On Thursday, September 26, the Vermont Agency of Education announced its selection of 27 elementary, middle and high schools—including Warren Elementary School—that will participate in a field test of the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, a new, computer-based educational testing program that will replace the state's current New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) tests for math, reading and writing in the spring of 2015.

The agency sent out a request for volunteers for the field test this past July and received applications from 80 schools. "Having more than a third of our school volunteer for field testing speaks to the great interest our educators have in the new tests," state Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca said. "I'm sorry it wasn't possible to include them all." Finalists for field testing were selected in the order their applications were received.

Through a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, students who participate in the field test will not be required to take the NECAP tests administered in October without running afoul of the assessment requirements set for in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The Smarter Balanced Assessment System is funded by a $178 million federal grant and being developed by a consortium of 28 states. The new tests will use a state-of-the-art online assessment delivery system that is expected to provide more accurate results than the current generation of tests while at the same time reducing the amount of time students spend on testing. The results they produce will help parents and teachers determine if students are on track for a successful transition to college or the workforce upon graduation.

The purpose of field testing is to ensure that the assessment items and tasks meet the state's high standards of educational quality. It also provides students and teachers with a valuable preview of the new computer-based assessments and will give the schools and the state an opportunity to prepare for the technological and logistical requirements of the new assessment system.

"Unfortunately, the field test won't generate any student test scores," state Director of Educational Assessment Michael Hock said, "but it does give Vermont a chance to contribute to the development of these exciting new educational tools. We believe the benefits justify having one year without state test results in the 27 field test schools."

To learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment System and to view a full list of schools selected for field testing in Vermont, visit http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/sbac.html.