A new day for teaching and testing 

click to enlarge Starting next week our students in third through eighth grade, and in 11th grade will begin taking California-mandated Smarter Balanced Assessments. - TY WRIGHT/AP
  • Ty Wright/AP
  • Starting next week our students in third through eighth grade, and in 11th grade will begin taking California-mandated Smarter Balanced Assessments.
Chances are when you were in school, you took the old multiple-guess tests. You know the ones, where you read a question and fill in a bubble.

Luckily, we’re moving beyond this. Starting next week our students in third through eighth grade, and in 11th grade will begin taking California-mandated Smarter Balanced Assessments.

The tests will be taken on computers and the questions will include performance tasks that allow students to demonstrate research, writing and analytical skills. While it’s not a test of computer skills, students will need the basics such as keyboarding, editing tools and drag-and-drop.

Most importantly, they have been carefully designed to provide a reliable measure of students’ progress toward the knowledge and skills required to be college- and career-ready.

Raising the bar

I’ve mentioned the Common Core State Standards before. These are what our students learn, grade-by-grade, step-by-step, based on what modern careers and colleges expect. I have to warn you:

Just like the standards they measure, these tests are more challenging. We know that many (if not most) students will need to make significant progress to reach the new standards. In fact, we expect lower scores than in previous years.

This is Year Zero

Since it’s the first year of the new tests, this year’s results will establish a baseline for the progress we expect students to make over time. These results can’t be compared to previous year’s results because they are measuring a whole new set of standards in a whole new way. Parents, don’t worry, the results of these tests will not be used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade. Instead, the scores will help show us where we need to focus our efforts as we support students.

What parents can do

Most importantly, encourage your child to participate in class and study. Help develop your child’s critical-thinking skills by asking questions and have your child explain his or her thinking — in both math and reading.

When talking about taking tests, advise your child to read all questions carefully and follow the directions. Help your child to keep things in perspective. Tests are just one way for us to show what we know about the subject being tested. Don’t underestimate how much a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast will help your child concentrate.

Student progress

For more information about the new testing standards, visit: www.corestandards.org and www.smarterbalanced.org
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