The results of a new standardized test are out and the headlines are fairly bleak. The results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, released Thursday, show that across the board, 58 percent of New Hampshire students scored “proficient” or better in reading, and in math the picture is even worse: only 46 percent made the cut.
“This is not new news,” said Commissioner of Education Virginia Barry in a news conference Tuesday, “So let’s just harken back to two, three years ago when the community colleges said 72 percent of our students weren’t ready to deal with college information.”
The scores from the Smarter Balanced are substantially lower than the previous statewide assessment, the New England Common Assessment Program, which last scored 78 percent of students as proficient in reading and 71 percent in math.
However, the new Smarter Balanced results are in line with the latest result of the NAEP, a test frequently referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card”. According to that test, only 49 percent of students were proficient in math, and 45 percent in reading.
State officials hastened to caution against comparing the results from different tests on the briefing on Tuesday.
“Fundamentally, the foundation for which the assessment is designed are really two different things; it’s like comparing oranges and bananas,” explained the Department of Education’s Scott Manti.
Manti also observed that New Hampshire did better than expected, given the already released results of a field test of the Smarter Balanced that was given to millions of students the previous year.
"Looking at our results against the field test results the state of New Hampshire did much better than the general overall field test results," he said.
The Smarter Balanced has widely been seen as being a more difficult test, in part because it’s the first test that New Hampshire students have taken that is based on the Common Core State Standards, a set of controversial educational benchmarks which 42 states, including New Hampshire, have adopted. Many teachers believe these new standards will raise the bar for what’s expected of students.
"It's really about success for all students," explained Commissioner Barry, "So when you talk about honesty, this information is honest, and its saying something very different than the former assessment did."
The assessment, which is known as an “adaptive” test because it gives students harder or easier tasks depending on how they are answering other questions, was administered to students across the Granite State for the first time this spring.
This next year, the Department of Education says 11th grade students will be able to take the SAT instead of the Smarter Balanced. They hope this will help with flagging participation rates for high schoolers. While 95 percent of students statewide took the test, only 83 percent of 11th graders participated.