Two More Smarter Balanced States Eye Making Changes

Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Photo credit: Bartmoni (CC-By-SA 3.0)

House Democrats in Delaware are calling for the state to stop requiring Smarter Balanced for high school juniors.  Delaware Public Media reports this week:

Ten legislators wrote a letter to Gov. Jack Markell last week, saying the SAT should be eleventh grade’s accountability exam, not Smarter Balanced.

Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-North Wilmington) was among those who signed that letter. She says too few juniors took Smarter Balanced last year — fewer than the 95 percent target at some schools.

Heffernan says that’s due in part to parent and student concerns over the test’s length and content. But she says it’s also because of the other college entrance exams, such as the SAT, ACT and AP tests, that juniors have to juggle.

“They have a big testing burden already,” Heffernan says. “And it would be a way to reduce their testing burden, but also to give us good data to be able to have educational accountability.”

Plus, she says the SAT is already required and aligned with Common Core standards, and takes half the time of Smarter Balanced.

I’d like to point out that I do not think this is an overall improvement other than it is one less assessment that juniors in Delaware would have to take. I think the new SAT is garbage, and will do nothing to break Common Core’s grip in the state. What we will see, however, is the further degrading of the argument that states are comparing apples to apples in terms of a common assessment.  I suspect we’ll see a bill drop when their legislature is in session, and I think it’s significant that Governor Markell is getting pushback from members of his own party.

In West Virginia they’re looking at ditching Smarter Balanced in favor of the ACT and ACT Aspire tests.  The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports:

Most members of the West Virginia Schools superintendent’s commission on testing want to move away from Smarter Balanced standardized exams, limit end-of-year testing in high school to only one grade and specifically explore using ACT tests as statewide assessments.

The recommendations came near the end of a nearly five-hour-long meeting that included commission members expressing worries about more students refusing to take tests this school year.

They also expressed concern about the state’s plan to give entire schools and counties A-F grades based largely on standardized tests.

The commission expressed complaints that Smarter Balanced, a Common Core-aligned math and English language arts test, isn’t an accurate gauge of student achievement, doesn’t give much reason for students to take it seriously and doesn’t provide information on what exactly students are struggling with.

Mountain State students had a 27 percent proficiency rate in math on Smarter Balanced last school year, the first year for the test statewide, and a 45 percent proficiency rate in English language arts.

“The No. 1 complaint I hear is a lack of prescriptive feedback,” said commission member Mickey Blackwell, executive director of the West Virginia Elementary/Middle Schools Principals Association. Fellow commission member Blaine Hess, superintendent of Jackson County Schools, noted that providing the ACT statewide would save families the cost of paying for the popular college entrance exam.

The commission — which has 26 members, although not all were present for the full meeting — is expected to meet a third and final time on Jan. 12. Final recommendations will be made to state Superintendent Michael Martirano, who will use them to advise the West Virginia Board of Education on whether to make any changes or not.

The ACT is not required by Mountain State schools, and West Virginia uses Smarter Balanced, instead of the ACT, to meet federal requirements to report test scores.

Read the rest.

Right now only Alabama and South Carolina use the ACT Aspire tests (which, yes are aligned to Common Core). There are 15 states that are still in Smarter Balanced with three affiliate members and it looks like they will continue to shrink.