Common Core Field Tests Administered
The Computer Based Smarter Balance Field Tests were administered to the juniors at MHS from April 17 to April 30, according to Honors English Teacher Matthew Hanley. The Field Tests utilized the new Common Core standards and were a trial run, but the tests themselves are being used to try to get the students away from multiple choice tests exclusively, Hanley said.
The English teachers were informed where their eleventh graders were supposed to go, when they were supposed to go, and were told to relay this information to the students, Hanley added. Between the assigned dates for each English class, the teachers had to introduce a lesson on intellectual property, provided by Smarter Balance.
“One move of Common Core that I am okay with is giving students material to read on their own with minimal teacher direction,” Hanley said. “The only aspect of the Common Core movement that makes me pause is that particularly for English teachers, there’s a bit of a move away from literature and towards non-fiction.”
This year’s test was just to test the logistics of the tests rather than what students were scoring on it, according to Principal Kenneth Schlaff. The logistics of setting up the chrome books, checking the computer program appropriateness, and whether the test adjusted to each student’s level were the main focus in schools around the state, Schlaff said.
There were glitches with the administration of the Field Tests, but it was a good learning experience, Assistant Principal Casey McMurray said. “We found how to best utilize the staff in order to proctor and administer to all the students who had needs, or whose computers weren’t working or had an issue with how to answer the question or submit the answer,” McMurray said. “We also learned for next year what to anticipate.”
Next year, both English and Math classes will be taking the new computer based tests, but Social Studies and Science are to be embedded in the ELA portion of the test, Schlaff said. While only juniors will be taking the Smarter Balance Tests, either the district or Smarter Balance will probably come up with benchmarks for ninth and tenth grade.
“All classes are responsible for literacy. Common Core is based upon literacy and utilizing that in order to write cohesive argumentative essays,” Schlaff said. “Common Core is more of a holistic approach and interdisciplinary as opposed to these individual classes that are just divorced from each other. That’s not the way life works, nor jobs.”
It is possible to opt out of the Smarter Balance Tests, Schlaff said. Students would need to come to administration and produce a form signed by their parents stating that they do not want their child taking the test. However, those students who decided not to take the Field Tests this year without a note will have a cut on their attendance, Schlaff said.
“I would tell next year’s juniors to focus on in-depth analysis rather than memorizing facts,” Junior Farhana Haque said. “For the math, it’s pretty general like Algebra. In English, you need to go deeper with your reading to understand what you’re reading, as opposed to writing answers verbatim.”
The tests felt tedious due to them having been administered on the chrome books, according to Junior Anthony Tseng. The difficult sections included having to read the numerous sources for the essay and having to figure out how to enter math equations into the computer, which had a confusing software, Tseng added.
“I think they should’ve administered the Field Tests on a different day because, especially for juniors, AP testing was coming up and we were missing many of our AP classes, which wasn’t good in the long run,” Haque said. “I think the tests should be timed as well because some people were just sitting there in order to miss their classes.”
Administration tried to create a schedule that had as minimal an impact as possible, knowing that eleventh graders were going to miss at most first through fourth periods, McMurray said. It did the best it could not to greatly affect those students’ attendance by trying to get the eleventh graders into testing quickly and efficiently, McMurray continued.
“That there’s a field test is interesting. When the CST came in I don’t remember there being a field test, it was just suddenly upon us,” Hanley said. “This actually seems to be more of a kind of gradual transition that we can prepare for than some of the other transitions where they all of a sudden say ‘Here’s a test’.”