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Results of Revised Conn. Test Raise Educators' Eyebrows

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Local school administrators in Connecticut are raising questions about the first results from the state's newly revised student-testing program.

The state recently overhauled its testing program, raising standards for student performance on the assessments and replacing multiple-choice questions with open-ended questions and performance-based tasks.

But some school officials have complained that the results on the writing portion of the test do not reflect accurately what their students can do.

"We were surprised at the writing results at the 8th-grade level,'' said Carol Parmelee-Blancato, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Middletown school district.

According to test results released last month, only 47 percent of Middletown 8th graders scored at the remedial level on the test.

The teachers of some of the students who did poorly on the test questioned whether the results were accurate, Ms. Parmelee-Blancato explained.

"We're just asking the state to provide us with more information so we can determine what the causes are,'' she added.

Other districts, such as the relatively affluent communities of Durham and Middlefield, plummeted in the state rankings as a result of poor writing scores.

'What Is Going On?'

Despite local officials' concerns, "There is no evidence of any problems with the test,'' said Peter Behuniak, the state director of student assessment.

The writing portion of the test, for which students were given a prompting question or statement and told to write for 45 minutes, changed little in the revised testing program, Mr. Behuniak said. The only differences on that part of the test were that students' writing was judged according to higher standards and a more detailed scoring rubric was used.

Mr. Behuniak said the state education department also has not received any more inquiries this year than it has in previous years.

Still, state assessment officials have agreed to meet with local school administrators to review scores and answer questions.

One such review, completed late last week, has already validated the test results for Durham students, Mr. Behuniak said.

Statewide, students fared poorly on all sections of the new test, which was administered to 120,000 students in grades 4, 6, and 8 in reading, writing, and mathematics. The number of students who failed to meet state educational standards tripled from 1992 to 1993.

"When superintendents see that, it's not too surprising that their first reaction is, 'What is going on?''' Mr. Behuniak observed.

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