Roxana Marachi, a professor at San Jose State University in California, wrote an open letter to the State Board of Education. She warned them that the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, which will be released today, are not valid or reliable or fair. “False data are false data. Period. And to compare future results with current 2015 scores as “baseline” would be just as fraudulent as it would be to promote the 2015 scores as somehow valid.”
Students who are English learners will be harmed significantly by these tests, since SBAC itself predicted a failure rate of 90%, she writes.
These tests violate the most basic principles of the the American Psychological Association:
“We know from decades of research that beliefs matter in student learning and motivation. Without an understanding that the scores are meaningless, students will be likely to internalize failing labels with corresponding beliefs about their academic potential. And unless otherwise informed, families will be likely to believe what the State Department of Education communicates about their children’s readiness for college and career based on an assessment that fails to meet basic standards for testing and accountability.
“Jonathan Pelto has written extensively about SmarterBalanced testing in Connecticut:
“Considering that many of the world’s greatest scientists, authors, actors, teachers and leaders were once English Language Learners one would think the public education system in the United States would be designed to promote and support opportunities for those who need extra help learning the English Language. Moreover you would think education policymakers would be working to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that having a multilingual population present.”
“This seems an ethical dilemma for educational leaders. If they are to be honest with students and families and communicate truthfully that the test scores are meaningless, they would have to acknowledge that the public has been misled (whether knowingly or not) by those promoting the assessments. Acknowledging the current situation would also include accepting the fact that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted (and are slated to continue to be wasted) should the assessments continue to fail meeting basic standards for testing and accountability.
“Yet, what appears to be the case is that the invalid tests are being falsely promoted as accurate measures of “college and career readiness.” The LA Times just published a piece entitled, “‘Don’t Panic’ Officials Say as California Braces for Lower Student Test Results.” It appears state officials are fully aware of the potential harm and motivational fallout yet “Don’t Panic” is the best message being offered as a remedy rather than full disclosure about the lack of validity of the tests.”
Marachi quotes Dr. Doug McRae, a testing expert, who said:
“Including current scores in student academic records without evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness of the assessments would be “immoral, unethical, unprofessional, and to say the least, totally irresponsible.”
Marachi closes with a Million-dollar Challenge, which should be addressed to every state board member in the nation, as well as to Secretary Arne Duncan, who funded these tests, as well as to David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards.
“In closing and in the spirit of critical thinking, I respectfully request that the State Board of Education take on the following challenge. The ultimate endorsement of confidence in your release of SBAC scores would be for each Board Member to publicly take the 11th Grade SBAC Math/ELA tests and to publish your scores at the next State Board of Education meeting. If the assessments are confirmed to be functional and can be verified as accurately, securely, and fairly assessing skills necessary for “college and career readiness”, then every State Board Trustee (all of whom are assumed to be college-educated and career-successful) should receive scores that exceed passing performance. At the very least, this process should allow you the opportunity to fully endorse the assessment product that has been bought and administered to children.
“If this request is declined or somehow otherwise considered unfair, then why would you demand the same of youth entrusted to your care?”