[KHTS] – The face of standardized testing is changing in California, in an effort help students better prepare for higher education and careers in the 21st Century.
Starting in March, the state Department of Education will launch field tests for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, computer-based tests that allow for a broader range of questions than the multiple-choice Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments.
Between March 18 and June 6, more than three million students across the state will have a chance to try the new tests, including elementary, junior high and high school students across the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment tests will allow Saugus Union School District students to interact with and apply what they are learning in new ways, said District Superintendent Joan Lucid.
“It think as we take a look at 21st century learning skills… that these tests will actually have our students be engaged in that kind of work as opposed to filling in a bubble,” she said.
For example, one language arts sample question provided on SmarterBalanced.org asks students to rewrite a paragraph arguing for longer school days.
“Revise the paragraph by adding details from the daily schedule (above) that help support the reasons for having a longer school day,” the question reads.
A math sample question asks students to determine how the results of a swim race would change if the swimmers’ times were rounded to the nearest tenth instead of the nearest hundredth.
“I see this (test) as a step in the right direction when we look at the technology that’s in the business world and the technology that our students will be using in the future,” said Nancy Copely, assistant superintendent of instructional services for the Newhall School District. “It is testing the Common Core Standards, and those standards require deeper thinking on students’ parts.”
“It’s an exciting time for our students and our schools as California prepares to usher in assessments that reflect more of the real world than a bubble test ever could,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, in a CDE press release.
The new tests will better reflect what students are already doing in the classrooms during the rest of the school year, Lucid said.
“We’ve always asked (students) to apply their knowledge,” she said. “We just haven’t asked them to do that on a state test.”
The test also emphasizes critical thinking, Copely said, such as on math problems where “there may be one right answer, but there may be multiple ways to get to that answer.”
The test will be administered to all students in third through eighth grade. For grades nine through 11, only students selected for a scientific sample are required to take the test, but all 11th grade students are encouraged to participate.
All William S. Hart Union High School District 11th grade students will take the test, said David LeBarron, the district’s director of curriculum and assessment, but local 9th and 10th graders will not take the test.
Assembly Bill 484, which was passed in 2013, ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the STAR Program for the past 15 years. The Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts and mathematics. The state adopted Common Core in 2010.
No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year’s field test because its purpose is to determine how well the test questions and technology work.
“Part of the reason for doing the practice tests is for us to get a broad-based view of what does the technology require,” Lucid said.
She didn’t believe adapting to computer-based tests would be an issue for Saugus Union students.
“For many of our students, they are technologically savvy and they are digital natives. They get it…,” she said.
Several resources are available for students, parents and schools to help them prepare for the tests. Click here for access to practice tests, technology requirements to administer the tests and videos explaining the test to junior high and high school students.
Each school district is given a window to administer the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The dates for local school districts are listed below.
* Castaic Union School District, March 18 – April 25
* Newhall School District, April 7 – May 16
* Saugus Union School District, April 7 – May 16
* Sulphur Springs School District, April 7 – May 16
* William S. Hart Union High School District, April 7 – May 16
* Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, April 7 – May 16, April 28 – June 6