Tuesday, the Kansas Association of School Boards pulled out of the Smarter Balanced testing consortium, deciding instead to continue having the University of Kansas’ Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation produce state assessment tests as it has for over 30 years.
Kansas has been a governing force in the consortium of 22 states, working to design assessment tests that align to the new Common Core math and English standards those states now adhere to.
“The recommendation was to use the Smarter Balanced assessment, but deliver it via CETE. The (state board of education) chose a different path,” USD 428 Curriculum Director John Popp emailed the Tribune.
“The reasons for this decision are that it saves (we think) about $1 million, and it keeps all the business in state (at the University of Kansas).”
The CETE tests will mean having fewer bells and whistles. But for the majority of students, this will do little to impact results. Both tests will be responsive to students’ answers. That means the level of difficulty will adjust based off student answers. The main difference is the Smarter Balanced test would adjust after each individual answer, while the CETE will adjust after a group of questions is answered. Another difference is, according to Neil Kingston, co-director of CETE in a Topeka Capital Journal story, while the CETE will have fewer open ended questions than the Smarter Balanced test, test makers are working on devising ways the written portions can be graded twice, once for content and once for mastery of the topic area, and once for the mastery of research and writing skills.
It will also mean the state will need to wait an additional year before the new tests are up and running. Now, interim tests will need to be used until the spring of 2016. But the delay won’t affect the implementation of Common Core standards, Popp said.
“As far as our plans, it really doesn’t change our course,” he said. “We will continue to implement the College and Career Ready standards, because the assessment will be written to measure those standards anyway. We will just have to wait longer to get assessment results that are comparable across years.”
In October, USD 428s Board of Education discussed the opportunity to test the beta version of the Smarter Balanced test in 2014. While the prospect was attractive, should the KASB decide to use the test, it was still up in the air. The district at that time planned to wait and see if the Kansas State Department of Education received a waiver allowing it to use the beta version in lieu of the interim state assessment test, or if students would have to take both tests if they took part in the program.
While the KASB voted against the Smarter Balance test, it did agree with a proposal by the KSDE, to use assessments for grades 3-8 in reading and math, and to allow high schools greater flexibility in how they assess students. The goal is to make assessments more meaningful to the students. Some possibilities include using the ACT, SAT or ASVAB to show College and Career Readiness.
“(We’re) Not unhappy, not happy, (its) just the reality of the way things are.,” Popp said. “We are still going to do what we know is right, and we are going to stay the course that we are on.”