DARIEN, Conn. – Darien’s students will try out Connecticut’s new computer-based standardized tests a year before they become official.
Darien Public Schools have signed on to field test the Smarter Balanced Assessments in the spring of 2014. The tests will take the place of the Connecticut Mastery Tests and the Connecticut Academic Proficiency Test statewide in the 2014-15 academic year.
“Darien elected to participate in the field test because it will give teachers, administrators, and students the opportunity to further orient themselves to the format of the test questions, to experience on-line testing and to provide some indication of the effectiveness of our implementation of the Common Core State Standards,” the Board of Education said in a press release.
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 current 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.
Darien will administer the tests in three-week windows between March 18 and June 6, depending on grade level. Grades 3 to 8 and high school juniors (not sophomores, as in the CAPT system) will take the language arts and mathematics portions of the assessments. The state will still use the CMT and CAPT exams for science exams.
Darien is already taking steps to make sure it is ready for the new exams. For example, a new typing program for elementary school students began this month, to prepare students for the computer-based tests.
Experts advise parents to be patient as the new assessments and curriculum are implemented in Darien 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.”
Darien Public Schools administrators plan to hold information sessions early next year to help answer parents’ questions about the new tests. Sample practice tests are also available on the Smarter Balanced Assessment website.