After five years, Utah’s standardized testing is changing to a new system that Park City School District administrators hope will have more student participation than in the past. Utah grades schools based on test performance but when the opt out rate is high like it is in Park City schools, the school’s grade is impacted negatively.
The new testing system, Utah Aspire Plus for 9th and 10th graders mirrors the ACT in ways that Park City school District Director of Technology and Assessment Drew Frink hopes will increase student participation. Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High School have traditionally had as high as 50 percent opt-out of SAGE testing. This can result in poor state grades such as the failing grade given to Treasure Mountain in 2017.
“That is partly based on some ACT work. So that is directly predictive of ACT scores and the actual testing experience is very similar to how ACT works. So, it's great practice for the kids in 9th grade. They get a very similar experience by the time they get to 11th grade ready to take ACT they've already been through it a couple of times so that the physical experience will be pretty similar.”
The 3rd through 8th grades will use the RISE test but now 8th graders will sit for a full day rather than having it broken up into multiple testing blocks.
“Which we think for the 8th graders will also give them a good sort of first taste of what that big testing bank works like, and also allows us to sort of minimize the impact on that school. So, we take one day as much as we can get done and then you'll have make-ups and other things going forward.” Frink says they did some trial benchmark tests in the elementary schools this year. He says with the RISE trial tests they’ll have cost savings and be able to collect useful data on student progress.
“For Ecker and the elementary schools, it’s a similar experience to SAGE as far as the actual test goes. But I'm excited about some of what's included in the system as a whole that we can take advantage of, that some elementary teachers have been using this year and we're starting to get excited about what that could give us because it's nice to have a common formative test at the end of a lesson, at the end of a unit. It's great having one that doesn't cost the district any money.”
He says the information can inform instruction as the year goes along. Frink hopes the new 10-year testing system will be more useful and consistent and that Park City parents will choose to have their students participate.
“You know our goal is to make this really informative for our parents and our students so that they can use this to really understand where they're strong, where they need to work on-so it's not just the thing we have to do for the State, but it’s something we can really use. For RISE as well I'm really encouraging people to give it a chance.”
Park City will start testing at Trailside next week. Frink says each school schedules their tests based on what works for the school’s calendar. They must do it within the state testing window which runs until the last day of the school year.
With certain exceptions, all tests are taken electronically, and some results may be available right away. Frink says since it’s a new system, other results may not be available until 2020.
They’re tracking how many students opt-out and should have data on that once testing is finished. Parents can contact their school administrators if they have questions.