Well, the holidays are over, and it’s the standardized testing time of the year! As a teacher and a learner, I wish with all my heart this wasn’t necessary….that students’ understanding and progress could be measured by individually through completely authentic strategies, such as portfolio analysis or a variety of testing formats differentiated to fit diverse types of intelligence strengths.

The struggle is real
The struggle is real

However, authentic assessment is time consuming, labor intensive, difficult to do electronically and, therefore, not feasible for the yearly measurement of progress demanded by government entities and taxpayers who fund public schools.

Standardized testing in schools has been conducted for as long as I can remember, way back when I was the kid filling in bubbles with a number 2 pencil. Those multiple choice tests were extremely limited in their ability to authentically assess students’ understanding of content or progress in academic skills.

Today’s Smarter Balanced Assessments (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/) are a great improvement, in terms of authentic measurement, over standardized tests of previous decades. There are still many multiple choice test items, but both the English Language Arts and Math tests have an adapted component that changes test items, getting harder or easier depending individual student’s performance on each question. There is also a ‘performance task’ component for both English Language Arts and Math which require writing and problem solving, which are inherently more authentic ways to demonstrate students’ understanding and knowledge of content.

There are challenges associated with this more differentiated, authentic type of assessment; students as young as 3rd grade must be able to type. They must also have at least basic computer using skills such as navigating, clicking, and clicking-dragging with a mouse. Many children, especially those from lower socioeconomic households, may not have much experience with computers and other digital tools, which can create test bias. Test bias was discussed in scientific literature in the 70’s in regard to test design and content that resulted in many minority students’ abilities and aptitudes being underestimated, largely because test item content often related to the dominant, mainstream culture and not to minority cultures (Reynolds & Suzuki, 2003). While there has been much improvement in this regard, with test designers striving to create assessments that are culturally relevant to many cultures, the fact that the current assessments are conducted completely online may make them more challenging for students with less digital experience and expertise.

Dr. Ardys Reverman and me, Dr. Lisa Rodriguez, have recently unveiled a new, 100% online course offered through Portland State University by CTCourses, SBAC Success: Preparing Students for the Smarter Balanced Test , gives teachers and their students a sneak peak at the tests, including test taking strategies, online games and tools to develop necessary skills, and video guidance through each component: English Language Arts and Math Computer Adapted Tests and Performance Tasks. Not only does the course prepare teachers and help them prepare their students for the SBAC tests, 5 units of undergraduate or graduate credits can be earned for degree or licensure.unnamed (3)

Comments, questions, and suggestions in regard to the course and the topic of SBAC assessments are appreciated! Teachers who have administered the SBAC to students previously, share your experiences and insights….let’s help each other help our students perform at their maximum potential.

SBAC Success: Preparing Students for the Smarter Balanced Test http://ceedcatalog.pdx.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=4444660

Reynolds, C. & Suzuki, L. (2003). Bias in psychological assessment: An empirical review and recommendations. Retrieved from lp.wileypub.com/HandbookPsychology/SampleChapters/Volume10.pdf.