The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) scores were finally released today after MONTHS of keeping them secret.  They do NOT look good and the New Hampshire Commissioner is spinning the results as expected.

smarter-balanced-results

Let’s first go back to when Commissioner Barry was selling us on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It was supposed to be a new and innovative way of assessing children.  By using a computer adaptive assessment, we’d get the results right away which meant teachers could use those results to guide their teaching. Six months later they finally release the results and, your children have already moved on.

Then we were told that we can compare our scores to other states. Two consortium (PARCC and SBAC) received federal funding and states got to choose which consortium to join.  Before the assessments were even in the classrooms, states began abandoning the consortiums because of public outrage.  We are down to about 15 states using the SBA now so no, you wont be able to compare New Hampshire to the other 35 states.
They told us these were good quality assessments that would indicate whether our children were proficient in mathematics and English.  Sorry folks, that was another load of garbage you were supposed to believe would be good for your kids.

I was first alerted to the problems with the Smarter Balanced Assessment when Professor W. Stephen Wilson wrote this scathing review.  The professor of mathematics and education at Johns Hopkins University warned that the, “conceptualization of mathematical understanding on which SBAC will base its assessments is deeply flawed. The consortium focuses on the Mathematical Practices of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) at the expense of content, and they outline plans to assess communication skills that have nothing to do with mathematical understanding.

Steve Rasmussen also confirmed the Smarter Balanced Math assessment was fundamentally flawed and gave detailed examples.

As a parental rights advocate in New Hampshire, I brought this testimony before the House Education Committee on several occasions only to have the bureaucrats at the Department of Education ignore it.  New Hampshire was going to forge ahead regardless of the warning.

Then we began to see other states drop out of the consortium after hearing from experts in the testing and child development field.  It’s not that they were saying testing was bad, it was that this kind of assessment was a way of abusing children.  We were hearing from content experts like Dr. Wilson and eventually from child development experts like Dr. Gary Thompson.

Dr. Thompson is an expert on the use of psychometric assessments and how they can be damaging to children.  As a medically licensed Child Psychologist, he has testified before state legislatures on why the Smarter Balanced Assessment was not validated.  This is a problem since “validation” is a requirement in New Hampshire state law.

As a medically licensed psychologist, Dr. Thompson has explained how licensed child psychologists must follow a code of ethics when assessing children using psychometric assessments.  For instance, within the code of ethics, parents must be fully informed on how their children will be assessed and must then consent.  This means that licensed psychologists must follow this practice or lose their license.  This is something that public school administrators do not follow.

Since the information gathered on these kinds of assessments (your child’s values, behaviors, attitudes, etc) are now collected through standardized testing and sent to the consortium who has a contract to share this information with the federal government, parents are growing more concerned with how this information will be used in the future.

With President Obama gutting the privacy protections that were in place, parents have begun to revolt.  Not only are they concerned about the flawed assessments, will this information be gathered on their children and shared with organizations that do not have their best interest in mind?

Prior to using the SBA, New Hampshire students were required to use the NECAP.  New Hampshire students scored well on the prior NECAP assessments but scores have fallen dramatically using the SBA.  This begs the question, was the NH Department of Education lying to parents when they told them their children were proficient in the core subjects?

This all can be very confusing to parents, however if you really want to know how well your children know the subject material, a good suggestion would be to have your children tested outside the school system using an achievement test.

Achievement tests like the ones we used growing up measure academic knowledge.  They are not data collectors for government bureaucrats and do not mislead parents on proficiency. These tests have been validated and have been around for decades giving parents a fairly accurate tool to gage whether your children have mastered the academic content.

Home schooling families and private schools tend to use achievement tests like the Stanford Achievement Test or the Iowa Basic Skills test.  Parents can contact these companies directly to request an achievement test that is not Common Core aligned.

Testing is not a bad thing it can offer valuable feedback to teachers, parents and students.  In this testing scheme that is harming public schools and teachers, there are ways to avoid some of these problems.

Finally, check to see if your school policy includes tying a teacher’s evaluation to the Common Core assessments being used in the classroom throughout the year.   Now that you know how flawed these assessments are, no teacher should be evaluated in any way based on these misleading results.  No school should be judged on the poor results and no child should be considered “not proficient” and told they are not succeeding.

This is one big set up for failure for our schools, teachers and children. Until Governor Hassan and Commissioner Barry acknowledge there is a problem and work to correct it, parents must now do more to protect their children, teachers and schools from this harmful practice.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: [email protected]