Most LAUSD students won’t have to take Smarter Balanced standardized tests
For the second year in a row, most Los Angeles Unified students — with the exception of 11th graders — won’t be taking the Smarter Balanced standardized test that’s usually mandated by the state each spring.
The decision reflects the district’s desire to maximize the remaining weeks of the school year on instructional time as students transition back to in-person learning, said Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, LAUSD’s chief academic officer.
“Our focus right now is getting students back into school for in-person instruction,” she said Friday, April 16. “The healing and the recovery starts when students get to see our teachers in person. So the focus is really on that … and that we maximize the rest of the instructional time that we have left.”
The nation’s second-largest school district only began welcoming students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms this week after more than a year of shuttered campuses. The first 72 elementary schools and early education centers reopened this week, with another 508 elementary and early education facilities opening next week, followed by 262 middle and high schools the week after.
The state Department of Education recently issued testing flexibility guidance to school districts in recognition of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Under normal circumstances, students in California would take the Smarter Balanced assessment in English language arts and math. But since not all students are back in classrooms yet, the state said that if statewide assessments aren’t a viable option this year, districts can choose to administer another assessment instead.
The U.S. Department of Education also recently granted the state of California a testing accountability waiver in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Given the flexibilities, LAUSD officials have decided that elementary students in grades three through five will take the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) assessment for English language arts and the Edulastic assessment for mathematics. Students in grades six through eight will take the STAR reading and math assessments.
High school juniors will continue to take Smarter Balanced, however, for college admissions purposes, the district said.
All three assessments that elementary and middle school students will take in lieu of Smarter Balanced are diagnostic tests that provide immediate feedback to teachers about how their students are faring and take less time to administer than Smarter Balanced, which usually takes up more than two days’ worth of instructional time, and the results aren’t available for months, Yoshimoto-Towery said.
Moreover, the district was already planning to administer the diagnostic assessments, which it typically does three times a year, Yoshimoto-Towery said.
“We get results immediately,” she said. “Teachers can tie it to what they’ve taught this year. They can also use it to group their students for instruction.”
The president of the teachers union — which for months had been calling for the cancellation of the Smarter Balanced assessments — called the decision a win for students.
“A healthy and healing return does not involve students taking stressful high-stakes tests that are of little use in this unique year of education,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said during her Friday update. “We know standardized tests are harmful and wasteful in the best of circumstances. So it was essential that the physical reopening of schools not be compromised by asking students to take the (Smarter Balanced assessment).”