Smarter Balanced: setup for failure

State should acknowledge there’s a problem and work to correct it


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The Smarter Balanced Assessment scores were finally released by the NH Department of Education after months of keeping them secret, and the results weren’t good. 

By using a computer adaptive assessment, we were supposed to get the results right away, which meant teachers would be able to use those results to guide their teaching. Six months later, they finally release the results and your children have already moved on.

New Hampshire’s commissioner of education, Virginia Barry, told us that we will be able to compare our scores to other states. Because of the controversies surrounding the Smarter Balanced test, many states left the
consortium. There are now about 15 states left and they set their own cut scores, so we wont be able to compare New Hampshire to the other 35 states.

Then we were told the test was a good quality assessment that would indicate whether our children were proficient in mathematics and English. That’s not true either.

Professor W. Stephen Wilson, professor of mathematics and education at Johns Hopkins University warned, “conceptualization of mathematical understanding on which (Smarter Balanced) will base its assessments is deeply flawed. The consortium focuses on the Mathematical Practices of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics at the expense of content, and they outline plans to assess communication skills that have nothing to do with mathematical understanding.”

Steve Rasmussen, an educational consultant also warned that the Smarter Balanced math assessment was fundamentally flawed and should not be used.

As a medically licensed child psychologist, Dr. Gary Thompson has explained why the Smarter Balanced assessment was not validated and refers to this testing scheme as cognitive child abuse. Validation is required by state law, indicating the use of this assessment may be in violation of state statute.

Dr. Thompson has explained how licensed child psychologists must follow a code of ethics when assessing children using psychometric assessments. For instance, within the code of ethics, parents must be fully informed on how their children will be assessed and must then consent.

This is something that public school administrators do not follow. In other words, if a licensed child psychologist did what school administrators are doing, they’d lose their license to practice. 

After President Obama gutted the
privacy protections for children that were in place, parents began to revolt. Not only were they concerned about the flawed assessments, they were wondering how this information gathered on their children will be used in the future. 

Testing is not a bad thing; it can offer valuable feedback to teachers, parents and students. That’s why it’s better to have your children tested outside the school system using an achievement test and not a psychometric assessment. 

A bigger problem will be when a teacher’s evaluation is tied to the fatally flawed Common Core assessments. No teacher should be evaluated based on these misleading results. No school should be judged on the poor results and no child should be considered “not proficient” and told they are not succeeding.

This is one big setup for failure for our schools, teachers and children. Until Governor Hassan and Commissioner Barry acknowledge there is a problem and work to correct it, parents must now do more to protect their children, teachers and schools from this harmful practice. 

Ann Marie Banfield is education liaison for Manchester-based Cornerstone Action.

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