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One Simple Reason YOU Should Care About Smarter Balanced Assessments

May 14, 2014

Measurement of Student Proficiency


You may be thrilled your state is moving to Common Core.  Or you might detest the Common Core State Standards.  Either way, if you are a parent of a gifted student or a struggling learner, you have an important reason to want the Smarter Balanced assessment implemented.

The Smarter Balanced assessment can help measure growth.

The Smarter Balanced test will adapt to your child’s academic level as she takes the test.  If she is answering correctly, the questions become tougher and rise in grade level.  If she is answering incorrectly, the test will pose questions from a lower grade level.  At the end, the student is provided two scores.  One measures proficiency in that subject.  One is the equivalent grade level in that subject.  Subtract last year’s equivalent grade level from this year’s and determine how much growth was made.

Your current assessment only provides proficiency and only in a narrow band.  A student who far exceeds expectations for that grade cannot be accurately measured as they are above the ceiling for standardized proficiency exams.  A student who is far below grade level also cannot be accurately measured as the test isn’t designed for him either.  A written standardized test by necessity cannot test outside a narrow band.  It is not adaptive.

A gifted child may score “Advanced” on back-to-back tests, yet a proficiency-based test will not show if she made a full year’s growth.  What if she only made 1/2 a year’s growth?  Wouldn’t a parent want to know?  Shouldn’t the schools be made aware of this problem?

A struggling student may score “Not Proficient” on consecutive tests, yet have made two years’ growth.   Shouldn’t the parent know about this tremendous growth?  Shouldn’t the teacher be commended for the growth instead of being held accountable for a student who is “Not Proficient”?

Add to this issue that more states are requiring standardized test scores as part of the teachers’ evaluations.  If the financial and professional pressure is to have as many students as possible be “Proficient” or “Advanced”, this rewards teachers who ignore students already proficient or who will never be proficient.  It isn’t moral to have educational discrimination codified in our nation’s and states’ laws and present in our standardized tests.

Smarter Balanced is a game-changer!  By being adaptive and computer-based, Smarter Balanced provides an equivalent grade level for each subject.  Smarter Balanced can measure growth.  Parents will know the academic growth their children have made.  School administration will be able to assess which teachers impart great success to struggling children or give a boost to gifted learners.  The top teachers will be the ones who help each and every student grow!

Sadly, some legislators have chosen to delay the implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessments.  In Michigan, they are proposing delaying it two years.  This is two additional years of assessments that cannot appropriately measure gifted students or struggling learners.  Many do not like Common Core and see this as an opportunity to postpone part of its implementation or re-establish local control.  However, no matter what your opinion of the Common Core State Standards is, Smarter Balanced is a vital step in equity for all students and needs to be implemented.

If you live in Michigan, you can locate and contact your legislators here.  Your voice makes a difference!

Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE.  Together we can make a difference for all learners!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Daniel permalink
    May 16, 2014 6:56 PM

    Nice to see some reason in a great big sea of crazy relating to SBAC, Common Core, etc.

    This comment which I came across lately sums up my favorite Tea Party arguments:

    “How can anybody take this common core curriculum seriously. I’ve seen the ridiculous math, the slutty reading material, the lies about our founding documents. Common Core should be abolished in Michigan, federal standards gone. We are smart enough to make our own standards, write our own tests and grade our own teachers and students.”

    Where to start.
    1) Standards and Curriculum. Learn the difference, THEN get involved in Ed Reform. Maybe. If you’re not an idiot.

    2) “Slutty reading material”? Nope…the standards don’t dictate anything, and certainly don’t mandate certain materials. Maybe schools should do a bit more research before buying a textbook series with “common core” stamped on it, but given the “kick the teacher” campaign of the last 5 years, you can hardly blame them for a hasty textbook purchase when they could be fired if their kids don’t MEAP well.

    3) Lies about our founding documents? See step 1. Learn the difference between standards and curriculum.

    4) “We are smart enough to make our own standards, write our own tests, and grade our own teachers and students” – Because yeah, we’ve done that so very well up to this point.

    For example of what you wrote about above from a content area that will still have to endure the MEAP test:

    Here’s one of the Michigan SS Content Expectations:
    8-U4.2.3 Westward Expansion – Explain the expansion, conquest, and settlement of the West through the Louisiana Purchase, the removal of American Indians (Trail of Tears) from their native lands, the growth of a system of commercial agriculture, the Mexican-American War, and the idea of Manifest Destiny. (E2.1) (National Geography Standard 6, p. 154)

    For me, this takes approximately three weeks to teach fully.

    On the MEAP test, this is the item descriptor for the ONE question on the MEAP that covers this GLCE:

    Given a painting, identify period of US history portrayed.

    A) not period portrayed

    B) correct, identifies period portrayed

    C) not period portrayed

    D) not period portrayed

    Okay, so, if my kids bomb this question it means I didn’t teach the unit effectively? I should be placed on probation and fired? Because I may not have hammered home a painting and the name of an era on the same day?

