District test drives new testing system

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comApril 18, 2014 

The Los Banos Unified School District participated in a trial run for the testing system that will accompany the new Common Core State Standards next year.

The student assessments, which began in March, were designed to catch glitches in the new computerized testing software that will be implemented next year as California switches to Common Core. At Los Banos Unified, the glitches were plentiful.

“Our staff really coped well with the situation,” Superintendent Steve Tietjen said. “The biggest scare of the whole testing process was the fact we were all given a roster by grade level of the specific tests you’re supposed to take. The day that students got online ... twice as many tests popped up as they expected to have to take.”

Tietjen said education officials in Sacramento informed the district that many tests were sent by mistake. Tietjen also said the district experienced issues with computers freezing and problems with the browser that restricts Internet access during testing.

Smarter Balanced Assessment, a state-led consortium, developed the testing system. Tietjen said some of the computer system repairs/modifications must be done by its designers in Sacramento and Seattle while other problems must be fixed by Apple Inc.

This year’s testing was not meant to measure students’ knowledge.

“There won’t be any results coming back this year. This is a test of the test to identify reliability and validity to the test questions,” Tietjen said.

The district did benefit from getting a preview of what testing will look like next year, according to Tietjen.

“The big ‘aha’ moment for most of our staff is the tests are very rigorous,” he said. “We were thinking we’d increase the rigor with the Common Core curriculum, (but) the testing is even higher than we expected. We’re going to have to be addressing that.”

Tietjen said he is happy Los Banos was among the first to try out the new testing method.

“We were one of the first districts in the state. We had the good fortune of being first out of the box to try to implement Smarter Balanced,” Tietjen said. “I think that more districts have to begin their testing. Smarter Balanced is going to have some challenges just dealing with the number of students that are online and taking the test.”

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