In September, on the first or second day of fourth grade, Eileen Lovell’s students start taking tests.
Or as she calls them, pretests.
Lovell pretests her students in English and math because she wants to find out where they have “rusted up” during the summer.
“We need to get out the de-rusto,” she says.
She also starts right out letting her boys and girls know that at certain times - perhaps just half an hour in a day - she needs to have their top performance.
“Give me the best you can give me,” she asks, and because they’re young and want to please her, they do.
Lovell credits these two tools - pretesting and asking for their best - for the remarkable scores earned by fourth-graders at Ness Elementary School.
Two years ago, Ness fourth-grade scores in reading, language and math hovered around the 50 percentile range. A year ago, those scores climbed to mid-50s and mid-60s. This year, Ness scores are in the 60s and 70s.
Ness principal Tom Moore and West Valley School District assistant superintendent Sharon Mowry give much of the credit to Lovell.
The painstaking analysis she does on these pretests is a labor of love, done in countless evening hours. “I enjoy the challenge.”
She analyzes, not only those pretests, but also CTBS survey tests that the district’s third-graders take in the spring. She looks at them question by question - not only to learn whether her students answered the questions correctly, but, if they answered them incorrectly, to find which incorrect they chose.
“Is there a pattern, an area that’s being missed? Are there patterns that show up year after year?”
The analysis is time-consuming. Lovell does it by hand now - a process that technology could shorten immensely.
But the picture that emerges helps Lovell freshen up concepts that her students have forgotten. Multiplication and division, for instance, didn’t fare well over the summer with her students.
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