Idaho public school students may not need to take a statewide standardized test this fall, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced his plans to forgo the Direct Writing Assessment (DWA) and Direct Math Assessment (DMA) in the upcoming school year. Idaho students from fourth through eighth grade have taken either the DMA or DWA each year for more than a decade. The decision to scrap the test comes as Luna wants to move to newer testing and because Idaho schools face budget concerns.
“As we move toward the next generation of assessments, we have to look at the value of the assessments we currently have,” Luna said in a news release. “The Direct Writing and Direct Math Assessments have served their purpose.” Students have shown improvement on the DMA and DWA during the last few years, but the State Department of Education has focused more on a different test, the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (NCLB), that is part of federal No Child Left Behind education policy. The ISAT, and not the DWA and DMA, is used to track schools’ adequate yearly progress (AYP), the benchmark the state uses for schools.
The DWA and DMA cost an estimated $250,000 a year, according to the education department. Melissa McGrath, Luna’s spokeswoman, told IdahoReporter.com that those costs are split between mailing out tests to the schools for students to take in November or December and paying teachers to come to Boise to score the tests in January. The ISAT, which tests more grades of students, costs $5.5 million a year, according to McGrath
Luna announced Tuesday that the DMA and DWA won’t be administered in the upcoming year. To do away with the assessments permanently, he needs approval from the Idaho State Board of Education and next year’s Legislature. The state education department will still offer the questions and prompts from the DWA and DMA to schools that want to teach around the outgoing assessments.
Idaho’s search for the next generation of tests could come from the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), collaboration between states to find a clear and consistent framework to make sure students are prepared for college and a career. The final CCSSI standards for student assessments, which cover writing, history, science, and math, should be ready before the State Board of Education meets in June. If the board adopts the proposals from CCSI, they, too, would need lawmakers’ approval next year before becoming a permanent part of the state education system.