New State Assessments: Smarter Balanced Testing

  • Beginning in the spring of 2015, Federal Way students in grades 3-8, 10 and 11 will take new state assessments. These are referred to as the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Students across Washington state, and in many other states, will take them.

    The assessments measure student knowledge of the new state standards. This is the second year that Federal Way Public Schools have been teaching to these standards, which are often referred to as Common Core.

What’s different about these tests?

    •  These new tests are aligned with the new state standards.
    •  Instead of a paper and pencil test, the new assessments are taken entirely online at a computer.
    •  The testing will take place on several days between March and June. Your school will give you the specific dates for testing as soon as they are scheduled.
    •  During the test, the questions are adjusted to student skill levels based on previous answers. You’ll hear this referred to as computer adaptive testing.

Something else different: Performance task testing

  • Smarter Balanced Assessments include performance task testing. For this test section, the teacher will lead a structured in-class activity. And then, students will use the computer to answer questions and complete tasks related to the activity.

What hasn’t changed?

    • The tests will tell us if a student can show he or she understands the subject matter.
    • The spring assessments determine if a student meets the grade level standards.
    • The tests are taken by students in grades 3 through 8 and those in grades 10 and 11. Meeting standard on these tests is not a graduation requirement for high school students until 2019.
    • Grades 5 and 8 will still take the science portion of the MSP because the Smarter Balanced Assessment does not yet include science.

What does this mean for students who are nearing graduation?

  • Our high school students are nearing graduation and have been exposed to the new state standards and related instruction changes for a very short time. They are not expected to pass the new Smarter Balanced assessment in order to graduate.

    But, beginning in 2014-2015, tenth and eleventh graders will have the opportunity to take the new assessments.  The class of 2019 will be the first class required to meet standard on these assessments in order to graduate. See more about the transition to Smarter Balanced Assessments as graduation requirements on this page.

What other assessments do we use?

  • At various points throughout the school year, students are assessed so that teachers and parents know where they are in their learning. We use the STAR tests for much of this. We also give assessments that reflect the end-of-year state assessment.

    Assessments are not just tests, though. Students are assessed in many ways, all through the learning continuum. An assessment could be as simple as a classroom conversation or a student presentation. These ongoing (or “formative”) assessments allow the teacher to determine if the student needs more instruction. If so, the teacher tries to teach the concept or skill using a different approach — what we call differentiated instruction.

    Depending on the courses students take, they may also take a variety of other tests throughout the school year, including Cambridge, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

Adapting to the new tests

  • These tests are challenging. It will take time for students and staff to learn and adapt to them.

    Our staff has worked hard to prepare for the Smarter Balanced Assessments. They’ve participated in trainings and learned instructional techniques to prepare students for this style of assessment. They’ve also worked with the students on computer skills needed to take the assessments. Here are some things to remember:

    • There is always a period of adjustment when new testing changes are rolled out.
    • Schools and districts, including Federal Way, are prepared to see a drop in test scores.
    • Over time the scores will improve, instruction will continually improve and students will learn more.
    • Ultimately, FWPS students will be prepared for college and career success by doing a high level of work.

Why are we making these changes?

  • Data shows that too many students in Washington and across the country are graduating without the skills and knowledge they need to be ready for 21st century jobs and college. It’s estimated that, by 2018, two out of every three jobs in the state will require a college degree or certificate. The new standards and testing are geared to prepare all students for career and college success in our changing economy.