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‘Field test’ could give students advantage in future online assessments

July 18. 2013 2:38PM
This is the time of year that school districts across South Dakota begin anticipating the student achievement results from our state’s standardized test, Dakota STEP.
Students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 all take the assessment in reading and math in the spring and the state releases results in July. Last year the state began a new system of reporting called the School Performance Index, which was part of an approved waiver to No Child Left Behind rules.

The SD Department of Education has announced that it is seeking another waiver for 2013-14. This waiver request would be to allow South Dakota students to be part of the Smarter Balanced field test instead of taking the Dakota STEP assessment. The Smarter Balanced assessment is slated to officially replace the Dakota STEP in 2014-15, but in order to validate the test the developers need to field test the items. If South Dakota is allowed to replace its Dakota STEP with the Smarter Balanced field test, it will mean that there will be a year in which no reportable student achievement results will be available.

School districts will have student-level data from the assessment in late summer of 2014, but since this is part of checking that the assessment is valid and reliable, the data will not have the same assurances of quality. Therefore, the state will not use the data to make any high stakes judgments about schools or school districts.
Being part of the field test gives South Dakota students the advantage of giving them experience in taking an online assessment. For the staff, it will give them important information on how our curriculum matches the standards that are being tested so adjustments can be made if necessary before the test “counts.” The field test will also provide the district and state with important information on our preparedness to administer online testing to large numbers of students in a relatively short time frame. Knowing if the technology will work and can handle the huge data demands will give time to make adjustments if necessary.

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