What Smarter Balanced Assessment Means to Education in Delaware

IDEA and IEPs, Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced test will roll-out in the 2014-2015 academic year if passed by the Senate and Governor Markell.  While parents may think this will be a once a year test, they are very wrong.

According to Brian Touchette, the state director for assessment at the Delaware DOE, modified teaching curriculum is in the process of being introduced to help teachers with transition to Smarter Balanced testing.  This could change teaching as we know it.  One of the biggest hurdles to teaching has been the implementation of Common Core standards, and now how teachers educate will be challenged.  Any educator I have talked to has been against Common Core, but they can never admit it publicly for fear of losing their job.  The DOE, Governor Markell, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy continuously state that educators are behind this, but fear outweighs common sense.

Mr. Touchette gave a presentation at the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens on 5/20/14.  Several questions were asked about the Smarter Balanced testing.  One parent asked how accommodations for students with an IEP could conflict with the testing, especially in the usage of a human reader.  Mr. Touchette responded that accommodations cannot change the construct of the test.  Since when does Federal law get trumped by state law?

Interim assessments, to be decided on by the local school district, will replace the fall DCAS and the 1st Spring DCAS.  These assessments will help to prepare students for the Smarter Balanced tests.  This was decided on before House Bill 334 was even voted on, months ago.

Other questions were asked about the “human scorer” which will be handled outside of Delaware to an outside vendor.  Educators will train the scorers, but the human scorers were not said to be educators.  And since a lot of the test is essay based, can we really trust non-educators to accurately score our children’s capability to learn?  I don’t.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium will determine what the grade level standards will be.  Mr. Touchette stated each state involved in the consortium will have a representative to decide on these standards.  Of course, a representative from the Delaware DOE will be our state’s rep.

The same parent from above asked what the DOE’s stance is on opting out of the test, to which he said they have no policy.  It is up to the school district to determine that, but for a district to get funding they must have a 95% participation rate for the test, so there is some “wiggle room”.  He also said for special education children that promotion or retention could be decided on by the IEP team or the school district if an opt-out occurs.  Again, a state rewriting federal law to serve a state’s interests.  He also said school districts are allowed to “use the test for whatever purpose they serve.”  I hope that purpose is to crumple up the test, and see how many students can make a basket into the trash can.  If 95% of the students make it, maybe the DOE can call that a success!

Another Delaware blogger put out some sample tests that were being fielded last Spring: http://kavips.wordpress.com/delawares-smart-balanced-assessments-by-grade-level/

Several people who tried them couldn’t correctly answer many of the questions.  Honor roll students didn’t do well on the field tests.  So how can we expect our special ed students to do on it?  These are kids that struggle everyday with their disabilities.  Some are medicated.  Some can’t even get through the day without special assistance.  And the state is going to measure their success based on one day of testing?  What if they have a bad day?  Parents of special needs children know their kids have very bad days sometimes.  This is a very big mistake for Delaware.  Out of the 22 states that decided on Smarter Balanced testing, only 10 are left.  But Markell and the DOE are treating it like the best thing to come around since sliced bread.  Of course they are, their future depends on it…financially.



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