March 14, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 47

New Smarter Balanced Assessments will provide quicker feedback

As technology improves, school tests improve as well.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment will be the new test for Medical Lake School District beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Currently, the district administers the Measurements of Student Progress in grades three through eight and the High School Proficiency Exam for 10th-graders. End of course assessments are also given to juniors as their final high school test.

Director of Teaching and Learning, Dan Mueller, said the Smarter Balanced test is computer adaptive, which means the test adapts to students’ success or failures as they move through questions. As a result, a more complete view of the student’s knowledge can be gained. Students will receive immediate feedback to inform them of any areas that may require practice.

“It gives us the ability to look at each individual student, compared to standards,” Mueller said.

Since the test is taken on a computer, it allows for a faster return time to the student.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment also aligns with the district’s move to the Common Core State Standards, adopted by most states.

Although most of the test will be adaptive, the essay portion of the exam won’t be. During that portion, students will receive a prompt from their teacher and then go into a lab to write out their essay.

Prior to the current Measurements of Student Progress test was the infamous Washington Assessment of Student Learning, which ended in 2010. The WASL was known for being one of the more difficult tests in the country. As a result, students already have experience answering some tougher questions, which should make this transition easier.

“Washington tests have been pretty rigorous already,” Mueller said.

Some of the shortfalls of the WASL included not being able to see some learning difficulties. With the Smarter Balanced test, results can pinpoint certain learning areas in which students may be struggling, even if they aren’t meeting standards.

James Eik can be reached at

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