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Four times as many students opt out of test

Students take longer to complete exam than anticipated

With students heaving a collective sigh of relief that school is out for the summer, school district administrators all over Oregon are doing the same now that the anxiously anticipated first year of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing is complete. SBAC testing replaced the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) and is geared toward measuring students’ progress toward national Common Core standards.

Hillsboro School District Assistant Superintendent Steve Larson talked with the Hillsboro Tribune about how SBAC testing went for students in the Hillsboro School District.

Hillsboro Tribune: How did the testing go at the elementary, middle and high school levels?

Steve Larson: Testing has gone well at all levels — better than was expected.

We tested approximately 11,000 students with the SBAC test. With there being four tests (two in English/language arts and two in math), we will have administered approximately 40,000 tests in Hillsboro School District.

That does not include the English Language Proficiency Test, the OAKS Science test and the OAKS 12th grade retests in math and language arts that also were administered.

Given that volume of testing, problems have been small and inconsequential. This can very much be attributed to the careful planning conducted by our school staff, led by the School Test Coordinators, along with the school leaders in each building.

HT: Was the technology needed all set and did it that part go smoothly? Any glitches?

SL: Yes, the technology needed for testing was in place. Hillsboro has been a leader in school-based technology and it paid off in a big way during testing.

That being said, it did take some careful orchestration in order to administer 40,000 tests. Detailed schedules for lab use and the use of laptops and Chromebooks in each building were necessary to make sure that the resources met the demand.

Most “glitches” had to do with the test delivery system itself, which is the responsibility of the Oregon Department of Education and its test vendor, AIR (American Institute for Research).

As a new test, with new test items, there were some issues with the system not operating correctly. These, too, were relatively infrequent, especially considering the newness of the tests. ODE worked hard with district staff to mitigate these issues and to provide opportunities to re-open or retake tests when students encountered problems.

HT: Did the schools need to buy new computers or technology in order to administer the tests?

SL: Hillsboro School District did not purchase any new computers specifically for testing. The main piece of new equipment that needed to be purchased by schools was headphones.

The SBAC English/language arts test contains listening items, so headphones are necessary. Some schools needed to purchase additional headphones. Approximately 450 new headphones were ordered for schools for testing. The cost per headphones was approximately $12. So the total cost was approximately $5,400.

HT: How long on average did it take a student to complete the tests?

SL: Six to eight hours for all four tests combined.

HT: How many students opted out of testing at each level?

SL: Fifty-five in K-6, 31 in grades 7-8 and 19 in 11th grade.

HT: Were those numbers higher than previous years?

SL: Last year we had 25 (total, districtwide) opt-outs from state testing.

HT: We’ve heard a couple of stories of students at the high school level taking the tests, but finishing them in 10 or 15 minutes as a way to “protest.” Do you know if that happened?

SL: We have not received any reports of this occurring in our district.

HT: How will teachers use the test results this year?

SL: The data from the SBAC tests will not be available until late summer, so it won’t influence anything this school year. Hillsboro School District teachers and administrators use state assessment data as one of a number of data points to help inform their instructional decision-making.

Other data includes interim and formative assessments, classroom work performance and grades, plus data related to student attendance, behavior, disabilities, etc. All of these together help teachers to adjust their curriculum and their teaching to improve student achievement.

HT: Do you know yet how the state will use the test results / or will they use them a part of the yearly progress and report cards?

SL: We haven’t received communication about how they intend to use the results.

Note: Rep. Susan McLain (D-Forest Grove) co-sponsored HB 2680 — signed May 21 by Gov. Kate Brown — to prohibit SBAC test results to be used in grading schools, teachers or administrators on their performance.

“The results of a statewide summative assessment developed by a multistate consortium and administered during the 2014-15 school year may not be used to establish summative ratings of schools or to make summative evaluations of teachers or administrators,” the bill reads.

It also directs the State Superintendent of Public instruction to convene a committee to further study the results of the 2014-15 test.


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