State officials are expanding an upcoming field test of modern, computer-based assessments, consistent with ACSA recommendations for the development and distribution at no cost of interim and benchmark assessments for all grades in ELA and mathematics.
California is also applying for a “double testing” waiver from the federal government, which would allow students to avoid wasting valuable learning time by taking both the field test and a separate end-of-year state test.
“This move to up-to-date new assessments marks a major step forward in California’s work to ensure that every student graduates equipped to succeed in college and careers,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “These field tests simply make good sense, and expanding them to include both subjects for most students makes even better sense—in contrast to ‘double testing’ students, which makes little sense at all.”
Field tests serve as “tests of the tests,” allowing experts to gauge the accuracy and reliability of individual test items before finalizing the assessments for full-scale use. As such, no field test scores will be produced or reported, consistent with provisions in Assembly Bill 484. AB 484 ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program for the past 15 years.
In California, all students in grades 3-8 and 11 as well as a small sample of grades 9-10 students will participate in the Smarter Balanced field test. Originally, those students would have taken either mathematics or English-language arts. After hearing from LEAs of their interest to field test both content areas, California worked with its contractor Educational Test Service as well as the Smarter Balanced contractor, American Institute for Research, to develop a California solution to include both content areas.
“Expanding the field test for hundreds of thousands of students to take both sets of assessments will mean more hands-on experience for them and their teachers, as well as more opportunity to identify any technological needs,” said Mike Kirst, president of the State Board of Education. “All of that means that California will be starting from a solidly built foundation when these assessments become operational next school year—and that’s good for our students, our schools, and our state.”
Ninety-five percent of the students will take a sampling of test items for both content areas, plus one performance task from one content area. The remaining five percent of students will focus on one subject or the other. The field test will take place between March 18 and June 6. The new assessment system goes operational in the 2014-15 school year.
The new assessments will be computer-based, allowing for a much broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams given under STAR. They will emphasize critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving, modeling the kind of teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace.
Part of the assessment system, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, also will be computer adaptive, so that a student’s prior responses affect the difficulty of subsequent questions, allowing a far more precise measurement of student skills and knowledge than the former tests.
The Smarter Balanced assessments are aligned with the Common Core State Standards designed to provide all students with the deeper learning, critical thinking, and other skills they need to prepare for college and a career. The Smarter Balanced assessments were designed to meet federal- and state-level accountability requirements and provide teachers and parents with timely and accurate information to measure student performance and progress.