State assessments - what's behind the acronyms

College & Career Readiness, Parent & Family Engagement | 04/13/2018

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Manager, Stand for Children Washington

Stand believes every kid should graduate from high school career or college ready. But today, Washington State is ranked 40th in the country when it comes to high school graduation. We want to continue to raise awareness about the programs in place that are helping students and families so that every kid makes it to the finish line of their high school education ready for their next educational or career training step.  

Things to know. This month, students across Washington are beginning to take their end-of-year state assessments. For students in grades 3-8 and 10, they’ll be taking the Smarter Balanced assessments (SBA) in English language arts and math. Students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will also take the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science (WCAS).  

The SBA and WCAS aren't just acronyms. They are useful tools that students and their families can use to create a plan for college and career after high school. (For guidance on how to interpret assessment results and make a plan, families can check out Ready Washington's latest blog post for helpful resources.)  

School administrators also use these assessments to evaluate academic progress year-to-year, identify students who need support, and flag students who qualify for advanced educational opportunities. The data of the SBA and WCAS are one piece of the puzzle that schools are putting together to better understand the whole picture for every student.  

In one school, a high score on the English language arts assessment combined with a high grade in a sophomore English class might automatically place a student in an AP Literature class that they didn't know they were qualified for. In another school, a lower score on the 8th grade WCAS for a student with a string of behavioral issues might flag them for additional counseling resources and get them signed up for an after-school tutoring group during their first year of high school. 

Simply put, the data from these assessments are a vital tool for educators to ensure that Washington's children are receiving the help they need and the room to grow.  

Modern tools for a modern education. Today’s classroom does not exist in a vacuum. While most adults have seen firsthand the impact of technology on our work and home lives, it’s easy to believe that going to school looks the same way it always has.   

Fortunately, that’s generally not the case.  

Our world is changing fast. Students who are graduating this year likely had a different experience in elementary school than today’s 2nd graders. It’s not just tablets and computers in classrooms. There is a significant difference is in how student “data” is processed. That data includes things like assessment results, attendance records, behavior history, and grades.   

While all those different data points might have once existed in a paper file somewhere, new software tools enable real-time data entry, cross-team collaboration, and deep analysis of student performance while in school. 

Data informs action. One of the many conversations happening in the education world is about how we can best utilize our existing resources to make sure every student is receiving the right opportunities at the right time. Especially in Washington, where the McCleary State Supreme Court case has had lawmakers talking about school funding for almost seven years, efficiently using existing school resources is critical.  

Whatever the most effective formula turns out to be, assessment data are an important tool to help guide students, families, and educators down the right path for each child's success. Stand for Children is proud to work with school districts across the state and help each community find the right combination of data, technology, and collaboration to make sure that every student has an opportunity to succeed.  

If you'd like to support Stand for Children's work with Washington school districts, you can become a sustaining donor in just a few clicks

    

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