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Congratulations on an amazing first semester – despite the pandemic!
No one really knows what to expect from students during COVID-19. Yet, when we evaluated midyear data for Alpha Plus schools, we found learning gaps were not as great as many expected. Slightly fewer students took the baseline but some schools posted greater average growth than last year. Click here for news release.

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•  Students in Grades 3-8 who took our OAS-aligned benchmarks, started school with a baseline average just 1 percent lower than last fall. Growth from fall to winter was 1 percent higher.
•  According to a Dec. 2020 report in Education Week, the expected COVID-19 learning loss was 2.5 to 4.5 months in reading and 6 months to a year in math. On Alpha Plus summative benchmarks, the difference in Oklahoma student scores from last year to this has not been statistically significant – not yet.
•  We attribute this performance to vertical alignment of the standards since 2016, and because teachers (especially those reading this newsletter) have had the benefit of OAS-aligned curriculum and assessments – some for nearly five years.

All schools have had limited class time (some more than others) and most are struggling with distance learning. We were surprised at how high our average scores are statewide, but even more impressed by the consistency of the data.
Keep up the great work! Let us know how we can help.

Let’s get ready for A2 summative benchmark!
The spring summative test window for reading and math at Grades 3-8 opened February 15 but that does NOT mean teachers should have administered it then. Many school calendars are different than the traditional Alpha Plus Model so our test windows are somewhat wider than the state test to accommodate all plans.

For best results, administer the A2 benchmark before Spring Break – but after preparing students to the extent possible. Not an end-of-year exam, the Alpha Plus A benchmark is a snapshot in time to help schools coordinate instruction and intervention. Scheduling A2 in early to mid-March allows time to use data aligned to OAS objectives to ensure maximum success of intervention efforts before state-test time. To prepare:

  1. Check the Oklahoma School Testing Program blueprint for the standards and objectives that account for the most questions on the state test. This is the priority content through April. Click here for Math, Reading or Science.

  2. Use reports from B test data to determine:
    •  which questions were most difficult for the class? (Item Response Report, IRRS)
    •  on which objectives are students already proficient? (Classroom List Report, CLR)
    •  which objectives need to be taught or remediated? (CLR and Standards at Risk, SAR)
    •  who should be in small groups for tutoring by objective? (SAR)

  3. Use Review button under Classroom Tab next to B to lead discussion over questions answered incorrectly by all or most students. ReviewBtn
    •  After A2 is administered, the Review button will appear so teachers can discuss those questions in class as they prepare students for state tests in April.

  4. Think of A2 as a dress rehearsal for the state tests. Benchmark A1 is the baseline, B is midyear data to inform adjustments to pace and remediation, and A2 is to ensure students are ready for what the state expects of them.
    •  Prepare students for the grade that should be taken on test-taking procedures. Students should be taught and expected to use the plausible / non-plausible worksheets or blank scratch paper to show their work in math and take notes on ELA content. On any assessment, students should evaluate and determine the “best answer” to every question.
    •  If students are required to turn in their scrap paper after each benchmark for a grade, when they sit for the state test, they will assume they are being graded on test-taking procedures. It also helps to walk around the room with your grade book. [NOTE: Summative benchmarks should be taken in class or parents should be monitoring.]
    •  Ensure students will practice accommodations on A2 as defined on IEPs so they are prepared to do so on the state test. A2 can be printed from Alpha Plus Resources with district-level log in.

  5. After Spring Break, download and print or email to parents and students a copy of the Standard-Based Report Cards for the 3rd nine weeks period. Discuss academic strengths and weaknesses in terms of what the state expects, but express that you only expect students to do their best.

Encourage students by letting them know that you know they have worked hard this year and will do their best on the state tests. This is all that can be asked and is why we recommend waiting as late as possible to administer the OSTP. Teachers should take as much time as they need to ensure all content in the state blueprint has been covered.

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ENDNOTE: Oh, the technology! …

In December, not long before Alpha Plus Online experienced a temporary outage statewide, Google had one worldwide; Zoom went down on the first day of school for thousands of students nationwide. Our tech team has updated our code and is monitoring use of the system as teachers start administering the A2 benchmark, but we all know: Outages happen.

In a February report in Ed Week about how to prepare for these problems, the lesson was: “Technology is inherently fallible. More outages are inevitable.” So, here are some tips from tech experts on preparing for and navigating internet service disruptions.

BEFORE:

  • Provide students with learning materials they can use at home (e.g., books, manipulatives, paper, etc.) for when technology fails.
  • Look for offline options provided by various services. These include instructional materials that can be downloaded to devices ahead of time for use in Adobe Reader or via Google Classroom and other services designed to work offline.
  • Prepare as you would with lesson plans and contingencies for when the teacher is sick or students have a substitute for any reason. Students should be taught how to work independently on projects and encouraged to do so when online programs are not available.

DURING:

  • If you can, let students and families know via email, text and/or social media as soon as possible that you have notified tech support of the problem.
  • Sometimes outages only affect a class or scattered groups of devices while sometimes it is schoolwide and at others, worldwide. Teachers and students are the front line of technology problems that could be local or national.
  • Jot down notes on these questions to help your support team solve the problem:
    • Which services or systems appear to be “down” or not working right?
    • Who is experiencing the problem(s)?
    • When did it start and has it happened before?
    • What browser do you use?
  • Do you know when the computer was last updated or had the cache cleared?
  • Try to model how to calmly address frustrating situations so students will realize all humans have similar problems. Discuss creative workarounds for the new problem and develop skills for dealing with unexpected bumps in the road.

Based on “Zoom and Google Outages: How Schools Should Prepare for Tech Problems,” by Mark Lieberman, Education Week, Feb. 3, 2021, page 8 ©2021 EDITORIAL PROJECTS IN EDUCATION, INC.

FOR ALPHA PLUS ONLINE:

  • All assessments are available for download to devices in PDF; and Success with OAS reading and math books are in fillable PDFs on Alpha Plus Resources https://alphaplusresources.com.
  • Please put (405) 842-8408 in your cell phone because we want to know if and when there is a problem as soon as you know. Also, ask students to write on paper the answers selected before finally submitting a test online; always good to have a copy of your work for backup.
  • A knowledgeable and dedicated Oklahoman answers our phone from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday (or via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Also, if you've read this far, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know when you plan to administer A2. - Thanks, Alpha Plus Team