OXFORD — Classes for SAD 17 students will resume this week, which is earlier than some years, to get students ready for new state testing that begins later this fall.

Elementary students and those in grades seven and nine return Wednesday, Aug. 26; grades eight and 10 through 12 resume on Aug. 27.

State education officials announced recently that Maine will join New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont this fall in administering the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP. The test is used to meet the federal No Child Left Behind Act requirements for annual testing reading and mathematics for third through eighth grades. A writing assessment is also included for students in grades five through eight in the NECAP tests. The 2002 federal law has a long-range goal that every child be proficient in core areas of study according to their state standards.

“That’s why we wanted to get a good start on school,” SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman explained. The tests will replace the Maine Educational Assessment Tests, which determine proficiency in meeting state standards.

Eastman said the NECAP tests were designed to save money and test more students, but with students showing progress in the MEA results over the past several years, Eastman called the change frustrating in some respects.

“The frustrating thing is now you have no baseline data,” he said. The baseline data will be the results of the students testing this fall. “We were really showing some great progress. This is a little bit of frustration.

“Three years of data really gives us good trends. This is a new test, so we’ll have to go back to square one,” he said.

Eastman said it is currently an “unsettled environment” in the testing world, particularly with President Barak Obama’s talk about implementing national learning standards.

According to information from the Department of Education, the NECAP tests assess learning from the prior school year at the beginning of each new school year. So for example, grade three students will be assessed on information they learned in grade two. The tests are mostly a combination of multiple choice and constructed response questions, and some short-answer question in mathematics. Writing tests include a long response plus multiple choice and constructed response questions.

The results will probably be available in January, according to the Maine Department of Education, and scores will be reported in one of four achievement levels: Proficient with distinction, proficient, partially proficient ands substantially below proficient.

Results from last spring’s MEAs showed that Oxford Elementary School and Oxford Hills Middle School made annual yearly progress and will be placed on monitor status. Both schools had been on the continued improvement priority list after failing to meet MEA test annual yearly progress.

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