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June 18, 2014

Oregon Successfully Completes Field Test of New Assessment

Students say new test is harder but also more interesting and engaging

(Salem, Ore.)
– Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton today announced that 25,000 Oregon students from 87 school districts across the state participated in the field test of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring. Students report that while the test is harder, it is also more interesting and engaging.

Smarter Balanced will become the new state test for English language arts and math starting next school year, replacing the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) in those two subjects. The test is aligned to new college- and career-ready standards, known as the Common Core, which have been adopted by Oregon and 42 other states. Oregon is part of a consortium of 22 states that worked to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment to test students on the new standards.

“The future of our state depends on how well we prepare our students for successful entry into college and the workforce,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “In the past, our standards were too low and our students left high school ill-prepared for their next steps. So we adopted new, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards and we are transitioning to a new assessment. These are higher standards, and it is a harder test. But the tests will provide better, more honest information about what our students know at each grade and where we need to put additional attention so that each and every student can graduate with the skills to succeed.”

The new Smarter Balanced Assessments will be administered statewide starting in spring 2015. However, in order to ensure that the final assessment is working as intended, students in Oregon and across the country participated this spring in a voluntary test run of either the math or English language arts portions of the assessment. In addition to serving as a test of the test, the field test provides educators and students an opportunity to experience the new assessment prior to its official launch. For Oregon, this field test represents an important step in the state’s transition to higher educational standards.

The new assessment has both significant similarities to and differences from Oregon’s previous state test. Both tests are computer-based, adaptive tests, meaning the questions get easier or harder depending on how students respond. However, the new test focuses on critical thinking and direct student response instead of multiple choice items. Students are asked to explain their reasoning, type short answers to questions, and engage with the assessment in a manner much more akin to a classroom assignment.

Initial student feedback following the field test shows that while students describe the new tests as “harder,” they also found them “more interactive” and “less boring” than previous state tests. Below are some quotes from students responding to the Smarter Balanced field test.
  • 4th grader Ava said that Smarter Balanced requires you to “do more skills at the same time, but on the OAKS all it teaches is how to click a mouse.”
  • 5th grader Jacklyn said, “Typing was hard but I thought it [the test] was more different and cool. Writing is good because I can write down my thoughts. I have good explanations that I want someone to hear.”
  • 6th grader Ella said this was “the first test I’ve ever taken where I actually learned something while taking it.” She described it as a “cool, new experience.”
  • 8th grader Delaney said she “liked typing and actually interacting” on the test. She said, “OAKS gets boring after doing it for a period of time. [The new test is] more interactive and students have to turn their brain on.”
Given the higher bar set by these new standards, only 30-40 percent of students are expected to meet the college and career-ready standard next year. However, the assessment will give parents, students, and educators better information about where students are on their path to college and career readiness, allowing for additional attention and supports to be provided while students are still in school.

“We do expect the percent of students passing these new tests to go down substantially, but that does not mean that our students know less,” Saxton said. “It simply means we will have a more accurate and honest picture of how prepared they are for their futures. I believe over time and given appropriate supports, our students will rise to the challenge and will meet this higher bar.”

Nationally, 4.2 million students across more than 16,500 schools participated in the Smarter Balanced field test. No scores will be reported from the field test. However, the field test helped to identify final fixes and adjustments prior to next year’s administration and will help to ensure the assessments are accurate and fair for all students.


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Rob Saxton, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
Crystal Greene, Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5650
http://www.ode.state.or.us


Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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