Don’t look back.
That’s the advice state education officials are giving in advance of next week’s release of district and school test scores.
Results for each school district and each school in Washington will be posted Monday on the website of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (OSPI), k12.wa.us. District results will also be available on The Olympian website at theolympian.com.
But officials caution against comparing results from previous years with results from the tests administered last spring. That’s because students this year took a new exam, known as the Smarter Balanced assessment. It tested them on the Common Core standards, which educators deem to be more rigorous and more aligned with what will prepare students for college and careers.
Many states have adopted the same standards, and students there also took the Smarter Balanced test. That means Washington will be able, for the first time, to compare scores across multiple grade levels with others around the country.
“Because the learning standards are more rigorous, meeting proficiency on the test will be more challenging for students,” said Robin Munson, assistant state superintendent in charge of testing. “The standards are different and the tests are different.”
Previous paper-and-pencil tests measured basic skills. But the new online tests measure skills including research, listening, problem-solving and how well students communicate.
Munson, who spoke to reporters Wednesday, says it’s best to think of this first year’s test results as “a brand new baseline.”
Instead of focusing on lower scores, officials instead are stressing what they see as the upside of Smarter Balanced testing.
One example: Washington was the first state to announce that test results will play a role in college placement. Both two-year and four-year colleges in Washington have agreed that students who score at least a three on the four-tiered Smarter Balanced scoring system can move immediately into courses that earn college credits, rather than wasting time and money in remedial college courses.
Community colleges will also factor in Smarter Balanced test scores for Running Start students.
Munson said she’s pleased with statewide test results she’s seen so far. In English language arts, preliminary data released in July showed that students in all grades outperformed the results of national Smarter Balanced field tests administered in the spring of 2014. In math, Washington students in all grades except 11th bested the national field testing as well.
About half of 11th-graders statewide opted out of the new test, so officials warn that the results may not be a true reflection of 11th-graders statewide.
Refusal rates were much lower in other grades. Smarter Balanced tests were not a graduation requirement for students who were 11th-graders in spring 2015, and officials say that may have influenced some students that age to refuse the test.