Maine prepares for move to more advanced assessment system in three years
AUGUSTA – Maine students improved slightly in reading and more significantly in math in the latest New England Common Assessment Program tests, taken in October 2011. In writing, there was a slight decrease.
Maine Department of Education officials say the test results are one of multiple measures of performance that are useful in measuring student progress and school performance. But they are planning to retire the NECAP test after 2013 due to changes at the national level.
In its place, Maine will administer a new, more sophisticated assessment system starting in the 2014-15 school year that will provide even more valuable information about how students are learning information and concepts. The assessment system will include computer-based year-end and optional intermediary tests that can give teachers data throughout the year.
“Our strategic plan calls for new assessment systems that provide timely, accurate data on student achievement and growth,” Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said. “Teachers and administrators must be able to make appropriate decisions about instructional practice from assessments that measure higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills.”
Maine is one of the governing states in the 28-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is building the more comprehensive assessment system.
“Those assessments will do more than simply hold schools accountable under the outdated and sometimes counter-productive No Child Left Behind Act,” said Bowen. “Coupled with information systems that can track learner growth over time, we’ll be able to provide teachers with quality information about how kids are doing so they can develop and adapt personal learning plans for each child.”
Dan Hupp, assessment director for the Department, said Department staff are developing a plan for sharing information about the new SMARTER Balanced assessment system with teachers well before they are first given in spring 2015.
The new tests will assess students on the new Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts, adopted by Maine and 44 other states within the last two years.
Maine students will continue to be tested in grades 3 through 8 using the NECAP for another two years. In grade 11, the SAT test is used as the state’s accountability assessment, and will also be replaced by SMARTER Balanced in 2014-15.
In the October 2011 NECAP testing, the percentage of students scoring “proficient” or above in math increased by between one and six percentage points in every grade level from grades 3 through 8. In reading, proficiency increased at four grade levels, remained stable at one grade level, and decreased by 2 percentage points in grade 5.
This was the third year of NECAP testing for Maine students, and is administered in cooperation with New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, which developed the assessment program seven years ago. Moving forward, the states of New Hampshire and Vermont will join Maine in transitioning to SMARTER Balanced while Rhode Island will join another national assessment collaborative, PARCC. NECAP will officially dissolve concluding the fall test administration in the 2013-14 school year.
While NECAP is one consistent measure of academic progress – one required by the federal government for No Child Left Behind accountability purposes – it is only one of many ways that schools measure the progress of students. In evaluating the success of students and schools, it is essential that parents, educators, and community leaders consider multiple forms of assessment, such as: community involvement, attendance, graduation rates, the number of students pursuing further education after high school, school safety issues, discipline records, and other relevant information.
- NECAP reports for schools, districts, and the state, and a guide to understanding the reports
- Information about the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium