Smarter Balanced Assessments 19 [updated]

Update: Scoring guides for the practice tests are now available.

Practice tests.

The Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium have released practice tests for grades 3-8 and 11.  Guest login through the practice test portal is easy.  Just select grade level and subject test, everything else is filled in for you.  The scoring keys are supposed to be available by July 1st, so you may want to wait or check back for those.

The screen just prior to the test beginning offers a chart of keyboard shortcuts although I can’t imagine navigating these assessments without a mouse–I hope no children actually have to.

I have completed practice tests for grades 3-6 math and grade 3 English/Language Arts.  My initial impression (contrary to Joe Willhoft) is that less tech-savvy students are going to be at a disadvantage with these assessments.

The technology enhancements seemed unnecessary in some test items.  For example, your answer to question 16 in the grade 3 math practice test is to be entered by dragging and dropping each “lawn chair” one by one into a backyard until you have placed the number of chairs you think is the correct answer–typing in the answer would be easier, in my opinion.  In a similar item which required dragging and dropping trees into a park, the trees could end up on top of each other making it harder to see how many have been placed.

In addition to dragging and dropping lawn chairs or trees, math answers might be entered by dragging and dropping numerals, clicking numerals and symbols on the screen (similar to using a calculator), or clicking from a list of numerals under each place value (similar to filling in your name on a bubble sheet test), or clicking on the value on a graph or representation of a geometric shape (for example, to enter a missing value on a volume item).  On the ELA tests, multiple choice answers could be selected by clicking in a bubble, clicking to highlight the selection from a traditional multiple choice format, or by clicking the selection from a paragraph above the question.  It was not impossible to figure each out, but it seems unnecessarily confusing–why not have fewer, more consistent ways for answers to be entered?

There were other confusions: numerals can be inadvertently dropped in other areas of the screen besides the answer box.  The calculator type entry leaves the last entered digit or symbol blue–are you required to click the button so that the last one turns to black or will the blue one be counted?

One rather large frustration was that an inadvertent move with the mouse caused my browser to reload a prior page.  I was unable to recover the practice test I was working on and had to sign in again and start over.  It isn’t clear to me whether this could happen during an actual test administration (although I can’t see why it couldn’t) or how it would be handled.

Slightly smaller frustrations included being unable to proceed to the next screen without entering an answer to all questions on the screen (although this may have merit during actual test administration) and difficulty scrolling on some of the screens–perhaps a larger screen would help.

At the end of the test, you are given an opportunity (actually, reminded twice) to review your answers before submitting them.  I couldn’t guess how you would know which ones to return to just from a list of item numbers until about my sixth time through when I noticed a flag on the item screen.  Clicking on the flag before moving on to the next item marks the item on the review list for you.  Good to know but I wonder how this works when the computer adaptive version is used–surely the items will be scored as they are answered so that the computer can adapt the test items to the individual student?

Here is the Iowa Department of Education’s statement on the practice tests.