The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a new computer-based test for 3rd–8th and 11th graders rolling out this spring across 21 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The test is a product of two private corporations, British book publisher Pearson, and News Corp’s education subsidiary Amplify, contracted by a consortium of participating states. Common Core curriculum, a controversial standard that many current high schoolers predate, is the basis of the test. The SBAC has prematurely replaced state issued tests, including the High School Proficiency Exam, Algebra EOC, and Oregon Assessment of Knowledge. While a large majority of students pass state standardized tests, 65% of students (and 90% of students with special needs) are projected to fail the SBAC, despite intentions to make it a graduation requirement.

Schools with limited resources and fewer than one computer per child will be especially damaged, as the minimum three-day test halts education from occurring in computer labs and libraries until every student can complete it. The 2015 assessment is essentially a trial run, entirely optional for 11th graders who have already taken the state tests to satisfy graduation requirements, yet school districts have used threatening language to suggest otherwise.

The SBAC creates guinea pigs out of students, benefiting private corporations that would typically have to pay for the kind of research data that districts are forcing their students into creating. This trial test will prove extremely disruptive to classes, pausing classes as they prepare for the end of the school year. Students that have previously met the standardized test requirement are wasting their own time, costing the school system $27.30, and giving credence to an illegitimate test by participating.

There are definite benefits that computer-based, adaptive, and more diverse assessments can offer compared to more traditional options, though all state testing has been thoroughly argued against. The test alters the difficulty of questions it offers based on how well a student is doing, and determines the final score based on that. However, the 2015 SBAC disrupts classrooms, wastes even more student learning time than other solutions, directs tax payer dollars to Rupert Murdoch’s empire, and shows poor prospects of actually fulfilling the graduation requirements it aims to. Additionally, schools that have taken the test find it especially buggy, causing detrimental delays. School districts haven’t backed down without a punch, placing manipulative language into opt out forms that represent their future hopes more than the present reality of the test

The entire junior class of Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School refused to take part, sending a strong message against expanding a process used to inaccurately rank students, fire teachers, and close schools. Between the high conscientious objection level and minute passing rate for test takers, school districts will have to concede on their graduation demand. The education system needs stability, and Smarter Balanced is at best a beta. With the ability to opt out, the influence students have on the education system is effective direct action and comparable to a strong labor union. I urge all students to join with teachers and parents and refuse the uncompensated Smarter Balanced trial test.


Image source:
By MCPearson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons