St. Vrain student assessments to go high-tech
LONGMONT, Feb 02, 2013 (Daily Times-Call - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Get ready to put down your pencils.
The era of filling in bubbles on long sheets of paper for multiple-choice standardized exams is nearly over.
Starting this spring in the St. Vrain Valley School District and next year throughout Colorado, students will sit down in front of screens and keyboards to take new assessments in science and social studies.
District and state officials expect students to be more engaged while taking the new assessments.
For example, on a science assessment, students will have a 3-D photo of a beetle to examine, and then be asked to classify it, said Tori Teague, St. Vrain's executive director of assessment and curriculum.
"Kids have a better chance of showing what they know," she said.
Joyce Zurkowski, executive director of assessment for the Colorado Department of Education, said the computer-based assessments will allow students to conduct simulated science experiments.
"We've never been able to do that with paper and pencil," Zurkowski said.
Colorado is also changing which students are assessed.
Beginning next fall, high school seniors will take the new, computer-based social studies and science assessments.
It will be the first time social studies knowledge will be tested in Colorado, other than during the pilot tests being given this spring. Students in fourth and seventh grades also will be tested in social studies, but in the spring when they take their other exams.
Fifth-grade and eighth-grade students will continue to take the science assessments in the spring, but 10th-graders won't be tested in science after this year.
Students won't be using computers for their math, reading and writing assessments until the spring of 2015. Then, high school juniors will take the exams, along with the third- through 10th-graders.
The language arts exams will use real texts, not something written specifically for the assessment, and ask students to analyze them.
Regina Renaldi, assistant superintendent for priority schools, said the new assessments require students to show how they arrived at their answers, so it tests their understanding, not just their recall.
A 10th-grade reading sample question at PARCC's website includes a passage from "Daedalus and Icarus" with a question about the theme. Students are asked to select evidence from the text that supports their answer regarding the theme.
"We'll have a better understanding of what kids do and don't know," Renaldi said.
Assessments for 22 states
Colorado isn't the only state that will begin using the computer-based assessments in 2014-2015. Colorado is part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a group of 22 states that is developing new assessments designed to measure new national education standards, known as the Common Core standards.
PARCC received a $186 million grant through the federal Race to the Top program to develop and design the assessments, according to its website.
The additional tests for 11th and 12th graders, Teague said, are comparable to exit exams that some other states use.
"That is the trend nationally," she said.
The consortium also is determining technology guidelines for the schools. In addition to desktop and laptop computers, students likely will be able to use tablets, such as iPads, to take the assessments.
Joe McBreen, St. Vrain's chief information officer, said the district won't need new technology for the computer-based assessments.
"Nothing strange required," McBreen said.
Because students will use computers or other technology, however, not all will be taking the assessments at the same time.
Traditionally, all the students in a school, or at least in a class, have taken the Colorado Student Assessment Program or Transitional Colorado Assessment Program exams simultaneously.
The assessments will have links to documents and media that students will read, analyze and compare, but they will not be linked to the Internet.
Instead, the assessments will be on secure servers, so students will not be able to search for the correct answers, McBreen said.
And, in case of a computer malfunction, students' answers will be recorded to the computers' hard drives and the server after every third answer, McBreen said.
Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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