Home > Uncategorized > This Just In: New CA Smarter Balanced Tests Measure Parent’s Affluence… and Nothing Else

This Just In: New CA Smarter Balanced Tests Measure Parent’s Affluence… and Nothing Else

September 12, 2015

Mercedes Schneider, author, teacher, and blogger, wrote a post earlier this week that Juan Vasquez Heilig cross posted in his blog Cloaking Inequality. In her post Schneider describes the efforts of Dr. Doug McRae, a retired test and measurement specialist, to get the CA State Board to demonstrate that the Smarter Balanced Assessments are reliable and valid measures, a standard that is required by State policy. As Schneider notes, that hasn’t happened thus far, and it’s a problem because:

The absence of evidence that Smarter Balanced tests are reliable and valid means that there is no evidence that the tests measure what they purport to measure (i.e., “college and career readiness”), nor is there any evidence that the tests measure anything consistently.

The fact that the tests don’t measure anything consistently did not stop the State Board from administering them, using the results to rank schools, and championing them. Here’s a quote from a press release that comes from Schneider’s post:

The results show our starting point as a state, a window into where California students are in meeting tougher academic standards that emphasize critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical writing,” (CA State Superintendent) Torlakson said. “California’s new standards and tests are challenging for schools to teach and for students to learn, so I am encouraged that many students are at or near achievement standards. However, just as we expected, many students need to make more progress. Our job is to support students, teachers, and schools as they do.”

So… if you’ve been reading this blog or are at all familiar with the way standardized test results play out, you will NOT be surprised to learn that the students, teachers, and schools that nee to make progress are those on the lower end of the economic scale. As Schneider reports and concludes:

Almost 1.9 million students were classed as “economically disadvantaged” (defined by the CDE as “students eligible for the free and reduced priced meal program, FRPM, foster youth, homeless students, migrant students, and students for whom neither parent is a high school graduate”).

The remaining 1.3 million were classed as “not economically disadvantaged.”

The CDE divided the test results by percentage into four categories, which it termed “exceeding standards,” “meeting standards,” “nearly meeting standards,” and “not meeting standards.”

From “exceeding” to “not meeting, the economically disadvantaged percentages were 8, 23, 28, 41– which means that the economically disadvantaged tended toward lower scores.

Compare the above to the “not economically disadvantaged,” whose corresponding scoring percentages were 29, 35, 21, 15– which means that students who were not economically disadvantaged tended toward higher scores.

Given the results above, the onus rests upon the CDE and SBAC to present to the public empirical evidence demonstrating that the Smarter Balanced tests do more than simply mirror the socioeconomic status of test takers.

In conclusion, the SBAC tests, like the standardized achievement tests used in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the myriad state tests introduced since the implementation of NCLB all prove the same fact: children raised in affluence outperform children raised in poverty. Do you think that poverty might be a contributing factor? After five decades I think the evidence is compelling… but it requires us to all spend more money so we are unlikely to draw that conclusion, obvious as it is.

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