State Board of Education considers replacing Smarter Balanced tests

By Alex Thomas
CHARLESTON, W.Va.- The West Virginia Board of Education is considering a plan that would replace Smarter Balanced assessments for high school students with end-of-course exams that would be connected to a student’s final grade.

The board is taking public comments for 30 days on the proposal, which would require new end-of-course exams for certain high school courses, including English and math.

Smarter Balanced assessments are not hooked to final grades or college readiness assessments. Statistics from the last two years have shown students have been rushing through the exam.

State superintendent of schools Michael Martirano said these findings are disappointing.

“I don’t know whether it’s based on the ability of our students, or they just did not take the exam serious,” Martirano said. “That is very disheartening for us.”

Martirano said new assessments are needed to better gauge student progress as well as areas where schools need to improve.

“We would look at it as other ways to provide direct feedback to our teachers so that we can immediate improvement in terms of their abilities, and truly understand the abilities of our children,” Martirano said.

Martirano said states have been given the flexibility to alter education standards and assessments as a result of Congress passing the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015. The act replaced the No Child Left Behind Act.

Martirano said because of this new given power, he is looking into changing how high school student’s progress is measured, as well as how to change language and math assessments for grades 3 through 8.

“I’m about taking full advantage of the federal flexibility that allows us to customize our own set of assessments to a high level of standards,” Martirano said.

Martirano said teachers have asked for better assessments that measure progress without necessarily extra end-of-year tests.

“Let’s use that final exam, beef that up with the level of consistency in our state from every school in that state, so we have those results to compare from county to county,” Martirano said.

In a press release, the board said the standards would also align to the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards. It also said the exams would be fully implemented by the 2018-19 school year.