Parents of public school children in Eastern Madera County will soon be receiving the results of the new testing program that has been put into place in California.
“These scores should probably come with a warning label,” Bass Lake Elementary School District Superintendent Glen Reid, said. “If parents are expecting to see great improvement in their kids’ scores over the last time they were reported (2012-13), they will be disappointed.”
Last May, Bass Lake students in grades 3 - 8 took new, more rigorous computer-based tests. The results coming in the mail will be the first ones students and their parents will actually see since the new tests were taken.
Students first took the test in 2014, but it was a practice test that was designed to determine the district’s ability to administer tests to large numbers of students in real-time on computers. No scores were released.
According to Reid, “The district has invested in increasing its bandwidth so that hundreds of students can be online at any time and can successfully navigate the Internet. Each student in grades 3-8 has access to their own Chromebook in their classroom. The one-to-one supply of Chromebooks will extend to second-grade students this year.”
Exciting changes have begun to take place in our classrooms. A publication by the California Department of Education explains that along with learning to read, students are now learning to use what they read to provide examples, draw logical conclusions, and write strong arguments.
These abilities build the thinking skills students will need for success in today’s information age. Students are learning math in a way that lets them understand how numbers work, rather than just following steps without knowing why. This builds the ability to use math to solve both simple and complex problems – skills that are important in today’s modern careers.
The expected low scores on the new assessments won’t be the only surprise. For one thing, the name of the test has changed. The former testing program, known as STAR, is no longer used. California, with 20 other states, joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). California’s version of the SBAC is named the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP).
CAASPP tests have English language arts (ELA) and Math sections that reflect the new California standards. Both tests feature both short answer and multiple-choice questions. The multiple-choice questions often have multiple correct responses. For full credit, students needed to identify all of the correct answers.
“This is new for students who have been focused on choosing a single correct answer,” said Reid.
The CAASPP is also “computer adaptive”. That means questions become easier or more difficult depending on the student’s ability to answer them correctly. Each test also includes a performance task for both ELA and Math. The performance task requires students to participate in a class activity and then demonstrate an ability to solve a real-life problem.
“Many of the tasks students are asked to complete – even in Math - require writing skills. Our teachers have already begun focusing on developing writing skills with their students,” said Reid.
STAR test scores ranged from 150 to 600. These scores were organized into 5 levels: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic or far below basic.
The CAASPP also organizes scores into levels – 4 of them. They are: Standard Exceeded, Standard Met, Standard Nearly Met, and Standard Not Met. Score ranges differ for each grade tested, third through eighth and 11th grade scores will fall between 2,000 and 3,000.
Students will get an overall score in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The score report will give a general description of how they did in sub-areas of the subjects, Sub-areas in English are reading, writing, listening and research/inquiry. In math, the sub-areas are problem-solving, modeling/data analysis; concepts and procedures; and communicating/reasoning.
The score reports are expected to reach school districts in early September. They will then be mailed to parents. School and district reports will be available online sometime in September. A link to this information will be provided on the district’s website.
Bass Lake Elementary School District