Reactions to the Smarter Balanced field test continue to range from positive to negative. Nashua seems to be doing pretty well. And here’s a thoughtful two part critique (here and here) from Washington State with detailed observations, both positive and negative, about the difficulty and computer facility required. And from EdSource comes a ground level view from one California Classroom:
“With this test, you had to make your point and explain your answer,” said Desiree Jones. “In the future, you may have to do the same thing – back up your claim –where you work. You can’t just say, ‘That’s good.’ You’ll need to say what you think and why.”
Citing evidence, defending a position
Desiree was referring to the performance assessment part of the test. It represents the biggest change from the state tests. Students were given four articles about a contemporary subject they could relate to. (EdSource agreed, as a condition of speaking to the students, not to discuss any specific questions on the field test.) They were asked to take a position, using evidence based on what they read. They could use a split screen to cut and paste from the articles – a task that some students found difficult to do, especially for math problems, using their portable Chromebooks – and they could write as much and take as much time as they wanted.
“With this test,” Desiree said, “you had to put down reasons you chose a specific answer – not just fill in a bubble.”
“People want you to lead in the future,” with an ability to think for yourself, said Jazmine De La Cruz.
Sample an 11th grade performance assessment asking you to take a position on nuclear power as an energy source after reading arguments on both sides. From Smarter Balanced.
Teaching students to think critically is a principal goal of the Common Core standards. High school English Language Arts standards emphasize learning how to analyze informational texts. Math standards stress understanding the concepts behind the formulas. The Smarter Balanced tests reinforce these broader objectives. Several of the math questions asked students not just to give the right answer but also to explain their work. The reading questions required typing short answers.
Test prep in the past included a strategy for making an educated guess on multiple choice questions by eliminating answers that clearly didn’t make sense, raising the odds of filling in the right answer. Demanding short answers to questions forces students to read passages and do the math – not blow past with random answers.