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What’s New in the Testing World for Spring 2017?

Taking a look at the trends and changes in standardized testing this spring.

By Lani Aquino

The height of testing season is coming into view, and with it, stakeholders across the nation are prepping for the challenges of learning and logistics that only extended periods of standardized testing can bring. While the news of an end to the days of testing would bring about innumerable versions of the happy dance being performed by students and teachers from coast to coast, testing traces have not been sprung from this spring’s agenda. The delivery method, requirements, and/or testing measures used may have undergone some changes since the 2015-2016 school year, but Education Week’s Overview of Testing Plans shows some form of standardized testing is firmly in place in every state.

The top two consortiums that develop tests to be used nationwide are PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). PARCC tests will still be administered in nine states (with Louisiana and Massachusetts creating state developed formats with a PARCC base), and students in sixteen states will be testing with SBAC (Michigan and New Hampshire have created their own state testing from the SBAC base). State adoptions of the tests from both of these consortiums have largely remained the same since last year’s rounds of testing although their combatants are never in short supply. An increases in the completion of testing via online measure is expected from both consortiums, and PARCC has made testing updates that include shorter testing times and fewer sessions.

The biggest newsworthy change to come about in consortium testing is New Jersey’s recent change to how PARCC tests may be utilized with high school students. A February vote by the State Assembly Education Committee was in favor of a resolution to drop the newly adopted state requirement for students to pass the PARCC in order to graduate. This graduation requirement was only put in place a few short months ago in August of 2016. If the proposed resolution passes, New Jersey will see either a new testing adoption or the elimination of any testing requirement for graduation.

More and more states are pulling away from these newfound Common Core-based graduation measures and utilizing their own state-developed tests or the well-known and respected ACT or SAT to capture achievement data from high school students. This proves that some of the bigger overall changes are being seen at the secondary level of testing. With a drop in the number of states requiring test passage for graduation, alternative assessment measures and/or the fulfillment of non-testing requirements are largely becoming the norm.

With the majority of states still tweaking and developing their own forms of standardized testing, the trends and changes in this ritualistic academic pastime will nary be in short supply. The relief of seeing that boldfaced STOP at the end of a testing session will still be experienced by students of all ages. Whether new consortiums develop or tried-and-true measures continue, one thing appears to be fairly certain, the timeless tradition of spring testing is here to stay.

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