By Susan Miller

Missourian Staff Writer

Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said she’s pleased with a revised assessment plan approved by the state.

VanLeer discussed the changes last Wednesday at the regular meeting of the school board.

“The new plan reduces the amount of the testing, which allows for more instructional time, so that’s good news,” she told the board.

The state education department and a coalition of education partners all helped to develop the revised assessment plan for the 2014-15 school year.

The state also will now pick up the tab for students to take the ACT college entrance exam.

“All students in their junior year will take the ACT which is good thing, but our composite score will go down as a result,” VanLeer said.

Currently, VanLeer said students interested in continuing their eduction take the exam and typically those students have taken the advanced level classes.

Washington High School does offer an ACT prep class and school officials said they will look at other ways to help prepare students for the test.

State officials said by having all students take the test it will allow teachers and parents to see whether or not students are academically prepared for college courses and will save families the testing fee.

Students who want to take the test again to improve their score still can, but they will have to pay for it.

VanLeer said the ACT also will be moving to an online format.

Big Changes

Elementary and middle school students also will see big changes as the state moves to the new assesments, that are tied to uniform benchmarks or Common Core standards, for reading, writing and math.

The plan will allow more classroom instruction time by implementing 30-minute survey assessments in English language arts and mathematics rather than a full seven hours of testing for grades 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Students in grades 5 and 8 — the transition grades — would continue to take the full tests in English language arts and math, as well as the current science assessment.

VanLeer said school districts will now have unlimited access to interim and formative assessment resources for English language arts and mathematics for grades 3-8. Districts can use those resources at their own discretion to help personalize learning for children during the school year.

End-of-course exams will still be given in Algebra I, Algebra II (for students taking Algebra I at the middle level), English II, Biology, Government and Personal Finance.

The state assessments also will be administered online, which will provide for more valid, reliable and quicker results, state officials said.

However, VanLeer said not all school districts will be prepared to do that immediately and there is still discussion that some pencil and paper tests may still be administered.

Scores will be returned to districts within 10 business days for grade-level assessments and five business days for end-of-course assessments which is a much faster turnaround than in the past, VanLeer said.

The revised assessment plan reduces the state department’s assessment funding request by $3.5 million to just under $27 million.

“It’s all a step in the right direction,” VanLeer told the board.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judy Straatmann said she’s pleased that testing times will be reduced so teachers can focus more on instruction.