Idaho seeks public comment on new school field tests | Families
From the Idaho State Department of Education:
This spring, all Idaho public school students in grades 3-11 will be taking a field test of the new test aligned to the more rigorous Idaho Core Standards in mathematics and English language arts. Now is the opportunity for parents, teachers and other patrons across the state to provide comments and feedback on Idaho’s plan to roll out this field test in Spring 2014.
In June, after working with school leaders across the state, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced the state would test all students on the field test in Spring 2014 to avoid double-testing any student on both the field test and the ISAT and prevent measuring students on a test no longer aligned with state standards. A field test is a more in-depth pilot that allows the state to check assessment questions and how the test is administered.
Idaho piloted the new test in more than 120 schools in Spring 2013 before choosing to field test it in all public schools this school year. In addition, a practice test of the new assessment is available online at www.smarterbalanced.org so parents, teachers and students can become more familiar with it.
“While this new assessment will not be given to students for accountability purposes until Spring 2015, I believe it is critical for us to provide all students with the opportunity to experience this new assessment before it becomes fully operational. It is a different assessment that better measures their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and every student and teacher should have the opportunity to become familiar with this test and how it will work,” Superintendent Luna said.
The new test is improved from Idaho’s previous end-of-the-year statewide assessment, known as the ISAT. Whereas the ISAT could only measure a student’s academic knowledge based on multiple-choice questions, the new test includes different question types, including open-ended questions, essay questions and performance tasks to better measure what a student truly knows and is able to do at the end of each grade level.
In addition, the new test is adaptive, which means it can adapt to each child’s individual abilities during the test to give an advanced student more difficult questions or a student who is struggling slightly easier questions. In this way, the test will help measure how much academic growth a child has demonstrated in a given school year.
Idaho has worked with 24 other states to develop this new assessment in a state-led effort, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Idaho is a governing state in the consortium and a voting member on the consortium’s executive committee.
In order to move forward with the field test for all public school students in grades 3-11 in Spring 2014, Idaho must amend its ESEA Flexibility Waiver to ensure Idaho can hold accountability for schools for two years in a row and avoid double-testing students on both the ISAT and the new Smarter Balanced test in the spring.
Idaho received an ESEA Flexibility Waiver in 2011 to move away from the many onerous provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Through this waiver, Idaho now has a school accountability system based on multiple measures, including academic growth.
“This is not the first time Idaho has transitioned to a new assessment,” Superintendent Luna said. “Therefore, we are following the same process we have always followed in working with the U.S. Department of Education to take full advantage of the flexibility states have available in our efforts to best meet the needs of Idaho students while at the same time complying with the federal laws that have been in place for more than a decade.”
The amendment to Idaho’s waiver will go before the Idaho State Board of Education in late November before being submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. The proposed amendment is now available for public comment on the Idaho State Department of Education’s website at http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/publicComments/. The Department will be accepting public comments through November 15, 2013.