Juniors Take Smarter Balance Tests

By Jordan Blackburn & Misha Krivoruchko

Tam juniors took the new Smarter Balanced tests April 28 through May 1. The Smarter Balanced Assessment System “utilizes computer-adaptive tests and performance tasks that allow students to show what they know and are able to do,” according to the California Department of Education website. The test is based on Common Core standards in English and mathematics and was administered using school computers in the school library, Classroom 2020, and the Ruby Scott Gym.
This is the first year that the test was administered at Tam, although last year served as a pilot year nationwide. Many students reported difficulties associated with the testing process, as well as a general sense of apathy regarding the test itself. “ I heard from [another student] that the test didn’t count, so I guessed on a lot of the questions,” junior Trenten Francis said.
“I didn’t have expectations other [than] that I’m going to finish early so that I have a longer lunch,” junior Lennart Hoschke said. “It wasn’t necessarily difficult, but the English test appeared to be very long, that’s why I stopped caring a lot about the answers after a time.”
This lack of the usual stress associated with more well-known standardized testing is not considered by all to be wholly negative. Test organizer and Assistant Principal Wendy Stratton said that “there was a very relaxed feeling in the testing rooms.” Stratton felt that the relaxed environment was beneficial for the students.
More than a fifth of Tam juniors chose not to take the test for a variety of reasons. “I chose to opt out because I was taking other tests on some of the days the test was happening. I also wanted to avoid ‘test burnout,’” junior Amara Radetsky said. “Juniors have to take a truly unbelievable amount of tests towards the end of the school year on top of all the finals for regular school classes. The test would have stressed me out unnecessarily.”
Radetsky said that it was “not difficult” to opt out of the test and that after hearing about the test later, she is happy about her decision. “I emailed the principal saying that I wanted to opt out, and that was that,” she said. “They did call my house and try to convince me to take it, but I refused.”
Junior Elodie Townsend said she had a different experience attempting to opt out of the test. “It was very difficult to opt out, and my parents had to jump through a lot of hoops and make a lot of phone calls to do so,” she said. “My parents were the instigators, and after talking with my classmates, I agreed to opt out.”
Stratton acknowledged the poor timing of the test, particularly how close it was to both the AP testing season, subject tests, and ACT and SAT testing.
Although Tam did not meet its goal of 95 percent student participation, Stratton said that Tam’s participation percentages consistent with other schools in the district. “We had a higher percentage of kids [take the test] than Drake, but a lower percentage than Redwood,” Stratton said.