A transformation is coming to the way Vermont educators determine what students know. "The smarter balance assessment is the next evolution of assessment," said Vt. Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca.
Right now students in grades 3 to 11 take the NECAPS, a standardized, paper-based test that measures reading, writing and math skills. That will change by the spring of 2015 when Vermont makes the move to the Smarter Balance computer-based assessment.
"We're using all the new technologies that are available to move testing into a new generation," said Michael Hock, the Education Department's Assessment Director.
In addition to testing reading, writing and math skills, the assessment will introduce listening and speaking components as well. And gone are the days of everyone getting the same list of questions-- those will change based on individual skill levels.
"Each of us is going to have different questions depending on our previous answer, so if I get a question wrong, my next question is a little easier, I get the next question right and it gets a little harder," Vilaseca said.
The Smarter Balance program is built on a common core group of skills and is slated to be used in 30 states. Hock said that overall the tests will be harder than the NECAPS and the standard to pass will be higher. An 11th grader looking for proficiency will need to demonstrate college level work. "Being proficient on the new test will be defined as students being ready to take and pass a credit bearing course in freshman year of college, so it is a higher standard and probably we are going to see test scores go down. I would love to be surprised, but they are higher standards," Hock said.
And the state's education secretary hopes the results are eventually linked to college admissions. "It can be high stakes enough so that it has meaning to them once they get out of high school so they can take that assessment seriously," Vilaseca said.
The test is being created and implemented with $180-million in federal funding. Students have one more year of the NECAPS before they will transition to the Smarter Balance.
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