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Early response to Smarter Balanced field tests encouraging*

Yana Gracile | March 26, 2014

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imgresAs the Smarter Balanced field tests got underway yesterday in California and 21 other states, officials are receiving positive feedback from the schools that are participating. The testing starts in LA Unified next Tuesday.

In California,  more than three million students in every school district, county office of education and charter school will have had a chance to try the new system, and so far so good, said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

By mid-morning yesterday, 16,633 students completed the test and 19,677 students had begun but had not yet finished it.

“Over the next three months, students, teachers, and administrators will gain valuable hands-on experience in a new era of student assessments,” Torlakson said in a press release. “With more than three million students participating, this is the largest field test of its kind in the nation. It is a challenging transformation, but our schools are rising to that challenge with a great sense of excitement and determination.”

Jacqueline King, the director of Higher Education and Collaboration at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, told LA School Report that they are using several methods to determine how well the tests performed on an administrative level.

King said that at the end of the testing period, a survey of the schools will be conducted and feedback will be gathered to find out how the testing procedure went and to examine any possible stumbling blocks.

They will also gather data on what worked and what didn’t work during the administration process and use that information to make improvements for operational assessments for the 2014-2015 school year, when the tests count.

“When you run through this, you learn,” King said. She added that a help desk has been set up to monitor and address issues in real time. Instructors can report instructional, procedural or other kinds of problems they find with the trial assessment.

Officials will then work on a the best solution possible, such as clarifying language in a guideline or instruction or highlighting an important step with an arrow or a big red box.

As for the test questions themselves, King said that they expect anywhere between 10-20 percent to be identified for further revision or deletion.

“We expect that we’ll see questions that didn’t work how we thought,” she said. “Perhaps they were confusing,” adding that they will assess questions to make sure they aren’t biased in any way. Officials will also examine how many students will be able to participate and complete the assessment and if they had the participation they expected to have.

King said the early numbers of schools reporting back that have participated and completed the trial tests are encouraging, a sign that the assessments are on the right track.

“We’re really pleased,” she said. “We’ve been working hard and we’ll keep solving problems as they come up. We’re feeling good about where things are and the participation at this point.”

*Adds details for California

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