Thursday, July 17, 2014

Smarter Balanced

To begin, I like the idea that Smarter Balanced is working towards. It has some merit in finding ways to make sure that students are career and college ready. However, it does not take into account the social aspect of a student's education. After reading Dewey and through what I have learned in my other classes, by leaving out the social aspect of education you hurt the student in many regards moving into the future. It is great that Smarter Balanced wants to make sure students are ready for a job or college, but how can a student be successful in a job or college if they do not have the necessary social skills?

Also if this is the kind of standardized test that is for the future it brings up some issues, many of which were brought up in class today. For example, the fact that the test is on the computer can be a problem for some students. I was fortunate enough to have a few typing classes while in school, but if another student has not had these classes just articulating a quality answer in the time provided can be an issue. In turn I as a teacher can be evaluated on the scores from these tests. If a student can not type well enough to give a good answer is that fair? This reminds me somewhat of how people have brought forth the thought that some tests can be culturally biased towards the dominant culture of society. Say you have a student who's family recently immigrated from another country and that student has to be tested on their reading comprehension through a text about the US Civil War. They are not going to be able to do as well on this as native students simply because they have not been taught this content their whole life. The same goes for a student that does not have a computer at home yet is required to take a test that is done solely through the computer.

Another issue that compounds off the last one in a sense is how the test is laid out. There was a lot going on on the screen, and it was frustrating at times trying to navigate it all. Furthermore, the way questions were answered did not have a lot of continuity. Both of these coupled with the possibility that a student might not have regular access to a computer can make a test that much harder for a student. So, while finding a proper way to assess students comprehension is an important issue, I feel that it can be done better than how Smarter Balanced is currently trying.


  1. Carl,
    You bring up some great points here. I think one important point to consider is to what extent we have a responsibility to teach technology skills (not just for exams) to our students. For example, who teaches students cell phone etiquette? Can we count on their peers and parents to do so? I think if we view our role more holistically in terms of tech, they will develop the necessary skills to do well on these exams.

  2. Thought-provoking post! In particular I found this tidbit interesting: "some tests can be culturally biased towards the dominant culture of society." I tend to agree with this statement, so my question is, how can we fight against this? Is the answer to simply not put as much stock in standardized tests? Especially after my year in DC working and studying education policy, it seems like everyone out there is obsessed with standardized tests in education and teacher evaluation. Overall though, I think it's our job as the teachers of tomorrow to fight against poorly constructed measures like this test. Either way, I think it's important for us future teachers to stay informed about matters like this.

  3. Mr. D,
    I really liked how you mentioned your past experience with typing classes in school within your post. This is because I had not taken into consideration how these classes widen the achievement gap of students who take online standardized tests. I was also thinking about how the time portion of standardized testing also plays into this disparity. I too took a typing class and was timed whilst I typed in a program and practiced to get faster. Many other students did not similar experiences so I am guessing they would not be able to produce as many words on a page and get more complete thoughts across to test graders. Talk about inequitable!

    -Ms. D