State to Increase Standardized Student Testing in 2014-15
Annual exams, such as NJASK, will be longer, focus more on student needs.
State officials announced Tuesday that beginning in the 2014-15 school year, students in New Jersey schools will spend roughly three more hours per year undergoing annual tests than current testing requires, according to a published report.
“The division of the assessments into two components is a significant change from our current design, allowing for more but shorter sessions,” said Cedar Grove Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Polles.
Currently, the NJASK3 is roughly five hours long over the course of four days, he said, while the new proposed tests consists of nine sessions, each slightly less than an hour.
“We are being told that the new design will allow greater flexibility within its 20 day window of testing time at the district level,” said Polles. “Outside of the time discussion, the true test will be the new requirement to have all testing utilizing district technology with the likelihood that the paper and pencil way of testing will be a thing of the past.”
The new online tests, officials said, will help teachers better understand students’ needs, a Wednesday NorthJersey.com report said.
However not all educators and parents are convinced of the effectiveness of the test, saying the new tests will drain more instructional time and increase pressure to “teach to the test,” especially at a time when teachers’ evaluations will be linked in part to their students’ progress on tests, the report said.
"I have several reservations about it including the technical requirements to be able to administer an online assessment to 900 or so students in a 20 day time frame, keeping in mind that during the assessments we still have to educate students," said Verona Superintendent of Schools Steven Forte.
A 22-state, federally funded consortium known as the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is developing the new tests for math and language arts. The tests are supposed to reflect what students must learn by each grade according to a new set of voluntary national standards called the Common Core. These standards, put in place this year, aim to be more coherent, clear and rigorous than many states had before.
Some district officials have questioned whether the tests would dominate their schools’ computers during test days. The state is now surveying districts to see if they expect to have enough computers and bandwidth. The consortium recommends that a school with 100 students in its largest grade have at least 50 devices: half the students could take the test in the morning, half in the afternoon.
Another issue plaguing districts is the cost of the new tests. Currently, a federal grant is paying for the test development, but paying for future costs of the test in New Jersey are unclear.