Elementary and middle schools to begin online testing in 2019-2020

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Beginning Feb. 24 and continuing through March 6, the Kentucky Department of Education will conduct field tests that will assess the current, newly adopted content area standards.
Beginning Feb. 24 and continuing through March 6, the Kentucky Department of Education will conduct field tests that will assess the current, newly adopted content area standards. Grades 3-8 and grade 10 will test in both reading and mathematics. Grades 5, 8 and 11 will be field tested in editing and mechanics, and on-demand writing.
File photo by Bobby Ellis, Oct. 9, 2017
  • While predicting the future is impossible, KDE does have a grasp on what to expect when elementary and middle schools join the online state assessment world because of the experience gained through the high school transition.
  • Also introduced with the field tests will be the Quality of School Climate and Safety (QSCS) survey. 

By Jacob Perkins
Jacob.perkins@education.ky.gov

Take a deep breath and stay focused.

That’s the biggest piece of advice that Pulaski County Chief Academic Officer Teresa Nicholas can give to the schools that will begin online testing later this school year.

High schools began administering the state K-PREP assessments online, as opposed to the traditional paper tests, during the 2018-2019 school year. Elementary and middle schools are joining them this spring.

Beginning Feb. 24 and continuing through March 6, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will conduct field tests that will assess the current, newly adopted content area standards. Grades 3-8 and grade 10 will test in both reading and mathematics. Grades 5, 8 and 11 will be field tested in editing and mechanics, and on-demand writing.

“The primary purposes of a field test are to examine the quality of test questions, give students an opportunity to engage with the test items, observe the administration of the test and evaluate training materials and administration procedures, gauge technology performance and preparedness and get a general sense of what we can anticipate when the assessments become operational,” said Jennifer Stafford, director in KDE’s Division of Assessment and Accountability Support. “With students taking a subset of items, field tests are shorter than operational assessments and provide an opportunity for schools, districts and the state to learn about the technology and administration before the tests are used in accountability.”

The field test items will be part of the operational assessments in spring 2021.

While predicting the future is impossible, KDE does have a grasp on what to expect when elementary and middle schools begin online testing because of the experience gained through the high school transition.

“With a few minor exceptions, high school online testing was very successful,” Stafford said. “A few schools experienced internet outages beyond their control and limited access to the online dictionary and thesaurus. Once those issues were resolved, online testing was smooth.”

One of the districts that had a few concerns before the switch was Pulaski County. However, once the process began, the transition was relatively seamless.

Teresa Nicholas
Teresa Nicholas

“Pulaski County had a good experience switching from paper to online testing,” Nicholas said. “We had concerns regarding the logistics; how to schedule all students to take required tests with the amount of equipment we had available with as little disruption as possible to regular classroom instruction.

“As expected with a new platform and new procedures, school personnel were somewhat nervous but anxious to see how things would go. The district ensured that technicians were available at each testing location for the first test session. The technicians were not required, but just having the technical person available seemed to alleviate much of the anxiety.”

At the Oct. 24 Principal Advisory Council meeting held at KDE headquarters in Frankfort, a few elementary school principals raised concerns about the fact that their school did not have 1:1 technology – one Chromebook to one student.

“Not all assessments have to be administered at the same time,” Stafford said. “There are multiple days in the testing window. Much flexibility is offered in scheduling. Schools may schedule test sessions over multiple class periods or multiple days.”

Stafford did note that individual students must take each exam in one continuous test session.

Also introduced with the field tests will be the Quality of School Climate and Safety survey for students, which is a new accountability measure required as a result of KRS 158.6455. The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete and will be included in 2019-2020 accountability.

“The data generated by the survey can provide valuable information to educational and community leaders,” Stafford said. “Using this additional piece of data can offer direction for school improvement efforts and may lead to higher academic achievement.”

The field test will be administered online via the TestNav application. Students will log into TestNav to respond to multiple choice and constructed response questions. The reading, mathematics and editing and mechanics field tests should take no longer than 60 minutes, while the writing on-demand may take up to 90 minutes.

While these are timed sections, students will not be logged off of the field test if they have not completed the test in the allotted time. KDE guidance has been that if students are working diligently, allow them to work beyond the stated time limits.

A concern from districts throughout the Commonwealth has been the reliability of the internet after a widespread internet outage impacted KDE offices in Frankfort and all of Kentucky’s 172 school districts on Nov. 20. Although this occurrence is extremely rare, Stafford does recommend proctor caching for all districts.

“Proctor caching provides a safety net for schools in situations such as an internet outage,” she said. “Students can complete testing even if the internet connection fails. Additionally, the TestNav application allows for resuming of testing if sessions are paused.”

Kentucky’s larger districts are required to proctor cache before administering online tests.

Many accommodations that have been typically provided with paper testing also will be available during online testing, such as paraphrasing/simplified language, bilingual/English dictionary, reader, scribe, extended time and more.

Practice tests and tutorials will be available for all grade bands. Tutorials give students an opportunity to learn the TestNav system. The practice tests provide examples of the types of questions on the field test. Both Stafford and Nicholas recommend that districts utilize these resources to familiarize students with the system.

Nicholas said that communication and practice are key when entering the online testing world.

“Make sure that you provide parents, students, teachers and district support staff all necessary information well in advance of the testing window,” she said. “The more information that can be shared, the fear factor is eliminated creating a positive experience for all.

“Participate in the webinars for management, but also utilize the practice test environment so both teachers and students are familiar with the platform and know what to expect on the actual test date.”

 

MORE INFO …

Division of Assessment and Accountability Support dacinfo@education.ky.gov
Teresa Nicholas teresa.nicholas@pulaski.kyschools.us
Webinar: “K-PREP Online Testing Training with Pearson” 
Webinar: “Online Assessments and Accommodations Training” (PowerPoint)
TestNav training (PowerPoint, video and tutorial)
Additional TestNav Information for Test Proctors

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