New tests take over the usual multiple choice

By next school year, wave farewell to the long-dreaded California State Tests and say hello to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Composed of formative, interim, and summative components, the test is designed to help students meet the criteria of the English and Mathematics Common Core State Standards. All high school students will take the tests in their junior year starting the spring of 2015.

“These tests will look completely different. It’s a web based computer application, so the testing environments will completely change,” said Instructional Dean Julian Rodriguez.

The new standardized test is completed entirely on the computer and contains a variety of elements that go beyond the old system of multiple-choice tests. The questions will focus on critical thinking so that learned material can be applied to real life situations.

Unlike the CST’s No. 2 pencil-required Scantron tests, Smarter Balanced will contain a greater variety of question types such as matching, fill-in tables, multiple choice, drag and drop, graphing, short response, and long essays. The assessment will also lay emphasis on areas of critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills.

The mathematics portion will consist of more interactive questions that require students to graph out answers or drag values to the answer box. On the other hand, the English sections will require students to use specific evidence from given passages to answer corresponding questions.

“With the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, you’re going to have to use a lot more evidence cited from the passages themselves in order to answer the questions [given],” said Rodriguez.

The questions will also vary depending on how much students know. Difficulty levels of the following questions will change with each correct or wrong answer. As a result, students will take a more accurate assessment that is geared toward their skill level.

“This is an adaptive test. Your answers up to a certain point determine what types of questions you get asked next,” Rodriguez said.

Because the test uses computer adaptive technology, teachers, students, and parents can quickly receive the test scores. These results will be used to help teachers focus on specific areas in which students need improvement. The results also give students an idea of how ready they are for college and career success.

Many schools across America will indeed have to adapt to the technology requirements of Smarter Balanced. Because the assessment is taken on computers and tablets, districts are required to provide the appropriate devices for students. To assists schools in this transition, the Consortium has provided an alternative paper and pencil option for the first three years after 2015.

Diamond Bar High School is currently in the process of determining its readiness for Smarter Balanced. With an average of 800 students testing each year, the school needs to plan out the number of devices it needs, as well as internet security for the assessment, in order to prevent unnecessary problems from occurring.

“We’re in the processes of determining our readiness for it. Nobody locally has given the test to the extent that we have to,” said Mr. Rodriguez.

In addition, a Smarter Balanced Field test will take place from March 18 to June 6 of this year. Juniors, as well as a small group of sophomores and freshmen, will take a field test that closely resembles the actual Smarter Balanced test. Results from the field test will give schools an idea of what they need to improve on to better meet the Common Core standards.