Nearly a year after launching a new testing program at Union R-XI, Superintendent Dr. Scott Hayes said teachers better understand how to help students’ academic progression.

The program, Evaluate, is a benchmark assessment system that combines monthly assessments with reporting and analysis tools. Hayes said it allows teachers to follow students’ month-to-month progress and predict how well they’ll perform on tests.

Evaluate works through web-based reading and math assessments aimed at engaging students and guiding teachers as they target instruction and allow administrators to identify instructional areas in need further support and development.

Last year, Evaluate’s predictions had a 99 percent accuracy compared to students scores on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP.) Hayes said that level of prediction gives teachers and students an opportunity to better understand academic setbacks and victories.

“The assessment is based upon our end of the year standards,” Hayes said. “We look at monthly progression to see how our kids are doing. We take that information, and the teachers go back and look at it with the kids.”

Each month, students from first grade to high school students in Algebra I and English I, take Evaluate’s benchmark tests. The online program tests the students and then offers students a chance to review questions they answered incorrectly, to better help them understand their error.

The tests then are provided to teachers, principals and district administrators who can view progress at each level and identify areas where more work needs to be done. Hayes said that can happen at the classroom level or at the administrative level.

“This is one of our tools that is guiding our curriculum,” Hayes said. “If the state assessment is measuring us on the standards of what our kids can do, this benchmark gives up an idea of where our kids are throughout the year.”

At a recent meeting of the Union School Board, principals from throughout the district gave positive reviews of the program.

At Central, the program is even used at the kindergarten level. Central Elementary Principal Leslie Lausesaid the program is giving her staff insight into how best to teach students.

“Our teachers are really looking at the standards and how the kids are doing on the assessments as the year progresses,” Lause said. “And then they change instruction based on that.”

She added that while learning how to best use the program is an ongoing progress, the assessments have been helpful to understanding where instruction needs to be focused.

“It’s definitely opening some minds and sparking some new conversations,” Lause said.

Hayes agreed that the district is still learning how best to use the software, but said he was excited to see a new tool starting conversations in the school district.

“We’re still trying to work with the tool to better see what’s the best, most efficient way to inform our instruction,” Hayes said. “We’re excited to see what it can produce for us.”