North Carolina's State Board of Education has never backed down from the challenge of measuring student proficiency, and the state willingly raised its academic standards when it adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010 to work in conjunction with its own set of rigorous benchmarks.
In developing standardized assessments with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, North Carolina became proactive in evaluating the academic progress of its K-12 public school students so that instruction could be adjusted and accountability maintained. The result is a suite of assessments known as the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests, and these tests are like nothing North Carolina has seen before.
We can examine—or perhaps re-examine—how the state chooses to assess its students with the following five facts pertaining to the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests.
1. Complex test development process.
With 22 steps across five phases, the process of developing North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests was neither quick nor simple. Educator input, field testing, and multiple reviews were all integrated into the process so as to ensure the best possible assessments for the state's K-12 students.
2. Student rankings with five achievement levels.
Oftentimes new tests come with new ranking levels for test takers, and North Carolina's assessment process definitely fits into that mold.
More specificly, the state's assessments will place students into one of five categories for each tested competency: superior command, solid command, sufficient command, partial command, or limited command of knowledge and skills. Interestingly, level three (sufficient command) indicates that students are "prepared for the next grade but do not meet the college-and-career readiness standard."
3. Minimum passing scores have been lowered.
While North Carolina's standardized assessments have undoubtedly become more rigorous over the years, in 2014 the State Board of Education actually cut the students some slack.
Changes in minimum passing scores made it somewhat easier for test takers to achieve "proficient" levels. Factors in this decision included student retention rates and concerns about students receiving the interventions they need.
4. Movement toward computer-based assessments.
Although there is no firm date for a transition from traditional to digitized statewide testing, it does appear that North Carolina public schools are committed to online delivery for the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests. This shift is practically inevitable, as more and more state education departments acknowledge the benefits of computerized assessments.
If this change does come, an important part of the new computer-based assessments will be new computer-based, or technology enhanced, item types which are currently in use on PARCC, SBAC, and other state exams across the US. These new items avoid multiple choice by using fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, drawing graphs on the computer screen with a mouse, and other approaches.
Check out LearnBop’s new Technology Enhanced Items (TEI) to see what new computer-based item types will look like. Teachers can use these new items right now for free!
5. Testing reductions and opt-outs under debate.
The size and scope of the North Carolina End-of-Grade Tests has been a topic of contention in recent years. As educators consider whether the testing is excessive and parents weigh the pros and cons of opting their kids out of the tests, the state of North Carolina finds itself immersed in the broader nationwide debate over how much testing is too much.
We hope this list was informative, and that you learned something you didn't know before. We'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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About the Author
David Moadel is in his third decade working in education. He has taught, mentored, and inspired students from elementary age through adult. David has earned his master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education, and is currently a certified teacher in Florida. David enjoys teaching, writing, and utilizing technology tools to communicate with people with diverse viewpoints across the globe.