Monday, April 7, 2014


On March 25, schools across Idaho began administering the new Smarter Balanced Field Test to students in grades 3-8 and 11. To date, we have heard overwhelmingly positive comments from schools across the state. (Learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or why Idaho is conducting a field test this spring.)

As of Friday, 66,634 tests had been started in Idaho.

The reports the State Department of Education has received have been overwhelmingly positive. A fifth-grade student in Blaine County walked out of the testing room last week and said, “That test was fun!”

Jerry Hutchins, the district’s testing director, said, “I never heard a student say anything like that after taking an ISAT.”

He’s not alone.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has been traveling across Idaho since April 2, visiting schools large and small.

During his visits, he met with students and teachers about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment and heard similar positive comments.

Some schools have faced a few technical difficulties. At Oakley Elementary, for example, the voice that was supposed to read a few of the questions out loud was giving an error message before it would then read the question. On some of the questions, students also said they thought the instructions could have been a bit clearer.

These are all things the state-appointed Smarter Balanced Advisory Committee will take into account as it evaluates how to improve the new test before it becomes fully implemented next year. The Committee developed questionnaires for students, teachers, test proctors and school administrators.

Despite these few challenges, Superintendent Luna heard largely positive feedback about the new test – no matter where he traveled.

On Wednesday, he ate lunch with elementary students in Teton County. Students said the test is more challenging than the ISAT, but even with more difficult questions, they liked it more than the multiple-choice-only test because they could show their answers and explain their work.
Supt. Luna ate lunch with students in Teton County and asked them about the new test.
On Thursday, Superintendent Luna visited Rockland School. The students there said they really enjoyed the writing portions of the test and that they could pause the test, which was not possible under the ISAT. When asked if they had more anxiety about taking this new test because it is more difficult, the students said no. They felt the same as they did on the ISAT.
Students in Rockland offered Supt. Luna their feedback on the Smarter Balanced Field Test.
On Friday, Superintendent Luna was in Cassia County where students at Oakley Elementary were taking the mathematics portion of the new test. Students said they enjoyed the different types of questions because they were able to show their work. One student even went as far as to say, “I loved it! I like using the computer to enter the fractions.”

Another student said the test is good because there’s not as much multiple choice and “I have more to say.”
Supt. Luna heard lots of great comments from students at Oakley Elementary about the new test.
Even though the test is more difficult and is estimated to take more time, school administrators said the majority of 3rd and 4th grade students at Oakley Elementary finished the mathematics portion of the test in an hour or less.

Superintendent Luna will continue to visit schools next week and hear direct feedback from students and staff. He will be in Coeur d'Alene on Wednesday and in the Lewiston area on Thursday as part of the Department's 2014 Post-Legislative Tour.

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