Smarter balanced testing in Santa Clarita for the modern age

by Andy Aquino 0

Picture Credit: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/field-test/

Santa Clarita Public School Districts are testing their students with a new form of digital assessments as they prepare to transition away from the 1990s STAR program.

Since March 25, 2014, students primarily in grades three through eight and grade 11 have been ditching the scantrons and pencils, as they are being replaced with digital devices such as desktop computers, laptops and tablets.

The traditional CSTs, CAT/2 and SBAE/2  are all assessments that make up the Standardized Testing And Reporting program, STAR, implemented as part of the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999.

STAR determines in part, a school district’s Academic Performance Index, or API, and is set to expire in July 2014.

The digital test replacing the STAR program is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC.

“The testing is a test within itself,” said Gail Pinsker, PR Officer for the William S. Hart District of Santa Clarita. “The grades don’t count and will not be recorded by teachers or listed on student transcripts.”

Some questions will be revised or dropped, so it is not until the following 2014-2015 school year where student test scores will count.

“We have learned that our infrastructure, such as broadband, is holding up well to the testing,” said Pinsker.

“Over the past three years in anticipation of the implementation of Common Core State Standards, we have been enhancing our infrastructure by adding WiFi throughout all of our schools and increasing bandwidth to accommodate the usage levels.”

For now, the current SBAC testing is still in a beta stage conducting what is called a Field Test, measuring multiple aspects of the SBAC system and perspectives of students, proctors and system coordinators on a huge scale.

Parents are also encouraged and able to take practice tests on the SBAC website: http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/

SBAC is ultimately in its final stages of a multi-year development.

It is a giant step towards building a stronger foundation for students at their earliest beginnings.

“Smarter Balanced is committed to helping teachers and students prepare for new assessments aligned to the Common Core, and the Field Test is an essential part of getting implementation right,” said Joe Willhoft, Ph. D., executive director of Smarter Balanced.

“The Field Test includes more than 20,000 assessment items and performance tasks, which will be evaluated to ensure they contribute to a valid, reliable and fair assessment of student achievement.”

Since 2012, SBAC has conducted many trials of their tests throughout the nation, starting with 650,000 students testing on different devices.

Since March 25, 2014, almost seven million assessments have been completed.

Since 2010 the National Governors Association, NGA, and the Council of Chief State Officers, CCSO, have been sponsoring the Common Core State Standards Initiative which details what students in grades K-12 should know by the time they exit high school.

The goal of this educational initiative is to establish consistent standards across the states that will provide students with a stronger foundation of skills. What students will gain from Common Core State Standards will allegedly better prepare them to enter the demanding and modern workforce and the credit-bearing courses in college.

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