Smarter Balanced Assessments 34

Cost/benefit analysis.

I think there is a very real danger of costs being underestimated and benefits being overestimated with regard to the Smarter Balanced assessments. It could be our costs will end up being much less than the costs being paid by other states (both for the SBAC vendor and technology), but it doesn’t make sense to count on it working out that way unless we have concrete evidence that it will.


California districts request an additional one billion dollars to reimburse districts for costs related to new statewide online testing program (includes Smarter Balanced assessments).

Time to Administer

As Common-Core Test Season Begins, Teachers Feel Pressure (EdWeek). Quote from this article from Ohio teacher Lori Michalic:

“I really appreciate what PARCC and Smarter Balanced are trying to do. I get that better tests take more time,” she said. “But in reality, we’re looking at what’s happening to kids, and they’re losing [instructional] time. I think we’re caught between theory and reality.”


Steve H commenting at Joanne Jacobs: “Low state test cutoffs for proficiency end up becoming the top goal for all. That’s why the CCSS PARCC test’s “distinguished” level only means that one is likely to pass a college algebra course. Their top goal is no remediation. It’s now officially institutionalized in K-6 curricula. Incredibly, many people think this is fine.”

Steve H commenting at Joanne Jacobs: “There has always been testing. I took the Iowa Basic Tests when I was in school. When did testing change into something that is needed to give schools feedback on how each child is progressing? Are teachers potted plants?”

lulu commenting at Joanne Jacobs: “I have friends who are considering opting out of testing because they can’t figure out how to deal with the fact that, in addition to a week of testing, the kids are spending 2 weeks taking practice tests. They think that their kids could find many more educational things to do during the 3 weeks of school time that is devoted to ‘testing’. They’d be fine with 2-3 days, but once you stretch into mutliple weeks of instruction time lost, you lose parents who care about education.”

Steve H commenting at Joanne Jacobs:

Nobody looked at the raw percent correct scores and the actual problems. Since the tests are supposed to check for higher level thinking and problem solving, all results get changed into meaningless terms like “problem solving” and numeracy” – terms that give the school no tangible feedback on what to fix. If they just tested basic skills, then that would give everyone more concrete feedback. What sort of higher order thinking skills make it OK to do poorly on basic skills tests? Aren’t those skills supposed to be the derivative end result of their top-down engagement, student-centered, problem solving approach to education? Either way you do it, students have to do well on basic skills tests. As I always say, you can add more understanding to good basic skills, but understanding without skills is nowhere and can’t be fixed.

No amount of big data analysis will fix this fundamental flaw.

Steve H commenting at Kitchen Table Math: “When I was on a parent/teacher committee long ago that analyzed NCLB data to figure out why our students’ “problem solving” skills were down that year, the solution was to work harder on problem solving.”

Auntie Ann commenting at Out In Left Field:

About 50% of the problems with the Common Core tests could be fixed by just doing the things on paper.

The move to computer-based testing is a disaster. I tried taking an online sample, and the computer interface was incredibly time consuming and frustrating. How are kids supposed to show their work on a computer screen? Something that can be quickly done with a pencil and paper becomes unwieldy and aggravating on a monitor. (My grad school thesis contained equations long enough to fill an entire page, I know how hard it is to do math with a computer!)

We’ve seen a lot of math problems from the tests, but I would think the language arts part are just as bad. Does the 8 year old touch-typist have an enormous advantage over the kid who actually knows grammar, spelling and has good reading comp, but who hasn’t spent much time at a keyboard? Probably.

It’s a case of the shiny new thing being adopted because it’s shiny and new, not because it is actually useful.

Peter Greene on benefits of “Big Standardized Tests” at Curmudgacation: Spellings Remains Steadfastly Wrong, Why Critical Thinking Won’t Be on The Test,

Math Consultant: Smarter Balanced Math Tests Have ‘Egregious Flaws’ (EdWeek).

Iowa has already paid for a digital library as part of the new Iowa Core website. From State Board of Education packet for the October 30, 2014 meeting:

The Iowa Core Resources Project was made possible with a $1 million state appropriation approved by Iowa legislators in 2013. This funding was used to develop a new Iowa Core website and to secure examples of optional instructional resources that teachers can use, if they so choose, to implement the Iowa Core in kindergarten through 12th grade. More than 8,000 resources are available at no charge in a central, searchable online location called, which is accessible through The materials are adaptable to fit the individual needs of local classrooms.

Rivendell Academy Head of Schools Keri Gelenian on Smarter Balanced assessments, “The amount of instructional time and administrative time that has been devoted to preparing for the testing is completely disproportionate to any conceivable benefit that I can see coming from our results.” (Vermont, HT: Diane Ravitch).


“Bribing” kids to take common core assessments (Washington Post).

Pearson, PARCC Criticized for Monitoring Social Media for Test Security (EdWeek). Mercedes Schneider shares SBAC tips for monitoring students on social media.

When It Comes to Standardized Testing, How Much is Too Much? (WNPR News audio, CT using SBAC).

Explanation of why new common core assessments cost more (Marketplace).

Opting out (Washington Post). mmazenko commenting at Joanne Jacobs on the refusal movement:

Thomas appears to be clueless about all the issues raised by parents who are refusing a flawed testing model. For most, it’s not about “not wanting to do the test.” Many parents/kids have patiently and agreeably participated in MAPS, NNAT, Nelson-Denny, CoGAT, ACT, SAT, AP, and state tests like CSAP in Colorado for years … with no complaints. However,, the PARCC/SB mess is an entirely different animal. From excessive time to equity issues to new and unproven models to technology issues … the refusal movement is far more complex than Thomas could fathom.

Steve H commenting at Joanne Jacobs on opting in or opting out: “Opt in, opt out. go ahead. Parents still have to ensure that learning gets done at home and set higher expectations than anything specified by CCSS. Reality and competition don’t care one bit about NCLB or CCSS results. If you’re expecting proper educational feedback from CCSS, then you’re a year late and many tutoring dollars short.”

Alignment might not matter all that much (NPR).

Common Core Testing Nationwide (Seattle Schools Community Forum).

One parent’s experience taking the Smarter Balanced assessments (Washington).

State’s Prepare Public for Common-Core Test Results (EdWeek).

Common Core Supporters Run Ads in Iowa (Wall Street Journal).

Portland teachers union resolution objects to new Smarter Balanced test (The Oregonian)

Common Core Seen Falling Short in High School Math (EdWeek).