3 million-plus California students set to take modern assessments next month
Computer-based assessments in California’s schools will draw one step closer next month with the launch of the Smarter Balanced field tests across every school district in the state, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said recently.
Field testing begins March 18 and runs through June 6. By the end, more than 3 million students in school districts, county offices of education and charter schools will have had a chance to try the new system.
“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,” Torlakson said. “From individual classrooms to school district offices and certainly at the state level, the preparations that have gone into this have been immense, and I’m looking forward to incorporating what we learn from this year’s field test into next year’s inaugural assessments.”
Last year’s Assembly Bill 484 ended most of the California Standards Tests and other assessments that had comprised the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (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, which California adopted in 2010.
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.
No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year’s field test because its purpose is to “test the test” — to determine how well the test questions and technology work.
The California Department of Education has been working with its testing contractor, Educational Testing Service, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and partners in the education community to develop outreach activities and resources that include the following.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment System Web page contains information on the field test, including practice tests, technological readiness tools, accessibility for all students and more.
CaliforniaTAC was launched in December 2013 to serve as a clearinghouse of testing information for local educational agency testing and technology coordinators. This site provides forms, instructions and videos as well as a schedule of workshops about how to administer the field tests.
The Smarter Balanced Field Test Questions and Answers Web page is frequently updated with questions and answers ranging from whether a paper-based version will be available to what level of technology is required. Smarter Balanced has provided a Technology Readiness Tool, a Web-based system to help schools determine the status of their computers and bandwidth, and CDE has conducted four accompanying webinars.
The state’s testing contractors are presenting a series of Smarter Balanced Field Test Workshops for California’s LEAs. Online registration is now available for the training modules that will be presented as a combination of in-person regional workshops throughout the state and webinars.
The CDE also sends out a “Field Test Flash” via email listserv designed to deliver up-to-the-minute information about the upcoming test. These emails go to thousands of recipients, including county and district superintendents and charter school administrators. To join the Field Test Flash listserv directly, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CDE and K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) are jointly working to assist LEAs understand the role of the K12HSN and prepare for the Smarter Balanced Field Test.
Torlakson announced earlier this month the availability of two new videos designed to provide information to high school and middle school students about the upcoming test, including the important role they’re playing in helping prepare the operational tests for the 2014-15 school year. The high school video can be found at http://youtu.be/DXXd451e580, and the middle school video is at http://youtu.be/YKerb7NsDUE.