Assessment

Missouri Tosses Smarter Balanced

The Missouri Legislature has banned the Smarter Balanced standardized tests, leaving Missouri education officials with nine months to come up with alternative standardized tests to avoid breaking federal law, according to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has signed into law an appropriations bill that eliminates $4.2 million for the state Department of Education to pay for the Smarter Balanced tests next year and provides the department with $7 million to develop new tests. Federal law requires states to conduct standardized tests, so education administrators will have to scramble to come up with an alternative in time for next spring.

The Smarter Balanced tests were developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which provided Missouri and 17 other states with standardized tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Smarter Balanced was one of two organizations selected to create Common Core-aligned tests, the other being the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Collectively, the two organizations received $330 million in grants from the United States Department of Education to develop the assessments.

The Common Core State Standards and its corresponding assessments have been a source of controversy. According to a survey of 5,700 teachers conducted by the Missouri State Teachers Association in May 2015, 52 percent of respondents said preparing students for the Smarter Balanced tests this spring took up more classroom time than previous tests. And according to information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Smarter Balanced failed to meet its contractual obligations to the state because it didn't provide teachers with interim tests to monitor student learning throughout the year. However, Peter Herschend, president of the Missouri Board of Education, has called the new law "an absolute frontal attack on the perception of Common Core," which was designed to increase academic rigour and better prepare students for college and careers.

According to the Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Department of Education is considering soliciting bids from testing companies for alternative assessments to use next spring. Meanwhile, state education officials are planning to develop their own replacement test for the 2016-17 school year, although the Department of Education is not obligated to adopt that test.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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