News: It’s the End of Standardized Testing as We Know It: M-A Adopts the Common Core
Say goodbye to the tiring repetition of bubbling circle after circle. Significant changes are coming to the standardized testing routine at M-A this upcoming year, with the administration pushing a change to the Common Core assessments, a test they think will show more accurate results into the learning process.
Until this year, M-A has used the Academic Performance Index (API), a state-wide marker that takes into account a variety of factors – with an emphasis on test scores – to indicate a school’s performance any given year. The Sequoia Union High School District, as a whole, has performed relatively well on the API in recent years, with M-A consistently receiving high scores, well above the California requirement.
Although it may be too soon to tell, administrators believe these positive results on the API can be credited to the changes in teaching strategies employed across campus. This, however, doesn’t mean that writing the “What?/Why?/How?” objectives at the front of classrooms directly affects California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) or California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) scores.
Instead, Instruction Vice-Principal Steve Lippi believes theses new teaching techniques place a heavier emphasis on “student engagement strategies,” strategies that make it “less likely you have the student fading in the back of the room.”
According to Lippi, this creates a dynamic where students are engaged in the classroom, which leads to better learning and retention as students are interacting with the material they are learning.
These strategies are designed primarily to help educate students, not increase their test scores, so upward trend on CAHSEE and STAR results is not as meaningful to the administration as diagnosing whether students are really learning. As a result, M-A – along with much of the state – will transition to the Common Core assessments to evaluate school performance.
The Common Core will take into account more than the API in measuring a school’s achievement for a school year; it looks English language learners, Advanced Placement (AP) Test results, and graduation rates, among other things. More importantly for students, the standardized testing process will take a new shape.
M-A’s new testing process will revolve around computerized tests, that focus more on understanding and critical thinking problems, as opposed to bubble-in questions. While the testing process itself is not finalized, the goal is to create a system that rewards students for their work, not merely their answers. Again, this change is directed towards accurately measuring if students are actually learning to think critically and respond to problems, a diagnostic that will ideally demonstrate meaningful results on behalf of the school.
This process is an entirely new one so there may be some issues with the transition to the Common Core. First off, the administration is wondering if the school will have the bandwidth capacity to allow every student at M-A to take a computerized test simultaneously. More importantly, there is worry over a drop in scores in the chaos of the transition. While this is a possibility, it is likely one that would occur statewide.