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Tea Area schools test at progressing level

Tea Area students tested well in their first year using the Smarter Balance Assessment during the 2014-15 school year.

Students in grades 3-8 and 11 used the Smarter Balance Assessment to test their knowledge in English Language Arts and math. Students in grades 5, 8 and 11 also took the Dakota Step Science Assessment. The results were sent home to parents earlier this month.

Tonia Warzecha, Tea Area director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said the Smarter Balance test was different than the Dakota Step test that the school has done in recent years and the standardized tests from years ago. Smarter Balance is done on the computer and is untimed to answer about 40 questions in both math and ELA.

With Smarter Balance, the questions are computer adaptive so if they get the first question right it asks a harder question from a bank of questions and difficulty keeps going up as they get them right. If they get a question wrong, then they get an easier question from a different bank of questions.

“The idea of Smarter Balance is that every child is finding it at their threshold of ability because it’s continually adapting to their ability,” Warzecha said. “However, the ones who keep answering correctly and getting harder, they don’t have more work to do. It’s not a penalty for getting questions right. It’s just going deeper and more difficult, but they’re getting the same number of questions.”

Students were ranked in four levels of proficiency and parents received a printout of their scores for math and ELA. They range from below basic to basic to proficient to advanced. Proficient and advanced are levels three and four.

Warzecha said across the district students performed in the proficient and advanced were 49.87 percent and math was 29.22 percent. The Tea Area district performed slightly better than the state’s score of 49.48 percent in ELA. The district was below the state in math.

She said the test has a standard error of measurement of plus or minus 10. So, students who were basic could be proficient if they took the test again. Warzecha said many students were on that bubble between basic and proficient.

On the district’s report card, all of the buildings were progressing. Seventy percent of the schools in the state are in the progressing level. Status schools are one step above progressing and exemplary is two steps above. Focus and priority schools are below progressing.

Warzecha said feedback from the test has been positive. She reminds parents that with any standardized test, it is a snapshot of how they did that day.

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