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Smarter Balanced testing to replace of Dakota Step

November 04. 2013 3:03PM
The South Dakota Department of Education is applying for a waiver for the U.S. Department of Education with respect to the annual testing required by the federal government. The waiver would allow the state not to double-test the students and would allow the state to administer a pilot of the new Smarter Balanced assessment in place of the existing Dakota Step Test. It would also allow the state to use the current school classifications for next year as the state transitions to the new test.

The SD Department of Education wants to be sure parents and other interested parties are kept up to date with what is happening in school accountability. Here is what the Department says about the testing for this year:

“Beginning in the spring of 2014, the state test for English-language arts and math will be aligned to South Dakota’s new academic standards in these areas. The test, which is called Smarter Balanced, will be delivered online. During this first year of the new test, the results will be used solely to set the baseline for measuring progress moving forward. No data on individual students will be available. In subsequent years, student-level data will be available to parents, as well as your child’s teachers.

“South Dakota has been part of a group of states working together to develop the Smarter Balanced assessment. Our state is one of several that plan to test all students, grades 3-8 and 11, using the new assessment this spring, pending federal approval. By moving to the new assessment now, we avoid having to test students twice during this transition year – once on Dakota STEP and once on Smarter Balanced. It also gives our school, teachers and students an opportunity to gain exposure to the new assessment and testing in an online environment.

“Each year, state assessment data is used, in conjunction with other data, to provide an accountability measure, so that parents and the public know how South Dakota schools are performing. As we transition to a new assessment, South Dakota will have a one-year moratorium on making new school accountability classifications. Classifications in place during the 2013-14 school year will be held over into the 2014-15 school year. However, all other available accountability information will continue to be reported in 2014-15.”

The Smarter Balanced testing will begin next spring and it will be interesting to see how the more difficult online test will work. Predictions are that the new test with its new score cutoffs will prove to be much more challenging than the existing Dakota Step Test. Whether that turns out to be true or not, the results of the 2014-15 Smarter Balanced assessment will set a new baseline by which we measure school improvement.

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