School districts look for changes in student assessments

Treasure Valley school superintendents, worried about the length and logistics of a coming assessment of student performance this spring, have asked the State Department of Education to rethink its plan for testing kids.

I sat in on a meeting Friday morning between the superintendents, who represent more than a third of Idaho public school students, and Tom Luna, state superintendent of public instruction.

Luna sits on the board of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the group formulating the test for 23 states. He’s a strong believer in assessment as a means of helping both students and teachers improve.

Late Friday Luna issued a written response to a white paper submitted by the superintendents. I have added it below.

Among district superintendents’ concerns is the length of the exam, which has been calculated at up to 8.5 hours. They are asking for a shorter version that would free up more time for instruction.

Other superintendents, such as Pete Koehler of Nampa, raised concerns about whether his district’s technology can handle running thousands of students going through computer labs over eights weeks to test their abilities.

Another concern: Too much testing. The federal government requires an assessment be given in grades three through eight and only once in high school. Idaho is planning to give it in ninth through 11th grades. Superintendents are asking Luna to consider giving the exam to just a sample of students in ninth and 10th grades.

Luna remained open to their ideas and said he would look into their concerns.

But he also said the upcoming exam, which will be given as a field test with no scores going to schools or parents this year, is a good time to assess how well the districts can deal with these concerns.

I’ll have much more on the assessments in my story in Saturday’s Idaho Statesman.

Tom Luna’s response



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