For the first time in history this year, California students took their annual standards based testing entirely online. The intention of the Smarter Balanced Online Assessments, administered between April and June each year, is to ascertain how well students are learning the new Common Core academic standards adopted in 43 states across the country, including California.
One of the key differences between this, and the original paper-based system, is that the new test is computer-adaptive, meaning it can tailor itself to the individual candidate`s ability. Students are asked progressively more difficult questions, and those who answer correctly are challenged further, while those struggling are offered easier questions, in order to get an overall picture of a student`s aptitude.
Results of the tests are expected to be released in mid-Summer, and we may have to brace ourselves – it is likely that for many students, this year at least, results will be below what is hoped and expected, according to state education officials.
When the STAR testing was revamped in 2002, scores dropped dramatically, before recovering over the following decade. This time around, officials recognize that not only are they changing what students learn, but also the way in which they learn it and how it is tested. Patience on the part of parents, and persistence from students is requested while the new system is bedded in.
But as a parent, education is a key issue – and disappointment is still disappointing regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately we can manage expectations by educating ourselves as parents in the new system. A Facebook group – CommonCoreCA – is a public group dedicated to assisting parents and students with queries they have related to Common Core, with qualified and experienced teachers and tutors providing answers.
Whilst there is no officially recognized way to practice or prepare for the tests, most teachers agree that consistency throughout the school year is key. A child struggling with any aspect of the Math or English Common Core curriculum in particular can benefit from a Math tutor or an English tutor. The tests require writing at all levels, and measure skills in analysis and research that traditional tests are not able to do.
The results, due shortly, will give parents a breakdown of how their child is performing in specific areas, such as reading and writing in English, and problem solving or application in Mathematics. Whilst a small minority of parents have opted out of the tests altogether, citing privacy and stress among other concerns, those who do receive results will be able to use them to assess where their child may need additional support in the form of a reading tutor, writing tutor or math tutor going forwards into the next school year.
As California state education officials have said, it is a learning process for everyone. Don`t worry too much if your child`s results are lower than you expected, but at the same time, use the results to help plan their educational support system going forwards.
Any parent curious about the test can try a sample version here: sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test.