State test score results released Tuesday, Aug. 31 indicate there is still work to be done on getting students to meet state reading standards, despite previous years showing strong gains.
But some educators and parents wonder if comparing this year’s results on the High School Proficiency Exam and the Measurements of Student Progress to past Washington Assessment of Student Learning results is fair since there were many changes: new tests, new math standards, and some students taking the test on computers.
When Superintendent Randy Dorn took office in 2009, he promised to replace the WASL with a shorter test that could eventually be taken on computers.
In the spring, students got their first look at the Measurements of Student Progress, which is for grades 3 through 8, and the High School Proficiency Exam. The math, reading and science tests were shortened so that they would only take one day each.
But with tests only lasting one day each meant that students spent more hours in a single day testing than before.
“Cutting the number of days sounds good, but the amount of time kids sit down with pencil and test not necessarily much shorter,’ said Brian Rick, assessment and evaluation specialist for the Bellingham School District, adding that he’s heard from several people about elementary students getting “test fatigue,” especially on the reading test.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn said the length of the reading passages is something that will be looked at before the next round of testing this spring.
“I acknowledge that the reading test for all grades too long for one session,” Dorn said during a press conference Tuesday.
But Joe Willhoft, the state assistant superintendent of assessment and student information, said the testing data on the reading and science tests can be compared even though the tests were changed.
“We did shorten the test, but we drew test questions from the same bank of test items that we’ve been using for years to assess students,” he said during a press conference Tuesday. “Students were asked questions and had to respond to questions that were of the same type and field as before.”
But comparing math scores from year to year is a different story. The MSP tested students on new math standards, with the biggest changes for grades 3 through 5.
“When you start comparing, really 2010 is a baseline for (grades) 3 through 8,” said Alan Burke, state deputy superintendent of K-12 education. “It’s a bit of apples and oranges.”
The final difference between testing in 2009 and 2010 was the introduction of computers. The middle school level math MSP was offered on computers to select sites as a pilot program.
“I believe online testing is the future, not only for our state test but for assessments in the classroom,” Dorn said.
According to data collected by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, there was no statistical difference between students who took the math test on paper and those who used a computer.