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Test tests outlook for test-takers

Oak Harbor schools are adapting a new standardized testing system that can predict how well students will do on other tests.

The Oak Harbor school board on June 8 approved the STAR reading and math assessment, a computer-adaptive test program.

Unlike the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, which could take up to two hours, STAR is about 20 minutes in duration.

The test is taken online and answers are scored automatically by the software.

“Every time a question is answered right, the questions get harder so a sixth-grader could be answering 10th-grade questions,” Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said.

In turn, an incorrect answer will ratchet the questions down to make them easier. Each time the student takes the test online, the program will remember who they are and how they’ve previously answered.

The cost is about $10,000 annually after a $32,000 start-up fee. It will replace a long-answer, classroom assessment which was designed to align with the WASL, and cost about $16,000 a year.

The new test will better align with the Measurements of Student Progress and the High School Proficiency Exam, which are slated to replace the WASL next year.

Gibbon said reading and math assessment data for tests such as the WASL sometimes falls short, because it can take months to receive the results. The new software can also be used to evaluate transfer students.

“In a short time, we can get a ballpark of where they’re at while we wait for their records to arrive,” Gibbon said.

The STAR math assessment will be applied to students between grades one and nine, and the reading assessment will be given to grades six to 10. Gibbon said it can support remedial, advanced and grouped classes.

STAR also has predictive validity, meaning it can predict how students may do on other tests such as the SAT’s.

With its flat annual fee, the test can be taken repeatedly.

“You could do this test weekly if you wanted to,” Gibbon said.

Gibbon said the test is widely used, but is so concise that it has a wider range of error. Literacy programs are sometimes criticized for inconsistent results with the same student, causing students to mistakenly think their abilities in reading or math differ from their actual abilities.

However, in the long-term, the software is a good indicator of a program’s effectiveness, Gibbon said.

“It won’t give you deep data. It’s just a snapshot,” Gibbon said.

The test will track student data over time and compare it to other students nationwide. And depending on the test scores, it could lead school officials to advance certain students.

“We could use it to put a sixth-grader in a seventh-grade class,” Gibbon said.

The test will be put into effect this fall.

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