Such Bountiful Assessments

Just in time, during our ELL Endorsement class yesterday, we reviewed various assessment protocols and terms. They weren’t unfamiliar, but a timely reminder. Funny, that.

Two, at the top:

  • Reliable.
  • Valid.

As the man said, “Houston, we may have a problem.”

Is the SBA test, or Smarter Balanced Assessment, actually Smart, Balanced or a valid/reliable Assessment? Here are some resources for you to draw your own conclusion, with a dash of my own observations.

From the Department of Education, ESSA page:


Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.

Yelp. About that. I was told I was ‘teaching to the test’ when I offered my resources about the brief write rubrics so we could help students grow as writers, the resources I wanted to share did not find a forum in my building last year (or this year, either.) But okay–it’s still good stuff, and there are many ways that the Common Core and SBA have some challenging and rigorous questions. I just wish it wasn’t all at once, in secret, but little assessments over the course of the year (i-ready doesn’t count) that show growth.

Think about it: instead of a minimum of four days, with three-hour testing blocks during the month of May, there were smaller assessments, open, transparent, and available for PLC discussions, to show student growth? And what if—WHAT IF — Federal dollars weren’t tied to the scores? If accountability is the order of the day, I would wager most teachers have no issue with accountability as long as their professional judgment and expertise drive the assessment and continuing instructional decisions.

Plus sides (with caveats)

  • It is essentially a reading comprehension test, even for many of the math questions. If we continue to build strong literacy programs with this focus, that is a plus. However, literacy does not need to mean solely text: it should include multiple pathways and access points for all learners and abilities.
  • There has been a huge increase in the resources available for educators. Many of the questions are aligned with Common Core.


  • Currently, it is one of the few measurements for Federal dollars.
  • It’s expensive in terms of instructional time, financial, and stress for students, parents, and teachers. And administrators.
  • It may not be reliable or valid. It’s chock full of inaccuracies.
  • Educators may not be accurately helping students prepare for it. (And this could lead to further undermining of teachers as professionals, implementing more canned or scripted programs.)
  • It is not transparent. This goes against everything Hattie, et. al prescribe for student and teaching effectiveness: know the targets and criteria for success, and allow students to monitor and reflect. This style of summative, opaque assessment flies in the face of that research and best practices.

Some previous posts on this topic:

Theatre of the Absurd

Tomb Raider


My own conclusions? More of a wish list, I suppose.

I wish…there are more collaboration instead of isolation about assessment.

I wish…there were alternative pathways for all students with varying abilities and needs to have access to assessment and instruction that challenges, celebrates and is based on growth.

I wish…much, much time and money were spent on this.

For further reading: