This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This in-depth analysis of sample mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests (1) violate the standards they are supposed to assess, (2) cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use, (3) use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces, or (4) are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect. No tests that are so unfair should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. In fact, responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.
Some notable quotes from the report:
“why offer a keypad that builds numbers from left to right? Students are taught to solve whole-‐number addition by working right to left—just like you probably do! Every school calculator builds numbers right to left for a reason. With an input device that is harder to use than correctly adding the two numbers, what will we learn about a student who gets this question wrong?” 4th Grade Math SBA.
“A simple sketch is the most appropriate way to show one’s work. However, there’s just one major issue: There is no way to draw or submit a drawing using the problem’s “technology-enhanced” interface! So a student working on this problem is left with a problem more vexing than the mathematical task at hand—“How do I show my picture by typing words on a keyboard?” 10th Grade Math SBA.
“So the problem is not just that the number line behavior needs fixing; it’s that a number line is the wrong tool for answering Question 1. Asking students to display the exact results of division with fractions on a tiny number line marked only in whole units —whether it “snaps” or not—is like asking students to eat soup with a fork to determine whether they know how to eat.”
“At some point between April 16, 2012, and now, a simple, well-‐specified interface idea turned into a nightmarish implementation. Smarter Balanced quality control failed.”
“The graphic on this question was obviously not created using mathematical software. The graph is
inaccurate and misleading.”
” why were there so many buttons on it and what do they do?. The five arrow buttons above the numbers—three leftward and two rightward pointing arrows—look so similar that their actions can only be deciphered through trial and error. (I’ll list their functions here to save you the effort of experimenting: move
cursor left, move cursor right, undo last action, redo last undone action, and delete digit to the left of the cursor.) Only the last of these buttons—Delete—is needed.”
“the last key on the keypad a subtraction key or a key for inputting a negative number, or can it be used for both purposes? It acts a lot like a subtraction key—you can enter “65–1” for instance—but you can press it repeatedly and display many subtraction signs—like a negative key. I wondered whether “65–1” would be evaluated by the parser as 64. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to figure out what this key actually does mathematically. That’s why I call it “inscrutable.””
“Calculators typically don’t allow more than one decimal point in a number—precisely to prevent silly typing mistakes. There is no benefit to this question in allowing typing mistakes.
” the design that CTB implemented for Smarter Balanced penalizes struggling students. Students at ease with the mathematics and familiar with computer input interfaces will breeze through Question 4—they need only correctly type “64.” But a student who struggles with the math, makes a mistake or
two, and tries to correct his mistakes may get mired in the ridiculous interface, especially if he is tempted to input his answer with the graphical keypad. It reminds me of the saying, “The rich get richer….”
Ironically, while poor results on the Common Core tests will be a blow to policy makers, parents, educators, and students, they will be a boon to those in education for a profit. I’ve been in the business for decades as an educational publisher. For many companies, including the large ones, there is no business like the “failure business.” Failure precipitates crises on a large scale. National politicians, governors, and state legislatures demand immediate action to address crises. In desperation, school officials look for quick solutions. They loosen purse strings in states and districts. And the quick-‐solution vendors spring into action, throw together products, and make a quick buck from their “solutions.”
The same testing companies that delivered these failed tests will win lucrative new
contracts to deliver “better” tests to states forced to abandon the current ones.
So why are we subjecting our children to this? Oh yes, Greg Lavelle.
Why is this test currently just inserted without General Assembly approval, to be used for the next 5 years? Oh, yes, Dave Sokola.
Why do you not know how bad this test is and the express harm it will cause your child? Oh, yes. Earl Jacques
Various members of our General Assembly’s Individual actions often bordering intentional deceit, by these individual people, have almost derailed the entire public educational system.
So, how can we stop this entire process from destroying our children?
Don’t let them take the test… Period…