EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 25, 2013

Online exam could replace MCAS test

Valley students to be part of trial run

MALDEN — State education officials are preparing to field test an online exam that appears poised to replace the MCAS student achievement test.

However, some Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members have questions about the switch.

Schools in the Merrimack Valley will be among the more than 1,200 taking part in a trial run of the exams.

About a dozen Haverhill schools will be taking the proposed MCAS replacement exam later this school year as part of the statewide trial run, Haverhill Superintendent James Scully said yesterday.

Methuen Superintendent Judy Scannell also said her district is participating in the statewide pilot, and that she expects final confirmation of which grades and schools by Dec. 1.

Developed 15 years ago, the MCAS was not designed with college and career-readiness in mind, state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education officials said during a board meeting yesterday. The new assessment program, set to launch with trial runs at 1,250 schools, is designed to move schools in that direction, they said.

The new test, in math and English, is aimed at evaluating the ability of students to think critically about questions and requires more writing. It also includes literary analysis, research abilities, and diagnostic assessment, according to education officials. MCAS science tests will remain the same.

Scully said he is waiting to see the results of the field testing before forming an opinion on the new exam.

“Right now the state education commissioner and others are advocating for the new test, but I and other superintendents are withholding judgement until we see the results of field testing going on in a number of school systems, including Haverhill,” Scully said.

Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey Riley, who is working to improve Lawrence public schools, had mixed feeling about the change being considered.

“While I believe moving to the new Common Core assessment system will ultimately be beneficial for our students, it comes at a less than ideal time for our district,” Riley said last night.

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