Vermont students in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 11 have taken the New England Common Assessment Program or NECAP since 2005. Designed to measure student's abilities in reading, writing and math, the results for 2013 do not mark a significant change from what we have seen in previous years.
Out of all students tested in the state of Vermont, 71 percent scored in the proficient category for reading and 67 percent were proficient in math. There were also some major problem areas.
"Males who do receive free and reduced lunch, less wealthy boys tend to be the lowest performing students in our state," Vt. Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe said.
It's the same story we heard this time last year from Holcombe's predecessor, Armando Vilaseca.
However, 27 schools in Vermont were left out of this year's NECAP assessment. They will serve as the field test schools for a brand new computer-based assessment later this spring. The Smarter Balanced or SBAC system will officially replace the NECAP statewide in spring 2015.
"I don't know about you, but I've talked to students who have an experience where they take the NECAP and the whole thing feels too hard and I've talked to other students who take the NECAP and it all seems pretty easy. Everyone should have the same experience of feeling like when they took the Smarter Balanced; it was a little bit challenging. And that's sort of the goal. So then we have a better sense of what you know and what your strengths are," Holcombe said.
The transition from the NECAP to the SBAC mimics the way our society is heading-- extremely technologically focused. Now in a perfect world, each student would take the SBAC on a Google Chromebook or personal laptop. So, how did the students feel about throwing away the old pen and paper?
"I type faster than I write, so with that it just makes the test faster for me," said Oscar Peake, a sixth-grader.
Barre City students are practicing already. The school is one of the 27 checking out the SBAC. The test questions change depending on students' answers, theoretically giving a better view of their abilities. Apart from the advanced technology the SBAC calls for, it also challenges students to think critically, and even adds a brand new section.
"Also it gives a listening aspect where part of the test is read to them through the system and we normally haven't assessed that in the past," said Ryan Dudley, a sixth-grade math and science teacher in Barre City.
While students have only begun doing practice tests for the SBAC, the concept of a computer-based assessment could certainly change the game when they are fully implemented in 2015.