Federal Education Funding Tied To Test Participation

Jul 26, 2018

Credit PCSD

Changes to Standardized Testing starts this year for all Utah students. The changes overall are considered positive by the Park City School District Administration even though federal funding may be impacted. Carolyn Murray has this:

Andrew Frink is the Technology and the Assessment Director for the Park City School District.  The Sage testing platform adopted in 2013 is going away and will be replaced by RISE which stands for Readiness, Improvement, Success Empowerment. It will be used in grades 3 through 8. Frink says the state has entered a 10 year contract with the company and he thinks the experience will be better for students because the SAGE test wouldn’t allow students to go back and change answers. 

“The new test is called multi-stage adaptive where you get half the test.  It is two stages. So every student gets the first part of the test. Depending on how you do in that first part, you get a different second part of the test. So within each of those parts, a student can go back before they move on and go back and fix question two…so they can go back and rethink it and once they’re done, they get their second stage and can go on from there.”

Frink says teachers do individual student assessments throughout the year .The standardized test helps teachers identify how students are performing against state standards and Utah Core Curriculum.

Frink says the 9th and 10th grade Aspire test is focused on college and career readiness.

“So it is a very different kind of test.  While it is given at the end of the year, it is not an end of course test. So every 9th grader is going to get the same test essentially…every tenth grader gets the same test. It’s very similar to the ACT.”

They don’t use fill in answer sheets and number two pencils any longer thanks to the school district’s one to one technology program. All Park City students have access to their own computer starting in 2nd grade.              

“For Rise, they’ll be tested in the three main areas, English Language Arts, Math and Science. A slight difference is that ELA will include writing but only in two years, just in grades five and eight. Those scores will be separated.  Prior, they were lumped together. You get a single English Language Arts Score. Now you’ll have a separate English Language Arts and Writing so as we look year to year we can compare those ELA scores even in the years they don’t have Writing. Now for Aspire, that is English, Reading, Math and Science. It’s an end of level test, not an end of course test.”

An assessment audit will begin in the fall. Frink says the amount of time students spend taking tests accounts for about 2% of instructional minutes.

“It’s the very first run we are doing to get a feel for what we are doing.  Do we have any overlap? Are there any years that we have a gap or the data we need in a spot? Gee, we’ve got three things that tell us this one thing.  Maybe there is something we could prune out.”

Some of the tests will be available in the Spanish language which Frink says will address content knowledge of English language Learners.

Utah Code allows students to opt out of testing but federal funding for education is tied to 95 percent proficiency.  If a student opts out, it’s counted as a failing score.   

26frink7           :39           “..on this..”

“Previously, if those students opted out, those folks were removed from our accountability numbers entirely. Now we have to bump that number up to get the full 95%. Especially for 9th and 10th graders, I really think we have a good case to be made around the Utah Aspire test and how that’s directly useful for those students. And as for the RISE Test, I still strongly believe that having that end of year instructional look back at how we are doing is really critical.  You’ll be hearing more from myself and our communications folks starting in the fall as we really work to make a case for folks on this.”

The Utah standardized tests don’t allow for national comparisons even though half the Aspire questions in the 9th and 10th grade tests are ACT based.  The other half comes from a Utah question bank. Frink says he’s planning a communication blitz for this fall to help teachers, students and parents learn more about the new testing requirements.