South Carolina State Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) wrote an op/ed for The State where he warned that South Carolina could regret their new student testing scheme via the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) that accompanies the state’s adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
We belong to a consortium of states called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which the federal government is paying to develop computerized tests aligned with the national standards. An examination of the Smarter Balanced scheme suggests that our students, our teachers and our pocketbooks may be in for hard times.
The person directing the tests’ content development is Linda Darling-Hammond, a longtime proponent of politicized education (with the emphasis on teaching for “social justice” and “multiculturalism”) and Barack Obama’s education advisor during the 2008 campaign.
Perhaps because she strongly opposes traditional standardized tests, the Smarter Balanced tests will be “innovative” and “computer adaptive.” This means that depending on the student’s answers to the first questions, the computer will feed the student either easier or harder questions as the test goes forward. Correct answers result in harder questions; wrong answers generate easier questions.
This computer-adaptive feature diminishes a primary argument made by Common Core proponents: that we must be able to compare student performance across states. Because students will be given different questions depending on their previous answers, they will essentially be taking different tests. The performance of Sarah in Easley can’t be compared to that of Mary in Topeka; it can’t even be compared to that of William at the next desk. Smarter Balanced may devise some rubric to allow rough comparisons, but a meaningful one-to-one comparison won’t be possible.
Another feature touted by Smarter Balanced is “performance tasks,” which will involve a student’s extended time, either individually or as part of a group, on multi-step problems that result in completed projects. Every parent of bright, motivated children has heard them complain about being stuck in a project group with slackers and having to do all the work. Now, that scenario will be repeated on national high-stakes tests.
He also cites the cost of testing due to the technology requirement necessary for implementation. Not many people are really talking about the testing involved so it is great that he’s bring this up in his state. Be sure to read the whole article.