Monday, August 5, 2013

How Smart Is Smarter Balanced and Common Core

Diane Ravitch asks a great question:  What is the goal of common core?  She argues that when you look the new test in New York and compare it the NAEP (That is the test used to compare us with the rest of the world) you discover that 5th grade questions are really 8th grade level.  I found this a bit disconcerting considering I have a soon to be 4th grader.  So I decided to take a closer look at some of the fourth grade questions on the Smarter Balanced test (it is different than the New York test) and then look at the 4th grade NAEP sample questions.  I am a bit worried.

Here are some of the 4th grade questions:
Kendrick says that the only way to create a fraction greater than 3/7 is to make the denominator less than 7.  Drag one number into each box to create a fraction that supports Kendrick.  Drag one number into each box to create a fraction that shows Kendrick is incorrect.
(The students are given a list of numbers from 1 to 10 and there are two sets of boxes each set has a line between a box)

Another question:
Joe and Sally make 72 cookies for a bake sale.  They will put an equal number of cookies into bags.  Joe and Sally want to put more than 2 cookies but fewer than 10 cookies into each bag.
Sally says they can only put 8 cookies into 9 bags or 9 cookies into 8 bags.
Joe thinks that there are more ways to put an equal number of cookies into bags. 
Part A: Write one way that Joe and Sally could put an equal number of cookies into bags with fewer than 5 cookies per bag.
Part B: Write one way that Joe and Sally could put an equal number of cookies into bags with more than 5 cookies per bag.
I would share more, but I can't copy and paste the questions.  Plus, you can take the practice test for yourself at the Smarter Balanced Website.  There are some limits though.  You must use the following internet browsers:

The Practice Test can be taken on any Internet-connected computer using a current Web browser including:
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Apple Safari

Currently, Microsoft Internet Explorer is not a supported browser. We are looking into supporting IE 9 and 10 by fall 2013.

Now for the NAEP practice questions:

(I tried for similar concepts)
4/6 - 1/6 = 
Luis had two apples and he cut each apple into fifths. How many pieces of apple did he have? 
There are 30 people in the music room. There are 74 people in the cafeteria. How many more people are in the cafeteria than the music room? 
In a gumball machine there are 100 red, 75 blue, 50 green, and 125 yellow gumballs. 
These 350 gumballs are mixed up. Sam puts money in and one gumball comes out. Which color is most likely to come out? 
I put out three story problem examples to try and be fair since I am not a math teacher.
You be the judge.  I hope that we don't have to send out notices like this posted on Ravitch's site from one test coordinator:
Here is a report that I just received from the testing coordinator of a high-performing school in one of the best districts in New York: 
“Just to let you know that because I am my school’s test coordinator I just looked at the scores for the ELA.  We are a “high achieving” school.  Last year only 5 students in grades 3, 4 and 5 got a level 1.  Now it is 32. Approximately 40% of our students scored levels 3 and 4 this year down from about 80% last year.  What does this mean?  Nothing because a test that measures skills that could not possibly be taught and is developmentally too hard is INVALID.” 
I do not look forward to hearing the comments from people like Daugaard after we get to release test scores. 


  1. The current discussion of testing confuses me. We used to make a big distinction between barrier tests and achievement tests when we talked about testing and measurement. Barrier tests drew lines that designated categories. They were generally used as screening devices for accepting or rejecting students for various purposes. Achievement tests were used to measure how students were faring, and they often included a diagnostic component to identify problems. Test scores were analyzed using control groups to established reasonable norms. But all the discussion of testing today seems based upon the barrier concept, not the analytic process. I see very little discussion among the testing and measurement experts, but much from agenda-driven educators and politicians.

  2. I have to agree. I really don't mind testing when it is looked at as an opportunity for me to improve how I teach and discover what is and is not working with different students. I think too many of the "testing and measurement experts" have been co-opted by the for-profit corporations.