Tag Archives: smarter balance

Burbank Unified District Testing Discussed

The Burbank Unified School District continues to prepare for Smarter Balance testing of the new Common Core national standards in the spring of 2015. While some district-wide tests have been dropped, other assessments will continue to be given to students, including writing prompts in elementary and secondary schools and baseline tests to provide data for the LCAP plan.

BUSD Logo“We do expect lower scores across the board to start but we do expect to show growth pretty quickly,” BUSD Director of Instruction and Accountability Sharon Cuseo told Board of Education members.

“Because it’s going to be widespread across the state, it’s not a reflection of our teachers or students at all,” she said. “It’s just a reflection on the testing instrument itself. I think that’s really important for parents to hear.”

Cuseo also noted that Smarter Balance testing will occur in March, April and part of May, to accommodate the much longer time needed for students to complete the test. Students in grades three through five will spend four hours on the English Language Arts section and three hours on the Math section.

Students in grades six through eight will need four hours for English Language Arts and three-and-a-half for Math. Eleventh graders need four-and-a-half hours for ELA and four for Math.

“That’s a lot of testing,” Cuseo said. “You shouldn’t really test more than two to three hours per day.”

All students in the same grade level across the district will take the adaptive Common Core Smarter Balance test in the same window of time. The recently purchased carts of Chromebooks will help the district achieve these goals, along with the support of the BUSD technology staff.

Limited district assessments in science, social science and health will remain similar to years previously, for now.

Teachers have had to change the pacing of their instruction schedules and test content, since they require more time to get through the material to align with Common Core standards.

“As you know with Common Core, everything kind of got turned upside down and we have to redo everything we are doing in instruction, from assessments to curriculum to textbooks,” Cuseo explained.

 

School Board Approves Purchase Of Chromebooks

The Burbank Unified Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of 360 HP Chromebooks for Smarter Balance testing and instructional use on Thursday, October 3. The school board also approved the purchase of 10 Aver mobile carts to secure, charge and transport the Chromebooks.

BUSD LogoFunds for the Chromebooks and mobile carts will come from Common Core money set aside for technology, professional development and materials, said Sharon Cuseo, Director of Instruction and Accountability for the district.

“This past spring, we had our Smarter Balance field testing and we were able to pull that off pretty smoothly with help from our technology team and our school sites,” commented Cuseo. “The only thing we needed to do to make that happen in terms of purchasing computers was we bought three laptop carts to help the high schools deal with the volume of testing.”

“However, this spring we have the real test and so we’re going to need more support because the test is going to be full length, which is twice as long as the test was in the field testing,” she went on to say. “For example, at the high school, the students will be testing for 8 1/2 hours each students, and so, that is a lot of testing.”

Students in Debbie McHorney's class use four-year-old laptops in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Students in Debbie McHorney’s class use four-year-old laptops in class. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Since the district does not have computer labs, or even the space for computer labs, at every school site, BUSD officials see mobile computer carts as the answer for administering the Smarter Balance test. When the Chromebook carts are not in use for testing, they can be used for instructional purposes in the classroom.

Chromebooks were selected for the purchase, Cuseo said, because “we didn’t want to invest in something that was going to be very expensive and consume all of our Common Core money.”

BUSD wanted to purchase a product useful not only for testing but also for instruction.

To this end, the BUSD technology team determined the 14″ HP Chromebook as a best option. It has 4 gigabytes RAM, a 14″ monitor, a nine-hour battery life and comes with a three-year warranty, explained Charles Poovakan, Director of Information Technology and Educational Support.

Each Chromebook is priced at $312 for the district and can be used for online access and basic word processing. Many apps and programs are available via the internet.

The school board approved $149,248.80 for the Chromebook purchase, which includes $10,108.80 in state tax. The Aver carts cost $14,925.58.

“This would be a computer lab on wheels,” commented Board of Education President Dr. Roberta Reynolds.

The Chromebook carts will only be moved around for testing, added Cuseo. Otherwise, they will stay at specific schools. The three carts purchased earlier this year for the Smarter Balance field testing are already deployed, one each at Burbank and John Burroughs High Schools and one at a district middle school.

The additional ten Chromebook carts will be divided between the high schools, middle schools and larger elementary schools for instructional use.

The school district has been testing iPads at Luther and trying out various technology items at Burroughs and other district schools in its ongoing quest to integrate technology in the classroom.