NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s students will try out the state’s new standardized tests this year -- but only as a trial run for the future.
“Your child’s grades will not be affected by this year’s practice test results, and the results will not be part of your child’s record,” Superintendent Manuel Rivera said in a letter to parents. “Our only obligation to the state is that all of our students participate by taking the test.”
Norwalk Public Schools have signed on to “field test” the Smarter Balanced Assessments this spring, along with other Connecticut districts. The tests will take the place of the Connecticut Mastery Tests and the Connecticut Academic Proficiency Test statewide in the 2014-15 academic year.
Since the assessments are brand-new this year, Norwalk will treat this year’s tests as a “practice test,” Rivera said.
“It is an also important opportunity for our students and teachers to become familiar with how the test works,” Rivera said. “We will also take notice of any adjustments that might need to be made to make sure that Norwalk students are well prepared for the test next year.”
Smarter Balanced Assessments are designed to stick closer to the Common Core State Standard, which Connecticut schools began using this year. The consortium in charge of the tests says it will give parents and teachers better information on how prepared their students are for college and careers after graduation.
The tests are entirely web-based, and will have no pencil-and-paper version. Unlike the previous tests, the exams will not be strictly multiple-choice. The Smarter Balanced Assessments will also include short-answer portions and “performance tasks,” which give students real-world problems to solve.
Norwalk students will take the tests starting in mid-March. Elementary school tests will run from March 18 to April 11, and middle school students and high school juniors are scheduled to test from April 1 to May 30. Students will schedule their own specific times to take the new assessments.
All grade levels will take the language arts and mathematics sections of the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Since the new tests do not include a science portion, grades 5, 8 and 10 will take the CMT and CAPT science exams on March 11.
Experts advise parents to be patient as the new assessments and curriculum are implemented in Norwalk and across the state.
“Connecticut is resetting teaching and learning,” the national PTA says in its guide to parents. “A dip should not necessarily be interpreted as a decline in student learning or in educator performance. Educators expect the short-term decline to improve as teachers and student become more familiar with the standards and better equipped to meet the challenges they present.”