-test to re-enter. This will minimize absences without adding any risk to our identification as the letter explains.

Attached below is an addendum to our Data Processing declaration that you confirmed in PowerSchool at the beginning of the year. It clarifies the data exchange with EpiXpert and notifies you of the foundation for that exchange. We’ll also post this in PowerSchool and on our FAQ page for reference.

Thanks to those who have sent many messages of thanks and encouragement for our handling of last week’s exposure. You have all been wonderful partners in helping us to achieve our goal of responding to threats and minimizing the time out of school whenever a case emerges. You have all been wonderful.

And, finally, I’m going to change the schedule on Town Halls starting next week. I think we can relax a bit to every other week going forward in hopes of slowing down the communication incrementally. I’ll keep the morning Daily Updates for a bit longer. If we can get a few weeks under our belts without a new case, we’ll look to relax a bit further as we inch our way to the next crisis level. Looking forward to achieving that goal in short order.

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So soon?!

Our community was challenged this week with our first COVID-19 infections and we moved right away to put our plans into action in the face of new challenges. As we move through our first day of “no further cases,” it is too early to reflect comprehensively, but the early insights are beginning to crystalize.

Learning #1 – We did well at school. The methods we used at school, both for protection through masks, distance, and hygiene, are limiting the spread of this virus when it intrudes. If that were not the case, we would have seen more cases yesterday. While we hope for no infection, we are also aware that infection will still emerge. Identifying it quickly is the core of our REACT strategy. What we do here limits the impact. It’s too soon to say for sure, but we seem to be on the right track.

Learning #2 – We need to finish fixing our systems to support this. Our app will get increased focus in the coming days and starting on Monday, we will all default to what the app tells us no matter what. Nothing with the app caused the problems, but it confused some of us and we have to regain your trust in it as a key tool. We’ll have to work hard to get there to earn your faith.

It should be noted that the App has been adjusted for exclusion for symptoms and will now flag a student as NOT OK4School if symptoms are reported and, further, will also flag family members for the same. As announced this morning and yesterday, going forward students who experience any of the following symptoms will remain home for 72 hours AFTER symptoms are gone (without medication).

  • Temperature greater than 37.8C
  • New or worsening cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Significant reduction in sense of taste or smell
  • sore throat and/or muscle aches
  • fever or chills
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • tiredness or weakness
  • difficulty swallowing, extreme thirst, or loss of appetite

Learning #3 – We have to let this be our wakeup call about what we are doing outside of school. Many of the cases revolved around parties and gatherings during the weekend – birthday and otherwise. We have other students who are self-isolating because they came in contact with our subject or others not at ASW who were positive carriers. I’ve received many reports of this both directly and indirectly.

Let me put it simply: We just CAN’T do this! If we want a safe community and if we want to avoid future closures, we must avoid the things that you all know well. Let me try to list them:

  • Do not attend any gatherings with mixed populations
  • Do not let your kids play with others outside of the school community
  • Do not join large groups in enclosed settings (concert, etc)
  • Do not travel (I know – but that’s the way it is – it’s just not safe)
  • Do not frequent restaurants and bars (confirmed by multiple studies as high risk)
  • Do not have close contact with High-Risk individuals (close contact = no mask, within 1.5 meters for more than 15 minutes)
  • Report ALL symptoms (see above) to school when known
  • NEW: if one child is sick with the above symptoms, all children in the family stay home. Contact the school for guidance.

Learning #4 – It is good to be back at school. Despite this challenge, good things were already starting to happen. Kids were getting used to masks. They were washing their hands. They were learning and getting back into the swing of school.

So, I’m still convinced we are doing the right thing in the most prudent way possible. We were challenged by this sequence of events, but in the process, we tested and improved systems, confirmed that our tests work (all have been externally validated), and added to our resilience in times of adversity. Continuing our partnership, now and always!

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