Special testing of thousands of children seeking to get into magnet schools in Baton Rouge will begin in early November.
The East Baton Rouge Parish school system on Friday began mailing letters to magnet school applicants, explaining the new testing process.
Children will take a test, on paper or online, being developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Boston-based education giant was the only vendor that responded to a request for proposals for the new test.
“The company is customizing an assessment to fit our needs,” explained Theresa Porter, director of magnet programs.
The company is supplying about 950 tests on paper, along with more tests online, at a cost of about $30,000, Porter said.
“The company will provide a comprehensive, easy-to-understand report for parents which will reflect percentiles and stanines,” Porter said.
A stanine is a nine-point scale used in test scores, with 1-3 below average, 4-6 average, and 7-9 above average.
The magnet school testing is scheduled to start the first week in November, during school hours, with roughly 900 children who already attend parish public schools.
Children who are not enrolled in the school system will get their chance to take the test on two successive Saturdays, Nov. 7 and Nov. 14.
Most of 21 Baton Rouge public schools with magnet programs, including Baton Rouge Magnet High, require students have at least a 2.5 GPA and that they do well on a standardized test.
In years past, the school system relied on state-mandated standardized tests as a magnet screener. Those tests, though, have repeatedly changed. Results on the new test, PARCC, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which was given this spring in grades three to eight, are coming out months later than normal. Students won’t know how they did until individual student reports are released in mid-November.
The new magnet screening test will test students in English and math and is likely to take about two hours to compete, Porter said.
Unlike PARCC, the new magnet school screener is a norm-referenced test, comparing test-takers with a representative sample of students from across the country. The results, expressed as percentile rankings, give test-takers an idea of how they compare with rest of the nation.
The minimum score needed to gain admission to academic magnet schools is still being determined. Porter said it will range between the 41st and 50th percentiles, right at or a little below the national average.
She said school officials want to see initial results before settling on a threshold.
Porter said children who fall short on the magnet screener and are denied admittance will have the chance to appeal and cite their PARCC results.
Families began applying online for admittance to a magnet school on Oct. 12. The deadline is Dec. 5. Porter said a final testing session is likely for late applicants, likely on Dec. 12.
“We would hope that most parents would apply early; however, I understand from experience that we will receive a number of last-minute applicants,” Porter said.