GREAT FALLS — It's the beginning of a new school year, and it’s a little early for tests after just the first week, but some tests in fifth and seventh grades might look a little different this year.
Teachers had the chance to volunteer to be part of a new pilot program for groups that will, in essence, give students smaller and more frequent tests. The state is working with New Meridian based in Texas, to test a new method of testing.
“We have a whole bunch of things that need to be finished, but we're excited about this pilot,” GFPS student services coordinator Carol Paul said. “Great Falls Public Schools has submitted a request to participate so that we can know what's coming and help our teachers and students be prepared.”
Paul served on the board that helped write the test questions and met over the summer to figure out how to deliver the pilot program successfully in its first year. The board was made up of officials from school districts across Montana met over the spring and summer to develop test questions for math and reading.
The idea is to eliminate big, stressful tests in order to benefit students and teachers.
“It has the potential to be powerful information for teachers. So, okay, we did this chunk of learning - we're going to take this assessment and then the teachers get the information back right away. And then we say, oh, we need to reteach this part.”
The Office of Public Instruction recently announced the pilot program. It's yet to be announced which classrooms will use it, and there will be a handful of classes doing it. So not every fifth and seventh grade class will be transitioning this year.
“We do the pilot project first and then it will have to go through peer review, which is that equivalence of does this test follow through with what the federal law of every student succeed. That you must have a summative test,” OPI superintendent Elsie Arntzen said.
The classes that do participate in the program will do the new testing system as well as the old one. The usual tests will be there on top of the smaller “testlets” to compare the two.
The goal is to have grades 4 and 6 use it next year, then 3 through 8 by 2025.