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New Hampshire changes statewide assessment for students



Monitor staff
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

New Hampshire students will take new statewide assessments this spring.

The department of education announced Wednesday that it would contract with American Institutes for Research, a D.C.-based company, to test students in grades 3-8 and 11 in math, English language arts and science. The $9.55 million contract, which runs through June 2021, was approved by the executive council that day.

The state had previously contracted with AIR to administer its statewide assessments, so the electronic interface in which students and teachers are already accustomed won’t be any different. What will change is who develops the questions students are asked.

Last year, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium wrote the state’s math and English tests for grades 3 through 8, and the New England Common Assessment Program wrote the state’s bank of science questions. Now, AIR’s in-house consortium will provide questions for math, English and science.

During the 2015-16 school year, grade 11 students started using the SAT as the statewide test in math and English. That won’t change.

“It’s going to be a great solution that everyone is going to be happy with. It really addresses everyone’s concerns,” said Frank Edelblut, the state’s education commissioner.

The department said the new tests will have several advantages. Testing time in math and ELA will be reduced by up to 2 ½ hours, and in science, by up to four. The new system will also allow a stakeholder group from the state to choose which questions will be administered and provide feedback.

Scott Marion is the executive director for the Center for Assessment, a Dover-based consulting firm specializing in school testing and accountability.

Since the underlying state standards for the test aren’t changing, Marion thinks it’ll still be possible to track student growth year over year by comparing results between the new and old tests. And Edelblut highlighted that the state had specifically asked that vendors who bid on the contract explain how results on the older tests could be related to new ones in order to track individual student progress.

But some comparability will be lost, Marion said. Contrasting, for example, the percent of students statewide who achieved proficiency in eighth-grade math in 2017 and in 2018, would be “almost exactly the wrong comparison,” he said.

Marion’s firm advises New Hampshire along with dozens of states across the country. He said he usually urges his clients to change assessments as little as possible. There’s an axiom he likes to repeat: “If you want to measure change – don’t change the measure.”

According to Edelblut, Smarter Balanced didn’t bid on the contract and wasn’t an option. But changing would have been the way to go anyway.

“This is a great option for the state, and we should be excited about it,” he said.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)