School districts start receiving early results on Smarter Balanced tests

May 12, 2015
CAASPP sbac smarter balanced

Students in California preparing for the Smarter Balanced tests.

While most students are in the middle of taking the new Common Core-aligned tests, some early results of the first Smarter Balanced assessments are starting to trickle into districts.

District and school officials can begin looking at the scores and use them to make decisions about instruction, class placements and parent discussions, said Keric Ashley, deputy superintendent of the District, School, and Innovation branch of the California Department of Education. The first preliminary student scores for early test takers went out May 4.

“These are reports that are intended to help schools and districts,” Ashley said at the State Board of Education meeting on May 6.

California students for the first time are taking the new exams based on the nationally developed Common Core State Standards. These preliminary results could give school officials a first glimpse of how well students are learning the standards.

As of May 8, about 2.65 million students had started the Smarter Balanced tests, out of more than 3 million students in the state who are scheduled to take it in 3rd through 8th grades and 11th grade. California is one of 18 states giving the Smarter Balanced assessments.

Because the assessments are online, the results are much quicker to score, compared to previous paper-and-pen tests. Results of the previous California Standards Tests and other standardized tests were sent to districts in the summer.

Districts are expected to get preliminary results about four weeks after students complete the tests. With the early scoring, the goal was to get information to teachers and school administrators quickly enough to figure out what students need and how to best teach them.

But some parents, the public and possibly teachers might end up waiting nearly as long as before to see how students performed. Some districts may distribute scores to parents and teachers in the summer or possibly the beginning of the next school year.

The California Department of Education is telling districts to wait until August to release scores to the general public, which is the same time the state will publicize the full results, according to a PowerPoint presentation on May 4.

Most students are now in the middle of taking the test, Ashley said. The testing window began March 10 and can end as late as the last day of school, which sometimes goes into late June.

Of the six large school districts and the charter school chain EdSource is following as they implement the Common Core, only two had received preliminary scores as of late last week. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest with 646,000 students, also had yet to get any results.

Officials in both Garden Grove and Visalia unified school districts were surprised when the scores came in, and they are figuring out next steps.

“We weren’t expecting it this early,” said Amy Stevens, a spokeswoman for Garden Grove Unified, which has about 46,000 students in Southern California.

Garden Grove officials still plan to give scores to teachers when they return to school in the fall, as they have always done, Stevens said.

“Because we have so little information and so few scores, we are not actively using them to examine instruction. That will come when we have the complete set of scores and can work with our administrators and teachers,” Stevens said in an email. “We’re not comfortable using anything until they’re the final scores.”

In Visalia, with 28,000 students in Central California, district officials had yet to figure out how to immediately use the early scores, said Doug Bartsch, assistant superintendent.

As of last week, Visalia had received 102 scores in 6th, 7th and 8th grades in a district with about 14,000 test takers.

“This early availability of results was new news to us this (last) week and we are still thinking through how best to work with information,” Bartsch said in an email.

This summer, Visalia plans to use its usual two-day professional development session before school starts to go over test results, Bartsch said.

Ashley said the electronic system would be updated nightly. So it’s possible for a school to receive results for one student, but receive results on a different day for another student who was tested at the same time.

The first results ready for release last week were for students who finished the 3rd and 5th grade math and 7th grade English language arts tests around April 1, according to the PowerPoint presentation.

The education department will send specific student reports, designed for parents, to districts within eight weeks of completion. Districts then would mail each student’s report home to parents.

In the meantime, teachers can print out their own preliminary results to have discussions with parents, Ashley said.

Here are plans at the other four districts and the charter school chain EdSource is tracking:

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