ELLSWORTH — Maine is saying buh-bye to the Smarter Balanced standardized testing system after just one year due to complaints from educators, parents and the Maine Department of Education.
“You hear, from the folks out on the front lines, ‘Pick something and stay with it,’” said Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County). “But you also have to know when to cut your losses.”
The state of Maine spent $2.7 million plus $900,000 in annual consortium dues for Smarter Balanced, according to Education Commissioner Tom DesJardins.
“We’d like to think the Legislature and the Education Committee took to heart what was happening out on the front lines,” Langley said. “Commissioner DesJardins very much supported the severing of this relationship.”
Langley, who chairs the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, said there were mixed reports throughout the state about Smarter Balanced.
“Some had no problems or very few that couldn’t be worked out,” he said.
However, there were far more issues, including feedback from teachers who said the amount of time spent preparing children to take the tests was inordinate, Langley said.
There also were logistical and technical issues with the test.
“What I had been told was that it had been broken up into portions,” Langley said. “There wasn’t one single entity in charge of the whole process. You had somebody producing content and somebody doing delivery.”
Union 93 Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said, “I think the whole thing’s been a boondoggle. It wasn’t a good result.”
“We’ve been in an era of accountability and much time, effort and classroom time have been taken up by standardized testing,” Hurvitt said. “I think the next test won’t be as invasive and time-consuming. I’m hoping its going to be a better situation.”
“The funny thing is one of the selling features was that we were supposed to get the results back lickety-split, unlike the NECAPs or MEAs (Maine Education Assessment),” Hurvitt said. As of July 23, there haven’t been any test results available.
The test was given in April and the state said results would be available within a few weeks.
A task force composed of educators has been charged with helping to determine the next standardized test the state selects, said Debra Plowman, director of policies and programs for the Maine Department of Education.
Surry School Committee member Marlene Tallent is serving on that task force.
Before Smarter Balanced, the state had been using the New England Common Assessment or NECAP. The scores determine if schools are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress goals, which are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
The state tests English and math proficiency in third through eighth grades and then again in 11th grade. Proficiency in science is assessed in fifth through eighth grade and in a student’s junior year in high school.
The Maine Department of Education says testing provides parents and educators objective information about how students are progressing academically and where they may need additional support to be successful.
News Reporter Jacqueline Weaver contributed to this report.