ENGLEWOOD – In Cerri Norris' first grade class, her students do not have to worry about taking standardized tests like the TCAPs till third grade. All that means for Norris are different forms of testing to prove that her students are growing throughout the year.
"We do need assessments to determine where kids are," Norris said. "We need assessments to inform our instruction to define whether or not what we're doing in the classroom is working for those students."
Norris teaches at Cherrelyn Elementary in Englewood. 9News is following this class throughout the school year to delve into different educational issues like standardized tests.
Norris says teachers have the tough task of balancing time in the classroom between teaching and testing.
"Instructional minutes are precious," Norris said.
But, Cherrelyn Principal Eva Pasiewicz says tests and assessments are crucial.
"Sometimes that's hard because it does take away from a lot of instructional time," Pasiewicz said. "But, as long as we look at the data and use it, it's time well spent."
Norris says she can adjust her teaching strategies immediately if weekly student assessments show that one of her students is falling behind in learning certain concepts. She says that knowledge is especially important for students who came in struggling.
"When they come into the beginning of first grade, they're starting at all different levels," Norris said. "Then, we have a year-and-a-half or even two years worth of growth to do in one year."
Yet, despite the need, Norris and Pasiewicz agree students are tested too much.
"All of our reading tests in the primary level are one-on-one," Norris said. "So, it takes a lot of time."
Fourth and Fifth grade students at Cherrelyn even had to undergo an additional round of testing. The school is taking part in a project to help develop the next evolution of standardized tests after the TCAPS or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program tests are phased out after this year.
"The kids are going to feel tested out," Pasiewicz said. "We're trying to keep their spirits up and just remind them to do their best."
While Norris acknowledges that standardized tests and assessments are necessary, she says the whole testing system does foster a bad environment for teachers.
"We think about who's in my class and what kind of scores I'm gonna get from what kids," Norris said. "That's not how a teacher should be thinking."