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New Student Assessments Set to Begin – Helpful Information for Afterschool Programs

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Policy & Legislation

Last year, Washington State implemented new state learning standards in Math and English Language Arts known as the Common Core State Standards. This year, Washington schools are rolling out a new student achievement assessment aligned to these standards. The goal of the new assessment is to provide an accurate measure of growth for all students and improve assessments for students with disabilities and English language learners.

Washington is a part of the Smarter Balanced Student Assessment Consortium. This consortium of states worked together to create an assessment that is aligned to individual state learning standards and can more accurately pinpoint a student’s ability in a given subject area. This assessment is taken on a computer and can adjust the difficultly of questions based on student’s response. A student who answers a question correctly will receive a more challenging question, while an incorrect answer generates an easier question. This goal of this method is to produce more accurate results than previous assessments.

Student assessments have been controversial over the years and this one is no different. Challenges remain, such as ensuring appropriate technology to administer the assessment is available. Additionally, first year scores are expected to be lower than normal, which is common for a new test. The goal of Smarter Balanced Student Assessment is to understand a student’s progress versus their ability to memorize facts. Having a standardized student assessment is one component of knowing the progress of an individual student as well as a cohort of students on a given subject. Assessments, however, should by no means be the only tool used to measure progress and areas for improvement.

Afterschool programs may get many questions from parents about the new assessment process. While no provider should feel the need to be an expert, we should all know some of the basics. The Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has a host of information on the new assessments including this Parent Info Sheet (PDF) as well as this overview (PDF) from the PTA. We also recommend asking your partners in the district offices you work with on their strategy and messaging of the new assessments and where parents can access more information locally.  For more information about the new state learning standards (PDF) and its significance to afterschool programs, take moment to read School’s Out’s Issue Brief (PDF) on this subject.

Please feel free to contact SOWA’s Education Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at dbeard@schoolsoutwashington.org if you have any questions about the assessments. He will be able to answer your question or guide you to the right answers.


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