An In-Depth Critique by Steven Rasmussen, SR Education Associates, March 2015
In the spring of 2015, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium were administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). In our analysis of the mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced we revealed that, in question after question, the tests:
- Violated the standards they are supposed to assess;
- Could not be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use;
- Used confusing and hard-to-use interfaces; or
- Were graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect.
We concluded that no tests that so flawed should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. We urged responsible government bodies to withdraw the tests from use before they did damage.
In 2016 these tests will be given again. The tests have not changed. What we reported in 2015 is equally applicable to the 2016 tests. Read the full report…
In March 2015, SR Education Associates released a scathing report of the quality of the Smarter Balanced tests for mathematics used by 17 states to measure student proficiency with respect to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. We found that the quality of the tests was so bad that they should have been removed […]
A fantastic segment from this week’s show. A must watch! Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6lyURyVz7k.
This week I have rerun my ad promoting my critique of the Smarter Balanced tests for mathematics in the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) electronic publication, Summing Up. Hopefully, friends and colleagues in the NCTM community who find my critique will also take the time to read my blog. This post and the […]
Thank you for bringing numerous items to the surface in your report. The system is “broken” and the Smarter Balanced test does not do it any justice as I feel it does not test for understanding. Technologically compromised as well as discrepancies from the standards seem to be what $72 million dollars have brought us. I’m sure we could all go on and continually add to what has been brought out. I just hope the profession itself doesn’t get destroyed in the process.
— Jerry Zajac, Math Instructor, Milford, CT
Steven Rasmussen’s analysis of the Common Core mathematics test should be required reading for every legislator, policy maker, school board member, superintendent, principal, teacher, and parent. We do a terrible disservice to American children if we judge them by deeply flawed measures.
— Diane Ravitch, Research Professor, New York University
Thank you for the time put in and insight you provided in your article about SBAC. It justifies exactly what we, as the 8th grade math team at our middle school, have known all along. As a mathematics major and mathematician, I fully appreciate your analysis of the problems you picked.
— Thomas Marsala, 8th Grade Teacher, Murrieta, CA
After reading your piece covering the flaws you found on the Smarter Balanced assessment, I had to reach out and thank you. I teach fifth grade. I put my students on the math test, made a video and sent it to Smarter Balanced. My students are on computers almost every day—they are tech savvy. The video is worth a watch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZgb46Jm4Oo.
— Elizabeth Willoughby, 5th Grade Teacher, Clinton Township, MI
If you read nothing else about Common Core assessments — read this!
— Sol Garfunkel, Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP)
Rasmussen’s analysis is an eloquent indictment of what looks like another attack on our public schools. As math educators, we should support the students and parents who are opting out, and our organizations should lobby against the yearly-testing madness.
— Henri Picciotto, Author and Consultant, MathEducationPage.org
I thank you for the eye opening difficulties that students who have to take this assessment will be subjected to. In Canada we have moved to computer based assessments and I believe such problems would be identified in the field testing of items. Very disappointing that this situation needlessly exists.
— David Decoste, Mathematics Educator
Like Steve, I was skeptical yet hopeful that we were about to see a new generation of testing that would be creative and useful. This new test would spearhead positive changes in what happens in our math classrooms. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be happening.
— Michael Serra, Author of Discovering Geometry
I didn’t have high hopes for the Common Core assessments; but I didn’t expect to be this disappointed, and worried.
— Clifford Konold, Scientific Reasoning Research Institute and Creator of TinkerPlots
Testimonial: Nicholas Jackiw, Creator of The Geometer’s Sketchpad and Educational Technology Designer
I’m amazed all we’ve learned about effective curriculum design (and frankly even effective test design) gets thrown out the window when it comes to ‘designing’ usable technologies! Thanks for painting such a clear picture of how short the path is from design incoherence to mathematical incoherence.
— Nicholas Jackiw, Creator of The Geometer’s Sketchpad and Educational Technology Designer
Testimonial: Sherry Fraser, Mathematics Consultant and Co-Author of the Interactive Mathematics Program
I read this article and then took the SBAC practice test and I agree with everything Steve says. The article is long and detailed and definitely worth reading.
— Sherry Fraser, Mathematics Consultant and Co-Author of the Interactive Mathematics Program
A must-read for all who have been hoping for better tests, which are a critical element in the standards-driven reform movement. Rasmussen exposes how far short of the promised improvements the new tests are likely to be.
— Andy Isaacs, University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP)
My group read your piece. We found the examples to be worrisome and compelling. You convinced us that writing assessments requires lots of expertise and critical eyes.
— Jere Confrey, College of Education, North Carolina State University
When the inevitable problems occur with the SBAC and PARCC test administrations this year, the public outcry will be about how the technology infrastructure failed or how the tests were taking too much valuable time away from real instruction. Your critique may point people in a different direction — to look at what was actually being tested and how that was enacted. If people do that, your document will have done a great service to all.
— Martin Gartzman, Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE)
To get a PDF of this report, click the Full Report button above to open the file and then download the PDF from your viewer. Please share it with your colleagues and friends.
Help Steve raise money to support students from MetWest, a small public high school in East Oakland (where Steve is tutoring math) attend the Woolman Semester School, a Quaker school focused on peace, justice and environmental sustainability.