Are the Smarter Balanced Assessments better assessments?
It has been fashionable in recent years to mock paper and pencil “bubble tests.” There has been talk of moving away from these paper and pencil tests but not much detail about what the new computer assessments will look like. Part of the issue is that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are still under development. Pilot testing is scheduled for Winter/Spring 2013 and field-testing is scheduled for Spring 2014. The plan is for Smarter Balanced assessments to be ready for use in Fall 2014 with the first summative assessment testing scheduled for Spring 2015.
The summative assessment would take the place of the Iowa Assessments if adopted. It will be administered during the final twelve weeks of the school year, with results available in “weeks, not months.” [SBAC also plans to offer interim assessments and professional development materials.]
There will be English language arts assessments and mathematics assessments for grades 3-8 and 11, each aligned to Common Core State Standards (which have been adopted by the Iowa State Board of Education). There are two parts to the summative assessments (each taken on a computer). One part is a computer adaptive test (CAT) and one part is a performance task.
Assessment items will include:
Selected Response (SR): the SBAC term for multiple-choice questions—they aren’t going anywhere, because they are less expensive to write, administer, and score. May also include yes/no questions, for example. [GIS p. 27]
Constructed Response (CR) and Extended Response (ER): “Short constructed response items may require test-takers to enter a single word, phrase, sentence, number, or set of numbers, whereas extended constructed response items will require more elaborated answers and explanations of reasoning. [GIS p. 27] CR items will generally be scored by computer. [GIS p.28]
Technology-Enhanced items (TE): These may include drag and drop tasks, selecting points on a graph, creating graphs, drawing, highlighting, editing/revising, and simulation technologies. “An expressed desire on the part of the Consortium is that the use of TE items in the assessments will ultimately encourage classroom use of authentic mathematical computing tools (e.g., spreadsheets, interactive geometry software) as part of classroom instruction.” [GIS p. 29]
Performance Tasks (PT): These items “will provide a measure of the student’s ability to integrate knowledge and skills across multiple [content] standards—a key component of college- and career readiness. Performance [tasks] will be used to better measure capacities such as depth of understanding, research skills, and complex analysis, which cannot be adequately assessed with [selected response] or constructed response items.” [GIS p. 31] PT items will require the production of extended responses such as oral presentations or written responses. They are to “reflect a real-world task and/or scenario-based problem,” and “represent content that is relevant and meaningful to students.” PT items should “focus on big ideas over facts” and allow multiple approaches, points of view, and interpretations. [GIS p.31]
PT items will be “multi-part, multi-session activities during which students individually will produce several scorable responses, products, or presentations.” [GIS p. 32] “Many PTs will require up to 120 minutes in which to administer. Additional time might be necessary for prework or group work, as required by a particular task.” [GIS p. 32]
More details to come on the ELA and mathematics assessments in parts 3 and 4.
Until then, if you are interested you can look at and try a variety of technology-enhanced test items here. I have previously written about education technology here. While some of the TE items look interesting, some of these items look like they could be confusing. Mostly, I think many of these items could be adequately assessed with a more straightforward multiple-choice question—on a computer, if you like. For example, I’m not convinced that it is significantly more impressive to have a child draw a graph than to choose among graphs or answer whether the graph provided accurately represents the data. It’s hard to know whether TE items add much to the assessment or just amount to high tech busy work until actual sample questions are released.