Carson City Schools administrators discussed a number of new teaching and testing techniques that can be used in the district in the upcoming years.
A major discussion point during Tuesday night’s Carson City School District meeting was the inaccurate testing results the district received from the Smarter Balance (SBAC), or more commonly known as Common Core, testing last spring. Due to statewide irregularity during the spring 2015 testing, the data received about Carson City schools was an inaccurate reflection of student, school or district academic performance, said Associate Superintendent Susan Keema.
This recording error came from technical difficulties with the assessment. Keema said problems such as students not being able to click on the correct answers, graphics being too small etc., played a factor in students not being able to fully take the test. Another problem they encountered was many students who were able to complete the test may have needed to skip questions in order for the assessment to work, so there was not a fully accurate depiction of test scores and proficiency for the students.
This problem was statewide, with only about 30 percent of Nevada students able to finish the test, so there were no accurate state results either, Keema said.
The new SBAC test was given to 3rd through 8th grade students to assess their English and math skills. This test was supposed to replace a more outdated assessment and was meant to be more complex, interactive and demanding of higher thinking skills and increase support for students with disabilities. The test was meant to be a baseline to test student improvement and provide school and student performance results. This year’s scores will not be factored in for student grades, the state’s STAR ratings for schools or teacher evaluations.
Since the problem, the Nevada Department of Education has been in contact with a new vendor, Data Recognition Corporation, which replaced Measured Progress, and the districts are working toward making sure the technical problems are eliminated for next year. Keema said this problem doesn’t significantly impact student measurements for Carson though.
“These tests are an academic check-up,” Keema said. “It is important, but we don’t practice taking our physicals for the doctor to improve our health. We change our habits to improve our physicals.”
The school district is able to use other testing numbers to measure the testing results, such as ACT scores.
Also discussed at the school board meeting is a new STEM Summit that will be held at Carson High on Dec. 9. The summit is meant to be a curriculum review that will partner science, technology, engineering and math teachers with local businesses to work on more community collaborations to hopefully make teachers’ lessons more relevant for day to day life.
“It is context learning for students,” said Allen Gosselin, implementation Specialist and Community Partnership Coordinator at Carson High. “We want teachers to present units that they are teaching and their partners will hopefully help create that connection between lessons and real life.”
Gosselin and his partner Amy Burton explained the event will be similar to speed dating, where teachers and community partners will pair off and discuss and continue meeting and connecting with people. They hope this will open more opportunities for the schools and community to collaborate and will hopefully help expand students’ learning. They told school board members context learning is more important, because students can apply their lessons to everyday life and therefore may be able to learn better instead of just memorizing lessons.
If a business is interested in participating, contact Richard Stokes or the career office at Carson High School.