New school year means new writing test
South Dakota will have a new writing assessment beginning 2010-11. Called WriteToLearn, it’s an online, formative assessment.

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State applies for assessment funding

South Dakota is one of 31 states in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which applied for funding under the Race to the Top Assessment program. The consortium is seeking the funds to design an assessment aligned to the recently released Common Core Standards. The grant is worth as much as $160 million.

“South Dakota currently spends about $5 million on our statewide assessment system,” said South Dakota Secretary of Education Tom Oster. “With the national movement toward common standards, it only makes sense that we share the cost of developing a new test. It’s an opportunity to create a high-quality assessment in a cost-effective manner.”

If funded, the assessment would be an adaptive online system. It is expected to include the required summative exams, as well as optional formative exams. Teachers also would be able to access a variety of tools to use in implementing informal, ongoing assessment. With these tools, teachers will be able to get a clear picture of student understanding and adjust their instruction accordingly.

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce the grant awards in September.

South Dakota has not yet adopted the Common Core Standards. Any such action will go through the state Board of Education. The board is expected to have an initial discussion about the topic at its July 27 meeting.