Smarter Balanced Assessments 18

While the HF 215 conference committee has been quiet this week–and in case you missed it, the House and Senate each adjourned yesterday until 1:00 pm Monday so we aren’t going to wrap up the session this weekend after all–the Smarter Balanced news keeps coming.

From EdSource’s reporton Joe Willhoft’s testimony before the California State Board of Education this week:

  • Paper and pencil version of the Smarter Balanced Assessments will cost $10 to $12 more per student than the computer-based version.
  • A practice Smarter Balanced Assessment is supposed to be released on May 29th.
  • Contractors are working on developing a test bank of 45,000 items.
  • SBAC may not release state scores from the spring 2014 field test.  “[California] State Board member Sue Burr said Wednesday she would discourage [the release], in order to ‘lower the fear factor’ among schools and districts that are now beginning to prepare for the Common Core.”  I suppose they think it is better for districts to get a nasty surprise when the tests actually count?
  • Willhoft anticipates hand-scoring (by teachers!) rather than computerized scoring of writing tasks (and presumably speaking tasks too unless those have been eliminated?).
  • “In the interview, Willhoft downplayed the computer skills gap.  The amount of training needed to do the test is minimal, basically how to use a mouse and use arrow keys.”  It easy for experienced computer users to underestimate the difficulties faced by novice users.  Students will need to highlight text, manipulate drag and drop items, play (and replay?) video and audio clips, possibly hover over text to see pop-up glossaries, and use menus, as well as know how to navigate the test screens.  In addition, as a commenter notes, there is the minor issue of typing constructed response items, which should be loads of fun for kids with just the minimal mouse and arrow key skills.  See sample items here (ELA) and here (math), and CCSSI Mathematics commentary on ease of use of the software so far here.
  • Finally, at the end there is a note that the projected cost of $26 per student “includes a large-state discount, applying to states with more than 1 million students.”  I haven’t seen this before, so I’m not sure what that means for projected costs for Iowa districts except that they may be higher than we’ve heard so far (and already the projected costs are much higher than the Iowa Assessments).