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Idaho students approve of new assessment test

TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2014 12:21 PM

Now, 44 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and many are about to or already have administered assessments to discover how well students are learning their school's material. Idaho students used to take a multiple-choice test called the ISAT, but will now take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

The testing differences
This new test asks students to show their work rather than just pick an answer from several options. It aims to discover how prepared students are for college and careers based on educational goals set by the Common Core. The results are meant to guide teachers and students as they develop lesson plans. If students fall short of CCSS benchmarks in certain subjects, it will indicate that educators need to rethink the way they teach that information.

Students approve
According to the Idaho Statesman, Idaho students took the SBAC test this April and reportedly prefer it over the ISAT because they get to show their work. They like that they don't have to select an answer and that the work they did to solve test questions is taken into account during scoring. 

"It made me want to try, since I got to explain my reasoning and explain why I chose what I chose," Lexi Mickelsen, an eighth-grade student at Hillside Junior High School, told the source.

The assessment students took recently was a practice run. The state is testing out the assessment to see how it does in schools, the reception educators give it, and whether it accurately rates student progress.

Test challenges
Students did discover that the test presented a variety of challenges. For example, multiple-choice assessments offer students a chance to guess the correct answers to questions they don't know, giving them a one-in-four or one-in-five shot of picking the right result. But because the SBAC requires test-takers to show their work, students will miss out on points if they don't know how to solve the problem. Students also reported that they encountered questions about topics they had not yet learned. 

"I tried to seem like I knew what I was doing, but it mainly ended up a bunch of gibberish kind of related to the question," Sophie Wieber, a Hillside student, told the source.

Test prep
While the 2014 SBAC assessment was only a trial, students will have to take it in earnest in the future. Idaho can use the results of the practice SBAC to make curriculum changes.