New standardized testing to be implemented next year

Matthew Friend

The STAR test, the standardized test that students across California take annually, was phased out this year in favor of a new test aligning with new state educational standards.

The Smarter Balance Field Test will be taken next year across the entire state by third through 11th  graders in response to California’s decision to adopt the Common Core curriculum, which, according to assistant principal Katie Foster, focuses more on critical thinking than memorization of information.

Districts across the state were mandated to test only ten percent of their student body for the pilot year of the SBFT, and were not required to test ninth through 11th graders as was typical in past years.  In the Tam District, only juniors at Drake were tested.  Foster said that as far as she heard, the testing that went on last week went well.

The shift in standardized testing is not only significant because of content, but because of the change in procedure as well.  The SBFT is taken on a computer, using a secure web browser designed solely for this test, and adjusts to the student as they take the test.

As the student progresses through the test, the type of questions they receive adapt to them.  According to Foster, students who are doing poorly will get easier questions, while those doing better will have more specific questions to gain a better picture of their abilities.

Foster said that the logistics of getting so many students at Redwood on a computer at the same time will complicate testing schedules in future years, as testing will likely take longer to conduct.

“I have never seen [the new test], in theory I am a proponent of utilizing technology to yield better analysis of what we can and cannot do,” Foster said.  “In theory, I support standards that are both content and skills based, and help us understand how kids develop critical thinking skills.  But this is in theory because I haven’t seen this exact test yet.”