Smarter Balanced Teachers Meet To Develop New Test Questions

Even as Common Core State Standards testing body PARCC has announced streamlined versions of its online assessments, Smarter Balanced, the other multi-state consortium, said it was meeting as well to "write and refine" its test questions.

Over the course of two weeks, a gathering of 70 educators from around the country have been meeting at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Connecticut to write, review and edit performance tasks. This type of assessment item asks students to analyze and synthesize information and bolster their test responses with evidence.

One teacher in attendance at the UCLA session said he was "encouraged" by the commitment of the consortium to take into account feedback from classroom teachers. Mark Hill, a math teacher from Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement, "From the implementation of testing procedures to the creation of test items, the Smarter Balanced team has strived to incorporate the ideas and address the concerns of those interacting directly with students: the classroom teacher. I am highly encouraged by the commitment of Smarter Balanced to continue to solicit feedback and to analyze data in order to continue to refine the test in order to create something that can be of value to students, educators and the states."

An English language arts teacher from Washington said she was so inspired by the work, she pushed her principal to get involved in a future gathering. "I wish you could see the intensity, the focus, the serious faces all around me as they look over these test items with a fine-toothed comb. We are looking for parts that would trip kids up on their responses, and whether the items are clear, open-ended and would prompt meaningful responses," Tara Affholter told her principal. "There are teachers, district administrators and college professors here trying to make a difference. They want kids to be successful in their writing. The people in this room believe in kids!"

The consortium estimated that from the beginning more than 4,700 educators have participated in the development of the new assessments, from helping write test questions, to creating tools in the Smarter Balanced Digital Library, to helping figure out the appropriate achievement levels to show a student has met the standards.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.