Spokane students now taking standardized tests for the first time in two years

SPOKANE, Wash. – Students in eastern Washington are putting their knowledge to the test.

They’re taking state tests this week and in the coming weeks for the first time in two years.

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said it requested a waiver last spring to not do testing due to the pandemic. This year, though, they were able to get a delay.

State tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessments and the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS) are normally done in the spring. However, because of the pandemic, they got pushed to this fall.

In addition to delaying it, those standardized tests will be shorter compared to the test in the spring.

As students get tested this fall, the material on the tests will be from the previous school year. For example: If a student is in fifth grade this year, the state test they’re taking this fall will have the material they should’ve learned in fourth grade.

“It’s considered to be a look at the school year from last year,” said Deb Came Ph.D., the assistant superintendent for assessment and student information with OSPI.

Standardized tests give school districts and the state a look at where students are at in learning.

One study of more than a million elementary students across 40 states showed students are five months behind in math and four months behind in reading due to the pandemic.

However, some education scholars suggest that people should not “obsess over learning loss.”

Came says they will be careful in how they look at scores from this test.

“It’s a bit difficult to compare these tests to prior years just because it’s such different circumstances. The test is shorter and it’s after the summer. It’s a little bit different,” she said.

Scott Kerwien, the executive director of student success with Spokane Public Schools, says parents and students shouldn’t stress about the state assessments.

“It’s just kind of a ruler. It’s not possibly defining everything you’re capable of as a student academically,” Kerwien said.

Kerwien says state tests are a “snapshot” of how students are learning. The district also uses programs called Lexia and DreamBox Learning to see how students are doing throughout the school year.

In addition to the shorter tests being administered this fall, schools can choose when those tests will be taken.

OSPI says schools can choose to do it between now and November. This is done to help give some school flexibility, as it knows other things are going on in classrooms.

“I appreciate OSPI’s focus on reducing the parameters of the test in the fall window. There’s a lot of stress and anxiety of everyone involved, so I appreciate that they tried to get that off our plates and reduce it in the current state of the fall window,” Kerwien said.

Some schools in SPS started standardized testing this week, but others can choose to do so sometime later. Kerwien says communication has been sent out to families about the tests.

If students are about to take a test soon, Kerwien says to help kids get ready for them, he says they should have a good night’s sleep beforehand, eat good, healthy food and practice stress relievers like breathing and calming exercises.

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