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San Diego County Students Begin Field Testing Common Core Standards

Aired 4/1/14 on KPBS News.

Students are no longer filling in multiple-choice bubble circles. Instead, they're typing their answers in essay form on a keyboard and using a computer mouse to click and drag, create graphs, match, and fill in boxes.

For the next 12 weeks, San Diego County students in grades 3 through 8 and high school juniors will begin taking Common Core field tests.

The online Smarter Balanced standardized math and English exams, which will soon replace the state’s former standardized tests, encourage students to demonstrate a deeper level of critical thinking through problem-solving and explaining how they found their answers -- all goals of the Common Core State Standards.

Students are no longer filling in multiple-choice bubble circles. Instead, they're typing their answers in essay form on a keyboard and using a computer mouse to click and drag, create graphs, match, and fill in boxes.

But their scores won’t count this year. Instead, the results will be used to help education officials evaluate the technology and quality of test questions for next year.

“They don’t want to generate a student’s score when it might turn out that some of the items were not actually valid items or their data isn’t reliable because of an issue around the way the question was worded or the way the technology worked, said Sally Bennett-Schmidt, assessment director for the San Diego County Office of Education.

Preparations for the tests have been a big task, Bennett-Schmidt said. Teachers had to be trained on how to administer the exam and students were taught how to navigate through the test.

Bennett-Schmidt said school districts have had to come up with creative solutions for attaining enough bandwidth and computers for the online tests.

“Some of those [computers] were purchased, some of those might even be rented or leased or borrowed, where they can have a class set of let’s say 30 computers that can roll from class to class,” Bennett-Schmidt said.

Controversy over the implementation of Common Core has increased in recent weeks. Some school districts in San Diego County have experienced concerns among their parent populations about data privacy issues and overall Common Core standards.

Bennett-Schmidt said several school districts, including Valley Center and Poway have held community meetings to help build understanding.

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