Common Core is slowly being phased into Idaho schools. The next step is switching standarized tests. Beginning this April Idaho students will be doing a field test of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment, or SBAC.
For more than a decade students have taken the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, a multiple choice exam taken on a computer. The SBAC will still be taken on computers, but it's not just multiple choice.
"We'll see some questions on the test that ask students to choose three or four right answers so there might be more than one. That will be a little bit different logistically for students," said Todd Brown, curriculum coordinator for Idaho Falls School District 91.
Part of Common Core is demonstrating deeper understanding. That is something students will have to do on the new test.
"He would go in, he would be given a problem, he would answer the problem, then he would have to write that sequence of how he solved that problem. That is different than they have ever had to do, usually it's just a multiple choice," said Michaelena Hix, director of curriculum for Bonneville School District 93.
The SBAC could take up to six or seven hours. However, the point is to determine if the student is performing at grade level, so for some students it might not take that long.
"The test will be what they call computer adaptive. So if the student answers multiple questions in a row and gets them correct, the test will actually adjust. Then the child will not have to take any more questions," said Hix.
The test can also be paused or broken up over several days. One aspect is even designed that way.
"There will be performance tasks, which are administered separately from the computer portion of the test that will take one to two days. They are designed to put students in real, authentic situations and see if they can take all the things they have learned, can they synthesize it and express it," said Brown.
Some say this test is more difficult than the ISATs and will result in lower scores. It may take a few years to see improvement. However, it's important to note that this semester is strictly a test of the test and there will not be scores.
Once the exam is evaluated, scores will be generated next year. Since students will not be getting scores for SBAC nor taking the ISATs, the state is rolling over current school star ratings from this year into next.