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Hart District Looks Ahead To State Reforms In Education

William S. Hart Union High School District officials discussed new testing standards for seventh- to 12th-grade students mandated by the state within two years at the district board meeting Wednesday.

“Even if students test well, they’re behind. They need to speak well, be creative, that makes an effective worker. We’re operating on a very low level and we need to get to a point where they can analyze,” said Michele Krantz, principal of Rancho Pico Junior High School, during a presentation to the board.

The new testing standard, Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), will be implemented by fall 2014, and state assessments will begin in 2015, said Vicki Engbrecht, Hart district assistant superintendent for educational services.

Major changes include providing all schools in the district with wireless access and altering teaching to reflect communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills, Krantz said.

Unlike current STAR tests, CAT will not be entirely multiple choice and will be administered online, requiring students to answer Internet based questions, such as evaluating YouTube videos or analyzing two arguments and selecting the best one, Engbrecht said.

This is because tests will be available within weeks, unlike the current three to six month waiting period, Engbrecht said. Tests will also vary student-to-student, providing easier questions when students get an answer wrong and difficult ones when they get an answer right, regardless of their grade level. 

The new standards reflect a growing trend, Engbrecht said.

“The United States continues to fall behind other countries and more students are attending school -- we need this,” she said. “But few countries teach as many students as the U.S. does, such as those cognitively impaired and non-English speakers, and we need to take that into consideration.”  

How this will affect students already in school was heavily debated, especially since West Ranch High School is the only school to have participated in a pilot program thus far, Engbrecht said.

“This will be way different for students, but everyone will be on the same level,” Engbrecht said. “An eleventh grader taking the test will be compared to other eleventh graders taking it for the first time.”

During the summer, and continuing through the 2013/14 school year, access points will be installed in high school and alternative school classrooms with a completion goal of 2014/15, Krantz said.

Krantz presentation broke down the cost of providing wireless Internet as follows:
Wire classrooms and buildings $690,000
Install Cisco Access Points $770,000
Install Cisco Switches $1,400,000
Total cost = $2,860,000.00
With the majority of the money from the reserve fund for capital projects, Engbrecht said.  

“Our dream is to implement a one on one initiative where every student in the district would have a device,” Krantz added.  

But for now the district plans on adopting a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.  

The board will be updated on teacher training and see sample test questions in four to six weeks.