News: Transition to Common Core Standards Brings Field Test to M-A
As the district transitions to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) along with the rest of the country, this year’s testing displayed significant changes. These included the field test administered to all juniors previously this month and the Life Science portion of the STAR test to be given to all sophomores this week.
The field test of the CCSS was conducted through Smarter Balanced, a group working in conjunction with the state to generate computerized tests. Comprised of English-Language Arts and math, the test presented a wide variety of topics. Specifically, the English portion focused not only on reading comprehension and vocabulary, but also grammar, auditory comprehension, and writing, according to a junior.
The math section of the test incorporated graph analysis and general data analysis along with the usual multiple-choice.
According to Smarter Balanced’s website, the field test is being administered across the country, with three million participants in 23 states. The field test serves to “show which questions work well and which ones need to be improved,” creating a “fair and accurate assessment of student achievement.” Furthermore, results from the test will be used as a benchmark for future years and potentially illustrate the readiness of students in terms of college and careers. Lastly, the field test will provide schools an opportunity to simulate coordination of computerized testing.
Logistically, the computerized field tests provided a new challenge for M-A, as around 250 juniors simultaneously used computers to take the Smarter Balanced test. Whether they used Chromebooks or were in designated computer labs, the pressure on the system was significant. Fortunately, the tests ran without delay.
The subsequent week of testing arrived after spring break, in which all tenth graders took the Life Science STAR test. According to Instructional Vice Principal (IVP) Mr. Lippi, although the state has eliminated the STAR in its movement toward CCSS, “there’s still some tie-in with tenth graders.” He further stated that it is unclear as to why only Life Science is tested, as opposed to the usual subjects of English and algebra. The subject has always been a part of the STAR test, but for some reason was chosen by the state as the sole subject this year. Because the state is in the process of transitioning to the CCSS, it is also unknown as to the permanence of this remaining STAR test.
So far, the state has failed to provide much information on the CCSS for both short and long-term changes . Generally, Lippi expects “tests for ninth and tenth graders too… similar to Common Core, but I don’t know how the results are going to be reported to students, if they’re going to count or not count.” This level of uncertainty seems to be a theme with CCSS this year, as M-A received specific information about the field test from the state only several weeks prior to the test.
In the long-term, whether or not CCSS scores will completely replace STAR scores in unknown. In prior years, STAR testing results have gone both to the school (and therefore students) and also into a “computation that the State does to determine how well the school does in comparison to other schools, mainly across the state,” states Lippi. This Academic Performance Index (API) works alongside another, AYP, which ensures the school makes “Adequate Yearly Progress, based on STAR scores and CAHSEE scores.” Thus it is unclear whether the CCSS will completely replace the STAR in either of those fields.
No API report will be given for the current 2013-14 school year because of the newness of CCSS implementation. The report will most likely return in Spring 2016, with results from Smarter Balanced testing taken by next year’s juniors in 2015, according to Lippi.