Mo. Students to Take Common Core Tests

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COLUMBIA - KOMU 8 News learned Thursday some local students will take practice tests this spring to help school districts evaluate if they are ready to give new computerized tests next year.

Students normally take the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests in the spring, but this is the last year students will take pen-and-paper MAP tests in English and math.

In 2010, Missouri began implementing the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards have been adopted in 45 states. 

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the standards "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them." 

The standards define what each student should be able to do in English and math at each grade level. 

As part of signing on to Common Core, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as the state's testing vendor for annual assessments. 

Smarter Balanced is rolling out a field test this spring to see how students respond to the test questions, and to see how schools handle the computerized format.

Columbia Public Schools told KOMU 8 News Thursday it will test fourth grade students at Derby Ridge and New Haven elementaries in English/language arts.

The district will give math tests to fourth graders at Cedar Ridge Elementary, to third graders at Two Mile Prairie Elementary and to seventh graders at Lange Middle School.

Columbia Public Schools Research, Assessment, and Accountability Director Chip Sharp told KOMU 8 News the district will not get the results back, but he said the field test is important because it will help districts understand how teachers and students will handle the new test format.

Jefferson City Public Schools Community Relations Director David Luther told KOMU 8 News the district wants to know if it will have enough computers, iPads and wireless bandwidth to be able to use the tests next year.

Luther said today's students are incredibly familiar with technology, but he said some students could still struggle to complete the high-tech tests.

"Especially the younger kids, they're going to be taking a test where they have to have some basic keyboarding skills," Luther said. "A lot of kids know how to do that, they know how to run the mouse but they may not be skilled at that. And if you're going to have to turn out a paragraph or whatever, you're going to have to have those basic skills."

In Jefferson City, fourth graders at Pioneer Trail and Lawson elementaries will take practice math tests. Fourth graders at West Elementary will take english/language arts. Seventh graders at Lewis and Clark Middle School will take english/language arts.

Missouri students will take the practice tests at a time when education groups and lawmakers around the nation are debating whether states should use the Common Core standards.

Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, told KOMU 8 News GOP lawmakers are opposed to the standards because the state began using them without input from local school boards, teachers and parents.

Lamping said lawmakers are trying to pass legislation in the current session to block implementation of Common Core. Lamping said the legislature should be in charge of setting education standards after getting input from school districts.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told superintendents in November he found it "fascinating" that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from "white suburban moms who - all of a sudden - their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."

Duncan has since retracted that statement.

National supporters have said Common Core instruction will be rigorous and will prepare students for college and the careers of the future.