District testing plan wins statewide praise

Testing season is in full swing at Marion Schools, and the district’s testing plan is earning statewide praise.

The Marion School District was recently featured in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for its innovative and flexible approach to annual testing. You can read that story in its entirety here.

The article notes that tens of thousands of Arkansas students in grades 3-10 are taking the state-mandated ACT Aspire tests in math, literacy, and science this spring. A year ago, the annual assessments were canceled in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, ongoing Covid-19 protocols are forcing districts to adapt to a challenging landscape. But districts like Marion have found a way to innovate and adapt, providing a variety of options for families.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

The Marion School District is giving virtual students -- about 31% of the school district's enrollment -- options for test settings, Julie Coveny, the Marion district's federal programs director, said Wednesday.

Those include:

  • On-campus testing while the in-person students are taking their assessments.
  • An after-hours testing event that is being held in the evening hours.
  • A Saturday testing event.

"We started testing this past Monday morning and will finish on Friday. Our face-to-face students are taking one assessment a day this week, and each evening this week we are administering the same assessment to our virtual students," Coveny said. "The district felt it was important to offer the same assessment to both our face-to-face students and our virtual students. We wanted both groups of our students taking the same assessment each day."

The third option for testing this Saturday, however, is a popular one. More than 200 students are scheduled for the weekend session, Coveny said.

Most parents of virtual students have been agreeable to the district's testing plans.

"I have had only a few calls and emails from parents letting me know they were not going to send their virtual students to school for testing," Coveny said.

She said she and other district staff listened to parent concerns and "let them know we respect their decision as a parent," but also telling them that the district is following the rules and regulations of the state on Aspire testing.

"We let them know how valuable this testing data is going to be for their students in the future," she said. "It will let next year's teachers know their child's strengths and weaknesses as they prepare for their classroom instruction," she said.

With a growing enrollment of nearly 3,900 students, the Marion School District is committed to helping students develop the academic, social, and decision-making skills needed to become productive citizens in the rapidly changing technological world. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit https://www.msd3.org/ or call 870-739-5100.