DOVER -- Principal Bill Anton earlier this week led the School Board and Superintendent Steven John to the testing room, where he had everyone take practice versions of the Common Core field tests that students have begun to take.
"We started this week," said Anton. "We're one school of 27 in the state of Vermont selected to do this field test. It's been going fantastic. It has enlightened us to what is to be expected of students as to the Common Core. It's a very fair and authentic test but it's a challenging test."
The tests are also known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC.
Dover students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 are taking the tests, which feature between 31 and 40 questions. Each student receives a different test containing different amounts of questions. The testing is scheduled to end around April 11.
For now, students will test during a total of nine sessions held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Each session lasts about 30 to 45 minutes.
A limited amount of these field tests will be administered in schools around the country as a way to gain information to improve the Common Core. Dover School was chosen as one that could participate in the program.
According to a press release, "Each Smarter Balanced state individually determined how schools and students would be selected to take the field test."
On March 25, School Board members sat behind computers individually to take the practice tests. Anton wanted to give them an idea of how the testing was implemented.
"When asked to do the field tests, it was advised to go through the practice test (with students) three or four times to get used to the way the questions were asked and especially get used to the technology tools," he said. "We put them in the environment then allow them to ask questions."
Anton coached board members on how to get logged in to begin the test and encouraged those who seemed to be falling behind the rest of the group. He spoke of how tutorials were available for answering the questions.
Some questions required utilizing a drawing tool, charting a graph or clicking and dropping answers into columns. To take a sample version of the test or learn more, visit SmarterBalanced.org.
Anton told the Reformer that students thought the SBAC tests were fun.
"It's kind of a game and more of a challenge than just taking a test," he said. "I think this style is right in the wheelhouse of kids. You're manipulating objects, you're solving multiple problems back to back, thinking of two or three variables at the same time. It's the way kids are thinking in everyday life."
Anton believes the testing gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills while giving teachers the opportunity to make sure they are instructing in a way that enables students to do so.
"It's put in the power of the students. It's not timed, it's not rushed," he added. "I'm happy that the U.S. has created a nationwide, common curriculum and a very valid and challenging assessment that matches that curriculum."
Dover School Board Chairman Rich Werner said he thought the testing was really good.
"What we're doing now is training our kids for the real world. By keeping the old pencil test, we're not; we're training them for 30 or 40 years ago," he continued. "I'm glad we did that."
John spoke generally of the Common Core assessment, which 45 states around the country have adopted.
"Our first hand experience is this will be a significant challenge for our students. It also presses technology and use of technology that we didn't necessarily need to have," he said.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.