Two Hermiston elementary schools submitted data to the Oregon Department of Education as part of a state pilot to test kindergarten readiness.

Both Desert View and West Park elementary schools were among the 16 schools selected throughout the state for the pilot program this year, and former West Park Principal Shane Pratt said the schools were likely chosen based on size and demographics.

“We believe they picked us due to our diversity, our size, poverty level and Hispanic population,” Pratt said.

The pilot includes information reading and math scores – collected through easyCBM – as well as an individual survey on the child behavior rating scale, which rates skills such as The Hermiston School District already tested students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade with easyCBM for the past two years. At Desert View, Principal Mike Scott said the school tests kindergarten students three times a year in reading and math.

“Once we find out where the students are at at the beginning of the year, the teachers decide what the kids need, find out where the need is for each student and then they teach to those needs. Then there are formative tests that we give — progress monitoring — and we see how they’re doing along the way and continue to individualize instruction for those kids,” Scott said.

The behavior monitoring is a new component for both schools.

The biggest downside to the pilot program, from Pratt’s perspective, was time spent on the behavior reports. At West Park, that meant teachers had to fill out a 17-question report on each of the school’s 119 kindergarteners.

“It has taken our teachers many hours to administer the test to the kids and go through the behavior modification scale,” Pratt said. “On the other hand, it helps to look at each child individually. That has been a real insight into our students.”

The program also puts both schools ahead of the game in the 2013-14 school year, when the state will require kindergarten readiness evaluations from all public schools. Pratt said ODE plans to take the information from the pilot and use it to refine and streamline the process before taking it statewide.

“No one wants to lose too much instruction time doing a long assessment, but by assessing students, it gives us a marker to where our students are, so it’s necessary,” he said. “It would be our hope that most students come to kindergarten ready, but if they’re not, it is our job to fill the holes and build the foundation so they’re ready for first grade.”

The schools have been collecting data since the beginning of the year, and the information has to be at ODE by Oct. 29. ODE has partnered with Portland State University to analyze the data, but Scott and Pratt were not sure if the district would see any of those reports.

“We will continue to use easyCBM the same as we have in the past years,” Pratt said. “The pilot as a whole, I think it’s a good opportunity for us to see what our kids are coming to school with and where holes are we can fill as we receive these kids from Head Start, private preschools, any home.”

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