If the moniker for the test – Smarter Balanced – seems a little ungainly, you can blame the folks behind the plan. The test takes its name from the multi-state coalition of education officials that developed the test, who named themselves the Smarter, Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Oregon students are preparing for their first crack at the Smarter Balanced test.
You can forgive them, and teachers and administrators, for suffering from testing whiplash, and maybe even some PTTD (post-traumatic test disorder).
The top-down, executive branch approach to education reform has tried to reinvigorate primary and secondary education in the country over the last decade – to varying degrees of success. But there is no debate that the United States remains decisively behind many European countries and many first-world Asian countries in quality of education. The much maligned and misunderstood Smarter Balanced tests and Common Core curriculum is the latest attempt to resuscitate our education reputation.
It won’t come easily.
Students in grades three through eight and high school juniors will be subjected to seven hours of intensive testing over the next two months. The goal is to measure their reading, writing, listening, math, research and thinking skills. Teachers are prepared for the worst; more than half of all students who take the test are expected to receive “failing” grades. And administrations are busy pivoting to the new curriculum so more students pass the challenging tests every year from here on out.
Anything new, unproven and difficult makes people fearful. Many teachers have expressed that fear, and some have passed those fears along to their students. Most athletic coaches know that confidence is key to success and convincing their players to give their best effort. And what is true on the pitch is also true on paper. We think school officials should remind students that Smarter Balanced tests the U.S. education system as much as it tests the students themselves.
Sure, it won’t be easy for the majority of students to see their low scores, especially for children who are used to getting good grades. But those good grades in less-challenging work weren’t cutting it on the international scene. This country had to up its game and any short-term setbacks will make our children smarter (and balanced) in the long run.
For now, remind your son and daughter, or niece or nephew, to take a deep breath. To try hard but not be overwhelmed. To remember their self-worth no matter what a computerized score tells them. The key mantra should be the old parental standby that all young people should hear over and over again: Do your best.