HARTFORD — One of the tough choices school superintendents around the state have to make in the 2013-14 school year is whether to stick with an obsolete state test or take a chance on a new online test that is still a work in progress.
In Stamford, administrators advocated for implementing the online tests this year, but not all on the school board agree. Board of Education member Polly Rauh said the new online tests could result in “chaos.”
Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said she respectfully disagreed.
Hamilton and her staff say it probably makes sense to make the move and the district is prepared on many fronts having done training already. It has also acquired new equipment for the transition, including iPads for the schools, though not enough for every student to have one.
Hamilton and Tamu Lucero, Stamford’s assistant superintendent of elementary education, said in an interview earlier this week they believe the students will be able to transition to the test fairly easily as most students today grow up with technology.
One change, the schools might make, according to Hamilton, is the length of time it takes to administer the test. She said it’s possible not every class will take the test at the same time.
Opting for older tests would mean administering the Connecticut Mastery Test to students in third through eighth grade, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test to 10th-graders.
State officials, however, blame a drop in 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test scores on students being taught to a new curriculum that was not covered on the existing test. Statewide test scores released Tuesday were down across the board, in all grade and subject areas.
The push to get behind the new system and test was driven by state Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor — who said he is optimistic that federal officials will give the state the green light to chose one test or the other during a Back to School meeting he hosted at the Capitol Wednesday.
The plan is also supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, appearing for the third straight year at the annual superintendents’ meeting.
, and told more than 100 superintendents in attendance that he believes the new Common Core State Standards curriculum will be a turning point in the state’s efforts to improve student achievement and close the largest-in-the-nation achievement gap.
He also told them it didn’t make sense to give both tests.
“We don’t want to be any more test-bound than we have to be,” Malloy said.
Malloy also said he is doing all he can to make sure districts have what they need, including money to buy computer equipment necessary for the new tests. He went into office pledging to make education reform a top priority.
“The reality is, it is getting better,” Malloy said of the economy. He promised a continued investment in education.
Districts have not yet been given a date to decide which test to use. A lot depends on the federal government. After indicating a willingness to be flexible, the U.S. Department of Education has yet to even create a waiver application that would allow districts to substitute the current test for the new test.
“Approved or not, the school year is upon us,” Pryor said. “We have to move. It is time to proceed. We will proceed as if we have been approved.”
The state is developing its own guidelines for flexibility. Those that opt for the new test have to be technologically prepared since the new test does not have a paper-and-pencil version.
Districts also have to be aware, said Pryor, that scores with the new test, at least this year, will be late, and will be delivered sometime next fall in raw-score fashion, as opposed to scores that compare students against set achievement targets.
The state has also asked the federal government to allow districts the option to not use the new test in evaluating teachers. That, too, is pending approval.