Steven Rasmussen SR Education Associates March 2015I clicked through the links, randomly chose the practice test for tenth grade mathematics,
and clicked “Yes, Start My Test.”
What I found shocked me. This analysis of mathematics test questions posted online by
Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests:
• Violate the standards they are supposed to assess;
• Cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to
• Use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces; or
• Are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and
correct answers as incorrect.
If the technology-enhanced items and training tests are indicative of the quality of the actual tests coming this year—and Smarter Balanced tells us they are10— the shoddy craft of the tests will directly and significantly contribute to students’ poor scores
board member, a teacher, a parent, or even a student old enough to make my own
decisions about my education, I would seriously consider not participating in the coming
round of high-stakes national testing—the tests will do too much damage on too many
levels to students, teachers, and champions of education. I salute those who have taken
courageous stands to opt-out of the new rounds of testing. The tests cannot be fixed in the
time before they’ll be administered. And in the current political climate, there will not be
funding available for those who could fix them to actually fix them.
I recognize that a stand to resist the tests has many consequences, some severe in the
short run. But anyone who takes this stand now will be exonerated in the long run. It is
the moral and practical thing to do. Next year a stand taken against the tests today will
I recognize that most people with a stake in education aren’t inclined or aren’t in a
position to become “conscientious objectors” and opt-out of participating in the coming
tests. What can we do?
We can mitigate the damage by protecting students from days, weeks, even months of
test prep for these tests. Based on the evidence Smarter Balance has given us, practice on
their tools will not lead to better teaching or learning. In fact it will “dumb down”
We can make sure the right people are held responsible for what’s to come—among them
the players who took our precious national and state funds for education and delivered
this assessment junk. We can support and defend the teachers and educational
professionals who have done all they can to improve mathematics education in countless
ways, but who will take the fall for poor test results.
Critique of Smarter Balanced Common Core Tests for Mathematics, SR Education Associates 31
We can urge schools and school boards to ignore the results of these contrived and fatally
flawed high-stakes tests—they do not measure mathematical understanding.
We can work to uncouple Common Core from the testing consortia and try to save the
potential of CCSSM, even while we let the tests, testing consortia, and their corporate
partners crash and burn.
We can continue to research and develop well-crafted digital tools for mathematics
education and work to deploy them in realistic time frames and in appropriate contexts.
We can demand the education funding necessary for teaching and assessing in this
country in ways worthy of our students. The promise of cheaper but deeper assessments
was a false promise from the start.
Maybe we can even make great assessments some day