Some students in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District have an idea about what next school year’s statewide assessment may look like after taking a pilot test last week.
Students in grades four, five, six and eight took the tests, said Kandi Martin, the district’s director of pupil services and curriculum.
Fifth graders at Weyauwega Elementary School took the math test. “All the rest did English/language arts,” she said.
The district volunteered to participate in a field test for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment aligns with the Common Core Standards in math and the language arts that Wisconsin adopted for its state standards in 2010.
The standards were implemented for K-12 students in the 2010-11 school year, Martin said.
“The test questions are a reflection of the Common Core Standards, which is increased rigor,” she said.
Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsin’s public school students in grades three through eight will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in math and reading.
The assessment will take place in the spring.
While students will not take the WKCE test in math and reading, they will still take that test in science and social studies.
That is because Common Core Standards have not yet been released for science and social studies.
As a result, students will continue to take the WKCE test in those two areas in the fall.
District Administrator Scott Bleck said the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction asked districts to participate in this spring’s field test for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
The W-F district submitted its name and was told which grades would take pilot tests and in what areas.
“There were three different windows for participation. We were in window two,” Martin said.
The district was interested in participating in the pilot for several reasons.
Martin said it allowed the district to become familiar with the testing process and also see if its computer access was ready.
While the WKCE is a paper and pencil test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment takes place on a computer in a lab setting.
“We were very pleased with the test pilot. It ran very smoothly,” she said.
Martin said there will be more in-service training for staff before students take the actual test next spring.
The adopted Common Core Standards include more reading, writing, logic and independent thinking, Martin said.
That means the Smarter Balanced Assessment also promotes independent thought, Bleck said.
“Before (with WKCE) choices were given. Students are challenged (on Smarter Balanced) to answer questions on independent thought and prior knowledge,” he said.
Martin said it took Weyauwega Elementary students about 1 1/2 hours to complete 40 math questions in last week’s pilot test.
Pam Beyer, the middle school’s IMC assistant, said it took the average sixth grader that amount of time to complete the four English questions on the pilot test.
Sixth graders Taylor Folk, Jack Burgess and Wyatt Hanson were among those taking pilot English tests.
Folk said the test required writing an essay and using sources.
“I like the old way better,” she said. “My eyes got tired from the screen.”
Burgess and Hanson agreed that the test required more reading.
Martin said, “When they were doing the test, there were several different tests within the age group. They had different test questions.”
Another change related to the test involves security.
“Students can’t have hand-held devices. Before they enter the door, you have to collect them,” she said.
The math test also involved writing, Beyer said.
Students were able to review what they had done, she said.
Martin said accommodations are available for students who need a larger font for the text or a text to speech option.
While the district will not receive any results from the pilot test, it looks forward to having the results more readily available after students do take the district.
“We waited five months for results with WKCE,” Martin said.
Bleck said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will be one assessment tool the district uses.
Martin said, “I feel like our district has prepared and done the background to be prepared for this test. I feel confident we’re ready to implement it.”