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New Standardized Tests Coming to Chatham Schools

Exams will have pilot trial this year and issued to students in the 2014-15 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Karen Chase reported on changes coming to state-mandated standardized testing starting in 2014 during the Board of Education of the School District of the Chathams' meeting Monday.

Currently, students in the Chathams are tested in grades 3 through 8 using the New Jerset Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJASK) and again in grade 11 with the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).

These tests measure language arts and math for regular and special education students. Results are measured at Partially Proficient (P.P.), Proficient (P) and Advanced Proficient (A.P.)

With these two tests, the district can see individual student scores, district scores and the averages for District Factor Groups (DFGs) for given points in time.

Students in the Chathams generally test at or above P and AP scores compared to similar districts, with notable exceptions in math at the elementary and middle school levels.

NJASK and HSPA measure students compared to similar districts, but do not provide any insight into how students grow over the course of their academic careers. Also, test results come in over the summer, after the school year has ended.

"In 2010, the state of New Jersey became one of many states in the US that has adopted the Common Core Standards in English language arts and Mathematics," Chase said. Teachers teach to Common Core Standards, but NJASK and HSPA do not measure student proficiency in these standards.

"In an effort to remediate that, New Jersey is working toward implementing a new assessment called the PARCC," Chase said.

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The test has been in launch and developmental design phases since 2010, and pilot testing begin this year in some districts. All districts will switch to the PARCC in 2014.

Chase said administrators still do not know exactly what the test will look like. "They said it would be [administered] on computers, then they said only at the upper grades," she said as an example of mixed information on PARCC tests. "There's a lot of misinformation and conflicting reports out there."

One detail about the PARCC which Chase said could be depended on was that there will be two PARCC tests administered each school year, one at the end of February and one at the end of May.

Benefits of PARCC tests though, include the ability to view performance over time relative to peers. Also, results will be sent to the districts before the school year ends.

Scores will be measured in percentiles, compared to the highest- and lowest-scoring students throughout the state who have taken the same tests and are in the same grade.

The difference between the two tests, Chase said, is tantamount to the difference in asking "Did a certain student score proficient on the 2011 math assessment" vs. asking "How has this student improved?"

"The state is moving towards allowing us to see the performance of a student over time," Chase said. "This is the Department of Education's attempt to improve the data that they're presenting to the district."

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