Superintendent Luna Visits Schools, Talks with Students about New Test

On March 25, schools across Idaho began administering the new Smarter Balanced Field Test to students in grades 3-8 and 11. To date, we have heard overwhelmingly positive comments from schools across the state. (Learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or why Idaho is conducting a field test this spring.)

As of April 25, 442,399 tests had been started in Idaho.

The reports the State Department of Education has received have been overwhelmingly positive. A fifth-grade student in Blaine County walked out of the testing room last week and said, "That test was fun!"

Jerry Hutchins, the district's testing director, said, "I never heard a student say anything like that after taking an ISAT."

He's not alone.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has been traveling across Idaho since April 2, visiting schools large and small. During his visits, he met with students and teachers about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment and heard similar positive comments.

Some schools have faced a few technical difficulties. At Oakley Elementary, for example, the voice that was supposed to read a few of the questions out loud was giving an error message before it would then read the question. At Betty Kiefer Elementary School in Rathdrum, several students said they thought the instructions could have been a bit clearer.

These are alThese are all things the state-appointed Smarter Balanced Advisory Committee will take into account as it evaluates how to improve the new test before it becomes fully implemented next year. The Committee developed questionnaires for students, teachers, test proctors and school administrators.

Despite these challenges, Superintendent Luna has heard largely positive feedback about the new test from students – no matter where he traveled. Here is an overview of what he has been hearing: ounty:
He ate lunch with elementary students in Teton County. Students said the test is more challenging than the ISAT, but even with more difficult questions, they liked it more than the multiple-choice-only test because they could show their answers and explain their work.

Rockland:
Superintendent Luna visited Rockland School. The students there said they really enjoyed the writing portions of the test and that they could pause the test, which was not possible under the ISAT. When asked if they had more anxiety about taking this new test because it is more difficult, the students said no. They felt the same as they did on the ISAT.

Cassia County:
In Cassia County, Superintendent Luna visited with students at Oakley Elementary who were taking the mathematics portion of the new test. Students said they enjoyed the different types of questions because they were able to show their work. One student even went as far as to say, "I loved it! I like using the computer to enter the fractions." Another student said the test is good because there's not as much multiple choice and "I have more to say."

Even though the test is more difficult and is estimated to take more time, school administrators said the majority of 3rd and 4th grade students at Oakley Elementary finished the mathematics portion of the test in an hour or less.

Rathdrum:
At Betty Kiefer Elementary School in Rathdrum, 6th graders provided meaningful feedback on the English language arts portion of the test. Overall, they said they enjoyed the new test. One student said, "I liked that you could type your answer. I felt like you could make up your own choice. You didn't have to choose the choice they provided you."

But they also said there are some improvements that can be made before next year. For example, the instructions on some questions could be clearer, and the tutorial could be more helpful.

Troy:
Students in the Troy School District will begin testing next week. This week, they are taking the Practice Test to prepare. Based on their practice sessions, they were already willing to provide feedback on the new Smarter Balanced Assessment. A sophomore said, "At first I wasn't too sure I was going to like SBAC, but I played around with it in math class, and so far I think it's OK."

Another student said, "I like the SBAC morAnother student said, "I like the SBAC more than the ISAT because it had more differentiation." Her friend added that she used to get tired in the ISAT because she was constantly reading whereas the new Smarter Balanced test gives her more to do.

The Department will be gathering feedback from all schools across the state during and after the testing window. Your school district received survey forms for students, teachers, test proctors and school administrators. If you have additional feedback you would like to submit directly to the Smarter Balanced Advisory Committee, please e-mail them at SmarterBalancedAdvisoryCommittee@sde.idaho.gov.