Students across West Virginia are being prepared for a new standardized test that will replace the state’s WESTEST.
Students will begin taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment test during the 2014-15 school year. The test, adopted by West Virginia and 45 other states, is based on the national Common Core standards.
“WESTEST is just a West Virginia-based test. Smarter Balanced is being developed by a consortium of 26 states. This should assure parents that West Virginia is implementing an equal curriculum,” said Robert Hull, associate superintendent for the state Department of Education’s Division of Teaching and Learning. “Now we will be able to measure how our students compare to other states much easier.”
Kindergarten and first-grade classes already are using the Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives for math and reading/language arts. The standards are being implemented in second-grade classes, and all grades will use them by the fall of 2014.
Standards for other subjects are still being developed. In the interim, the WESTEST will be used for science and social studies, Hull said.
“The content is much more rigorous in that students don’t just need to know all of the basic skills, but instead need to be able to apply those skills. It’s not just, ‘Do you know it or not?’” Hull said. “We used to say our curriculum was an inch deep and a mile wide, but it’s no longer about that. It’s about knowing fewer, more strategic things at a much deeper level. Students actually have to take the information and do something with it — not just regurgitate it back.”
The new test also is more individualized than the WESTEST because it is taken on a computer.
“Right now, everyone has a pencil and paper and they’re asked the same question. The new test is adaptive, which means students will be taken to different levels when they answer questions. If they get the answer right, they will receive a more advanced question,” Hull said.
Administering the test will require a computer capable of producing it in every classroom in every school. Hull said that is a hurdle but he is confident that the state will be ready.
Students are not the only ones being prepared for the new test. Teachers will receive training through the Regional Education Service Agencies.
“Every single classroom has to be touched because it’s changing the entire curriculum,” he said. “You can’t just flip a switch.”