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

” 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.

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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…