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Would you rather…take the SBAC or the STAR?

StephanieHuertaThis year, with the new Common Core Standards, juniors took the SBAC to test it out. Unlike the STAR test we were so accustomed to, the SBAC presented a whole new format and was done completely through Chromebooks.

The test required students to log into an application on the Chromebook with IDs provided by the teachers. Each student had to be admitted into the test by the teacher and we found ourselves with many technical difficulties, including saving our progress on the test and submitting the test itself. While the program used to administer the test was easy to use, the content was extremely different.

The content for the English part was more relatable than anything the STAR test ever presented. The passages from the STAR test I felt were always super random topics, but the SBAC presented topics I had discussed in my US history class and my psychology class. This made them a lot easier to work with.

I felt an improvement with the level of thinking in the English section of the SBAC when compared to the STAR. The SBAC was shorter than the STAR test, only 27 questions. Some of these questions were longer than any the STAR presented, but overall, I felt these questions were better.

However, I cannot say the same for the math section of the SBAC. While the math section of this test was only six questions, I felt utterly confused when reading my tasks. The way the content was presented was confusing but the biggest problem I had was making calculations on a computer screen. There was no paper or pencil for me to keep track of my work, a limitation which I had a hard time with. After so many years of having booklets to write in and being able to show work, using the computer just threw me off. I wasn’t able to see the steps I had taken to get my answer and I feel that it left a lot of room for mistakes since I didn’t have a visual of my work. The program the test is taken on provides a calculator and that is what is to be used, but I believe that calculations and the steps taken to compute a problem are more efficiently done on paper. The questions in the math section required critical thinking about how to solve problems and apply them to real life situations, which was an improvement.

Overall I feel the SBAC is a better test, but the formatting has a long way to go. There needs to be accommodations to those who prefer writing their thought process out to help students feel confident with their performance. The SBAC is a work in progress, and I am sure that with trial and error the test will soon be perfected to meet the needs of students and assure that the assessment of the student is reasonable and fair.