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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Smarter Balanced field tests slated for spring; specific dates yet to be determined

NASHUA – An outcry by teachers at Fairground Middle School over a new computerized assessment test will not prevent the district from rolling out the exam to students this spring.

Students at six district schools will take the Smarter Balanced field tests in a couple of months, but specific dates have yet to be determined. The trial tests will be taken by students at Dr. Crisp, Ledge Street, New Searles and Mt. Pleasant elementary schools, as well as Fairgrounds and Pennichuck middle schools. ...

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NASHUA – An outcry by teachers at Fairground Middle School over a new computerized assessment test will not prevent the district from rolling out the exam to students this spring.

Students at six district schools will take the Smarter Balanced field tests in a couple of months, but specific dates have yet to be determined. The trial tests will be taken by students at Dr. Crisp, Ledge Street, New Searles and Mt. Pleasant elementary schools, as well as Fairgrounds and Pennichuck middle schools.

New Hampshire is one of 22 states working to evaluate and transition to the Smarter Balanced assessment by spring 2015 to replace the New
England Common Assessment Program.

After trying the test for themselves in December, teachers at Fairgrounds Middle School had a scathing review.

“The FMS staff collectively believe that the Smarter Balance Test is inappropriate for our students at this time and that the results from this test will not measure the academic achievement of our students; but will be a test of computer skills and students’ abilities to endure through a cumbersome task,” Principal John Nelson wrote to the Board of Education.

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said any talk about delaying the new assessment is counterproductive for the district.

By giving the test a trial run with students, Conrad said the district would be ahead of other districts experiencing it for the first time next year.

“I don’t think any district can be fully prepared for the Common Core by next spring. We will, though, be further along than many other districts,” he said.

Even though the test will be given, student and parents have the chance to opt-out. Teachers, on the other hand, do not get to opt an entire class out of taking the test.

Board of Education member Dottie Oden sought specific wording in a letter to parents to make it clear student participation “is optional for students.”

Since the district has yet to implement Common Core, Oden said it would be “wrong to subject our students to a test that they have not been fully prepared for.”

Such trial runs are not new for the district. Last year, students at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School and Pennichuck Middle School took pilot tests for the new assessment.

Andres Caamano can be reached at 594-6402 or acaamano@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Caamano on Twitter (@Telegraph_Andre).