By Teachers, For Teachers
My blogs are usually about the creative aspects of teaching of which I share ideas and methods that have worked for me over the years. For this blog, however; I decided to share an important change that is coming to my state and possibly to yours as well.
In just another year, Connecticut students will no longer be required to complete the Connecticut Mastery Test or CMTs. Upon learning this, I was leaping for joy. I am not the biggest fan of this type of standardized assessment as one size does not fit all. Like so many other teachers, I have felt the pressure these tests create and the frustrations when the results are given AFTER students have left my classroom.
I have since discovered these tests have been replaced with a new formal assessment known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC. My joy was short lived. Yet, another standardized test!
The SBAC is aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and has partnered with many teachers to develop and test new assessment. From what I have learned, 100 teachers from each state were selected to join a panel (State Networks of Educators) to help develop this assessment. So far 31 states are working towards this project.
As a fourth grade teacher, this new formal assessment may possibly be given to my students within the 2014 -2015 school year. Like you, I have many questions I need answered before I start asking students to sharpen their #2 pencils. I have listed just a few.
• Unlike the current CMT's, SBAC is a computer generated test. It is created to adjust to the student's ability by basing the difficulty of future questions on previous answers, which is supposed to provide a more accurate measurement of student achievement. It is designed to be more precise and efficient.
• While administrators, teachers, and parents wait months for the results, the SBAC results are given in weeks.
• The test goes beyond multiple choice questions, allowing for constructive responses and performance tasks to measure critical thinking and problem solving.
• The SBAC pilot testing is scheduled to begin in CT, during the 2014-2015 school year. It is given to students in grades 3-8.
• Rather than an exam given once, the SBAC is being offered as an interim assessment which will help with differentiated instruction and help teachers identify specific needs.
• Students will be challenged to complete complex tasks and apply knowledge rather than choosing from a list of possible answers.
• Students will need to be adept at computer skills as #2 pencils are no longer needed.
• Class time will be focused on learning, not preparing for the CMT's as most teachers are being asked to do. No more teaching to the test, I hate that!
• Both parents and teachers can see the results sooner which will allow for opportunities for the students to improve. Results given over the summer does not allow for improvement.
• The results indicate how school is performing and again, with immediate results, allows for changes when needed.
• The assessment provides supports to help students as test measures the right things in the right way.
All assessments are created to diagnose a learning disability, identify a student who needs extra help, or to determine whether a school has met its goals. However, no one assessment does all of this. Standardized test are designed to provide information on the performance of schools so resources and support can be well targeted, but often that information is incomplete. The test results indicate which students have not mastered a specific skill or objective, but does not tell what kind of instruction is needed to help students master the skill. It also does not tell what the student was thinking that led to the incorrect answers. To get that kind of information, teachers need the results provided by the consistent use of classroom-based formative assessments. This makes me wonder if standardized testing is the best way to achieve the information so greatly needed. Should we even bother?
What do you think of the new changes in standardized testing? Are there changes in your state?