School district prepares for new online tests, curriculum challenges |

School district prepares for new online tests, curriculum challenges

Griffin Rogers

Lake Tahoe Unified School District is preparing for new challenges as it switches from the old California Standardized Tests to new computer-based assessments, Superintendent James Tarwater said Thursday.

Among them is administering the new Smarter Balanced assessments to students for field-testing and preparing faculty for the transition to the new Common Core curriculum — the set of standards aligned with the new tests.

Several students at Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School have already taken the assessment as a way of field testing the system. But more will be given the test this year, now that it has received the official OK from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The idea, according to the California Department of Education, is to field test the system before its statewide implementation next school year. Experts can then discern the accuracy and reliability of the test questions.

Tarwater said the new online testing method will require schools to be more technology-friendly, but LTUSD is ready.

“We’re prepared for digital,” Tarwater said.

On Oct. 2, Brown signed Assembly Bill 484, which effectively ended the controversial Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments.

As a result, LTUSD will join hundreds of school districts across the state as they prepare for the modernized California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress tests, which the Smarter Balanced assessments fall under.

The switch in testing methods creates challenges for teachers because they now have to align their curriculum with Common Core Standards in a short amount of time, Tarwater said.

Even still, the overhaul is mostly beneficial, he said.

“The beauty of it now is that more teachers get to look at what they have on the test and will be able to deliver instruction,” Tarwater said.

Teachers and district officials also have to consider how they’re going to meet new standards with current textbooks and materials.

To help during the transition, Tarwater said the district is now doing three things: informing everyone about the new standards, providing support for teachers and encouraging staff development workshops.

Once staff is brought up to speed and the Common Core curriculum is being taught, students will hopefully be more college and career ready, he said.

“You’re shifting how you learn,” he said of the new test. “That’s where I’m excited.”

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