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6 facts about the Oregon Smarter Balanced and OAKS tests

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 01, 2016 11:00 AM

Oregon standardized testing consists of the Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and mathematics, and the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing for science and social studies. If you have children in school, you'll want to learn a bit about these exams. Here are some introductory facts:

1. Testing by grade
The Oregon Department of Education shared that public school students take the following tests: 3rd through 8th and 11th graders take English language arts and mathematics exams, and those in 5th, 8th and 11th grade also take science and social studies tests. 

2. Informed curricula 
The ODE noted that teachers base their year-long lesson planning and curricula on the information and topics students must know to excel on the standardized tests. The exam scores are not only a reflection of the students, but also of how well educators teach their classes.

3. Scoring
The grades your kids earn during the regular school year do not alter their OAKS or Smarter Balanced scores. However, your children's grades will likely help you predict how they will do in each subject on the standardized tests. Low math grades may lead to similar scores on the testing. You can help by offering your children chances to better their normal grades through tutoring, extra credit and working with teachers to improve their grades and better understand the subject matter.

4. Alternative testing is available
To account for different learning abilities, students who are English language learners and those who are on individualized education plans can take an alternative version. These tests are called the English Language Proficiency Assessment or Extended Assessment, respectively.

5. Testing informs decisions
You may wonder why your children must take these tests. Not only do the exams prepare your kids for the next grade level, entering college and eventually the work force, but the exams also affect education policy. Lawmakers use school and district scores when establishing school budgets and deciding where to invest resources in education.

6. Preparing for the tests
While teachers gear regular in-class learning toward readying students for these exams, parents and caregivers can also help. They can offer their children the chance to try practice tests. These online exams provide examples of questions your kids may encounter on the real OAKS and Oregon Smarter Balanced testing. Trying this version beforehand may reduce test-taking anxiety and help your children earn higher scores.