Testing new standardized tests

By Lisa Capobianco
Staff Writer
Southington Public Schools are preparing for the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) “Field Test” scheduled to take place this spring.
SBAC measures student progress toward college and career-readiness, working to develop next-generation assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics, according to the online field test administration manual of the State Department of Education’s website.
Students will not take the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) for the areas of English language arts and math. However, students in grades 5, 8 and 10 were still required to take the science portion of CMT and CAPT.
The field test serves as a “trial run” of the Smarter Balanced Assessments to ensure that the tests are reliable and fair for students, the manual stated. The test also serves as an evaluation of the testing software, training materials and test administration while ensuring the quality of questions provided.
“This is a field test—a test to test the test,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Karen Smith, adding that the field test will not provide individualized results this year.
The field test, which will include more than 21,000 items and performance tasks, also gives students and test administrators the opportunity to experience a testing environment that will prepare them for the operational system.
Students will take the SBAC tests in spring 2015.
Smith said the district the main focus for the district in preparation of the field tests is “readiness in technology.” She noted several challenges that the district faces, such as providing enough computers for students, ensuring that all technological pieces are in place and providing adequate Wi-Fi connections. Students will take the field tests on school desktops and laptops.
“It’s the logistics,” Smith said.
K-12 Coordinator for English/Language Arts Stephanie Lawlor, who serves as district test coordinator, is working to ensure that school coordinators and test administrators are trained in test administration and security policies and procedures and to report any security incidents to the state.
“This is our year to learn what worked well,” Lawlor said, adding that the field tests will help the district determine what needs improvement in order to prepare for the SBAC tests next spring.
With the middle school building projects scheduled to be completed on time, Lawlor added that students at Kennedy and DePaolo Middle Schools are expected to take the field tests in the new library media centers.
“The hope and goal is that the media centers will be ready,” Lawlor said.
Lawlor said students will have access to a variety of tools on the computerized tests. For instance, the reading portion of the test may allow students to highlight or zoom-in on tests. They can also cross out answer choices, and calculators will be available as a tool on various sections of the test. Lawlor said students who require braile or a talking calculator will have access to a handheld calculator.
“There are a lot of tools they can use,” said Lawlor, adding that some questions on the test may also involve choosing more than one answer.
Lawlor said the SBAC test, which students will take next year, is computer-adapted, tailoring to students’ individual needs.  In other words, the computer program adjusts the difficulty of questions throughout the assessment based on student responses. If a student answers a question correctly, he or she may encounter a harder question, according to
Lawlor said these tailored sets of questions provide the district a “clearer picture” of which skills students have mastered.
“It will really give us a clearer picture…to better inform our instruction into what their needs are,” Lawlor said.
Students in grades three through eight and in grades 10 and 11 are expected to take the field test starting in April, with individual schedules set at each school. Testing may also be scheduled over multiple sessions lasting 45 minutes each, but may be scheduled in shorter or longer sessions as appropriate for students, according to a news released stated on the school district’s website.
For more information, visit the Smarter Balanced website at www.smarterbalanced.org or the assistant superintendent’s page at southingtonpublicschools.org for additional information.

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