Elementary Newsletter

From the Desk of Mrs. Buchanan-Rivera

Greetings Families,

Happy 2016!!!

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas break! It is rewarding to have quality time with loved ones while honoring Christ. Thank you for your continued partnership with the educators and staff of TPCA! We value the relationships and fellowship established among families. Prior to our break, many grade levels held events that presented interactive learning opportunities. I wanted to take the time to highlight the rigor behind the culminating student projects.

Wax Museum

Fourth grade students participated in a project that required all students to assess the contributions of an influential person in history. Biographical studies encourage students to investigate facts. Learners delve into nonfiction texts to determine supporting evidence as well as analyze pivotal circumstances in an individual’s life. Students also learn how to synthesize research to represent the figure he or she intends to portray. The National Standards for history require for students to critically evaluate historical aspects through an inquiry based approach.


Third grade students learned about economics, including what God says about money in Scripture. Students also learned about writing and using checks, making a product, and advertising using facts, opinions, and their own slogans. Standards in this unit included lessons on scarcity, opportunity cost, and goods and services. The unit culminated with a Mini Mall, where students sold and bought homemade items.

Announcements and Reminders

Fruit of the Spirit Awards have been honored within classrooms on a quarterly basis. Per the school calendar, there will be a culminating celebration at the end of the year. This month the students will have an in-depth study of KINDNESS.

TCPA Elementary teachers engaged in a Data Day during our early release. Therefore, please feel encouraged to inquire about your student’s levels across content areas. NWEA testing is occurring this month for all K-4 students.

Martin Luther King Day was on Monday, January 18th. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King. There is much to learn from his methodology of equality.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Spring Assessments

The spring months present many assessments for elementary students including WIDA, IREAD-3, and ISTEP. I encourage families to look at the Indiana Department of Education website to download practice assessments, blueprints, and other materials pertaining to these standardized tests. Although these assessments are not the primary focus of educators, we certainly do not want to blindside our students and want to prepare them accordingly for things to come. Here are some descriptors of assessments as derived from the Department of Education with my personal notation after the italicized statement.

IREAD-3 (3rd Grade)

Testing Window: March 14-18, 2016

The purpose of the Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination (IREAD-3) assessment is to measure foundational reading standards through grade three. Based on the Indiana Academic Standards, IREAD-3 is a summative assessment that was developed in accordance with House Enrolled Act 1367 (also known as Public Law 109 in 2010), which "requires the evaluation of reading skills for students who are in grade three beginning in the Spring of 2012 to ensure that all students can read proficiently before moving on to grade four."

IREAD measures the reading proficiency of 3rd grade students. Failure to pass this exam could potentially result to a grade level retention. There are exemptions that would apply to English Language learners or students with disabilities. The test assesses vocabulary (vowel sounds, synonyms, antonyms, etc.) and comprehension (fiction and non-fiction).

WIDA (English Language Learners)

Test Window: January 11- February 26, 2016

WIDA is an academic language proficiency test given to English Language learners that encompasses all content areas.

ISTEP+ (3rd & 4th)

Testing Window: February 29-March 11, 2016 (Applied Skills)/ April 18-May 6, 2016 (Multiple Choice)

The purpose of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+) program is to measure student achievement in the subject areas of English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science (Grades 4 and 6), and Social Studies (Grades 5 and 7). In particular, ISTEP+ reports student achievement levels according to the Indiana Academic Standards that were adopted by the Indiana State Board of Education. An Applied Skills open-ended Assessment (Part 1) and a Multiple-Choice and Technology-Enhanced item Assessment (Part 2), which are required components of the ISTEP+ program, are used to measure these standards.

The Applied Skills assessment measures critical thinking and requires students to demonstrate their understanding of problems. This section of the assessment incorporates writing across all content areas including math as students must describe their problem-solving strategies. Our daily writing block or writers’ workshop will prepare students for the stamina that is needed to articulate thoughts through penmanship.

Strategy Building at Home

Over the course of the first semester and the start of January, I have met with several families in partnership with teachers to discuss student learning- powerful, rewarding conversations! Ultimately, families want to know how they can support the learning that takes place within the classroom walls. Through conversations many strategies are revealed that families try at home to engage students. However, here are some ways to make those strategies you love (or what worked for you as a child) stick!

Making Strategies Stick

  1. Tell why the strategy is important. Why is it a good strategy to use?
  2. Explain and define the strategy. Be explicit.
  3. Relate the strategy to something the student already knows or does to demonstrate the relevance.
  4. Model/demonstrate the strategy for the student.
  5. Allow student to try the strategy and check for understanding.
  6. Work in partnership with your student and guide him/her on how to implement the strategy.
  7. Allow student to work independently and document their thinking methods.

Continue to work with teachers to ensure student learning. I am always happy to give input when needed!


Erica Buchanan-Rivera