Beyond Assessment: How Testing Can Benefit Your Students’ Learning
An interview with The Carmel Christian School and ERB
More than 2,300 independent, public and parochial schools and districts around the U.S. and world use ERB student assessment and instructional programs and entrance exams to improve learning and enhance teaching. At the heart of every school’s ERB partnership is an ERB consultant, an accomplished educator and specialist—from early childhood through high school—dedicated to offering personalized service and support to teachers, administrators and parents.
Philippe Best, ERB Consultant
We spoke with Carmel Christian School, a K-12, coed, independent school in Matthews, NC and ERB member since 2002, and ERB Consultant Philippe Best, M.A., about their educational partnership.
Q: What is ERB’s approach to working with Carmel Christian School on assessment?
Skye Sauerwein, Carmel Christian School
Skye Sauerwein, Executive Assistant to the Head of School: It’s a good relationship. I have been at Carmel Christian for the past 15 years. My kids came first, and then left me! I’ve been working with ERB since I started at the school. We get more value using ERB then a cookie-cutter [standardized testing] program. Philippe meets with us, and, a few years ago, ERB hosted a combined workshop with Charlotte Latin School on interpreting test scores in-depth to see lapses in our curriculum and to help target individual student needs. It was very helpful.
Philippe: We’re there to help Skye and Carmel Christian and all our schools use ERB products. Ultimately, we want schools to weave our products into the culture of the school. We pride ourselves on being particularly responsive, accommodating and caring. Carmel Christian is what I would consider a "power user.” The school uses CTP for grades 3-8, WrAP for grades 4, 7 and 10 and ISEE. It’s a large school that is very systematic and deliberate about the use of assessments. I try to make sure that the school feels supported in putting the ERB assessments to work for students.
Q: What do you see as ERB's most important role at a school?
Philippe: Our role is to provide high-quality, reliable assessments to schools and make it easy for them to implement the assessment. As an ERB consultant, I always try to remember my time as a classroom teacher. [Prior to joining ERB in 2014, Philippe taught English in a Seattle public school and independent schools in Southern Ontario and Turkey.] A teacher or administrator has a great many demands on his or her time, wants to use tools that can be easily incorporated into the classroom without compromising his or her unique way of teaching. Schools don’t want to be sold a bill of goods, something that looks good on paper but is impractical to implement.
When I work with Skye and all my schools, I try to keep these factors in mind at all time. My job is not to strongarm anyone into adopting a product or a process that is not actually what his or her school wants or needs. The most common way that I work with schools to improve teaching and learning is by conducting professional development trainings to help staff use testing data effectively.
Q: Describe a recent assessment challenge.
Skye: Our challenge is technology. We just completed a huge capital expansion at Carmel Christian, adding 100,000 square feet to our campus this past year. That meant moving a lot of teachers and classrooms while we were under construction. Space and technology were tight. We’re not a 1:1 computer school, so doing online testing has been an issue for us. We’re going to do the pencil and paper tests for another year. Philippe and I are working on a strategy to move to online testing.
Philippe: My role is to field the school’s questions and point Skye and her colleagues in the correct direction when looking for answers. That might mean looking up technical requirements in the CTP Online user's manual or referring the school to our Operations team for more detailed assistance.
Q: Has ERB helped you and your colleagues to advance teaching and learning?
Skye: Honestly, it’s been a little bit of both. ERB has helped us identify gaps in our curriculum. The craziness of the school day and faculty time constraints make it very difficult to use every bit of data. At Carmel Christian, we have the challenge of really digging deep into our test data. It’s a lot of information to digest, but the data does help us identify our students on both ends of the spectrum—those who are struggling and those at the higher end who need enhancement. It comes down to time and the ability and willingness to help faculty take the next step. That’s where the ERB workshops are so helpful.
Philippe: I listen to what schools are telling me [about testing]. Everyone's ultimate goal is to help students. That takes many forms, and one of them involves implementing an objective, external assessment to see what is going on at the school. The assessment is one of many measures, but it offers objectivity and precision in a way that a "home-grown" assessment simply cannot.
Q: What do you love most about Carmel Christian School?
Skye: Our overall community. We’ve become a big school but still have a small-school feel, and our Christian mission and vision are such an important part of who we are.
Q: What was your favorite subject as a student?
Philippe: I always loved my English-classes and my English teachers. In fact, my English teacher from my junior year of high school is the reason I went into teaching in the first place.
Learn more about how an ERB Consultant can help your school get the most out of teaching and learning.