What does every parent need to know about the Smarter Balanced Assessments?
This year, students in PUSD will take new assessments in English and Mathematics: Smarter Balanced Assessments. These assessments focus on the Con Core State Standards and replace most of the STAR assessments from prior years. In 2014-15 individual student and school scores from these new computer based assessments will be reported.
Assessments are Dramatically Different
This year schools are fully implementing the Common Core Standards and the first time test scores from these new standards will be reported. Over the past few years, educators have been working to apply new teaching approaches to support the standards. The new state assessment requires that students demonstrate the following thinking skills:
Questions that require higher level thinking and analysis will comprise 50-60 percent of the assessments. This is a dramatic increase in rigor over past state assessments. Students are expected to think and process information differently than in the past.
Results Can’t be Compared to Earlier State Assessments
California has set high proficiency levels on the new state assessments. Joseph Willhoft, one of the SBAC’s Project Directors, says that “because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against these higher expectations, the bar has been raised.” Based on projections from the field tests conducted in California and 21 other states, it is likely that fewer students will score at the higher achievement levels on the new assessments, especially in the first few years. However, a drop in test scores doesn’t mean students are learning less. Rather, it is a measure of where students are on the path to success based on new expectations that are designed to prepare them to compete nationally and globally.
How is PUSD preparing students for Technology Based Testing?
Students in grades 3-8 and 11 will use computers or laptops to take the state assessments. Along with traditional multiple-choice responses, there are other questions types, including questions that require short and extended written responses. During the tests, the difficulty of questions will change based on individual student responses. This adjustment of questions is known as computer-adaptive testing. It offers more precise information about student achievement than traditional paper-and-pencil tests, which give all students the same set of questions. To prepare students for on line testing, all schools have been equipped with new computer labs, which will be supplemented with additional laptops during testing. To prepare students for test taking on computer, teachers are guiding students through Type to Learn, a computer-based typing program that helps students develop the typing skills necessary for Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Student Achievement Scores Available in Fall 2015
The nearly all digital test that students will take delivers a new way of testing but also a different way of scoring. For over a decade the STAR test evaluated students based on five levels: “Far Below Basic”, “Below Basic”, “Basic”, “Proficient” and “Advanced”. These “achievement level descriptors” have become familiar ways to describe students’ performance. Smarter Balanced has developed a set of initial achievement level descriptors that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessment. The overall score will indicate the student’s level of understanding using four levels. These descriptors are not comparable to earlier results from the STAR test. Achievement level descriptors do not equate directly to expectations for “on-grade” performance; rather, they represent differing levels of performance for students within a grade level. More information on the new achievement level descriptors will be provided when it is available.