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Why to Reconsider Taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a standardized test distributed throughout 15 states and 1 U.S. territory to determine college course placement. For the 2015-2016 test, Radford students scored higher in mathematics than the state average by 5 percent. However, 35 percent did not meet the standard,  29 percent nearly met, 26 percent met, and 10 percent exceeded. 35 percent of students who did not meet the standard are more likely to be placed in remedial college mathematics courses, and the 29 percent that nearly met may be placed in introductory college mathematics courses.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is a standardized test distributed throughout 15 states and 1 U.S. territory to determine college course placement. For the 2015-2016 test, Radford students scored higher in mathematics than the state average by 5 percent. However, 35 percent did not meet the standard, 29 percent nearly met, 26 percent met, and 10 percent exceeded. 35 percent of students who did not meet the standard are more likely to be placed in remedial college mathematics courses, and the 29 percent that nearly met may be placed in introductory college mathematics courses.

Adaliah Collins, Editor

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  As we get closer to the fourth quarter, Radford’s juniors are expected to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment in April. The SBA is used in 15 states and the US Virgin Islands. The test consist of a English and Language Arts Literacy section and a mathematics section, and will take our school  two instructional days to complete. Students test scores will be used to determine college class placement for the first year, if they enroll in an institution in a state that uses SBA scores. As a senior who opted out of testing, I can truly say it is one of the smartest decisions I’ve made regarding my future and college.

    In my junior year, many of my teachers made the SBA seem crucial regarding our future. Teachers constantly stressed the importance of acquiring proficient scores, and would flood us with practice tests and lectures on “what to expect on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.” With overbearing pressure from AP assignments, preparing for AP exams, other classwork, and preparing for my ACT in March, the SBA was something that I had on the backburner of my mind,-praying it would go away.

    I eventually came to the decision that taking the SBA was pointless about two months before testing. I didn’t see the significance in taking the test, as I thought I would be attending college in Florida that wouldn’t use SBA scores for college freshman placement. However, plans changed, and I realized I would be attending a University of Hawai’i college, a school that uses SBA scores for placement.

    I learned from one of my teachers that SBA scores were used as placement for college classes. I was confident that if I took it, I would pass the English section with flying colors, but I knew that my mathematical skills were not up to par. My teacher made sure to mention that scoring very low could result in being placed in remedial classes, classes meant to prepare students for introductory level classes and, most importantly, do not bear college credit but classes that I will have to pay for, if needed.

    After learning this, I had long discussions with several teachers and my parents about whether taking the SBA was in my best interest. I had teachers help me analyze my test-taking skills and habits regarding my mathematical knowledge, and most responded with, “You should study really hard so you can at least receive an average score.” I was positive that I needed more time, but sadly, I didn’t have it. Over time I decided that it was in my best interest to have my mother write a letter so I could opt out, giving me more ANOTHER WORD to study for placement tests in the fall of 2017.

    Using scores from junior year is not an effective way to determine one’s knowledge. During my third year of high school, I struggled in mathematics significantly more than my classmates. I averaged a low C for the entirety of Algebra II, and retained little of the information they placed before me. I was certain that my poor SBA score would result in in a remedial score and consequently, delaying my progress in school. Some argue that the ACT and SAT tests are the same as the SBA, but in reality, those scores are only used to determine college-entry, and can be taken more than once, showing improvement.

    When surveyed, most students said they did not know that scoring low on the test could result in being placed in remedial courses, nor did they know that the test is not mandatory if they have a note from a guardian exempting them from the test.

    For the second semester 2016 school year, 36 percent of test takers met or exceeded the tests standards for the mathematics section for grade 11, and 56 percent met or exceeded the standards of the English & Language Arts literacy section for grade 11. Overall, grade 11 scored the lowest compared to the other grade levels that took in the test.

   According to the 2016-2017 WASC accreditation report, more than 50 percent of the students who take this test do not meet the standards for the test, which means that they are less likely to be placed into college level introductory courses, such as English 101.

    Junior Khryshondrai Hawkins is choosing to opt out of SBA testing.

    “I am opting out because I think I won’t do to the best of my ability,” Hawkins said. “Some students are good at testing, and some aren’t. That shouldn’t affect where you are placed in college.”

    Almost a year has passed since my class took the SBA, and I am far more confident in my math skills than ever before. I have improved on my Algebra skills that resulted in my C average and gained new knowledge on Trigonometry and PreCalculus, soI feel more sanguine that I will test into introductory level classes and possibly Trigonometry. I feel more confident that I am less likely to fall behind in my college classes.

    For students who do not feel that their English or math scores will be in their favor and do  not have enough time to improve on those skills, I suggest that you consider opting out of the test. Opting out is not for everyone, however. For students who just don’t want to take it but have excellent or par academic proficiency in those subjects, I suggest taking it, as it is more likely that you will receive a ANOTHER WORD score. Although teachers and your peers may pressure students to participate in the test, it is ultimately the student’s who should carefully consider what is best for him/her.

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Why to Reconsider Taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment