Nation’s Best Teachers Say Smarter Balanced Is Dramatically Better than Old State Tests

The nation’s best teachers said they believe using the Smarter Balanced assessment system puts students on a better trajectory than previous state tests, according to a report issued today.

Working in conjunction with EducationCounsel, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year reviewed several end-of-year assessments and compared them to Smarter Balanced. The reviewers were winners and finalists from Teachers of the Year competitions in states across the country. These expert teachers all agreed that Smarter Balanced is designed to measure whether underlying concepts have been taught and learned, rather than reflecting mostly test-taking skills.

“Smarter Balanced is challenging, but it should be,” said Kristie Martorelli, the 2012 Arizona Teacher of the Year, and one of the reviewers on the Smarter Balanced panel. “It allows us to be honest about a student’s progress and have a better picture of his or her performance. That’s a better conversation starter for teachers and parents to determine the right path forward so each child can succeed.”

Angie Miller, New Hampshire’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, agreed.

“To do well on the prior assessments often involved ‘hunting and pecking’ — I didn’t even have to read the passages to get the questions right. Smarter Balanced, on the other hand, is about assessing how you think,” she said.

The national network’s review also included a separate comparison of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and state end-of-year tests that preceded it. Overall, NNSTOY asserted the following about Smarter Balanced and PARCC.

  1. The new consortia assessments better reflect the range of reading and math knowledge and skills that all stu­dents should master.
  2. The new consortia assessments include items that better reflect the full range of cognitive complexity in a bal­anced way.
  3. The new consortia assessments better align with the kinds of strong instructional practices these expert teach­ers believe should be used in the classroom, and thereby better support great teaching and learning throughout the school year.
  4. The new consortia assessments provide information relevant to a wide range of performers, particularly moder­ate and high-performers.
  5. While the new consortia assessments are more rigorous and demanding, they are grade-level appropriate, and even more so than prior state tests.

“The mission of Smarter Balanced is to improve teaching and learning. Teachers helped to build this assessment system so that it measures the skills they are teaching. I’m very pleased that some of the most effective educators in the country agree that our assessment system aligns with their teaching,” said Smarter Balanced Executive Director Tony Alpert. “It’s even more exciting that the teachers were able to discern the high quality of the test while only looking at a small sample of the items and not the seeing the power of the full adaptive assessment that generates an individualized test for each student to better support high- and low-performing students.”

Smarter Balanced assessments are developed by teachers for students. More than 4,700 educators contributed to the creation of the Smarter Balanced system. Teachers contributed at each step of development, from helping to write the actual test questions, to creating the tools in its Digital Library, to deciding the appropriate achievement levels to show a student has met the standards.

Read the full report here.