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On August 2, 2010, the State Board of Education adopted Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative was a state-led effort to establish a shared set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics. These standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The standards are benchmarked to international standards to guarantee that our students are competitive in the emerging global marketplace. States adopted the standards on a voluntary basis. California was one of 48 states to adopt the standards.

With the adoption comes a new set of assessments for California students in 3-8th and 11th grades beginning in 2014-2015. California is participating in an assessment consortium with a number of other states to prepare a common set of assessments based on the Common Core State Standards. This assessment consortium is Smarter Balanced.

One of the unique features of the new assessments is that they will capitalize on the precision and efficiency of computer adaptive testing. Gone are the days of paper and pencil state tests, students filling in bubbles on scantron sheets and teachers continuously sharpening pencils.

According to California Department of Education:

“One of the advantages of computer adaptive testing is that it is more efficient than fixed-form testing, requiring fewer questions to accurately determine
each student’s achievement level. An adaptive assessment is able to provide information about the full range of learning. A paper and pencil test is confined to the content within the printed document. Student results are likewise confined to the grade level tested. In contrast, an adaptive assessment is able to provide information that goes into more depth within the grade level as well as information outside of the grade level. This type of information is important for classroom educators to plan teaching and learning opportunities. Because the adaptive assessment provides information both deeper within the grade level and outside of grade level, the precision of the scores provided is more accurate. An adaptive assessment also offers faster results with the turnaround for scores will be available in weeks compared to months.”

In the wake of these seemingly positive changes is the pivotal question, “Will schools be ready?” Given the current economic crisis our school systems are facing and the fact that many schools have limited technology resources, how will they ensure they are prepared for a 100% computerized assessment system by 2014-2015?

Smarter Balance and the California Department of Education are committed to providing an online dynamic and interactive technology readiness tool to support transitions and implementation. This tool will help local education agencies as they evaluate their current technology and infrastructure in terms of readiness to implement the Smarter Balance assessment system and identify strategies to update their technology based on gaps identified.

This tool is anticipated to be ready in spring 2012.

As school districts begin to prepare for 2014-2015, perhaps there are opportunities for technology companies to partner with districts and begin working together to ensure they are ready for computer adaptive testing.

For more information on computer adaptive testing go to: http://www.k12.wa.us/SMARTER/pubdocs/SMARTER_CAT_Factsheet.pdf