Schools Try Out New Test to Gauge Learning

September 21, 2008

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Schoolchildren across West Virginia this week will put their No. 2 pencils and their thinking skills to the test as officials test their knowledge on a new state assessment.

The West Virginia Education Standards Test 2 Field Test (WESTEST 2 Field Test) will be administered Monday through Friday in at least one school in all 55 counties. West Virginia educators, including 250 teachers, as well as other state stakeholders have been involved in the development of WESTEST 2, which will replace the original WESTEST given this past spring to third-through eighth-graders and to all high school sophomores

"West Virginia is committed to closing the gap between the knowledge and skills students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for the 21st century workplace," said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. "WESTEST 2 will help us better target problem areas to focus on learning. The field test is an important step as we incorporate 21st century rigor, content and context into the classroom."

The new test is aligned with West Virginia 21st Century Content Standards and Objectives (CSOs) in the areas of mathematics, reading/language arts, science and social studies. The assessment is a step in the development process enabling the West Virginia Department of Education to analyze student performance prior to implementing the WESTEST 2 next year.

The test has been revamped in conjunction with changing content standards, which reflect the kind of coursework teachers are expected to teach and what students are supposed to learn in various programs. The changes emphasize 21st Century Learning, such as problem solving and critical thinking skills.  The final selection of test items to be used in developing the operational form of WESTEST 2 will depend upon student responses to the field test

The new WESTEST 2 will include authentic language relative to the students' grade-level interests; graphic organizers to assist students in their thinking processes; and levels of rigor that will promote students' capacity to become globally competitive upon graduation from a West Virginia high school.

Paine said the decision to change both the standards and the WESTEST came after officials recognized West Virginia students are not as well prepared  to compete in a global economy as they should be.

"Workers today need to be very creative and innovative," Paine said. "We can remain competitive only if we can teach our kids, our prospective employees, how to think critically and solve problems in real world settings."

WESTEST 2 will serve as the state's accountability measure for whether or not schools are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Unlike some nationally normed tests, WESTEST 2 will compare a student's performance to academic standards rather than to the performance of a national sample population of students.

The changes to the WESTEST also will bring West Virginia in better alignment with the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP), as well as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

To help promote the WESTEST 2 Field Test and the new WESTEST 2 assessment,  the WVDE is conducting a student logo contest. The student with the first-place winning logo will have the honor of seeing the logo placed on   the WESTEST 2 test booklets and all testing materials. Prizes for the winning logo entries will be awarded by the state superintendent. Counties will be encouraged to recognize their local logo winners. Additional logo contest details and entry guidelines will be released within the next few weeks.

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.


Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.