This week and again in April, MCPS parent teacher conferences will include new data gleaned from the STAR 360 formative assessment, which has replaced all other assessment tools.

Executive Director for Teaching and Learning for MCPS Elise Guest described the STAR 360 program.

“The assessment is done three times a year in language arts, reading and math,” Guest began. The tests are given in September, January and May, and are used to see how students are doing throughout the year that they’re keeping on track for grade level standards. For parent teacher conferences that are going on right now, it’s really exciting to have a tool that shows where students are achieving and how they compare to peers at their grade level.”

Guest said the data is used to measure student success and to plan for the next school year.

“It’s done on a computer, and there are different tests for each grade level,” she said. “For a kindergartener, we’d do more small group testing just to help them get familiar with the device, to keep them focused on the test, and give them a little additional one-on-one support. Our 9th grade students are good to take it as a whole group either in the computer lab or in the library.”

The students have now completed two-thirds of the testing, in September and January, and each test provides a report for parents.

“Teachers have printed off that report and are prepared to share it with parents during their parent-teacher conference,” she said. “This is the first year with this test, so we’re helping parents understand the power of this tool.”

Guest said the response by teachers so far has been positive.

“The biggest thing was deciding that we were going to stop doing all the other assessments to take them all off the teachers’ plates and just focus on this one assessment tool,” she said. “It gives us the most reliable, valid and specific information that happens with just one test. It’s a lot more efficient, it’s a lot more effective, and it’s taken some other issues off teachers’ plates from using all those other tests."