Results released Monday show Washington students beat educators’ expectations on new statewide tests.
Those expectations were low, however, because the new Smarter Balanced Assessment is considered harder than those that came before, dating back two decades when the WASL began the era of standardized testing.
The new test, field-tested in spring of 2014, is tied to the same Common Core standards used in many other states.
Even though kids who took the Smarter Balanced exams last spring scored better than those who field-tested it a year earlier, 2015 results still showed nearly half of Washington students didn’t meet the new standards.
Rebecca Japhet, spokeswoman for the Olympia School District, said officials there were pleased with test results, which were well above statewide results in all grades except 11th. In Olympia, large numbers of 11th graders opted out of the tests and skewed those results lower.
In the Lacey-based North Thurston School District, assessment director Sarah Rich said officials were happy with results, which were largely on par with statewide scores.
Still, she said the district hopes to see scores improve over time, especially in areas such as third grade English language arts. The district just adopted a new curriculum in that area and teachers this week are in training to learn more about it.
Rich said that despite early concerns about the online nature of Smarter Balanced testing, North Thurston students seemed to take it in stride. A survey of students showed that two-thirds said they liked the online tests.
“Especially in the younger elementary grades, they were even more ready to take the test online,” Rich said.
Washington is one of the first states to release district results from the new, more rigorous tests based on the Common Core. Statewide, between 52 and 59 percent of students, depending on grade level, scored at the proficient level in English language arts. In math, there was a much wider variance, with between 29 percent and 58 percent of students achieving proficiency.
The lowest levels in math proficiency occurred among 11th graders. More than half of them skipped the test altogether, which had an impact on results. Smarter Balanced test results weren’t a graduation requirement for 11th graders, so officials believe that may have contributed to high test refusal rates.
The new English language arts test was a graduation requirement test for 10th graders. But in math, 10th graders took the older end-of-course assessments in algebra or geometry, which are needed to graduate.
Although state officials previously released statewide 10th grade scores, they did not post district-by-district results on the state Report Card website on Monday. (www.k12.wa.us/) Officials said that’s because 10th grade results are no longer used for federal accountability measures.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn said he thinks the Smarter Balanced tests should be used to help measure students’ progress and get them the help they need, but that the exams shouldn’t be used as a graduation requirement.
He said the 2015 test results are “moving in the right direction.”
Dorn said it was “raw, hard work” by teachers and students that allowed students to perform as well as they did on the most advanced tests Washington students have ever taken.
OSPI STATE REPORT CARD
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