Smarter Balance Changes Testing

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A student works on a Smarter Balance test question.

Shea Danforth, Staff Writer

Instead of the familiar Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test, students will experience the new Smarter Balanced assessment this spring.

According to vice principle Sharon Bartlett, the test will be composed of two parts: Math and ELA (English Language Arts). Bartlett said that only one grade will be taking this field test, or a practice test. Juniors are the most likely ones to take the test.

A unique aspect about the Smarter Balanced test is that it will require computers. According to math teacher Ken Ingersoll, taking the test on a computer is more challenging.  “Taking the test on computers brings up an issue. Some students struggle taking tests on computers because you can’t write on or annotate the diagram,” he explained.

Ingersoll’s Geometry students took a preliminary version of the Smarter Balanced test this fall. According to Ingersoll, students did not achieve high scores. “Some students were walking out of my classroom in tears,” he said. “It’s a whole different type of test, and students will have to adjust their studying habits in order to do well on it.”

Ingersoll also said that teachers will have a problem adjusting since the curriculum that they are currently using is not founded on the Smarter Balanced standards.

The style of Smarter Balanced learning may be different from what most students are accustomed. Bartlett said, “It’s not a whole different critter, it’s just asking us to work on our skills that we’ve learned from all of our classes rather than focusing it on just one. It focuses on the bigger picture. In other words, you’ll always be doing critical thinking.” Ingersoll also said, “Instead of just solving the math problem, the students are going to have to write about how they solved it.”

Looking into the future, Bartlett thinks this new style of testing is for the best. She said, “Education is about preparing students for their future, and not the past. The whole world is changing so fast, and we have to get used to things everyday.”

Bartlett believes that this new style of testing is preparing students for the future, focusing more on contemporary standards than traditional ones.

Ingersoll said, “It’s funny because it’s not as polarizing as it may seem. I’m not against it, but the problem is that we are preparing for a test that we don’t even know what it looks like. We also won’t know how well our students will do [since the scores will not be recorded]. All of these factors make it very difficult to prepare for.”

Junior Sam Larson said, “It will be a massive change from STAR testing, but it’s probably for the better.”