Streamlining Tests

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Baesler: DPI Offering Help In Streamlining Tests
BISMARCK, N.D., July 8, 2016 -- State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said the Department of Public Instruction is offering assistance for schools to evaluate whether their student testing can be reduced and streamlined.

“Parents, legislators and educators alike have expressed concerns that North Dakota students are tested too frequently, and questioned whether some exams offer useful information about student progress," Baesler said. The department is offering schools a structured, comprehensive way of addressing those issues, the superintendent said.

The evaluation is called the Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.  It includes a four-step plan that districts may use in reviewing the assessments they give and evaluating their effectiveness.

Educators who are interested in taking part in the assessment inventory have been invited to participate in a July 19 webinar, hosted by the Department of Public Instruction, which will explain the initiative and discuss its potential benefits.

Afterward, schools may apply to take part in a pilot project to implement the assessment inventory, Baesler said. Representatives of schools that are selected to take part will then attend a one-day training session to become more familiar with the inventory. The training session is likely to be held in August or September, Baesler said.

The DPI’s Teacher and School Effectiveness unit is overseeing the program. The unit’s director, Gail Schauer, said it can be used to spot whether certain tests are necessary or redundant. “If we are going to take students’ time out of the schools day to test, we need to make sure the tests are necessary and useful,” Schauer said.
 
Schauer said that schools will be thinking through questions such as: Are the assessments measuring what schools need to measure? Are they asking the same questions on two different tests, and if so, maybe some of those tests can be eliminated? And most importantly, are these tests being used in a way that benefits the students? Or are they just being done and filed?

“We want to make sure that a lot of thought and careful consideration is put into choosing which assessments students do,” Schauer said.

Baesler said a DPI survey last fall showed that school districts were administering a number of standardized tests beyond what is required by state and federal law.

North Dakota law has these testing requirements:
  1. Annual math and English assessments for students in grades three through eight, and in grade 11;
  2. Annual science assessments for students in grades four, eight and 11;
  3. All 11th graders must take the ACT college entrance exam; and
  4. Students in grades two through 10 must take a “formative” test each year. A formative test helps teachers identify areas where students may be struggling and need extra help.
“Our goal is to help schools secure as much useful information about a student’s academic performance with the least amount of testing time,” Baesler said.

Some additional information on the assessment inventory:

DPI memo on webinar: https://www.nd.gov/dpi/uploads/1417/Achievewebinarmemo.pdf

Description of Student Assessment Inventory: http://www.achieve.org/assessmentinventory
 
Dale E. Wetzel
Public Information Specialist
10th Floor
State Capitol
Office Phone: 701-328-2247
Cell Phone: 701-400-8557