Acing It: A Spotlight on the Assessment Services Department

The Assessments Department has put up some impressive numbers – supporting teachers and case managers in achieving 94% completion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), 100% completion of the Initial English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC), and 95% completion of the Summative ELPAC, as well as increasing State Seal of Biliteracy awards by 48%. What’s even more impressive is that these goals were supported and made possible by a team of only four people.

“I’m very fortunate to work with, support, and be supported by Joel, Silvia and Erica. I have the pleasure and privilege of working with the team to coordinate state and local assessment efforts,” says David Villegas, Assessment & Evaluation Manager. “I came from an organization where I felt very much alone in the work despite having an equally sized staff. I don’t feel that way here.”

David refers to the team as “doers”, folks who “care greatly about continuous improvement” and doing what they can to increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of assessment administration.

“As a team, we are all fairly new to this department and growing into our roles everyday,” explains Joel Aguilar, Student Services Representative 1. “Part of the job is learning to take our failures on the chin and growing from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them.”

Completing the Puzzle

Like so many things at Visions, the administering of assessments requires copious amounts of planning and behind-the-scenes effort by multiple departments. At the forefront of this initiative is the Assessments team, with Joel leading CAASPP and Physical Fitness Testing (PFT), Erica Wilkins leading Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing, Silvia Covarrubias leading Initial and Summative ELPAC testing and the State Seal of Biliteracy program, and David supporting his team and our credentialed teachers and case managers who administer the testing.

“There is a whole lot of prepping and planning in the months leading up to testing season. Aside from what we do internally, we also collaborate with other departments to ensure everything is ready to go,” explains Erica, Student Services Representative 1. “We know testing is a beast for everyone involved, so our goal is to make it as efficient and user-friendly as possible.”

“Assessments works with several departments, such as Enrollment to make sure we know what new students are EL and are placed in correct EL support programs, Instruction for the recruitment of teachers to support ELPAC, and STS to make sure our students are equipped with the correct devices and software,” adds Silvia, Student Services Representative 1.

There are so many moving pieces in coordinating our annual testing, but the team loves the challenge. From reserving test sites to training teachers to coming early and staying late to load and unload testing equipment, every member of the team goes above and beyond to set our students and teachers up for success.

“Planning assessments is like a yearlong process of putting a jigsaw puzzle together,” explains Joel. “As a non-classroom based charter school, it’s like putting the puzzle together with one hand tied behind our back. We have to continue to learn and grow professionally to be able to overcome any obstacles we face each year.”

“I’m incredibly proud of our Assessments team!” says Soren Gutierrez, Director of Accountability & Data Services. “David, Erica, Silvia and Joel go above and beyond to make sure that our teachers have the resources they need to seamlessly and easily administer all of our State and Local Assessments to our students both in person and remote. It’s a huge task that requires an incredible amount of planning and coordination and they make it look easy!”

Practice Makes Perfect

With another school year over, the team has taken the time to reflect on their recent successes, such as providing training for test administration, setting up in-person testing events in LPAD, and increasing direct communication to families. With a 1% better every day mindset, the team is also looking ahead to how they can improve.

“In the future, we want to create more indoor test opportunities for PFT, see greater utilization of in-person test sites, and support our teachers and case managers with systems and training,” explains David.

Along with increasing testing participation and continuing their successful partnership with other departments, everyone on the team has one shared goal – supporting our students.

“We are a well-rounded group with strengths in project management, data analysis and visualization,” says David. “Every day poses a new challenge and opportunity to improve assessment participation and performance in support of our students.”