Test Shift Explained

In 2001, Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). With its new provisions, the reauthorized bill became known as the No Child Left Behind Act. One of its mandates required that students from grades 3 through 8 and in one high school grade be tested annually to assess if students-and the schools in which they are taught-were making "adequate yearly progress."

In Connecticut, the state already had tested students annually using two testing systems: the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) for students in grades 4 through 8, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) for high school students. The new federal law meant the state added one grade to the system, the 3rd grade.

The CMT and CAPT questions and test design were developed to be aligned for each subject and grade level with state-developed academic standards. These state Department of Education standards in turn guided local district curriculum development processes. The CMT and CAPT assessed student mastery in four content areas (rather than just two): language arts, math, writing, and science.

In 2010, the Connecticut State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards as the new state academic standards for language arts/literacy and mathematics. These standards, developed by a national non-profit organization, were adopted by many states as part of broad school reform efforts. How the Common Core standards were implemented in Connecticut was based on the state Department of Education's written interpretation of the standards and how to implement them in the classroom. Remaining in force and not covered by the state-adopted Common Core standards were the state's existing standards for science learning by grade level.

Along with the decision to adopt the Common Core standards, the state Board of Education also voted to join a multi-state consortium (more than 22 states joined forces in this effort) that was to develop a new generation of standardized tests based on the Common Core standards for math and language arts.

The new computer-based test system that resulted is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment System (SBAS). Last year some classes in each school district pilot tested parts of the early "beta" test. This year all Connecticut public school classes in grades 3 through 8 and the 11th grade in high school took the new multi-state SBA tests.

For this pilot-testing year, the SBA system's computer-adaptive element was not operational. This feature adapts the test to a student's skill level. For example, a student who is performing well and answering most questions correctly on the test will start receiving harder test questions. In the 2014-2015 school year SBA, this feature will be activated.

The 2014 field test of the multi-state SBA was scheduled to occur in Connecticut school districts between March 18 and June 6. School districts were given specific weeks as testing windows in which to administer the SBA tests.

Results for this year's practice SBA tests will be aggregated and only presented as a school result rather than an individual student outcome.

In the spring of 2015, the common grade-level specific SBA tests will be administered to students in more than 22 states.

To view practice SBA tests by grade level, visit www.smarterbalanced.org/practice-test.

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