District explains new standardized test

GREEN BAY – An area school district explained new standardized tests to local officials and the media Friday.

Many public school students in Wisconsin will begin taking the new tests a year from now, but not everyone likes the idea of having local students measured by nationally created standards and tests.

The state has adopted a new set of standards in English and Math known as the Common Core. Educators say the new benchmarks are more rigorous, so they needed a new test to assess students’ performance.

The Green Bay schools explained the changes at a meeting Friday.

The new test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Students in third through eighth grade will take the tests for English and Math.

For those subjects, it replaces tests known as the WKCE.

“The WKCE was a pencil and paper test. The Smarter Balanced will be a test that takes place on a computer,” said Stephen Miller, the director of assessments for the district.

School officials say computer skills are critical to success on the new tests.

“We start exposure to technology early, so that means at 2nd grade, 1st grade, students are in the computer labs,” said Diane Doersch, the district’s chief information and technology officer.

Doersch says students who don’t have computers at home may be able to borrow one ahead of the test, to help get comfortable with the technology.

The new tests were developed by a national organization, which is one reason why Common Core opponents also are against the changes.

“This is politicizing our curriculum, it’s politicizing the educational system and it’s pushing parents out of the local control of schools,” said Karen Schroeder, the president of Advocates for Academic Freedom.

Schroder, a former Wisconsin teacher, sees some benefit to technology.

“We know that it has some real assets for the testing component in the educational process. That’s not our greatest concern,” she said.

So as students put down their pencils and turn to computers to take their tests, does this mean they’ll perform better? FOX 11 asked Miller for his view.

“That’s our hope. As I said, we’ve been gearing up for this for a year and a half already,” he said.

School officials say another major difference with the new test is that there will be multiple types of questions.

The district says in the coming year, it will hold parent meetings to explain more about the new tests.

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