Verona High School will not administer midterm exams any more, in part because of a new standardized test that is coming to Verona.
The PARCC, a test developed through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, will be given in Verona next March. In looking at what would be needed to prepare students for that testing, which will be given at VHS and all other schools, the district determined that time needed to review for and administer the midterms at VHS amounted to 10 teaching days. And that, says Charlie Miller, Verona’s director of curriculum, didn’t square well with Verona’s goal of maximizing instructional time.
“Every time you add a test, it takes away teaching time,” he says.
So the Verona Board of Education voted at its June 10 meeting to end midterms at VHS. Here’s what’s going to happen instead. There will be more weight given to marking period grades at VHS and the high school is going to make changes to unit tests that will result in fewer, but more in-depth questions designed to show that students not only can recall what they’ve learned but apply it. “We want to strengthen unit tests to make them more meaningful,” Miller says.
That approach seems to square with the testing philosophy of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which has set national standards for math and literacy and is driving implementation of the so-called PARCC test. That test will be taken on computers, not paper, by students as young as kindergarten. It is set to start in the 2014-2015 school year, although there are bills now before the New Jersey state legislature to slow or block the new test. As of now, there are no changes being made to other tests at either H.B. Whitehorne Middle School or Verona’s four elementary schools because of the PARCC, which replaces the NJ ASK in those schools.
Verona is not the only district to reevaluate testing. Bernards Township ended midterms two years ago, while Wayne just decided to away with both midterm and final exams, as did the high school in Danbury. Conn.