The assessment, called Performance Series by Scantron, replaces other tests used between third and eighth grades, according to the district’s website.
“With this test, we are improving intervention efforts,” said Diane Villwock, executive director of testing and program evaluation for the district. “We can identify where the holes are in the learning.”
The new standardized assessment will measure subjects on the Common Core State Standards, which state lawmakers might abandon. The standards drew concern from legislators after passing rates on state end-of-year tests dropped.
“Our school district has dedicated a significant portion of our limited resources — money, time and energy — into ensuring our teachers can be successful with the Common Core,” said Jeff Nash, the district’s spokesman, in an interview earlier this month. “We believe we are making great progress, and we are disappointed in the General Assembly’s decision to move away from it.”
Villwock said having students take the assessment three times a year helps better identify academic levels.
“It serves as a universal screener to help understand which students need more attention and which maybe don’t need as much,” she said.
The assessment will also be used to identify students who test above grade level.
While the district has a positive outlook on the testing initiative, some Chapel Hill parents do not.
“Teachers no longer teach, because they are just trying to teach the test, and kids don’t learn that way,” said Jeremy Cloud, a parent of a Chapel Hill High School student.
Villwock said the Performance Series is not a test, but an assessment tool to determine where students are academically.
“It’s really an assessment,” she said. “It’s a whole lot smarter than a test.”
Villwock said the Performance Series assessment will start by questioning a student at grade level and then adjust to a higher or lower grade-level question depending on how the student responded to the prior question.
“So we’re really testing a student at grade level. From there, we can determine if a third-grader is at a fourth-grade or at a second-grade level,” she said.
The new, computerized assessment will help teachers and administrators address specific academic needs of students, Nash said in an emailed statement Sept. 17.
“We are excited by the opportunity to more effectively track student progress,” Nash said. “This will help us to provide direct support for targeted students.”