NHPS discusses standardized testing

New Haven Public Schools will switch to the new Smarter Balanced standardized testing system in two years.

However, they are still looking for appropriate assessment measures to use in the interim. At a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, attended by roughly 50 community members, board members discussed specific measures they can use to gauge the academic performance of the school district while transitioning into a new assessment system that aligns with the more comprehensive Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which Connecticut adopted in 2010. The old assessment system, which was based on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), did not measure the skills taught under the new CCSS curriculum. Board members at last night’s meeting discussed the need to promptly decide on a set of academic indicators consistent with the change.

“This two-year transition is tough,” said Imma Canelli, NHPS’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, who presented at the meeting. “The challenge is that we are in the process of rewriting our curriculum according to the Common Core, but CMT does not measure this.”

Dealing with the absence of an assessment standard is especially critical in the continuous effort by NHPS to achieve one of the goals of its School Change Initiative — eliminating the performance gap between New Haven students and students in the rest of the state. According to NHPS data for 2013, 64.1 percent of New Haven students reached the CMT proficiency level while 82.4 percent of students in Connecticut did.

“The bottom line is that [statistics of academic performance in New Haven] are significant numbers that we need to keep making a difference each and every day,” superintendent Garth Harries ’95 said.

NHPS will implement the field test for the Smarter Balanced assessment next spring, Canelli said. She recommended alternative indicators of academic achievement be used for Board discussion during the transition period. For example, she said, that the Scholastic Reading Inventory is a good indicator for reading skills because it gives the “Lexile” measure, which is the standard used by the CCSS to assess reading ability.

Alex Johnston, a member of the Board of Education, said that it is important to have a measure to compare New Haven’s scores to those in the rest of the state.

Board members also agreed that it is important to inform parents about the significance of these assessments in order to encourage them to support their children’s academic success.

During a time for public participation at the end of the meeting, Jennifer Drury, an English teacher at Hill Regional Career High School, said that the board should not forget that the focus of education should be on letting the students learn how to enjoy reading rather than on constantly assessing where the students are compared to state standards.

The CCSS standards were adopted by 45 states in total.

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