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Two W.Va. teachers, WVEA members talk standardized testing woes

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Two W.Va. teachers, WVEA members talk standardized testing woes
By Shauna Johnson, WV MetroNews

Standardized testing is beginning for students in West Virginia. This year, the online Smarter Balanced Assessment, based on Common Core standards, is being used in subjects of math and English language arts for grades 3-11.

Early on, Sarita Beckett, a 6th grade teacher at Independence Middle School in Raleigh County, said the reviews for the fully computerized testing are not good. Her students have been practicing with Smarter Balanced up to this point.

“My students have said, in every class period, ‘Ms. Beckett, could we please just do this on pencil and paper? It would be so much easier,'” Beckett said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Melanie Donofe’s students at Weirton Elementary School in Hancock County have voiced similar complaints during practice rounds, according to the 4th grade teacher.

“When I came in for the training, my mind was just blown apart by what they have to do – how they have to go in and highlight and strike through and move things,” Donofe said of what’s required of test takers.

“And 4th graders just aren’t that proficient at this point in time. Some of them may be, but most of them are not.”

Practice tests are available here.

Beckett said the system log-in process is cumbersome and there are all kinds of technical aspects that can and do go wrong.

“We are not trained technicians. There are not nearly the number of IT (information technology) people in the schools that we need in order to even deal with the issues. It’s a ‘put in a work order and wait’ for someone to come and help you,” Beckett explained.

Donofe said such computer problems are not unusual.

“I’m quite concerned with it, especially when the student is well into the test, logged in and working on it, and, all of the sudden, the computer shuts off on them,” she said Friday.

Earlier this month, members of the state Board of Education received a detailed report on Smarter Balanced testing from Dr. Michael Martirano, state superintendent, and other officials with the state Department of Education.

Board members were told there were enough computers with adequate technical support in West Virginia’s schools for the Smarter Balanced testing. The testing program is available across all devices, including tablets.

This is the first year the Smarter Balanced testing is being utilized in West Virginia’s schools.

Beginning next year, the results will be calculated into school and teacher evaluations. Schools will be graded, A-F, based on the testing outcomes.

Beckett is not a fan of such testing. “This is the most disturbing thing that I see going on in education today. I don’t know what we’re doing with our kids,” Beckett said. She favors testing at the beginnings and ends of school years to measure progress.

“If we were allowed to teach them as we see fit and as we the experts know they should be taught and tested, the education system would be so much a better place,” she said.