Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Testing Delayed a Week By State Educators

Ed McKeon is a member of the Middletown Board of Education.  This posting reflects his personal opinion and does not constitute and official opinion of the Board of Ed, nor represent, necessarily, the opinon of his colleagues.


Friday, school superintendents received an urgent email from the State Department of Education announcing a week delay in the roll-out of Smarter Balanced testing.  Smarter Balanced testing is testing designed to be aligned with Common Core standards and new teacher evaluations.  This year's Smarter Balanced tests are a "field test" which means that results will not be used to evaluate student progress, or teacher performance.  In fact, it is a test of the test which Connecticut students and schools have been asked to participate in without compensation.  The developers of Smarter Balanced received a $175 million grant to develop the test.

The Connecticut Department of Education has required all schools which have adopted Smarter Balanced to administer the tests to all students.  The DOE made the deal to have all students take the test when it asked for a waiver from the Secretary of Education allowing students not to have to take the Smarter Balanced and the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) or the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), thereby eliminating double testing.

Testing will take place on school computers.

Smarter Balanced has been in the news recently because parents in many districts in the country have asked to have their students "opt out" of the field test because it is of no education value to their children.  Responding to the potential for "opt out" the State Department of Education has issued a series of instructions for Superintendents designed to convince parents that taken the test is required. Several education experts, and Superintendents have indicated they will not prevent parents who want to have their children "opt out" of the test.

Here is the text of the suggested letter to be sent to parents about the delay:

March 14, 2014
Dear Public School Parent:
We wish to convey a time-sensitive update with you regarding the Smarter Balanced Field Test.
Smarter Balanced has shifted the first week of the Field Test. Testing will now begin on Tuesday, March 25.
The Field Test requires unprecedented partnership among states, districts, and many assessment vendors. We are disappointed to have to make this adjustment.  In the final analysis, however, it was decided that this change was needed to ensure that teachers, students, and administrators have a productive experience with the Field Test.
This change might impact the testing schedule of your child. We have prepared the following FAQs to help address any questions you might have regarding this shift.
Does this shift impact all students testing schedule?
[No. It is anticipated that this later start date will only affect students who were scheduled to begin taking the Field Test during the first week of the testing, March 18 - March 24.]
[This shift could potentially impact the schedule in other testing windows. We are carefully assessing the impact this shift could have on the sequencing in other test windows.]
Unlike the CMT and CAPT tests, not all students must take the test at the same time. This provides schools and districts the flexibility to sequence the administration of the tests into a schedule that works best for our school community.
What is a testing “window”?
For coordination and planning purposes, districts could choose among four three-week “windows” to administer the SBAC Field Test to students. Districts could identify as many of the following “windows” deemed appropriate to meet their needs:

Window 1: March 18 - April 4
Window 2: April 7 - April 25
Window 3: April 28 - May 16
Window 4: May 19 - June 6

This change only affects the timing of the first window. It will now begin on March 25.

My child was scheduled to begin testing within the first week. How does this affect him/her?
Students will follow their normal class schedule and teachers will resume teaching according to their planned lesson sequence. We are making every effort to minimize any disruptions to student learning and to the remaining testing schedule in the later three windows. We will inform you of your child’s new testing date as soon as the adjusted schedule is finalized.
While this shift might pose an inconvenience, we believe this field test is a vital part of new standards that will ultimately help teachers enhance student learning and better prepare our children for college and career. It also gives teachers and schools a chance to practice test administration procedures, and students the opportunity to experience the new test format and types of questions in a low-stakes environment.

We look forward to learning lessons from this experience in advance of the full operational statewide administration of the Smarter Balanced test next school year. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact [insert district contact].


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