Londonderry Hopes to Replace New Tests with PSAT

The Londonderry School District will be asking State Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry for permission to use the PSAT and other tests in lieu of the planned Smarter Balanced test for students in grades 8-11.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Andy Corey said that about a year ago, the district had a discussion with Barry regarding that switch.
“The commissioner was very interested and set up several meetings with representatives of the College Board, myself, Nate (Londonderry Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg) and several other superintendents. The Commissioner has been very supportive of our concept and has mentioned it several times in public,” Corey told the School Board at its Tuesday, Oct. 22 meeting.
The PSAT is the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, whose website states it measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills and writing skills.
Corey said the proposal he was putting forward for a vote was for grades 8-11, and said district officials think it fits the college and career ready goal.
“It has intrinsic value for our students and will assist in student instruction and course planning,” he said. “If the board approves the proposal, it will go forward to the Commissioner for her approval. It will be several steps beyond her approval to implement the PSAT portion of the proposal in lieu of the Smarter Balanced. However with the support she has given us already, I am very hopeful that this will come to fruition.”
Corey said a few years ago, the board adopted a goal that all graduating students would demonstrate a career and college readiness “based on expanded definitions of rigor, adaptive skills and critical dispositions by 2017.” Corey said that internally, officials have been targeting the college acceptance rate, which currently is about 88 percent of graduating seniors going off to two- or four-year colleges.
“We would like, by 2016, to increase that to 92 percent, and increase that to 95 percent by 2020 and continue it there,” Corey said.
To do that, he said the district had to look at the assessments as more of a “follow the child” package, with the ultimate goal of college or career readiness. “They are interchangeable because some students are looking at specific careers, while other students are looking at college choices,” Corey said.
To accomplish that, Corey said the district is looking at using the Readi-Step test for grades 8 and 9.
“It measures student skills due to be on track for success as they transition to high school,” he said. “It provides insights into students’ academic progress and also equips educators with tools they can use to make informed decisions in their classroom. In grade 10, we would look at ACT. This test will give us an indication of the student’s ability in English, mathematics and science. We are looking at this test to be given on one day in October and take approximately three hours to administer.”
The ACT test, a national college admissions test, covers English, math, reading and science. There is also an ACT Plus Writing test.
He compared that to both the current NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) and proposed Smarter Balanced tests, which take multiple days.
“In grade 11, the students will take the PSAT test on a Wednesday – they currently come in on a Saturday (for that test),” he said. “In our proposal, we are asking the state to pay for the test in lieu of the money they would spend on Smarter Balanced. The cost of the ACT, PSAT and Readi-Step are significantly lower, so we do not believe there will be a cost impact.”
Corey said he would get more data after talking with the Commissioner, should the board vote to move forward.
He also said that for selected 11th graders, the district would look at the “ACT replacer,” which is used by community colleges to predict a student’s readiness for college.
“We would specifically use it in a lot of cases with math,” he said. “A lot of our eleventh graders could be done with their math career. We would want to know if they were ready for that career and college ready and the test would be able to tell us that, and that we could make a strong recommendation to students and parents if they should continue taking math.”
Corey said the tests would be used to create a district academic team to identify students from grades 8-12 who need “acceleration.”
“Often times we use remediation, but when someone is behind, you need to accelerate them to be able to catch up,” he explained. “So working through guidance, we could utilize this testing to move students forward.” He added that the tests would be used in helping students choose courses.
Board member Steve Young asked if the students would be in the classroom more with this testing or less.
Corey said that because the tests are administered in one day rather than multiple days, the students would be receiving more academics.
Board member John Robinson said the tests would have more of a legitimate value to the district’s educational processes rather than an arbitrary standard imposed in order to meet vague benchmarks.
Corey agreed.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked if some of the benchmarks used for acceptance rates were tied to performance.
“I would say that those are internal goals that we’ve established and that we believe are reachable, “Corey said.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the proposal.

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