In recent months, recent years really, the media and politicians alike have made "standardized testing" a lightning rod for debate in utility of standardized tests.
I want to share with you what we think is a very sensible approach on the subject and what we've been doing during the past two years to measure post-secondary readiness in meaningful ways.
We want to share with you what we believe is a very sensible approach to standardized testing at EO Smith and what we've been doing during the past two years to measure post-secondary readiness in meaningful ways.
The external measures we're using are valid and reliable tests that are well-known to the public and widely accepted by post-secondary institutions - and that students will likely take, anyway. They are the ACT, SAT, and PSAT. Standardized testing is certainly no stranger to school communities. Connecticut has for several years required schools to administer the CMT and CAPT, and the relative importance of these tests increased substantially when No Child Left Behind legislation was introduced well over a decade ago.
Recent developments have added fuel to an already heated debate over the utility of standardized tests as the state and federal governments have introduced a new form of standardized testing (SBAC) and linked the tests to teacher evaluations.
We decided to opt out of this debate and, instead, opt into a more sensible approach to the mandated testing. Recognizing the fact that post-secondary institutions placed little (if any) value on CAPT and would view SBAC in a similar fashion, we launched efforts two years ago to research alternatives that would better serve our students and that would provide both valid and reliable feedback on their progress towards post-secondary readiness.
We also wanted students to receive this feedback in a more timely manner, giving them sufficient time to address skill deficiencies that would be identified in the testing. With this in mind, we chose to use a test package that would produce scores directly linked to a test that is widely recognized by post-secondary institutions. So, two years ago, we decided to implement the ACT Aspire Assessments to students in grades nine (at the time). And we continued with this testing in the tenth grade, using the ACT Aspire Assessment designed to assess students in skills they should have acquired at that point in their academic development.
We believe that our alternative approach to testing these past two years has been fruitful and we believe that it has garnered the attention of surrounding communities and representatives in the state legislature as well. We also believe our efforts resulted in us being invited by the CT State Department of Education to participate in a task force that would examine alternatives to the SBAC administered to students in the eleventh grade. Although the decision reached by this task force and, ultimately, Governor Malloy did not result in the ACT option, it did prompt the Governor to make an appeal to the federal government for an alternative to the SBAC.
This appeal, initially sparked by our efforts that began two years ago, was viewed favorably by federal officials.
As you may know, the State of Connecticut has just recently received permission from the federal government to provide an alternative to the SBAC. This alternative is the SAT. Recognizing that students are already expected to sit for the SAT and/or ACT in their junior year as an entrance requirement for many colleges and universities, it makes perfect sense to choose the SAT as the measure to satisfy this mandate for all students to be evaluated for post-secondary readiness in their junior year.
Thus, EO Smith is planning to administer the SAT (instead of the SBAC) to juniors in March 2016 and the test will be free for EO Smith students. This SAT will be the new version that The College Board has been designing for almost two years now. If you've been following developments regarding this new redesigned SAT and the rationale for its new design, you know that the new SAT will actually resemble the "old" ACT in content and format. In fact, the two standardized tests will be more similar than the two have ever been before.
Because of this, juniors at EO Smith are actually well-prepared to take this new SAT, and not only because of the excellent classroom instruction they have received during the past several years. This same group of students (Class of 2017) has already completed ACT measures for ninth and tenth grades. So, in effect, juniors have been given sufficient exposure to the test format for the new SAT by virtue of having completed the aforementioned assessments. Score reports for both assessments are available on each student's Naviance Family Connections page.
The original plan put in place over two years ago included a third year of testing for this group of students that would culminate with the actual ACT. EO Smith planned to administer the ACT to all juniors on Tuesday, March 19th before the federal government issued its waiver for the SAT.
Nevertheless, a decision has been made to stick with this plan in spite of the waiver. Thus, current juniors will have a unique opportunity to take the SAT and ACT before they become seniors. And both tests will be free to students. In addition, all current sophomores (Class of 2018) will participate in the PSAT 10 (also new from The College Board) on February 22, 2016.
Making the shift from the ACT to the SAT in light of the state-mandated testing and the option to use the SAT as a substitute for the SBAC, we believe that providing an opportunity for students to gauge their readiness for the SAT one full year before they sit for the required SAT in their junior year will inform them (and their parents) of their readiness. It will also provide adequate time to address any skill deficiencies that may be identified in the PSAT 10 score reports.
You should rest comfortably knowing the standardized assessments that we've chosen to administer to EOS students are well known and widely accepted measures in higher education. You should also know that EOSHS views the scores on the tests as one measure of post-secondary readiness. Combining the test scores with grades earned in appropriately challenging courses during one's high school experience will provide sufficient evidence for success in higher education.
More information about all of this will be made available in the weeks and months ahead.We believe that we have put a sensible plan in place that will best serve the needs of EOS students while also meeting the state-mandated requirement for using an external assessment to measure student progress towards postsecondary readiness. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact us if you have questions about any of this and/or need more information.
E.O. Smith High School