Schools to begin field tests for Common Core; Trial run will look for glitches, examine technology infrastructure

Most schools in Humboldt County will be conducting a trial test run for the new Common Core Standards -- which provide a critical thinking and problem-solving framework for math and language arts -- beginning today, according to education officials.

The dry run comes after the state opted to try out the Common Core assessment in place of doing the traditional Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR tests, according to Cathy Dickerson, Humboldt County Office of Education teacher support services coordinator.

"This test will see how students are able to navigate online for the assessment, as well as provide feedback to the test developers on what might need to be fixed," Dickerson said. "California has been one of the leading states in developing this test for about the last year."

County office E-learning specialist Colby Smart said the state is switching from paper to computerized tests to see how prepared schools are with their technology infrastructure, with the goal of having faster results for parents.

"The field tests will be for students in third through eighth grade and eleventh grade," Smart said. "The test is going to be adaptive based on how students answer questions -- meaning that it will shoot one way or another -- and we will be able to see where each individual is and not the group as a whole."

Arcata Elementary School District Superintendent Pamela Jones said the Common Core is a step in the right direction.

"The Common Core helps students to think in-depth and get fully engaged in the material, taking them away from rote memorization and just filling in bubbles," Jones said. "The new tests, for example, involve students having to explain how they got an answer to the math problem and not just showing the computation."

Dickerson added the new standards have received a positive reception.

"I think it has been so positive because the Common Core is focused on students being prepared for college or their future career," Dickerson said. "No transition is easy or without concern."

Jones said she thinks the biggest trepidation for the trial run is going to be how the online test will work.

"There's concern when it comes to bandwidth and getting students to test online and not just with paper and pencils," Jones said.

Smart said the trial will look for potential glitches within the new system and the scores will not count this time. The total testing time will take place over a five week period.

Melissa Simon can be reached at 441-0508 or