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Why test on first day of school?

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyRed Sandstone Elementary Schools first grader Garret Sampson gets some help during a reading test from Bebbie Bolon-Feeney.
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EAGLE COUNTY ” The jungle gyms and slides were pretty quiet today, despite it being the first day of school.

It’s just that for elementary students in Eagle County, the first day is an hour alone with the teacher.

This is a fairly new strategy in the school district, but it’s one that principals, teachers and parents seem to like. The first two days of school are actually devoted to giving these younger students reading assessments.

Teachers schedule 45 minutes to an hour with each student in their new class. They spend that time getting to know each other a bit, looking at the classroom and reading together. The idea is that, after this reading assessment, a teacher can decide exactly how to connect with a child on the first day of class.

“It makes sense “they get real one-on-one time reading with the teacher, and they know right where the child falls,” said Kathleen Cope, who has a daughter and a son attending Meadow Mountain Elementary. “Instead of wasting time at the beginning, they know what to expect.”

Cope was at Meadow Mountain Elementary Wednesday waiting for her children to finish their assessments. They seemed pleased with their meetings and said they were ready for school.

“We love the first day of school ” we’ve been going to bed earlier and earlier each night,” Cope said.

Mitch Forsberg, principal at Gypsum Elementary, said the reading assessments are good for academics, but he really appreciates the relationship building the testing allows. Students meet the teacher, and parents can get some immediate feedback.

“Making those relationships and building that rapport on the first day is wonderful,” Forsberg said. “It really makes for a smooth opening of the school year.”

Kathy Cummings, principal at Meadow Mountain Elementary, said these assessments are so important at an early age because reading is the basis of all learning in school. That’s why she’s glad to see the school district give elementaries two full days to complete the one-on-one assessments with students.

“It’s a valued piece of time. I give kudos to the school district for them saying this is important enough to do it this way,” Cummings said.

If students aren’t reading at grade level by grade four, they’ll fall further and further behind, said Jason Glass, human resources director and data analyst for the district.

Elsewhere, at middle schools and high schools, the first day was a typical full day of classes.

Visit eagleschools.net for school supply lists, bus routes, school calendars and a schedule of back-to-school open houses and events.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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