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Budget Strategy to Eliminate Important Assessments Given to Support Students Academically

At the June 8th School Board meeting, the board will be voting to eliminate the district’s ERB CTP testing for the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Gusick explained the reasons for eliminating the ERB’s during last week’s school board meeting. The primary reason was budgetary. Eliminating the ERB’s would save the district $85,000. Dr. Gusick also explained that because much is unknown regarding the 2020-2021 school year, including where instruction will occur (in person or remotely) that the team did not want to take valuable instructional time to administer the ERB’s. (Due to COVID-19, ERB is offering schools the option to administer their assessments online at home. They plan on offering this option next year.)

The ERB CTP is a norm-referenced, summative assessment that the district has used for decades to help evaluate students’ learning from the previous school year, determine students’ academic needs, place students in instructional groups and articulate student progress to parents. Historic ERB data can also be used to analyze district-wide curricular strengths and weaknesses. Currently, the ERB CTP is administered to TESD students in 2nd-4th grades and 6th and 8th grades.

How will the 2020-2021 elimination of ERB testing impact families?

Without the ERB’s and reading benchmark assessments, it will be difficult for families to determine the impact of distance learning on their students. The impact of COVID-19 on student learning has yet to be quantified. However, it is generally accepted that all students regardless of socioeconomic status will be negatively impacted. Researchers are calling this impact the Covid-19 slide. The ERB offers a norm-referenced academic snapshot to parents who are concerned about this negative impact. Students leaving 2nd through 8th grades have historic ERB assessments that would serve as a benchmark for comparison. By eliminating the ERB, the district is eliminating the ability for parents to make an apples to apples comparison of their student’s progress for the 2019-2020 school year.

The elimination of the ERB will also make it harder for parents to identify if their student is at risk academically. Historically, the district has used the ERB as one tool to identify students who are in need of reading and math support at the beginning of the school year. Unlike the PSSA’s, ERB data is generated quickly so that it can be used to guide instructional decisions. In addition to the ERB’s, TESD also uses reading benchmarks, math benchmarks, curricular assessments, and teacher feedback to identify students at risk. Because the reading benchmarks have been eliminated for Spring 2020, because very few if any reliable curricular assessments have been administered since March and because very little student-teacher contact has occurred, it is critical that parents and teachers have a consistent tool from which to begin identifying student strengths and weaknesses. Of course, additional assessments are also necessary, but removing the only consistent tool TESD has in place will make the job of identifying academic needs even harder during this already challenging time.

How will the 2020-2021 elimination of ERB testing impact TESD?

In addition to making it more difficult to identify students in need of academic support, the elimination of the ERB’s will make it very difficult for TESD administrators and teachers to determine the efficacy of their distance learning plan. There are no other district-wide assessments that are given across grades that allow for analysis of curricular strengths and weaknesses. ERB reporting tools provide easy access to this type of information. These tools allow administrators and teachers to look at the performance of cohorts of students over time. In light of such an immense change in the educational environment, it does not make sense to eliminate this tool, especially given the amount of historic data it provides. The district will no longer be able to access this data if they eliminate their ERB contract.

What can families do?

Write the school board in opposition to their decision to eliminate the ERB’s - Your voice matters! Sending a short letter explaining that you are opposed to this decision is important. Without public input, the board assumes that we support their decisions. Your email must be received before 6 PM on June 8th and you must include your name and the town in which you reside. All emails should be sent to schoolboard@tesd.net. If you would like it to be read during the June 8th meeting, also send it to virtualboardcomment@tesd.net.

If you would like to be read at the Finance Committee meeting tonight, June 1st, please send to virtualfinancecomment@tesd.net.

Request your student’s historical ERB Reports - This data will most likely be hard to access once the contract with ERB has been terminated. You may request your student’s historical data. This data is accessible remotely so principals can send it to you via email at this time. We would recommend asking for the data for each year your student has taken the ERB. The reports you will request are much more thorough than the ERB reports sent out via mail. A sample email to your principal is below.

ERB Sample Reports - https://www.erblearn.org/services/ctp-overview/ctp-reports

Sample board email - send to both schoolboard@tesd.net and virtualfinancecomment@tesd.net

Dear School Board,

I am writing to express my opposition to your decision to eliminate ERB testing for the 2020-2021 school year. I am requesting that you refrain from making this decision until a comprehensive plan for assessing student progress is presented. During this challenging time data transparency is of utmost importance. It is extremely important that the board have a consistent way to analyze the impact of COVID-19 on student achievement and the ERB are one tool we have to do so.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Your Township of Residence: (Tredyffrin or Easttown)

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Sample request for data email:

Dear Principal,

In light of the district’s decision to eliminate ERB testing, I am writing to request MY STUDENT’s historical ERB data. Specifically, I am requesting electronic copies of the following reports with district, national, independent and suburban norms for STUDENT’s ERB testing from 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th grades (all that may apply). Reports requested:

Individual Student Subscore Report

Individual Instructional Summary Report

Student History Separated from the Comprehensive Individual Student Report

Student Performance Analysis Report

Sincerely,

Your Name


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