New…and Improved? Assessments

When it comes to discussions of the common core, the conversation quickly turns to the question uppermost in teachers’ minds,  “What will the new state assessment look like?”   The truth of the matter is, we aren’t sure yet.

Initially, the word was that the new math assessment would be groundbreaking.  It is supposed to include selected response, multiple mark, constructed response, computer simulation,  and open-ended questions as well as performance based tasks.  Both of the assessment consortiums, as outlined by Deb Haneke, in Assessments and Common Core Standards, are charged with helping ensure students who graduate from high school are college and career ready.  Their plans for the new assessments are similar but not identical.   The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, of which Kansas is a governing state, is planning an adaptive assessment; one in which the computer aligns the difficulty of the questions to the student’s performance level.

At this point, there seems to be some backpedaling when it comes to the news about the new assessments.  According to an article in Education Week, Experts See Hurdles Ahead for Common Core Tests, there are several factors that may impede the creation of a truly innovative assessment.  As in most areas of education today, the lack of money rears its ugly head.  Although both consortiums received Race to the Top Assessment grant funds, this does not include long-term funding for test administration or revision.  With this in mind, there is pressure to get the test right the first time.  The timeline for development is also a factor that may impede the amount of innovation that we see in the final product.

So my advice to teachers at this stage of the game is to focus on the standards themselves and leave the test, for now, to the test makers.

Just “sum”thing to think about.

Hi, I am Renee' Smith and I began teaching math in, of all places, a maximum security prison. “I was 21 years old and 99 lbs. soaking wet. Some of my students were convicted murderers and as scary as it sounds, it was incredibly sad. Many of those men had failed in the school system and then turned to crime.” That early experience with public school dropouts, cemented my resolve to help future students understand and succeed in the area of mathematics. To that end I dedicated 16 years to the classroom, teaching 5th grade math through algebra. After obtaining my Masters in Education from Baker University, I joined the ESSDACK team in 2007. I have presented at the local, state, and national levels but my most worthwhile experience at ESSDACK has been working to take the fear out of math for teachers and students alike. Although my primary focus has been providing professional development in mathematics, I also devote time to podcasting and creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. My podcasts include, By the Numbers, Just Desserts and Math Snacks. Working at ESSDACK has provided me the opportunity to do many of the things I love. “I have the time to research current educational practices, I get to be creative, collaborative, and I meet tons of new people."

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