PIERRE – State Department of Education officials are proceeding with a three-year plan to convert student achievement tests to an online format, using computers to replace paper and pencil.
Some colony schools where church elders prohibit technology would be allowed to continue with the paper forms, but someone other than a teacher would need to transfer answers to the online forms.
The detailed timeline for the conversion calls for various meetings, webinars and visits to schools during the next 16 months. The schedule calls for students statewide to take the spring 2014 round of assessments online.
That first also will mark a last. The Dakota STEP assessment will be used for the final time in spring 2014. Dakota STEP is the South Dakota-designed set of tests developed under the No Child Left Behind program.
South Dakota in 2015 will switch to the national Common Core assessment system, joining several dozens of other states. The change is part of moving away from the federally required NCLB system.
In using the online format, schools should get their 2014 results in May before classes end for the summer, rather than waiting until fall, the department’s testing specialist Gay Pickner, told the state Board of Education on Monday.
Pickner said the department’s staff is working with the testing company and the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications to help school districts prepare for the conversion to online assessments.
One challenge will be scheduling the assessments over a series of days in schools that don’t have more than one computer lab.
Allowing students to take the Dakota STEP online in 2014 will help prepare them for the more rigorous Common Core, said Abby Javurek-Hurnig. She is director for the state Division of Assessment and Accountability.
South Dakota should expect to see “some real drops” in student performance on Common Core, with scores 30 to 40 points lower on a scale of 100, Javurek-Hurnig told the board.
She said the scores likely will be approximately the same as on the National Assessment of Education Progress that is given on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education in some school districts.
“We’re holding our students to much higher standards (with Common Core). It’s different standards. It’s a different test,” Javurek-Hurnig said. “I think we really need to emphasize that’s okay.”
Significant declines are expected nationwide with the switch from state-designed assessments to the Common Core national model, state Education Secretary Melody Schopp said. “Every state is anticipating this drop,” Schopp said.
The state board’s president is Don Kirkegaard, the superintendent for the Meade School District. He said district is switching to a new math series because the old textbooks don’t work as well with the Common Core standards.
“It really ramps up the expectations,” Kirkegaard said.