    This is why I love SBAC’s approach. I’m still nervous about how it might end up going, but since I taught ELA as well and know the mess of that test, and those content expectations, I’m excited to see a new approach.

    So…again, thanks for writing this, and thanks for posting on Tom’s Facebook page. You’re my new hero in a sea of crazy. 🙂

    • May 24, 2014 3:32 PM

      Daniel, thank you for your comment.

      The Common Core State Standards have been remarkable in their ability to unite members of the far right and far left. They may have different reasons at times, but tend to share a hatred of CCSS.

      CCSS is a big unknown to most people and educational administration has not done a great job of explaining it to parents. Given our governments’ prodigious ability to bungle education reform, many are understandably nervous. Given how Michigan cannot seem to adhere to an educational philosophy or set of standards for more than a few years, I see the Common Core as most likely a passing fad here, no matter how successful or disastrous it is. The move to a computerized adaptive test that measures growth would appear to be a more permanent improvement and a reason to pursue Smarter Balanced even if one objects strongly to the CCSS.

    • Bill K permalink
      May 28, 2014 6:05 AM

      Please have your child read the common core recommended book the Bluest eyes. I assume you believe that porngrapgy is accecptable in the class room. here is an example.

      The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison,

      “When she senses some spasm about to grip him, she will make rapid movements with her hips, press her fingernails into his back, suck in her breath, and pretend she is having an orgasm,” ru

      the author reportedly said “she wanted the reader to feel as though they are a ‘co-conspirator’ with the rapist,” so “she took pains to make sure she never portrayed the actions as wrong in order to show how everyone has their own problems.” The book narrates cases of pedophilia, rape, and incest which the author described as “friendly,” “innocent,” and “tender.”

      Note yes this book is on the “test exemplars” of common core. If you do not believe just check. ps it is not easy to find but it is there on

  2. Bill K permalink
    May 28, 2014 6:00 AM

    When I asked smarter balance what data they have on correlation between test and standards I was told that data was not yet available. I was also told that this data would not be made available to public when it was developed.

    Any time information is kept secret you must be very concerned. On this fact alone I distrust smarter balance and anything they may say about what they are doing. This distrust extends to all those who support this program like the author above.

    • May 28, 2014 10:05 AM

      Bill, what were the responses when you asked your questions of the creators of the standardized tests your state currently uses?

      • Bill K permalink
        May 28, 2014 4:20 PM

        Joshua, did not ask questions about MEAP, Meap did not affect my Children but CCSS will affect my grandchildren thus I have gotten involved. Mainly as I do not like the federal control of education. And no matter what you may say the Feds are controlling, or least attempting to control through things like “race to the top” thinly veiled means to force states to adopt CCSS.

        The lack of transparency and lack of communications in regards to CCSS, CCSS was adopted by most states in 2010 yet there has been little to no education or communication with the general public about this sweeping federal program should cause concerns should it not?

      • Bill K permalink
        May 28, 2014 4:23 PM

        PS Joshua, try to find the suggested reading lists on the CCSS web site. They are very well hidden. Probably because of the filth they are recommending. I guess they do not want anyone to really know what it is they have recommended. Another example of secrecy or at least a real lack of transparency.

      • May 28, 2014 5:03 PM

        Bill, I appreciate your passion regarding the Common Core. This blog is aimed at gifted learners, so the only relevant aspects on here are how the CCSS and Smarter Balanced affect gifted learners. In the post above, I also detail how the Smarter Balanced assessment helps struggling learners. There are thousands of other blogs, articles, etc. that deal with other aspects of the CCSS.

        Would you have any information – pro or con – on how they will change education for gifted students?

  3. Bill K permalink
    May 29, 2014 7:10 AM

    Joshua, since this program has not been communicated and is steeped in secrecy and hidden information how can I comment on how it will affect anyone. This is my problem and why I take every opportunity to educate people about these issues. SB has stated to me that data on how well the test performs will not be made public. So how can anyone know if this test works or not.

  4. Jane permalink
    May 8, 2015 1:40 AM

    My daughter, who is working two grades ahead of age (in 4th), took the 3rd grade SB test this week. I wish I could see the questions asked, but from all reports, it was horrible for her! As an asynchronous learner, it seems she was highly penalized (frustrated and out of time) for not being able to type well, though the subject matter was not an issue. Given that it is not graded automatically (lots of short answer/essay type questions – with no grade given for months), how can it automatically adjust for correct answers?

  5. Amy permalink
    October 10, 2015 5:14 PM

    Hi there, I realize this is an old discussion but I thought I might have some input for those of you awaiting scores. Unfortunately, I disagree with this article. We just got my son’s SBAC scores in CT and unfortunately it is not great for gifted learners because there is a ceiling score in each subject, so if your child hits the ceiling you don’t really know what grade level they are working at.

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