Assessing South Dakota students

by Bill Powers

At the 1/26 meeting of the House Education Committee, Dr. Melody Schopp, Secretary of Education, gave a presentation on student assessment.

The principal points to come away with were:
1) SD is presently associated with 19 other states in developing a K-12 assessment program. The 2014 Smarter Balance Assessment program was a field test of this assessment. SD, Idaho, and Montana fully participated.
2) The advantage of this assessment is that it is developed by educators from the various states in the consortium. As a result, the content tested can be fully consistent with the material taught in those states. In addition, by participating with other states SD is still able to make comparisons with other states.
3) The Nations Report Card (nationsreportcard.gov), also known as NAEP, is not developed under local participation.
4) The Smarter Balance Assessment is more detailed than the SD STEP assessment. It includes non-multiple choice questions, and writing assignments. The assessment is taken using computers. While there may be some problems associated with this testing strategy, there are some advantages. The print size on the screen can be modified, headphones can be
provided for students if necessary. The intention is not to test computer skills. So they are still assessing the affect of taking the test in this manner.
5) The Smarter Balance Assessment will have results similar to the NAEP, both of which have stricter definitions of proficiency and advanced than the STEP assessment.
6) Tests are still planned to be given to 4, 8, and 11-th grade students.

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