Changes to NCLB Standardized Tests

by Aimee Lawton

Gail Taylor, Director of Research, Standards, and Assessments for the Department of Education gave the House Education Committee a special presentation Wednesday about potential changes to the standardized tests required for students as a part of No Child Left Behind.

She spoke with the committee about requirements of No Child Left Behind, and also about a new comprehensive standardized assessment system that is in the process of being implemented in to Vermont schools.

One of the policies of No Child Left Behind is that students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 must be tested every year to assess their skills in the areas of math and reading, as well as writing and science in select grades within that group.

These assessments are done through NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) tests, which evaluate students’ reading, writing, and math skills every fall, and their science skills every spring. The tests have helped schools become more aware of where students’ strong and weak academic areas are, and have helped them determine the breakdown of student performance based on their background.

Taylor reported that all publicly funded students are assessed, and that schools are required to administer the NECAP tests. The results from the tests are also published so progress can be tracked by the public. She added that there is no assessment data for independent schools. Through the NECAP tests, No Child Left Behind has made Vermont schools more accountable for student performance and has made a difference in helping them improve. The new system of testing could promote improvement even more.

The new assessment system, called SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) will be a computerized test for students where they will have the opportunity to take the test multiple times within a 12 week window. This will provide schools with a more balanced system of standardized testing, allowing students to take formative tests, benchmark tests, and the final summative tests to assess their skills and weaknesses. The results from these tests will help teachers work more closely with the students in their weakest areas, and give the students opportunities to show improvement.

It is the hope that these tests will be ready for administration by the 2014-2015 school year.

For more information about the tests and to see the assessment results for schools throughout the state, visit http://www.education.vermont.gov/new/html/pgm_assessment.html.