- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Boise School District will spend nearly $200,000 on tests this year to supplement Idaho’s new statewide achievement test.

This year the district is administering 20-minute multiple choice tests in math and reading in grades three through 10 to see how students compare to the Common Core State Standards, The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1RQQf0s).

Don Coberly, Boise School District superintendent, said they ordered the additional tests because the Idaho Standard Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced does not provide data about gaps in student learning.

“We wanted teachers to get more specific information,” he said.

The district is using the STAR programs in math and reading from the Wisconsin-based company Renaissance Learning. The tests show specific needs in classrooms, allowing teachers to vary their lesson plans in order to help their specific students’ needs.

Teachers at Valley View Elementary School are using the information from the STAR tests to focus on multiplication. Fourth-grade teachers Kathy Pound and Courtney Richardson did not start the year spending more than half an hour each day drilling students on times tables, but after administering the test found their students floundering.

“If you don’t have your facts down, you’re sunk,” Pound said.

At the beginning of the year, only 5 percent of Valley View’s fourth graders were at or above the mastery level of doing whole-number addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. STAR officials estimate about 36 percent of them will be at that level by the end of the year.

A White Pine Elementary in Southeast Boise, fourth-grade students are working to master number sense, or knowing that 15 is 10 plus 5, not one plus five. Principal Tera Coe says she hopes STAR will help solve those gaps.

“I think STAR finally helps us dial into the teaching we are doing,” said Principal Tera Coe. “I felt the district went out of its way to find that tool.”

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

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