New online tests being given in Shelton schools going well

School Supt. Freeman Burr
School Supt. Freeman Burr

The new standardized tests being implemented in most grade levels in the Shelton public schools are going extremely well.

That is the message from school officials when it comes to the mechanics of offering the Smarter Balanced tests, which are taken on a computer rather than in written form.

“We have not experienced any technical issues of major significance,” Tina Henckel, assistant director of STEM, told the Board of Education (BOE).

Education administrators offered an update on the new tests to BOE members at the most recent school board meeting.

There had been concerns about the process since the change involves using a completely new standardized test that would be given online for the first time.

Replacing the CMTs

The Smarter Balanced assessments are considered “field tests” for the current school year, and will be fully implemented during the next school year.

The Smarter Balanced standardized tests are replacing the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs), and are designed to better align with the state’s new Common Core standards.

They will replace the CMTs for English language arts and math in grades three to eight, and be added as a standardized test for grade 11.

Currently, the CMT still will be used for science in grades six and eight, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) will still be used for grade 10.

High completion rates already

As of April 23, almost all Shelton students in grades three, four and five had completed the Smarter Balanced tests in English language arts and math. Completion rates ranged from 96% to 99%.

Most students in grade 11 also had taken the tests, with completion rates of 88% to 93%. Additional grade 11 students will take the tests.

Students in grades six, seven and eight are now taking the tests, and thet should be essentially done by mid-May.

Henckel said Smarter Balanced makeup tests should be arranged by a June 6 deadline for students who have not taken the tests.

She said school staff as well as students appear pleased with the process, “given this is our first rollout.”

New Chromebooks helped with process

Henckel credited the school system’s recent purchase of many hundreds of new Google Chromebooks for student use, through a state grant, as one reason that switching to an online test hasn’t caused problems.

Having all the Chromebooks available “made a significant impact,” she said.

'Home stretch with implementation'

School Supt. Freeman Burr said while there were “some obstacles along the way,” in the end the process was “remarkably smooth.”

“We’re in the home stretch with implementation,” Burr said.

He said it was “a job well done” by administrators, teachers, IT staff, and others in the system. “A total team effort,” Burr said.

Smarter Balanced tests have been described as “the next generation of assessments.” They go beyond multiple-choice questions to include testing items that allow students to demonstrate research, writing and analytical skills, according to publicity material.