Schools superintendent Tom Luna offers break on testing

Districts could skip Common Core exams for freshmen and sophomores, but only once.

broberts@idahostatesman.comJanuary 16, 2014 

State Superintendent Tom Luna offered the option Wednesday in response to complaints last month by several Treasure Valley school superintendents about the exam.

Twenty-three states that are moving to carry out Common Core knowledge standards got together and formed the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to create the test. It will test students’ mastery of language arts and math.

Common Core is a set of standards for what students should learn before graduating. The standards have been adopted by most states. Luna is moving to meet the standards through the Idaho Core Standards.

This spring’s tests are designed to be pilot exams to test the validity of questions. No scores will be handed out to schools or parents.

Ninth- and 10th-graders still would be required to take the exams in 2015, when scores will be used to hold schools and students accountable for academic performance.

After that, exempting freshmen and sophomores in a district one year would reduce the number of students taking exams by 25 percent, Luna said.

Local superintendents have complained that the state increased the number of high school grades that take the exam from one under the Idaho Standards Achievement Test to three. The ISATs were administered to students in grades 3 through 8 and 10. The Smarter Balanced tests would be given in grades 3 through 11.

The superintendents also are concerned about the exam’s length. The tests could take up to 8.5 hours.

The Smarter Balanced tests add to what superintendents say is an already long list of exams that students take, particularly in their junior years, when many students are taking advanced-placement exams, some of which are four hours long, and a state-required college entrance exam, usually the SAT.

The tests also put pressure on schools’ limited technology resources for administering the computerized tests and take away from instruction, the superintendents say.

Luna’s offer still needs to be approved by the State Board of Education, which decided what grades would take the exam in rules it wrote covering statewide tests in 2010.

Don Coberly, superintendent of the Boise School District, said Luna’s offer doesn’t solve the other problems.

“I don’t think the discussion is over,” he said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

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