Friday, July 10, 2020
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Neb. trying to tie state tests to classroom practice

Nebraska already uses the ACT college entrance exam as its statewide accountability test. Now Matthew Blomstedt, the state’s education commissioner, is trying to make things even better for teachers and students in the state, according to an article in the Hechinger Report.

The Archway Monument at Kearney, Neb., across I-80 (Voxitatis)

“We want to ensure we have a truly student-centered education system in Nebraska,” the organization quoted him as saying. “Otherwise assessment seems to be disjointed from what happens in the classroom.”

The ACT works for high school, while giving students a sense of the need for college preparedness, but the work is going on even in the lower grades.

More than 200 of Nebraska’s 240 school districts use the MAP test from NWEA in addition to state tests, and Chris Minnich, who’s the CEO of NWEA and former executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, sees Nebraska’s movement in assessment in a mostly hopeful light.

He says he hopes the state can tie its state assessment needs with district assessment priorities, connecting two systems that have been separate and competing for many years now. Instances of over-testing stem from the multiple assessment systems that schools juggle.

One important consideration in making tests more useful to students and teachers is the speedy return of test results. If end-of-year test results aren’t delivered to schools and parents until the fall, what’s the point?

“Nowhere else in life do you wait three months for data,” Mr Minnich was quoted as saying. “In our environment right now, three to four months is just not going to be acceptable.”

This is especially true with technological advances in the large-scale assessment world. Data has to be checked, of course, before it can be officially released, but technology has truly made it possible to return results sooner than three months after students take the tests.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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