Brunswick schools prepare for new assessment tests

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BRUNSWICK — Schools will be the testing grounds for the state’s new computer-based learning assessment sometime this spring.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski announced the spring test of the Smarter Balanced assessment earlier this month. Principals of each school are expected to announce test dates soon.

The new learning assessment, which will be given to grades 3-9 and 11, will be officially implemented by spring 2015 as part of the state Board of Edcucation’s 2010 adoption of the Common Core learning standards.

But news of the practice test alarmed some parents and community members, who spoke out at a recent School Board meeting.

Concerns included whether younger students will be ready to take a computer-based test, and the fact that assessment scores will eventually have an impact on teacher evaluations.

Perzanoski on Wednesday said the concerns are well-founded, but pointed out that critics should redirect their attention to Augusta, where decisions about the state’s new learning assessment and standards are being made.

“The anger that we’ve heard is displaced,” he said. “The discomfort and dismay to have more tests should be placed in a political arena where it belongs.”

Samantha Warren, spokeswoman for Maine Department of Education, acknowledged concerns about the adoption of the Smarter Balanced assessment, which is being developed by a consortium of 26 states.

But she said the new learning assessment will help improve classroom instruction as the state moves to a proficiency-based diploma, because results will come back much faster than they do with current assessments.

“Results will be coming back in a matter of weeks,” Warren said, “so if you as an educator are getting ready for the next school year, you’ll have results to help inform your curriculum.”

She said the practice test is being done in 20 percent of school districts in Maine to assess the state’s readiness for implementing the assessment next year.

“Participating in the field test allows the test to ensure that we are as ready as we think we are,” Warren said, noting that students can opt to take a paper-and-pen version of the assessment.

The DOE spokeswoman also noted the department will engage educators and the business community over the next year to assess Common Core standards.

“Obviously you need time to implement them,” Warren said, “but it’s something that needs to be constantly improved because expectations on students are constantly changing.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.