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No Smarter Balanced test results until Nov. 12

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 22. 2015 10:35PM

State education officials say it will be six weeks before the public gets to see the results of the first-ever Smarter Balanced tests, the statewide standardized test that nearly all New Hampshire school students took in the spring.

The controversial test, which is connected to Common Core academic standards, became the standardized test used in schools across New Hampshire last spring. It replaced the New England Common Assessment Program, which students had taken for nine years.

Standardized tests are used to compare schools and school districts and measure their performance.

Local school districts have the Smarter Balanced results in hand now, but they won’t be available to the public until Nov. 12, said Paul Leather, deputy commissioner of education in New Hampshire. The date falls after elections in New Hampshire cities, when voters choose school and city officials.

“We certainly believe transparency is essential, however, we can’t release the data until it is complete, has been verified, and is accurate,” Leather wrote in an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Smarter Balanced was different in several ways. Students took it online, and it was adaptive: correct answers led to harder questions and vice versa.

An organization critical of Common Core and Smarter Balanced said superintendents have refused to share results with some school board members.'Everybody's saying 'Why on Earth aren't you releasing it to the public? What's the secret?' I'm asking the same question,' said Anne Marie Banfield, educational liaison for Cornerstone Policy Research.

Some think the delay is because results are bad, she said.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and Banfield have filed a right-to-know request for the results. Banfield is also seeking access to communication between Education Commissioner Virginia Barry and local superintendents about the results.

In July, Barry told the state Board of Education that the results would be ready for public consumption in the second week of October.

Principals in Manchester will receive the results later this week, and teachers will begin a review of the data next week, according to a statement issued by the Manchester School District.

Leather said the state Department of Education set the Nov. 12 date after discussions with school districts. Many factors came into play:

• End-of-year student data from school districts, which is needed for verification purposes, won’t arrive in Concord until Oct. 1.

• New student privacy laws require additional procedures.

• Some school districts had students take the test with pencil and paper, which slowed the scoring.

Leather said it’s hard to say how New Hampshire will stack up to other states that took Smarter Balanced. He said the results shouldn’t be compared to past NECAP test results.

“This is a much more rigorous assessment; most students took it online and it is adapted, and it is based on different standards,” he said.

Smarter Balanced has experienced a rocky start in New Hampshire.

In Manchester, the city school board bucked an effort by Mayor Ted Gatsas to block the test. Hundreds of students in Manchester and Nashua didn’t take the test. And last month, state officials announced that the SAT will replace the Smarter Balanced test for high school juniors.

Manchester School Superintendent Debra Livingston said she expects school leaders will make the best use of the test results.

“We are eager to have the conversations with principals and teachers about what they see in the data and how they wish to use it moving forward,” Livingston said.

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