New and old tests are too different; upcoming Student Score Reports mustn’t be compared to previous results
By Christine Lizardi Frazier
Kern County Superintendent of Schools
Originally published as a Community Voices piece in The Bakersfield Californian
The hustle and bustle of a new school year is once again upon us. There are plenty of school-related topics I could share with you, but I wanted to focus on just one that is on my mind and likely the minds of many parents in our community. That is, making sense of the Student Score Reports that parents will begin receiving soon from their child’s school.
Last spring, students in grades 3-8 and 11 took part in the first-ever statewide administration of the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English–language arts (ELA) and mathematics, which are aligned with new California Standards. These standards seek to help all students graduate prepared for college-level coursework and a 21st-century career.
The new assessments are similar to that of the old STAR program they replace in that they aim to provide an academic check-up on how our kids are faring. The new tests, however, were designed to be far superior to their predecessor, giving teachers more timely and informative feedback so they may improve instruction and better meet the needs of students.
Gone are the days of bubbling a Scantron form with a no. 2 pencil. Tests are now computer-based, which allows for a wider variety of questions so students may demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills. And, because the new tests are “adaptive” — meaning questions get more difficult or easier, depending on the test taker’s success on the previous question — the new tests are more accurate in providing information about an individual student’s performance.
School districts were supposed to have received Student Score Reports earlier this summer. However, the process has been slower than expected and the state recently informed schools they could expect to receive the reports by late August. Once districts have the results, they must be provided to parents within 20 days.
Students will received an overall score for both ELA and math, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000, broken down into one of four levels: standard not met, standard nearly met, standard met, and standard exceeded. The results will also highlight students’ performance in various sub categories.
When parents receive their Student Score Reports in the coming weeks, it is important to remember that the results of the new test and previous years’ test should not be compared. The new and old tests are too fundamentally different to make any reliable comparisons. This year’s results are meant to be a starting point and should only be viewed as a baseline from which to compare performance in future years.
Because of the more rigorous nature of the new California Standards and the fact they are still being rolled out, it is anticipated that many, if not most, students will need to make significant progress to reach the standards set for ELA and math.
The scores should not discourage students, parents and teachers, as they will not be used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade. Rather, the results can help guide discussions among parents and teachers and help teachers and schools adjust instruction to meet student needs over time.
Finally, it is important for parents to remember that annual state tests are only one measure of how students are doing in their academic careers. Other measures include grades and/or progress reports, chapter tests, classroom projects and other formative assessments.
I encourage parents to keep their eye out for their students’ score reports. Many districts will opt to mail them out, while others might distribute during upcoming back-to-school nights. Whatever the case, I urge parents to read and understand the scores and be engaged in your child’s education.
A guide to understanding your Student Score Report can be found by clicking HERE.
Click HERE for frequently asked questions about the new assessments.
Click HERE for the California Department of Education’s assessment page.