- Sponsorship -

Educators Weigh in About Online Tests

As Stacey Cooper’s second-graders at Sparta’s Ridgeview Elementary completed an online test, several of them waited patiently with hands raised. They wanted help from Cooper and Principal Marialyce Zeerip, who helped out during the school’s trial of new computer-based tests.

Sparta is participating in a statewide pilot of the Interim Assessment test, a non-mandatory test designed to gauge students’ progress throughout the year as well as field test new mandatory tests called Smarter Balanced, proposed to replace the decades-old MEAP.

“The questions don’t resemble anything from class so they can be confusing for students,” said Zeerip, explaining that students had to complete a practice test just to prepare for the real (albeit still a pilot) test.

Just a day earlier the state’s server crashed — only one of many glitches the school experienced during the pilot testing.

The tests are set to begin during the 2014-15 school year and have been aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which establish achievement goals for students in each grade level. However, state lawmakers have balked at funding the Smarter Balanced tests, citing concerns about content and schools’ readiness to use them.

Since the tests will be given in the spring, they will give teachers a better indication of students’ yearly progress than having tests in the fall, Zeerip said. She hopes students’ scores will be calculated and returned quickly so any needs can be addressed.

“Like any high-stakes test, it’s hard to know how good the data will be. It’s only a single snapshot taken on one day to measure a student’s achievement level,” Zeerip said.

Testing the InfrastructureAppleview Elementary’s Karley Miller (front) and fellow classmates used headphones to reduce outside noise while concentrating on the Interim Assessment pilot test

Two classes per grade participated in the pilot testing. Despite only a fraction of students taking the tests, the process still has been disruptive, said Ken Willison, Sparta’s district assessment coordinator. “We’re finding out it’s going to be a scheduling nightmare once the whole district is taking the test.”

Willison said that the data management required for the tests adds a substantial workload for school administrators. The limited computer labs will be booked solid for weeks, which could become an issue especially for districts less equipped than Sparta. “We’re trying to keep the teachers from having to do too much extra work,” he said.

Despite these concerns, Willison said having computer-based testing allows for zeroing in on student needs so teachers can adjust their instruction for each student. “If the results can get back while students are still in class it could be a great thing,” he said.

Quality Control

Appleview Elementary Principal Mike Birely is excited about the potential of the new tests. “MEAP was not a good indicator of student growth, since they condense multiple years of learning and subjects into one test,” Birely said.

The Smarter Balanced test provides a measurement for each subject at each grade level. Birely expects that to be extremely useful when making adjustments to each grade level’s curriculum. Further, the problems aren’t just multiple choice anymore, he said, noting teachers have been incorporating complex multi-step problems into their instruction so students can be more prepared.

Sparta educators agree well-implemented testing can substantially improve student learning and class instruction. They said they are willing to try new things that may help students down the road.

Birely was especially optimistic: “It causes students to be more critical thinkers, which is necessary to prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century.”

CONNECT

Michigan Interim Assessment Program

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Sparta Area Schools

- Sponsorship -
Avatar
Adrian Hirsch
Adrian Hirsch has been with SNN since its launch, starting as an intern from Grand Valley State University where he received a degree in broadcasting and business. After the internship, Adrian was brought on as staff to continue reporting, editing and publishing stories for SNN and Kent ISD. Adrian has been active with community radio station WYCE for years, served as Non-Profit Coordinator for GRTV, and currently works as the Web Producer for SNN.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

‘Even though it is extra work, I don’t mind the changes’

Teachers of specialty subjects — art, music and physical education — share their experiences after the pandemic prompts changes to class procedures...

Homecoming, modified

The coronavirus pandemic has forced school districts to make changes to the ways they celebrate some annual traditions...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS