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School list is released in trial of test system

Massachusetts education officials released a list Monday of more than 1,000 schools, including about 70 in the Boston school system, that will try out a new standardized testing system this spring. The tests will largely be conducted online and could eventually replace the MCAS.

Many of the schools are in affluent suburbs of Boston, such as Acton, Andover, Brookline, Newton, and Wellesley. Others are in cities such as Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Somerville, and Springfield. The list represents the first time state officials have identified local schools that will be participating.

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Across the state, more than 81,000 students in grades 3 to 11 will participate in the trial run of the tests, which are known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The system evaluates students in English and math. Students will not receive a grade based on their performance.

Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in a statement that the new testing system “promises to provide more accurate measures of the skills that are keys to success after high school.”

Although the goal is for all schools to do the exams online, state education officials recognize many schools lack enough computers or bandwidth to test multiple classes of students simultaneously and will let many schools use paper and pencils.

In Boston, about a third of the schools, including Boston Latin School and Dorchester Academy, will conduct the tests the traditional way. But school officials are hoping that more schools can switch to online testing in years to come.

Thomas Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said districts are looking forward to the trial run, but still have concerns.

The state will be trying out the new tests this spring and next spring. If the exams prove to be as rigorous as the MCAS tests, then Chester has said he would probably ask the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt them in place of the MCAS English and math tests. MCAS science exams would continue.

James Vaznis can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.
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