By Lindsey Ziliak and Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune
---- — The state’s new high school equivalency test will be based on Common Core State Standards and will likely require more critical thinking skills, local officials learned recently.
In August, the state announced it was opting out of the GED program and was, instead, contracting with CTB/McGraw Hill to launch its own exam called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion.
At the time, officials knew very little about the new assessment because state officials were being tight lipped about the whole thing.
Since then, the state has been releasing bits of information each week in webinars for adult educators.
Brandy Mullins, director of Cass-Logan Educational Attainment Resource, (CLEAR), an adult education center, has watched three webinars and has another to watch Friday. Mullins, who succeeds Tami McMahan, became director of CLEAR in August.
Although the test is changing, the times, basis of the classes will be the same, Mullins said. Materials used to teach will change to adhere to the new test.
Marsha Berry, director of education at the Literacy Coalition of Howard County, has a better idea now of what the exam will look like, at least next year. The test will change every year for three years as it increases in rigor, Berry said.
The exam uses content from the Common Core State Standards — even though the Indiana Legislature is debating right now whether to teach the Common Core in its public schools.
This change is forcing the literacy coalition to retrain its tutors.
“We’ll help them change the way they’re teaching so they’re teaching to the standards,” Berry said. “We will need to tailor our instruction in a different manner.”
At least one thing will remain the same.
Just like the GED, the new test will have five components — reading, writing, math, social studies and science.
once or take one component at a time.
The exam will be seven hours long and will have more than just multiple choice questions to assess students — a change from the GED. There will be fill-in-the-blank questions and short essays.
Berry likes that change.
“They’re heading in the right direction,” she said. “Some people know how to take a multiple choice test and do well without knowing the material. That’s an issue they had in the past.”
Berry said the questions will be based on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge theory. The theory was developed in 1997 by Norman Webb, a senior research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
It focuses on how deeply a student understands the content presented. The theory identifies four cognitive levels that range from pure recall of facts in level one to extensively using facts to analyze and solve complex problems in level four, according to information released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
The TASC will work up to those level four questions by 2016, Berry said.
It is unclear at this time whether CLEAR will remain a testing site in January, Mullins said.
Students who are attempting to pass the GED are still able to take the old test through November at the CLEAR center and students who have taken the test, but have not passed one or two sections can take the test through December, Mullins said.
As for what it will mean for Cass County students, it depends on the particular student, Mullins said.
”Everyone who comes into our center comes in at different levels,” Mullins said. “For the people we have right now, we’re pushing to get them through before the new test. The rigor will be different and that’s why we’re watching webinars to find out what we can.”
Next year, adults taking the test will only have to answer level one and level two questions, she said. Test takers could be asked to recall elements of a story, perform routine procedures like measuring length or using punctuation marks correctly or solve multiple-step problems, according to IDWD information.
CTB/McGraw Hill has released sample questions for next year’s TASC.
One math question says, “When a spherical balloon is filled with air, it has a diameter of 6 inches. Which of the following gives the best estimate for the volume of air in the balloon in cubic inches?”
Test takers are provided with a calculator and formula sheet. They have to figure out how to apply the formula.
Those questions will change by 2015, though.
In 2015, the level three questions will be added in, Berry said. By then, test takers could be asked to develop a scientific model for a complex situation or determine the author’s purpose and describe how it affects the interpretation of a reading selection.
The following year, the most complex questions will be included on the exam. Those could ask test takers to analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources or design a mathematical model to inform and solve a practical or abstract situation.
Berry said it’s a lot of information to take in right now. Even with all of it in front of her, it’s hard to envision exactly what the test will look like, especially three years from now.
“It’s hard to wrap your mind around it until you see it in practice,” she said. “It will be an ongoing learning process for us.”
Mullins said they are doing orientation often for anyone interested.Those interested should go to the center, 2815 E. Market St., and fill out a form, because there is a waiting list, she said. The phone number is 574-722-5209.