`These days, it seems as if new tests are being thrown at students all the time. Well, better make room for one more: the Smarter Balance Test is here. If things go well, the test will soon become a national standard, and students around the country will be able to sit at computers and take yet another test. What an honor.
The Smarter Balanced Test is the brain child of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the California branch of the new Common CORE system. The test primarily covers math and English language skills, and is taken online at a computer or other electronic device. This year’s juniors and certain select students from other grade levels have already taken the test as part of a field run—wasn’t it nice of the juniors to be academic guinea pigs—and if results are favorable, the test will be released on a national scale next year.
The Smarter Balanced Test is substantially different from the typical high school standardized test. It relies much more heavily on free-response and open ended questions than on multiple choice questions. This approach makes a test that, as Mrs. Darrough puts it “Tests what you know, instead of what you don’t know.” While this may be a good thing in the long run, many students will have difficulty adjusting to the change in testing parameters. Students might also find problems with the choice of medium; electronic tests have a bit of a sour reputation among certain members of the populace. “I don’t like computerized tests”, says Damien Ramirez, junior. Gabe Hillyer, junior, agrees, saying “It’s efficient but it’s just kinda weird to take a test on a computer.” However, electronic tests are where the world is going, and they’re eco-friendly, so they should be given a chance.
The Smarter Balance Test has a few other positives over traditional paper tests. It is more versatile and can be easily converted into another language or another communication medium; as of now, Smarter Balance is offered in Spanish, Chinese, Braille, and ASL, among other things. The test can be graded more quickly than traditionally possible, and has a wide variety of scoring options. Additionally, the final Smarter Balanced Test is rumored to be adaptive, meaning that the questions would change in difficulty based on the student taking it. Now that’s science.
Hopefully, the Smarter Balanced Test will be the herald of a bright, new future of testing. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium seems to think it will be. They have championed the test as a system that “will give parents and students accurate information about whether students are on track to graduate high school ready for college and the workplace.” Opinions around school are decidedly more mixed; teachers seem to be cautiously hopeful, while the majority of students grumble when the test is mentioned, if they even know about the test at all. The few students who did offer their opinions didn’t seem to have one about the test, like Damien Ramirez, who says “I just don’t know what to think of it yet.”
If you want to learn more about the Smarter Balanced test, visit the website at smarterbalanced.org or any associated website. The test is planned to be implemented next year, barring unforeseen circumstances, so we can all jump for joy at the opportunity to take another test.
– Zach Passmore