Sunday, January 11, 2015

Are We Failing to Prepare?

This summer, thousands of students will receive results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. Students, parents, and educators alike will wonder what the information means. How will schools and districts handle their responses? Will the results generate energy for continued self growth, reactionary responses or be dismissed as irrelevant? 

School districts are challenged to implement the common core state standards (CCSS) in classrooms while preparing for SBAC testing. Understandably, the CCSS are producing the greatest focus. In my district, professional learning and curriculum resources are centered around bringing CCSS instruction to students. At the same time, districts have geared up their technology so that SBAC testing is available online to students this spring. Local districts are utilizing interim assessments that mimic SBAC-type test items for students to experience the new expectations in testing form. Teachers are encouraged to adjust instruction based on interim assessment results.

But much less attention is currently being paid to how the SBAC results will be portrayed, understood, and analyzed. Waiting for the results to arrive will be like awaiting for a hurricane to arrive to decide what to do. It will be too late to begin grasping what the information means and how it was created. Knowing beforehand how the SBAC will formulate outcomes will strategically place districts miles ahead when the results arrive. This advanced knowledge will aid in communicating to parents, students and staff what to expect, how results will be derived, and what to do next.

Having participated in the in-person scale scoring for SBAC, I write with firsthand experience of the value of understanding how this new test will present results.  The new computer assisted technology will adjust test items based on previous responses making percent correct irrelevant and leaving everyone scratching their heads wondering how a scaled score was established. Confusion could lead to circumstances that detract from the test’s intent and lead to calls to reduce or scale back statewide testing. Worst case scenarios include angry parents wanting to know why the SBAC results are poorer than past state test results, teachers feeling demoralized or dismissive of the results and students wrongly drawing conclusions about themselves.

Most importantly, the commitment of resources should lead towards school improvement. The opportunity for this to occur remains. But we must act now to understand how the SBAC results will be created, portrayed, and understood. Join me in participating in this process. Upcoming posts will address these points with the intention of improving our students’ learning.

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