The US Department of Education is spending well over $300 million on two competing test programs to assess student performance against the Common Core State Standards. One of those testing programs is being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The other one is from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
Note: At one time, Kentucky was a non-voting participant in both PARCC and SBAC, but currently has completely dropped out of both. However, that does not mean Kentucky’s students are home free, as I’ll explain shortly.
Both testing groups are getting ready to release operational versions of their assessments. In fact, pilot testing with SBAC products is starting right now in schools in several states (not in Kentucky, fortunately).
One of those SBAC test states is New Hampshire; so I was particularly interested to hear that teachers in Nashua have taken a practice version of the test online to see how things would go for their students.
Apparently, according to this short but detailed letter from John Nelson, principal of Nashua’s Fairgrounds Middle School, their SBAC teacher pre-test didn’t go well.
Read Mr. Nelson’s letter to learn all the problems, but here are a few examples of how the online testing worked:
• There is too much “stuff” going on the screen at once. It is difficult to move the icons where you want them.
• If you leave the screen for a short period of time the information on the screen will be gone when you return.
• I had technology problems. If kids have these problems they’ll just quit.
• This was more of a test on the computer skills than on the math concepts. If I was a student I would just pick out an answer and move on.
And, the problems were not all with technology, either. One teacher said:
• I am concerned that the math test is not necessarily testing students’ math abilities since there is so much reading. This test seems to assess how well the students read the math questions more than their math skills. Thus, because of the amount of reading, I question the validity of our receiving a math ability score.
So, SBAC’s tests look problematic.
So far, I don’t think a similar practice run has been made with PARCC, but with both tests being overseen by the US Department of Education, and with both tests being driven by the Common Core State Standards, is PARCC likely to wind up with similar issues?
And, can this become a problem in Kentucky?