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West Virginia Leads the Nation in Developing a Common Assessment System

September 08, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) will receive millions of dollars to develop the first ever common assessment system. West Virginia was a founding member of the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Since its inception, 31 states have joined the SBAC. The U.S. Department of Education announced the SBAC was awarded a four-year $160 million Race to the Top assessment grant to develop a student assessment system aligned to a common core of academic standards.

“The practice of standardized testing is not sufficient to assess the skills our kids need to succeed in the global world,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Steve Paine. “Receiving this federal grant will allow the 31 states who have agreed to work together to build an innovative system that will accurately measure how students are progressing over the years and ensure that they have the skills and knowledge they need so they are career and college ready when they graduate.”

The development of new assessments will align with the Common Core State Standards. The Common Core State Standards is an initiative led by the CCSSO and the National Governors Association to create a consistent and clear set of learning standards for K-12 in English language arts and mathematics. Earlier this year, the West Virginia Board of Education voted to embed the Common Core Standards into the state’s current Content Standards and Objectives.

“I appreciate the hard work that the West Virginia Department of Education has put into developing this national assessment consortium,” Gov. Joe Manchin said. “We continue to look for better ways to evaluate student learning, achieve long-term cost savings and increase collaboration between states. This grant funding will help us move toward those goals.”

West Virginia will serve as one of the governing states on the SBAC and will begin its work by conducting an assessment framework study. The group will analyze the common core standards at each grade level to determine what skills can be tested. The bulk of the test development work will be conducted in spring 2011.

“The Race to the Top Assessment program provides an unprecedented opportunity to address the concerns of teachers, administrators, parent, and policymakers regarding the limitations of the tests currently in use,” Paine said. “This next generation of assessments will provide more valid information about what students know and can do. The data these assessments produce will support a culture of continuous improvement in education by providing information that can be used meaningfully and in a timely way to inform students and their families about how they are doing, to guide instruction, to improve programs, and to identify professional development and support needs.”

SBAC will create state-of-the-art adaptive online exams, using open source technology. The online system will provide accurate assessment information to teachers and others on the progress of all students, including those with disabilities, English language learners and low- and high-performing students.

Throughout the year, students will have the option to take formative exams, which provide guidance to teachers about instructional milestones. These formative tests and multiple opportunities to take what are traditionally year-end summative exams will move the testing process away from the traditional one-size-fits-all state exams. The goal is for students who score well on specific learning standards earlier in the school year not to be tested on those standards later on an end-of-the-year test because they have already demonstrated proficiency.

For more information about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium or the Common Core State Standards, contact the WVDE Communications Office at 304-558-2699.

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