For many students, high school seems like continuous standardized testing. But students have actually been assessed this way since elementary school.
“High school, for the first time, is really experiencing what elementary school has been doing for the past 20 years,” said Bill Greymont, WBHS principal.
The next set of Gains tests will be taken the week of April 6-10. Different subjects will be tested each day. Sophomores will take the Aspire test April 28-29; freshmen will take it April 30 and May 1.
Greymont addressed why students are taking multiple standardized tests each year in an early March interview with The Current. He explained the purpose of these tests so students can understand why they need to be taken, from the administration’s perspective.
Testing has always been a part of school, but now the state has added more standardized tests at the high school level so teachers can focus on certain lessons in the classroom, according to Greymont.
“Every one of those teachers, for 20 years, has been using chapter tests or unit tests to assess a unit and monitor student achievement. What has really changed in the last three years with the state pushing it down with the Educator Effectiveness Project, has been the idea, as we learn more about teaching, that we can get to a level where we can monitor individual student’s growth,” Greymont said.
Some students are concerned with the amount of tests they have to take throughout the year.
“I just don’t see why we have to take so many different tests when we could just take one to sum everything up,” said Megan Core, a West sophomore.
Each test helps provide more information on how the curriculum needs to be altered, Greymont said. Taking numerous tests creates a clear vision of what areas classes can advance in. According to Greymont, these tests are not just taken to identify what needs to be fixed as a whole, but rather on how schools can help a single student, or a few who share the same weaknesses, improve in certain areas.
“The Aspire test that the freshmen took this year, and that the sophomores will take this spring, is the PLAN and EXPLORE test. It is a growth model. It assesses where you’re at and measures an individual’s growth,” Greymont said.
The Aspire tests and the end-of-course assessments that students take three times a year are meant to give teachers feedback and an idea of where to make improvements in their lessons to accommodate students’ needs. “We can focus [the data] back on classes. Then that data teachers can use, you know if you have that big data, the first purpose is to check to make sure that our system is working properly and that is what WKCE was for years,” Greymont said.
The Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE) is taken in November, so how can this test help correct teachers’ lessons plans for the year?
“[The WKCE] really reflects the year before, but there is a big break; but what it does validate is your curriculum system working. Where are your strengths and weaknesses? With the Aspire test, it puts the high school on a growth model,” Greymont said.
“Where are your strengths and weaknesses? With the Aspire test, it puts the high school on a growth model.”
– Bill Greymont, WBHS principal
The state legislature is also working on the Badger Exam to be used as a growth model for the entire state to test students’ levels of achievement and make it the same across Wisconsin.
“Not every school used the various assessments that existed. The idea of having that was to be standardized and go into the Education Effectiveness Model,” Greymont said.
If the state legislature plans to carry through with that plan, then why do students have to take so many standardized tests?
“The technology and data, the way we can use it, can tell us what students are progressing and which aren’t. It should be good for teachers, to help teachers out. Teachers can take that information, and once we get some longitudinal data, like one, two, three, four years in a row, you can always look at those assessments and see [where strengths and weaknesses are],” Greymont said.
These tests are taken partially to give the district and the state information about West Bend students, but the main focus for the high school itself is achieving student success in every aspect of the classroom and in the future. “The Gains test can help predict and give the kids what they need. They are retired ACT tests so in essence of the Gains, you are practicing for the ACT when you take it junior year,” Greymont said about the new district benchmarks taken by students this year.
The Gains assessments supply the school with outlooks and are an essential factor in accomplishing student success, said Greymont. They weren’t given to students this year only to put them in a percentile and see how they compete against other schools academically, but truly to see how the school can reform its teaching methods by zeroing in on students’ weaknesses and helping them gain access to a better understanding of what they are learning, he said.
“Assessments tell you what you’re doing well, not doing well, how you need to adjust, how [teachers] can adjust to kids’ needs, and how you can look at the lessons and see how you can change them; or teachers can see 90 of my kids did really good on fractions (or other lessons), but 10 of those kids didn’t, and I can identify them to give them extra help sooner,” Greymont said.
For many students, this year was definitely overwhelming with the multiple tests.
“When we first started some standardized testing, I was fine with it. I understood the reasons behind it, but now we just continue to do more and more standardized tests,” said Anna Johnson, an East sophomore.
The WBHS administration recognizes that the original testing plan was not the best, but are seeking ways to make reforms. Greymont said that changes are in the works to reduce the number of tests for next year.
“Did our system work very well this year? I’d say there are some things we need to improve. The question is how to strike the right balance in the future to get what you need out of it,” Greymont said.
Office Beat chronicles The Current’s regular visits with WBHS administration, written by Kara Conley, Current Staff.
Updated on March 24 to reflect changes in test dates for the Aspire test.