How a Small District with a Big Heart Used the SAT Suite Strategically
Cloudcroft is a small village in New Mexico with 777 full-time residents and a 40% poverty rate. The school district draws a total of 405 students (118 in the high school) from a mostly rural 850-square-mile radius.
At least one Cloudcroft High School student lives in a pickup truck with his mom and younger sibling.
Another student showers in school once per week because he has no running water at home.
The school has limited resources and educators wear a lot of hats: fight breaker-upper, part-time snack provider. You get the idea.
A few years ago, school leaders were given the daunting task of finding an assessment tool that could be used over time to inform instructional strategies.
Jocelyne Driscoll-Gillespie (high school principal), Windey McKelvie (ELA lead), and Danica Newton (math lead) discussed how their district tackled this challenge.
Their guiding principles:
- Alignment with state accountability standards
- Test integrity
- Accessible and comprehensive data to inform instruction
- Flexibility for administration
For the past five years, Cloudcroft Municipals Schools have used the SAT® Suite of Assessments and Khan Academy® to create a meaningful interim and formative assessment program.
“It’s not about teaching to the test, it’s about teaching the rigor,” said Driscoll-Gillespie.
Each summer, the content teachers come in for professional development and “data days” to dig into the previous year’s data on the K–12 reporting portal and do a line-item analysis to determine what they should focus on in their classes. Then, using the SAT Suite question bank for math and the full-length practice tests available on Khan Academy for evidence-based reading and writing, they prepare the questions they’ll use on formative and interim assessments throughout the year. As Newton pointed out, it’s important for the teachers to do this themselves so they’re completely invested.
And it was important to develop the school culture—which wasn’t easy given the disadvantages these students and their families face. “No one believed in these kids, including themselves,” said Driscoll-Gillespie. Communicating the value of the SAT Suite helped—and so did incentives like pizza parties and competition between cohorts.