By Ashley Gibbard
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
Back in the 1970s when Holt Public Schools Superintendent David Hornak went to school, every student was taught the exact same thing the exact same way whether they could understand it or not.
“Back when I went to school it was ‘this is the way you’re going to be taught. If you get it, great. If you don’t, that’s your problem,’” Hornak said. “Whatever teachers were instructed to teach is what they taught and they just hoped it stuck with the majority of students.”
Having worked in the Holt Public School District for 22 years now, Hornak shed some light on the program that the district now uses to evaluate each individual student and how they try and meet their needs.
“Now we use the benchmark screeners to determine ‘okay, this child needs three doses of reading’ versus ‘this child who needs one dose of reading but two of math,’” Hornak said. “We know exactly what each individual child knows now and what they need to know moving forward.”
Benchmark screeners are a form of testing the district does on all students three times a year. It is used to evaluate where each student fits compared to their counterparts across the United States.
The benchmark assessment tool we use is called AIMSweb screeners,” Hornak said. “The tests vary by grade, but in most cases are administered on an individual basis and take roughly three minutes or less. The math assessment is a group assessment, students work
individually, and it takes eight minutes.”
According to Hornak, AIMSweb is a nationally normed assessment tool. It is a commonly used assessment for Ingham County, but it is also used in schools/districts across the United States.
The data collected shows the district which kids should be further tested, then what kind of help the school district needs to provide to help the student be more successful going forward.
The tests are given around the same times each year and the students and their families are made aware of when their testing will take place.
“We publicize our testing windows annually,” Hornak said. “Generally speaking, the students are tested the first two weeks of school, around the semester break and in May, annually.”
Sharon Hankins, whose daughter is in fourth grade at Wilcox Elementary School likes that the testing is fast.
“I like that they really don’t miss any class time to be evaluated,” Hankins said. “I don’t necessarily think the children that meet the requirements at the beginning of the year need to be evaluated in the middle of the year as well.
“I think evaluating at the beginning of the year and then at the end of the year would be fine for those children that are meeting the milestones.”
Hornak explains the reason they take so much data from each child is because of the Multi-Tiered System of Support the district uses.
“We have a robust Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) system and benchmark assessments are vital to our MTSS systems,” Hornak says. “MTSS is using the data we collect from our students and using it to further improve both the academic and behavioral instruction for each individual student.”
Kam Mathis likes the fact that the school evaluates his son throughout the year.
“As long as I know when they are evaluating him, I like that they have a base at the beginning of the year, then check in in the middle and at the end,” Matlis said. “That way I know along with the school how he does as the work gets more difficult and could address any issues if they come up.”