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Kelso schools in pilot program for new student testing system

Kelso schools in pilot program for new student testing system

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A new testing system that will help teachers quickly identify student needs and tailor instruction to help them succeed will be getting a tryout this spring in the Kelso School District.

The “Smarter Balanced Assessment” system won’t be adopted statewide until the 2014-15 school year, but Kelso principals unanimously chose to move forward with field testing the SBA this year in the elementary schools.

According to the Smarter Balanced website, the testing will show whether a student is on track to graduate from high school and be ready for college and the workplace. Teachers will be able to follow up with targeted instruction to meet a student’s needs.

Educators will be able to compare student achievement between schools, districts and states to ensure that students are making progress.

New technology will give results in weeks instead of months, according to the website.

Kelso students will take the test sometime in the spring.

“This is an opportunity to get a year ahead of the game,” said Don Iverson, the district’s director of data, assessment and federal programs. He said the advantages are “immense” for elementary staff and students, who will no longer have to divide their focus between the state standards and the so-called Common Core.

Because they’ll be doing the SBA, Kelso students aren’t taking the state Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) tests that are under way in other districts right now.

The SBA is designed to work with the Common Core State Standards, which outlines what students should learn in math and English. The standards have been adopted by 45 states, and all Washington school districts are transitioning to them.

Kelso has been basing its instruction on the Common Core for several years, but students have continued to take the state-required measurement of student progress, which is based on the old state standards, Iverson said last week.

The new testing model fits neatly into the district’s strategic plan, he said.

“We’re not adding anything new,” he said. “We’re just doing what we’ve been doing the last several years effectively. This is a no-brainer for staff. We’ve prepared well.”

The downside of field-testing is that there won’t be any student data this year from this particular assessment or from the MSP, Iverson said. However, the district will continue tracking student progress with the Measure of Academic Progress test (MAP) and districtwide classroom-based assessments.

“Parents can rest assured that they will still know their students’ academic levels of performance as they always have here in Kelso,” Iverson said.

Leslie Slape covers education for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2523 or


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