We got news last week that Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) would be updating their Resources Page and Practice Tests over the weekend, so I found myself eagerly anticipating Monday, just so I could be among the first to check them out! Maybe I should get out more. Regardless, there are some interesting changes afoot. This week’s post focuses on updates and changes to the ELA assessments in grades 6-8 and 11. Updates have also been made to the Math Computer Adapted portion of the SBA, and a synopsis of those changes will be the topic of next week’s post.
If you follow this link to the SBAC Resources page, you’ll see generally the same lay-out as in the past, but several of the titles have NEW! next to them, indicating something has been updated. First, each of the Performance Tasks now has an Item Specification table located just above each question:
The teacher is told not only which item and grade level, but she is provided the SBA Claim (4 is Research), the Assessment Target, Depth of Knowledge (level 4 requires the most complex thinking), the Item Standard (CCSS Writing Standard 8), and the specific Evidence Statement, which is written out in full.
In addition to the item specs, each Constructed Response question continues to have both a scoring rubric and exemplars, or sample responses, to help gauge student performance. New though, is a “Key Elements” section where sample evidence statements are denoted. The content of several of the Constructed Response questions has changed, but the need for students to synthesize information has not changed.
The directions to the student across all of the ELA Performance Tasks have been expanded, reminding them to develop a multi-paragraph response, to consider counterclaims (Argumentative), to elaborate their ideas (Explanatory), to write clearly and in their own words, and to reference the sources either by article number or title.
Here are some specific Performance Task changes at each of the secondary grade levels tested:
11th Grade: New task altogether: Mandatory Financial Literacy Classes, which is again Argumentative.
8th Grade: Still the debate over the usefulness of keeping the US Penny in production. But, three of four articles have changed (updated sources), as has the premise under which the students are writing. The scenario is now writing an argumentative essay for a US History class-sponsored website.
7th Grade: The topic remains centered on napping, but the nature of the essay has shifted from Argumentative to Explanatory, and the scenario is now writing for the school newspaper. Articles provided for research have not changed.
6th Grade: Neither the topic nor the articles have changed in this PT. The task students are asked to complete is still Narrative in nature, but rather than writing a Sci-Fi piece, students are asked to write about an imagined experience owning their own robot.
In addition to the Performance Tasks themselves, SBAC has added Classroom Activities for grades 7, 8, and 11, missing from the earlier version of the Resource page and has updated the grade 6 activity. As a reminder, these activities are facilitated by a classroom teacher just prior to administration of the Performance Task. The purpose is to level the playing field by providing some background knowledge of the topic (through guided discussion) for all students without revealing the actual Performance Task prompt in the process.
As for the Computer Adaptive side of the SBA in English Language Arts, this current version provides some new reading passages and questions at each grade level as well as the same kind of Item Specification table for each question as is found with the Performance Tasks. Although the answer keys/score guides are provided under Resources on the consortium’s website, you’ll want to go to the Practice Test site in order to access the actual passages and to try out the features such as the glossary, moving “hot text” to answer some questions, highlighting, and using the note pad.
SBA continues to add to its repertoire of resources for teachers and students, providing insights into what to expect when assessments go live next spring.