New test debated on social media


WALLINGFORD — While the practice run of a new computerized test started earlier this week for high school students, some parents are expressing frustration on social media over how requests to opt-out are being handled.

The Smarter Balanced assessment will replace the Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test, administered to students in grades three through eight and 10th grade, respectively. This year, students across the state are participating in a field test, which is a “practice run” that helps ensure test questions are accurate and fair,” according to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The field test for high school students began Tuesday. The test will officially launch during the 2014-15 school year.

At a Board of Education meeting Monday night, Michelle Kogut, holding a letter in her hand, said she was disappointed with how the school system was handling opt-out requests.

Kogut questioned why students had to participate in the field test when no data would be received until a year later. While Kogut was the only parent that approached the board, she told administrators and the Board of Education that parents on a Facebook community forum were also concerned about opt-out requests.

As of Wednesday evening, the thread on the forum has 102 comments from parents describing their opt-out experiences.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Shawn Parkhurst has been handling the opt-out requests. He said Wednesday that as the test date approached, the school system received opt-out letters from parents.

“Under state law, we’re not able to grant any of the opting-out requests,” Parkhurst said. “It’s illegal to do so. We’re going by the protocol outlined by the state.”

Some parents that send a letter have taken the time to learn more about the field test, Parkhurst said.

While administrators can’t allow students not to take the test, Parkhurst said students can refuse to take it. If a student refuses, Parkhurst said, they only have to say it verbally — no letter is required. If a student refuses to participate, there is no disciplinary, Parkhurst said.

Administrators are encouraging students to take test because the school system is trying to achieve a high participation rate. Connecticut has an expectation of a 95 percent participation rate for state mandated tests, Parkhurst said.

Department of Education Spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly agreed.

“Though this year’s tests are low-stakes, student participation matters,” Donnelly said in an email. “Their input factors into future tests, ensuring that they are fair and (an) accurate representation of Connecticut students’ knowledge and abilities.”

evo@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ



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