Assessment Opinion

The Common Core Journey

By Phylis Hoffman — December 08, 2014 3 min read
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I teach second grade in a state that has joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and this means no high stakes standardized testing for my students. (When I say “high stakes” I am referring to a one-time assessment, which evaluates students, teachers, and schools instead of using multiple measures.) Because of this, I will spend less time worrying about my students being prepared for “the test” and more time focused on building well-rounded second graders. At the same time, I feel an overwhelming responsibility to ensure my students go on to third grade prepared. But how will I know, I’m left wondering if my third grade colleagues will become resentful in believing that they have to do all the work needed to fully prepare our students for SBAC.

Teachers transitioning to the Common Core are all driving on a road that’s dark except for the final destination. We have the added burden of building and modifying the car as we drive it, because there is no one curriculum to follow. (What are you using for math? EngageNY? Georgia’s curriculum? North Carolina’s?). There are still many questions and few answers. So I decided to see if I could find some.

What annual measurable objectives (AMO) are publicly available? I visited the U.S. Department of Education‘s website to see if any are posted there, similar to those previously available under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). I couldn’t find anything but I did learn something new: only students in third through eighth grade, and eleventh graders will be assessed since California is using SBAC. If your state is a member of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), students in these same grades will be assessed with “optional performance tasks” are available for kindergarten through second grade.

Then, I went to the California Department of Education’s website to see if I could find anything about AMOs or the definition for passing the SBAC assessments. The site redirected me to SBAC’s website for achievement level recommendations. Here I learned about the four scales of achievement, from Level 1 through Level 4. Level 3 is considered passing. For example, an 11th grader’s Level 3 score is defined as “strong evidence of college skills and career readiness.” In order for students to move up through the grade levels, they must get higher scaled scores each year.

What about using technology to administer new test? What if your school or students don’t have adequate access? Early on in my teaching career I would do SAT prep with high school students on weekends and during the summer. A large part of the preparation for the SAT was organized around the format of the test. So I wonder if our students will be at a huge disadvantage if they don’t have the ability to practice the technology platform for the new SBAC test?

Which brings me back to my concerns for my third grade colleagues. It seems to me that not only will third grade teachers need to ensure students are academically prepared (from kindergarten through second grade), but also that they are technologically prepared. All Title I schools will have to shoulder technology preparation since the majority of Title I students lack access to computers and tech devices in their homes and schools. Doing well on a standardized test requires not only academic knowledge but also the ability to readily grasp the structure of a test. I think all of us teaching kindergarten through second grade need to think and discuss ways of helping our students be ready not just academically for CCSS assessment but also technologically. Maybe instead of building dioramas on animal life cycles out of shoeboxes this year I should teach my students how to make a presentation on the computer.

So I’ve found a few answers but it still feels like there are a lot of unknowns about CCSS assessments that will only be answered in time, after students and teachers have the opportunity to see every assessment. As teachers, let’s help each other navigate this tough but important transition. I invite teachers to share your questions and helpful CCSS-related resources in the comments below.

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