Newton schools looking into national test changes

COVINGTON -- Some Newton County School System staff members already are preparing for a new type of national test for students in the coming years.

Recently, several NCSS personnel attended a special session at the Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency regarding the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC assessments. The new tests are expected to be administered to students beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said that 24 states, including Georgia, are members of a consortium that will develop new common core assessments for part of the nation; 22 other states are part of another consortium called SMARTER Balance that will develop its own common core assessments.

Each consortium will be able to compare individual classroom, school, district and state results with other consortium members in the 20-something states "on an apples to apples basis for the first time in history," Mathews wrote in his End-of-Month Notes sent to staff and other educational stakeholders at the end of December. He said this is different from the No Child Left Behind assessments, which were different for all 50 states.

"As far as PARCC is concerned, while there are generally less topics per grade, there is a greater depth of consideration," Mathews said. "Additionally, as we are finding out in NCSS, there has been a rather dramatic shifting of content downwards -- what was once taught in a particular grade is now taught in a lower grade, at times more than one grade level down. Rigor in the common core is certainly evident -- more difficult, not more stuff."

In English language arts/literacy, assessment advances include sequences of questions that draw students into deeper encounters with texts, rather than sets of random questions of varying quality. In math, instead of a random sampling of a wide array of topics, they will have a stronger focus where the standards focus, Mathews said.

He added that most of the assessments will require the use of technology.

"It is truly the digital age with a digital generation of students we are teaching," Mathews said. "PARCC plans to acknowledge this with the new assessment system."