Smarter Balanced Assessments 14

A test worth teaching to?

Scott McLeod tweeted a link to this Washington Monthly article about Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessments from May/June 2012.

I frequently say that I have yet to see a compelling case for standardization at the level we are seeing contemplated in the push for Common Core Standards and Smarter Balanced and PARCC Assessments.  I can’t help wonder what it is that people think that teachers do all day, every day of the school year when I read articles like this.

From page 4:

Another problem with most current testing regimes is that they consist almost entirely of big tests administered at the end of the year. By the time a teacher learns that her students were having trouble with double-digit multiplication, the kids are already off to summer camp. Thus the new common core system will include more frequent assessments, which will measure skills that have recently been taught, allowing teachers to make mid-course corrections.

The problem, I think, is the assumption that teachers have no other source of information about student progress other than standardized tests administered statewide.

After discussing the difficulties of automating the scoring of constructed response and performance task items, the article offers this observation (on page 5):

There might be one other non-robotic way to bring down the cost of scoring: assign the task to local teachers instead of test-company employees. According to the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, the very act of scoring a high-quality assessment provides teachers with rich opportunities for learning about their students’ abilities and about how to adjust instruction. So teachers could score assessments as part of their professional development—in which case their ser vices would come “free.”

Surely the very acts of reviewing homework, observing children during class, and scoring projects, papers, quizzes, and exams also provide opportunities for teachers to learn about their students’ abilities and about how to adjust instruction.  In any case, what value does SBAC or PARCC add to the performance tasks if they are to be locally scored anyway?  Why not get them at no extra cost from, say, the Iowa Testing Program?