...And the SMART Balanced Assessment in CA Schools
It is that time of the year again in many states across the country - state testing. Some people are indifferent about it, but most people I know have strong opinions either in support or against it. Honestly, since I started teaching 7+ ago, testing was already part of the education system. I started in Florida teaching third grade. I later moved to CA (2009) and testing was happening in both Florida and California.
Florida and the F.C.A.T (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test)
Teaching third grade was not every teacher's dream back in Florida. WHY? Because if third graders did not pass the reading portion of the FCAT, children would be retained - than meant that a child had to repeat third grade ALL over again because of his/her reading scores. However, to be fair and to report on this as fair as I can possibly can, children were given several opportunities (3 in all if I do not remember it wrong).
Some children as young as 8 would have panic attacks because of the pressure that was put on them. Testing time was not my favorite time of the year, and to actually have to tell a child that he/she would NOT move on with his/her classmates was devastating. I am not sure how much or if anything has changed since I moved to CA in 2009, but the FCAT was brutal. I remember once a student told me that he knew the 'real' meaning of FCAT. I curiously asked what that was, and his response was "Forget College After This."
State Assessments in CA and Now the SMART Balanced Test*
Fast forward 5 years and things in CA have not changed much since I moved here in 2009. The traditional paper and pencil tests were given still up to last year (2012-2013 school year). I was not fan of them, the questions and the reading passages were plain boring for the most part. And yet we expected children to sit for hours 'bubbling in' answers.
Here is the thing - I GET IT...states, schools and teachers need to be held accountable in some manner. I am not sure that the "one size fits all" is the best way though. It is plain torture having to watch a child who is in fourth grade and reading at a second grade level (for whatever reason/learning disability, or just plain behind) to have him/her 'pretend' to understand what he/she is reading and then answer questions that I KNOW will be answered incorrectly (assuming he/she got lucky and got some of them right).
*Haga click aquí para encontrar mas información en español sobre el SMART Balance Test.
Some Good News.....
I am somehow relieved that this year's assessments in CA will NOT be counted toward students' actual record. This year the state is just 'testing the test' to make sure that when it really counts (next year) all things are running properly. At least my students and I will get a feel for what we are in for. For now - I am hoping that my students are somehow proficient with technology to be able to navigate the test (which at this point I am more concerned with than with the actual content). We start testing next week (April 22nd and will do it for 3 days - 2 days of math and one day of ELA).
My Final Thoughts...
The Common Core State Standards are guiding much of our instruction nowadays. Some people hate them. I? I know they are not going anywhere so I try to equip myself and my students with the tools we need. With the CCSS or not, a teacher should be able to make learning meaningful, interesting and engaging. I try my best and love what I do...I really hope is enough for now. I am not sure what to expect when it comes to the actual content (even though I have completed some practice tests myself), but I am not the one taking the test. I will have a better feeling next week once we make it through. Again, teaching is about giving our students the tools and teaching them the skills they need....I do not love assessments, but they are here and instead of lamenting I have decided to run with it (hoping that I do not fall!)
What are your thoughts on assessment?
Photos thanks to Pete (Comedy_nose) and StuartPilBrow