Why I Chose to Opt out of the SBAC

 

Anna NBy the end of my junior year, I will have taken a total of ten standardized tests, spending over 30 hours in assessment centers. From the PSAT in October, to two straight weeks of AP testing, I and countless others have dedicated hundreds of hours into preparing for these exams, while simultaneously trying to balance a rigorous course load, strenuous extracurriculars, and good health.

This year, after eight consecutive years of state standardized testing, I chose to opt out of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), joining thousands of students nationwide in the boycott of the new exam.

With the introduction of Common Core standards this past school year, the SBAC has been implemented as a mandatory part of the school’s curriculum. However, the SBAC, unlike many of the other tests we have endured though, offers little to no use for students themselves. Whereas tests like the ACT may be used in college admissions,  the SBAC simply replaces English and Math placement exams for CSUs and community colleges, something that can already be achieved with corresponding AP credit or a high enough SAT score.

In complying with testing circumstances, students would spend nearly ten hours taking the exam over the course of four days. This time is taken out of instructional time, disrupting not only testing juniors, but the entire student body. Teachers are also required to devote time in-class to address test-specific content, further distracting from their intended lessons.

Yet, due to the nature of standardized tests, the SBAC is ineffective in measuring the progress that students have made in their education through simple benchmarks.

The SBAC is a scaling test, increasing in difficulty with each correct answer. This technology is used by many placement tests, and is intended to accurately gauge the ability level of each student. Although its concept is a push in the right direction, many inevitable errors trigger its faults. Students can guess the right answer, moving them to a higher  difficulty level than they should be tested in.

The test does not reflect the curriculum that students are taught, but is essentially a test on the common knowledge students are expected to know at that point in school. It relies on the assumption that every student has received the same education experience, and fails to account for the disparities between students’ knowledge.

While this flaw applies just within a single campus, the differences are even greater when comparing a variety schools. While there are naturally “good” and “bad” schools, the quality of education at each institution is not effectively measured by a standardized test.

A school that teaches strictly to test guidelines, following content-based standards,  may score high, but their students are unable to critically think and apply their knowledge outside of a testing setting. On the other hand, an enriched curriculum with supplemental lessons that challenge students instills fundamental concepts into their knowledge. While their test scores might be lowered, they are more able to apply the material that they have learned.

Additionally, the SBAC tests only in the subjects of math and English, failing to tap into the diverse curriculum that is offered in classes. Students have spent the past year working in specialized classes like Computer Science, Physics, History, or Ceramics, but the test is not designed to measure proficiency outside of the two core subjects.

My education should not be altered to conform to a test. My knowledge cannot be confined to rows of five bubbles that I have come to know too well. Standardized tests, specifically the SBAC, should not be used to evaluate schools. While the point of testing is to improve education, it does little other than impede it.