College Content Readiness
While preparing to draft yet another long overdue and perhaps forthcoming soon Smarter Balanced Assessments post, I stumbled upon Comments on Revised Achievement Level Descriptors dated February 21, 2013. This document contains comments from faculty at the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University, and Hawkeye Community College regarding the SBAC achievement level descriptors.
I have no idea if any of these comments have been, or will be, adequately addressed by SBAC as they work on setting cut scores for achievement level descriptors this fall, but they raise important issues about the value of the SBAC “college content readiness” designation.
The comments indicate that there is a significant mismatch between the SBAC definition of college content readiness in math (prepared for College Algebra, designated as Math:1005 (22M:008) at the University of Iowa) and Iowa regents institutions, at which many majors have higher level mathematics courses as expected entry-level, first year coursework (see a listing of here for the University of Iowa). The college content readiness mismatch is so great that UNI suggested that the term “high school fluent” be used instead (Comments, p. 9); ISU suggested that students be designated “proficient for 12th grade work” rather than college ready, at least until Smarter Balanced Assessments have been in use long enough to determine whether the assessments are in fact accurately predicting readiness for entry-level, credit bearing coursework (Comments, p. 18).
Another issue highlighted in the comments is that the Smarter Balanced Assessments will not be assessing the “Plus Standards”, which are the additional Common Core standards intended to prepare students for coursework in calculus, advanced statistics, or discrete mathematics (SBAC Math ALDs, p. x). Even if the Smarter Balanced Assessments level 3 and 4 achievement level descriptor cut scores accurately predict readiness for college algebra (which remains to be seen), they will provide no guidance to parents and students as to whether the student is adequately prepared for the higher level mathematics courses STEM/business majors are expected to be prepared to take their first semester in order to graduate in four years.