AUGUSTA — Maine will spend $4.14 million on new statewide English and math tests given to students in third through eighth grades.

The Maine Department of Education is using New Hampshire-based Measured Progress Inc. to develop and administer the new tests, which are replacing the Smarter Balanced test that was used for only one year. The company also will administer the SAT for high school juniors.

“We have heard what people are concerned about, and we feel that this contract addresses those concerns,” acting Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley said Thursday. “We want it to be as brief as possible while still being statistically valid.”

Primarily, the test will be shorter – six hours on average compared to seven hours for the Smarter Balanced test last year and up to 12 hours for the test used before that. It will be given on a computer, although the SAT remains a paper test.

The SAT will take less than four hours to take, compared to the seven- to eight-hour test administered to juniors last year.

The testing time is well under President Obama’s call for standardized tests to take no more than 2 percent of instructional time, state officials said.

This year, the Legislature voted to drop the Smarter Balanced test used by 18 states because educators and parents said the test was flawed and difficult to administer and take.

Another difference will be that the new test will be a fixed set of questions for each grade, as opposed to the Smarter Balanced test, which was “adaptive,” meaning it directed easier or harder questions to students during the test depending on how they were doing.

State officials said they are narrowly focused on simply assessing whether a student is meeting grade-level learning, and don’t need the additional information provided by an adaptive test.

Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley said the union believes an adaptive test is preferable.

“I am concerned that it is not adaptive, but we are cautiously optimistic that this test is going to be much better than Smarter Balanced,” she said.

Maine has worked with Measured Progress on state tests for more than 30 years. Before Smarter Balanced, Measured Progress developed Maine’s original state assessments and later administered the New England Common Assessment Program test, which was used after 2009.

It cost Maine about $3.5 million to administer the Smarter Balanced test last year, about $300,000 less than it did for the New England Common Assessment Program test.

Measured Progress CEO Martin Borg acknowledged Thursday that the company had problems administering statewide assessments in three states last year, but he said that was because of a technology platform that they will not use in the future.

Borg said they would be using eMetric to deliver the Maine assessment, and they have used it in the past with no problems.

The pushback against the Smarter Balanced test was tied up in the anti-Common Core movement that swept the nation last year. Critics said the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.

Advocates said having a common set of academic standards across multiple states would benefit students and better prepare them for college or a career.

Maine’s standards were not changed, and are still aligned with Common Core.

Maine was one of 18 states participating in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which hired American Institutes for Research to create the online tests. Two other states besides Maine are dropping the test, and some states are suing Smarter Balanced because of problems administering it.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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