Dalton Public Schools seeks all students in-person for MAP testing

Ryan Anderson/Daily Citizen-News

Construction continues at Dalton Middle School on a section of the building that will become The Dalton Academy, a magnet school for students in grades 10-12 beginning with the 2021-22 school year. The Dalton Academy is "really coming together nicely and will be a great addition to our (system)," Palmer Griffin, vice chair of the Dalton Board of Education, said during a school board meeting at Dalton Middle School. 

The members of the Dalton Board of Education were briefed on plans for fall MAP testing for students during their meeting this week.

The system has already begun MAP testing, results of which provide critical information to educators regarding gaps in knowledge of students, said Laura Orr, chief academic officer for Dalton Public Schools. That's particularly important this fall because not only did students spend the final two months of the 2019-20 academic year in total virtual learning, rather than in-person classes, the start of this school year was delayed by nearly a month.

Matt Evans, chairman of the school board, believes this data will go a long way in uncovering how much learning was lost during total virtual education, he said, adding, "We're excited to have MAP as a tool in our tool box."

"MAP adapts all the time to how students respond to answers, either pushing them up or backing it down so we can see exactly where the gaps are," and "we get the data in real time," within 24 hours after students complete the exams, Orr said. Then, "we can plug it into instruction immediately."

Though more than a third of Dalton Public Schools students opted for complete virtual learning to start this academic year, "we're trying to test as many (for MAP) in person as possible," because the remote testing plan from MAP is "complicated to administer," Orr said. "We'd need translators, because parents would be needed (to help their children with elements of the test), especially for our younger students."

Officials at each school are forming plans to bring virtual students in for in-person MAP testing, she said. After all MAP testing is completed, Orr, principals and the rest of the teaching and learning team will discuss a time frame for the winter round of MAP tests, as MAP is usually given to students in the fall, winter and spring.

Calendar adjustment

The system is also tweaking its 2020-21 calendar.

Parent-teacher conference days will be moved from Fridays to Wednesdays to promote parent attendance and avoid interfering with weekend or holiday plans, said Don Amonett, deputy superintendent. That was especially important for the March edition, as it was set for the Friday before spring break.

The new dates are Oct. 28 and March 17, Amonett said. And, because Wednesdays will continue to be staff planning days — with all students learning virtually, not in school buildings — for teachers in grades 6-12 through the end of the first semester in January, that will free up slots in the morning and afternoon for conferences later this month.

Construction update

At Hammond Creek, a new school for grades six and seven that "will be ready in August" of 2021, "they began one round of punch lists there" and are working on numerous items, said Palmer Griffin, vice chair of the school board. Griffin and others toured the section of Dalton Middle School that is being refurbished to create The Dalton Academy, a magnet school for grades 10-12 that will also open for the 2021-22 school year, which is "really coming together nicely and will be a great addition to our (system)."

Technology

The school board members approved $898,200 to Dell for the fiscal year 2021 student learning device refresh. Dalton Public Schools is a one-to-one system where each student has access to a learning device, and those devices need to be refreshed on a regular basis. In fiscal year 2021, which started July 1, that means refreshing the devices for students in grades three, six and nine.

"The technology staff will review the exact amount of enrollment in grades two, five and eight," as those are next year's third-, sixth- and ninth-graders, as this year progresses, then "order an amount to cover the estimated enrollment," according to the system. The $898,200 would cover 1,800 students, but current projections are for 1,696 devices for a cost of $846,304.

Typically, the system would wait longer to begin this purchase process, but "we're seeing a wait time" on these devices, so "we felt it was important to (start) now," said Superintendent Tim Scott.

System officials and Dell will work together to make sure the devices arrive in time for the summer of 2021.

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