Deer Park Schools are excited to join the national movement toward common language arts and mathematics standards that are raising the level of academic rigor for all students and better preparing them to excel in college and compete in the 21st century workplace.
Work on these standards began in 2009 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association in tandem with parents, teachers, school administrators and other experts across the country. The standards, which Washington adopted in 2011, are informed by national and international research including the study of standards adopted in countries such as Singapore, Denmark, and Finland known for their high-performing schools. States are now implementing the standards so that students can move anywhere in Washington or in the country and expect the same content, rigor and preparation.
These common standards replace the current system in which each state had its own standards leading to a range of expectations and quality. The Common Core Standards do NOT represent a “lowest common denominator” for our students – the standards are rigorous and ask students to think and to demonstrate understanding at high levels. Deer Park School District began phasing in the new standards in the 2012-13. Our transition will continue through 2015-16 school year. Families will notice changes in what students are taught and the expectations for mastery at every grade and in every subject.
The Smarter Balanced Practice Test allows teachers, students, parents, and any other interested parties to experience a full grade-level assessment and gain insight into how Smarter Balanced will assess students’ mastery of the Common Core. The Practice Tests mirror the year-end assessment. Each grade level assessment includes a variety of question types and difficulty (approximately 30 items each in ELA and math) as well as an ELA and math performance task at each grade level (3–8 and 11). The May 2014 version of the Practice Tests include additional universal tools, designated supports, and accommodations that were not available in previous versions.
The Smarter Balanced assessment system will capitalize on the precision and efficiency of computer adaptive testing (CAT) for both the mandatory summative assessment and the optional interim assessments. This means that all students will tested using a computer (or tablet device) and, based on student responses the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment.
For example, a student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging item, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. By adapting to the student as the assessment is taking place, these assessments present an individually tailored set of questions to each student and can quickly identify which skills students have mastered. This approach represents a significant improvement over traditional paper-and-pencil assessments used in many states today, providing more accurate scores for all students across the full range of the achievement continuum.
Better information for teachers: Optional computer adaptive interim assessments will provide a more detailed picture of where students excel or need additional support, helping teachers to differentiate instruction. The interim assessments will be reported on the same scale as the summative assessment, and schools will have the flexibility to assess small elements of content or the full breadth of the Common Core State Standards at locally-determined times throughout the year.
More efficient and more secure: Computer adaptive tests are typically shorter than paper-and-pencil assessments because fewer questions are required to accurately determine each student’s achievement level. The assessments draw from a large bank of questions, and since students receive different questions based on their responses, test items are more secure and can be used for a longer period of time. Ultimately, computer adaptive tests offer teachers and schools a more accurate way to evaluate student achievement, readiness for college and careers, and to measure growth over time.
Computerized assessments allow teachers, principals, and parents to receive results in weeks, not months. Faster results mean that teachers can use the information from optional interim assessments throughout the school year to differentiate instruction and better meet the unique needs of their students.