SMARTER Reading & Writing?

Two weeks ago I reviewed the SMARTER Balanced content maps.  The post includes SBAC design principles and five academic ‘claims’ they will attempt to verify by assessment (i.e., students can read, can write, etc). After reviewing the specs, I observed that it’s “a challenge to read the SBAC specs and envision how the shared assessment system will work and what it will cost. It seems clear that, as expected, this will be a richer but more complex and expensive system to administer than the proposed PARCC system.”
If SBAC sticks to just assessing the Common Core State Standards at grades 4, 8, and 12 it may not cost substantially more than PARCC’s assessment.
Fordham’s Kathleen Porter-Magee criticized the SBAC reading assessment strategy:

The challenge is that one of the things the Common Core standards are focused very specifically on using skills as a means to an end—on ensuring that students understand and can critically analyze appropriately complex texts. By focusing on skills as the “assessment targets,” the consortium will inevitably perpetuate the myth that mastery of skills absent mastery of rich content or comprehension of complex texts can help improve students’ reading comprehension writ large. That you can somehow assess students’ ability to summarize or use details to support inferences and use it as a proxy for deeper comprehension of carefully selected texts.

She also found a hole in plans for writing assessment:

For starters, students will only be asked to write one extended piece per year and the content specifications make it clear that, in fourth and eighth grade, the extended writing piece can either be a narrative or opinion/persuasive piece….That means that students may escape ever having written research (or extended response) as part of the summative assessment at any grade level.
SMARTER Balanced plans to release an updated version of its ELA content specifications on September 19. Feedback on the updated version is due back to the consortium by September 26.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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