Schools are facing some adjustments preparing for new requirements in standardized tests and Common Core measurements. Students accustomed to traditional pencil and score sheet testing will now find that they need to read from a computer, and manipulate a mouse and keyboard. While this is not difficult for most students, it has meant that districts are making changes to their testing centers, as each student must have a computer.
New Haven has been changing its curriculum to meet those new standards—and to prepare for a totally new kind of standardized test that promises to be much more challenging for kids. Connecticut, one of 45 states that have agreed to adopt the Common Core, will require all school districts to switch to new Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Field Test by 2015.
New Haven has received state permission to make the switch early and pilot the new tests this spring, according to Assistant Superintendent Imma Canelli.
The school district plans to ditch its longtime state standardized tests, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) for grades 3 to 8 and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) for sophomores. Students in grades 3 to 8 and 11 will now take “Smarter Balanced” tests this spring, some time between April 7 and June 6, Canelli announced.
The decision applies just to English and math. The new science standards have not yet been released, so the new science tests aren’t ready. So students in grades 5, 8 and 10 will continue taking the CMT and CAPT science tests this school year and next.
Technology and Standardized Tests
The switch presents a technological challenge for New Haven’s schools. Unlike the CMT and CAPT, which students took with pencil and paper, the new tests require one computer per test-taker. The district is making use of a $2.7 million state grant to buy 3,000 computers and make sure each school is ready for the tests.
The new tests also present a challenge for kids. Each kid will take about six to seven hours of tests, which will require a whole new set of skills. Instead of reading and filling in bubbles, they’ll drag and drop using a mouse, take notes on a video, conduct research on the computer, and hold group discussions as part of test.
If other cities’ experience is any indication, the tests will be tough: Students’ scores sank in New York when it piloted similar tests last school year. Principals there protested that their students felt distressed and demoralized by the difficulty of the tests. This spring in Connecticut, the tests will not be “adaptive,” meaning they won’t adjust the difficulty to the level of each kid.
This year, kids are going through a new English language arts curriculum aligned to Common Core. The curriculum—like the Common Core tests—includes a greater focus on informational writing, speaking, and researching using multiple sources of info.