What is this Smarter Balanced test that people are talking about? For states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards (such as New Hampshire), the Smarter Balanced assessment is the name of the test the we give to all 3rd through 8th graders. It measures how well each student has mastered the Standards in English/Language Arts and Math. It is the second year we have given the assessment throughout the state.
Now, the Smarter Balanced assessment looks nothing like any test you remember. Previously, large scale assessments were done on pencil and paper, everyone had the same questions, and you received the results months later. The new state assessment is completed entirely on the computer and students not only click multiple choice answers with a mouse or trackpad, they also have to type short answers and brief essays. Students have access to an online notes application, a calculator, and that have the ability to highlight and cross out text. Fortunately, our students are pretty familiar with digital technology and it showed in our solid scores last year. There is a real advantage in 2016 for those students who have strong computer skills.
Another significant change is that there are thousands of potential assessment questions and the test is designed to be adaptive. In other words, when a student answers a questions correctly, it asks them a harder question and conversely when a student answers a question incorrectly, the software picks an easier question. The experts say that when the test is scored, it gives a more accurate evaluation of the students’ academic level. This technology is also a component of our STAR assessment which we give to students 2-3 times a year.
What does this all mean? The Smarter Balanced assessment will give our schools information on our areas of strength and weakness and allow us to improve our instruction. But, it is not an assessment we use to help our children day to day. We have many other more effective tools that probe a student’s growth in literacy and numeracy. Smarter Balanced is more of a “school report card”.
Bill Carozza, Principal