Standardized testing returns after a COVID-induced break

For the first time in two years, Idaho students will be taking spring standardized tests.

SAT Day, where the state pays for students to take the test during a regular school day, will be on April 13. This year, 97 percent of Idaho juniors are expected to take the test.

While SAT Day was canceled in 2020, about 22,000 high school seniors took the rescheduled fall SAT Day. Idaho colleges and universities waived entrance exams as an admissions requirement for the 2021-22 school year.

The Idaho Standards Achievement Test will be given to all students in grades 3-8 and 10. The summative online test window started on March 15 and will run through May 28. The summative paper and pencil test window runs from April 5 through May 21 and the remote online test window runs from April 12 to May 28.

The last time students in Idaho took the ISAT was 2019, where scores showed an increase from the previous year.

Math proficiency in 2019 was at 44.43 percent, up from 43.31 percent the prior year. English proficiency increased to 55 percent, up from 53.7 percent in 2018.

Administration of the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) will run from May 3 through May 28. The online test measures students in kindergarten through third grade on things like vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.

The IRI is taken in both the fall and the spring to test students’ improvement over the school year.

Through three years of IRI tests, about 50 percent of K-3 students are starting the school year reading at grade level (52.5 percent in 2018, 54.7 percent in 2019 and 49.6 percent in 2020) with that number jumping by the end of the school year (69.7 percent in spring 2019 and 69 percent in 2020).

In February, the Biden Administration announced that states will be required to administer their required standardized tests this year.

The decision to bring back standardized testing in 2021 is the administration’s attempt at understanding the impact that the pandemic had on education and schools will not be held accountable for results. Georgia and South Carolina requested the ability to cancel testing in 2021, which was denied by the U.S. Department of Education.

Idaho State Board of Education members, like Kurt Liebich and Linda Clark, both agreed that standardized testing this year will be about seeing where students are at after time spent in remote or hybrid learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every school district in Idaho, except for McCall-Donnelly and Pathways in Education, is back to in-person learning. But many metro-area schools spent the winter in either hybrid or remote models after a surge of coronavirus cases tied to the holiday season.

On Tuesday, Idaho Education News spoke with Boise parent Alison Espindola as part of an ongoing project to share the voices of parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Espindola has two children at Riverside Elementary, one who will be taking the IRI and one who will be taking the ISAT.

Espindola, the rental and event coordinator at the Idaho State Historical Society, said she is selfishly worried that standardized testing this year will be more of a measurement of her as a teacher for her children, as moving to remote learning put more weight on the parents to help students navigate their education.

“So not only is it showing where my kids have dropped, but where I have failed them,” she said. 

While Espindola has a little bit of history teaching, she said her kids were not successful while in Boise Online School earlier this school year.

“I wouldn’t put my kids in online school again,” she said. “It was not a good environment for them. My oldest really struggled with that environment.”

Espindola said she is already feeling guilt over getting her students’ report cards.

“I’m looking at all the Ns and Ps and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh I should have been doing so much better for them in math and writing and why didn’t I have them write more.”

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik Streng graduated with his bachelors degree in creative writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., in 2013 and graduated with his master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. 

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