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UWRF education majors help administer achievement tests

April 16, 2009

For more than 10 years, instructors as well as teaching education students of UW-River Falls have prepared to administer achievement and assessment tests required in the state of Wisconsin. 

These tests are administered by the Wisconsin Student Assessment System (WSAS) and the series is commonly known as the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. The system is a part of the Wisconsin department of public instruction. Students in grades three through eight and 10 are tested on an annual basis in the areas of math and reading. This is according to the department Web site. 

Teri Crotty, chair of the UWRF teacher education department, said that the testing is the same for public and private schools, and that testing for each subject is staggered during the year to avoid test exhaustion. She said also that teacher education majors have the opportunity to witness these tests as they are given by actual educators. 

“One of the things that our students get in their field experience, before they student teach, they work with teachers in the field who are giving these tests,” she said. “These tests are given all the way from third to eighth grade and then also in high school, so most of our students, especially in elementary and middle schools, have opportunities to watch teachers help prepare students to take the tests.” 

Crotty said that the state of Wisconsin is in a positive state because the content of the curriculum and testing standards are closely related.  “In the state of Wisconsin, the academic standards are the basis for the standardized tests and the academic standards are woven into the curriculum,” she said. “Because the academic standards in Wisconsin, are called model standards, are woven into the curriculum, the teachers prepare their students by teaching the curriculum, so Wisconsin really is in a good place in that regard.” 

When preparing students for testing, working teachers focus on making sure that they are free of anxiety while the tests are administered. 

“They don’t really spend a whole lot of time preparing students for test taking skills, they try to make them aware of the tests what the tests are for so that they lower the anxiety and they try to communicate in a positive way with the parents the results of the use the tests to get their students the best help they can to make them successful,” Crotty said. “So the philosophy is to reduce stress for everybody.” 

Crotty said that one complaint that occurs with the testing has to do with the amount of time the tests take to carry out. 

“One complaint that a lot of educators have is that the amount of time the actual tests take away from teaching time,” she said. “So that is a bit of a concern but it’s one of those requirements the teachers have sort of learned to live with, its been since the early ‘90s that they started these tests so people are pretty adapted now.”