The plan under discussion here last week among state education chiefs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium represents the collision of hope and reality, as states confront what is politically and fiscally palatable and figure out how that squares with the more in-depth—and potentially more valuable—approach to testing promised by the consortium.That's a lot of testing.
“There is the dream, and there’s real life,” said one state assessment director attending the meeting. “We’re trying to bridge the two the best we can.”
The evolving two-pronged approach would give states the option of using a version of the Smarter Balanced test whose multiple sessions and classroom activities span nearly 6½ hours in grades 3-5, close to seven hours in grades 6-8, and eight hours in high school, or the group’s original version, which lasts about four hours longer in grades 3-8 and about five hours longer in high school.
It would be up to each state to choose which version of the assessment it uses. Early signs suggest that public antipathy toward testing and states’ tight fiscal straits are leading more than a few to consider the shorter version. It was pressure from chiefs within the Smarter Balanced consortium that prompted the group earlier this year to explore the option of two versions...The measurement error between the two versions of the test will be significant:
The pressure within Smarter Balanced to offer a shorter version is unsettling for the group’s biggest advocates, who contend that its vision, while lengthening testing in some states, offers immense promise to make tests a more meaningful gauge of achievement and also a form of instruction...
“You asked for authentic assessments,” Ms. Miller (co-chair of the Smarter Balanced executive committee) said she tells them. “Authentic assessment takes time.”
And when they move from interpreting the two versions of the tests for groups, as states are expected to do for accountability, to using them to make decisions about individual students—as they plan to do in deciding whether high school students are “college and career ready”—the risk increases, he said.Remember, California chose Smarter Balanced and my guess is that due to budget considerations will choose to go with the shorter test. 30% of the time we'd get different results with the longer version.
“Any inferences about an individual from a shorter test will be noisier and less reliable,” the expert said.
“If you’re going to make decisions about people,” he said, “you’d hate to make them based on a test where 30 percent of the time you would make a different decision if you used the long instead of the short version of the test.”