CST results back in a jiffy

Next year, school districts will receive the students’ results on state standardized tests in two weeks, not two months – or longer.

Gov. Jerry Brown had called for the quicker turnaround in his State of the State address, and on Wednesday, the State Board of Education approved amendments to the contract with the test administrator, Educational Testing Service, to make that possible.

By getting scores back during the school year, instead of during the summer, districts will be better able to make decisions on summer school attendance and placement for courses in the fall. Teachers will be able to identify gaps in student knowledge and, with time left, address them, suggested Susan Swann, executive director of ETS’s K-12 Assessments in California.

Test results have been delayed until now because of the methodology ETS used in evaluating new questions that it introduced in the tests. For 2013, ETS will substitute tests from previous years instead of including new questions, which won’t require a lengthy post-exam vetting process. Another method is to accumulate a big bank of  previously vetted test questions, which the SMARTER Balanced state consortium preparing the assessment for Common Core standards will use.

What happens after 2013 is up in the air. ETS’s contract runs out next year, creating at least a one-year gap before states are scheduled to begin offering the new Common Core assessments. ETS will likely get its contract extended.

State Board President Michael Kirst and Executive Director Sue Burr negotiated the contract changes. Among them, ETS will resume two actions designed to bolster the security of the state’s standardized tests that had been suspended a few years ago to save money. ETS will do 135 random security audits to see if districts are complying with protocols in administering the tests. It will also do an electronic analysis of test results to identify instances where batches of answers  to questions have been  altered. The state could then follow up with an inquiry.

Investigations into allegations of widespread cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., have heightened the need for more vigilance. The suspension of monitoring by ETS had created the possibility that cheating could go undetected.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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