For many years, even decades, we have been giving parents and students faulty information—by producing inflated achievement levels that, unfortunately, do not portray an accurate picture of learning.
With today’s release of initial achievement levels (or “cut scores”) from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, we have taken a step toward correcting this issue and providing a more accurate picture of where our students stand.
Over the course of the past few years, the 21 member states of Smarter Balanced have been working diligently to prepare, field test and analyze Common Core-aligned assessments, with the intent that these piloted exams will provide data that will improve the roll out of both the Common Core and the accompanying assessments at the school and district level.
Smarter Balanced member states have now released the first round of cut scores from its field testing, after a thorough review process that included “close to 500 teachers, school leaders, higher education faculty, parents, business and community leaders.”
As expected, given the higher bar of the Common Core State Standards, and the appropriately increased rigor of the assessments, the field tests produced results that are frustratingly low.
According to Smarter Balanced, the percentage of students in grades 3-11 who fall into the college-content readiness achievement levels ranges from 32 percent to 39 percent in mathematics, and from 38 percent to 44 percent in ELA/Literacy.
“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised,” noted Smarter Balanced Executive Director Joe Willhoft. “Over time the performance of students will improve.”
‘A Nuanced and Accurate Picture’
Though this drop in achievement may be hard to swallow, it doesn’t mean our students are sliding backwards or learning less. In fact, it’s a vital step to measuring whether they are on track to being college and career ready. These new tests and cut scores will provide a more nuanced and accurate picture of learning to parents, students and educators.
This release of early information is an absolutely necessary step in a comprehensive implementation plan. It provides an early look at how achievement is going to change and gives parents, educators, students and policymakers alike time to adjust expectations.
In an environment where clear and accurate education data is often difficult to find, Smarter Balanced is making the right move by being transparent with all those impacted by its work.