Monday, March 30, 2015

“A system of quick, informal tests—some lasting just a few minutes”

The Gazette ran a guest opinion piece this weekend by Mary Ellen Miller, a member of our State Board of Education and also a member of the state assessment task force, arguing that the state should adopt the Smarter Balanced tests. Miller makes some, ahem, interesting claims about Smarter Balanced.

First, Miller describes Smarter Balanced as a “a system of quick, informal tests — some lasting only a few minutes,” and that this “approach to assessment doesn’t take time away from instruction.” In fact, though there may be short practice materials included, the actual tests are between 7 and 8.5 hours long.

The task force report itself implied that schools would also want to purchase additional interim assessments—at additional cost—that would occur several times throughout the year. (See the chart on page 21.) So judge for yourself whether the tests will take time away from instruction.

Second, Miller asserts that “results from a survey of district readiness shows 99 percent of our public schools meet the minimum bandwidth requirements and have adequate computer resources to administer the Smarter Balanced assessments.” Miller states this as fact, not opinion, but it’s simply false. The state surveyed bandwidth, but did not survey computer hardware (as the task force acknowledged here). Anyone reading Miller’s piece would be misled about that basic fact. The Gazette should run a correction.

As for Miller’s assertion that 99% of districts have adequate bandwidth, remember that this is from the task force that thinks a school can give a 7.5-hour-long test to 600 students on just 30 computers. So you can see why they would say that bandwidth is sufficient.

Yet Miller claims that it’s opponents of Smarter Balanced who are misleading people. Her piece is just more evidence that the task force was determined to recommend Smarter Balanced no matter what their “inquiry” found.

Karen Woltman, the task force member who dissented from recommending Smarter Balanced, responds to Miller’s piece (with characteristic diplomacy) here.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Chris.

Quick correction: Mary Ellen Miller is not a member of the Assessment Task Force. The State Board of Education has endorsed the task force recommendations and she has been advocating for them on behalf of the state board.

Chris said...

Thanks, Karen -- correction made.