Smarter Balanced “Tests of the Test” Successful: Field Test Provides Clear Path Forward
In spring 2014, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium conducted field tests of its online assessment system. This report, prepared on behalf of Smarter Balanced, describes the major themes from survey results across 13 of the 22 consortium states regarding the field tests. Each of the 13 states developed its own survey questions. This report is organized around six major topics that were addressed by two or more states. The six areas the report addresses are: technology readiness of states, districts, and schools; readiness of test administrators and proctors; student test interface; functioning of new item types; rigor of the assessments and instructional alignment; and test delivery system. Additionally, this report includes comments from Consortium leadership and state assessment directors regarding the steps being taken to address the needs that were identified.
The purpose of this report, although not explicitly stated, is easily inferred by its title and contents. The accuracy of the report’s findings is hindered by a number of factors. Among them: the report is sponsored by the organization, which has an interest in the evaluation’s findings; data, findings, and conclusions are derived by differing surveys created by each state, rather than a single survey developed by an external evaluator; and the report highlights only positive findings in pull quotes. While some of these issues, such as the differing surveys, are freely admitted, others are not. Samples of the surveys would help to increase the report’s credibility. Nevertheless, the report is valuable for pointing out both positives and negatives about the field test, especially the low levels of alignment, reported by many students, between the assessments and what they were taught in school. For example: “In one state, only 10% of students reported the tests to be ‘very well’ aligned to instruction, and at the other extreme, 35% of students in another state reported this to be the case.” Such findings should be a wake-up call to educators to address this important alignment issue. Utility should be quite high if the report’s findings are used to make needed adjustments to teaching as well as test administration.