Statewide standardized test proposed for Utah kindergartners

Posted at 7:36 PM, Nov 06, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY – Kindergartners in Utah may soon be required to take a statewide standardized test to help teachers better understand their readiness for school. The test would replace exams schools already give their students at the beginning of the school year.

The test is part of legislation that proposes extending full-day kindergarten to low-income students and students who do not perform well on tests. Legislators are hoping a statewide test will help teachers understand their level of learning and identify kids who are at risk.

State school board members say the tests teachers currently give kids vary from school to school, and they want to create a standardized test using the same questions and material.

“I think it’s going to help inform the schools equally in their ability to meet the needs of the students in their classroom,” said Brittney Cummins, a member of the Utah State Board of Education.

State educators met Friday to vote on how to best create the test. They had the option of basing the test on similar tests schools already use in the classroom, or hiring a commercial company to create the test. They recommended the legislature hire a company.

“So it’s an informative kindergarten readiness test that allows the teacher to say, ‘Where is this student?’” Cummins said. “’How can I adapt? What can I do to help them to succeed in kindergarten?’”

School board members say it will give teachers a measure to test how their children are progressing throughout the school year and determine whether or not they need additional help.

“The assessment could determine if a child needs the additional services of an all-day kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, then that would be something that would be apparent in the assessment and, so decisions that are in the best interest of the child could be made from those assessment results,” said Rich Nye, associate superintendent for data assessment and accountability for the Utah State Office of Education.

State educators say parents who fear standardized testing should know it’s only replacing a test that’s already being used to determine what level their kindergartners are at during the beginning of the school year.

“I think part of that is people feel that, ‘Oh, there’s another test and it’s on top of something,’ this is not something that is going to add anything in addition to something that’s already there," Cummins said. "It’s replacing something that’s currently in place with something that is valid and standardized across the state."

The state school board will now send their recommendation to the legislature. If the bill passes, the test will cost roughly $1.6 million every year to make and distribute. Lawmakers plan to appropriate funding for the kindergarten readiness test if the bill to expand full-day kindergarten passes the legislature.