Teachers, students participate in assessment practice run

About 234 schools across Nevada are participating in the Smarter Balanced Field Test, a practice run of computer-based assessments for grades 3-11 in English language arts and mathematics.

Field testing runs through June 6. By the end of the testing period, more than 44,000 Nevada students will have had an opportunity to participate in this practice run. Because this is a practice run, student results will not be counted and student grades will not be affected. Results will also not factor into school performance or educator evaluations.

“This is an exciting and challenging time for our students and educators as Nevada prepares to transition to assessments that are aligned to the new rigorous standards in English language arts and mathematics that were adopted in 2010,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga. “As we fully implement Nevada’s new Academic Content Standards, it’s important that we have next-generation assessments that reflect this change. The successful transition to Smarter Balanced assessments is a critical step toward our goal of ensuring all students are ready for college and careers when they graduate from high school.”

The new assessments will be entirely computer-based, allowing for a much broader range of test questions than the multiple-choice exams currently administered to students. They will include short-answer portions and performance tasks, which give students real-world problems to solve and emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. No student, school or district scores will be produced from this year’s field test because its purpose is to “test the test” – to determine how well the test questions and technology work. This field test will help ensure the assessments are accurate and fair for all students, and also give students the opportunity to orient themselves to the format of the upcoming test and prepare for the experience of on-line testing.

Erquiaga stressed the “field test” nature of this year’s assessments.

“We are testing the system, working to identify questions that are not suited to all students and identifying any problems with the technology itself,” he said. “We expect there will bumps on the road, but running a field test without high stakes is exactly the right thing to do to avoid major problems next year. It’s important that Nevada participate so we can continue to impact the design and rollout of the Smarter Balanced assessments.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment System is expected to replace existing state assessments in third through eighth grades in English language arts and mathematics in all Nevada schools during the 2014-15 school year. Because the new tests are based on higher expectations, the state may see a decline in the percentage of students scoring at a proficient level.

“Nevada is hitting the reset button on teaching and learning,” said Erquiaga. “A dip in test scores next year should not be viewed as a decline in student learning or educator performance.”

No individual student data will be available this year, but the field test will help as Nevadans participate in setting future cut scores.

The field test includes questions with the same features that students will experience in the 2014-15 school year, when the first assessments become operational, including accessibility tools for all students and accommodations—such as Braille—for those who need them. The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help all students succeed—regardless of disability, language, or background. Additional information is available on the Smarter Balanced website, www.smarterbalanced.org.


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