Tales from an SBA Field Test Site

Gresham-Barlow’s Dexter McCarty Middle School had all 8th grade students participate in both the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test for ELA and for Math. Their testing window closed at the end of last week. One teacher invited me in to discuss with two classes of students their perceptions of the SBA. Mind you, neither students nor schools will receive scores for their efforts. The Field Test is a “test of the test” to gauge item alignment, rigor, technological compatibility and the like.

As you might suspect, students had a lot to say. Here are the take-aways:

  • Students found it difficult to maintain focus on long reading passages and became distracted and fatigued.
  • Students felt underprepared and felt like they needed to develop skills in:
  •      informational text
  •      proficient typing
  •      fluid use of testing tools
  •      listening
  •      visual literacy
  •      vocabulary
  •      on-demand writing
  • Students were frustrated with glitches in technology (e.g., load-time to play audio clips, ability to hear audio clips consistently, headphone capabilities)

student look

  • Students were numbed by the tediousness of the assessment (day-after-day)
  • Students were given 45 minutes daily, but felt like longer blocks of time for testing might be helpful.
  • Some students liked the variety of the test format (e.g., selected response, constructed response)

Students also encountered some frustrations on the assessment over which neither they (nor we) will have control, such as:

  • Performance Tasks (both ELA & Math) seemed to be written for older (high school) students.
  • Electronic note pad issues (universal accommodation): notes on the Performance Task were deleted after 20 minutes of idleness; the notepad popped up in the middle of the screen and was stationary; students had to navigate away from the notepad when typing their essay.
  • Could not copy/paste from the notes to the text box.
  • Could not rewind or fast forward the audio to listen to specific parts.

Last but not least, I asked the students to choose one word from a list of five that would describe their overall SBA Field Test experience. The words they could choose from included: Confident, Relaxed, OK, Frustrated, and Stressed.

On the ELA side, 59 students responded:

  • Zero students reported feeling Confident
  • 10% of students reported feeling Relaxed
  • 22% of students reported feeling OK
  • 57% of students reported feeling Frustrated
  • 14% of students reported feeling Stressed

On the Math* side, I only thought to ask one of the two classes.  31 students responded:

  • 13% of students reported feeling Confident
  • 3% of students reported feeling Relaxed
  • 42% students reported feeling OK
  • 32% of students reported feeling Frustrated
  • 10% students reported feeling Stressed

*Of the 31 respondents in math, 7 students (or 22%) report being in advanced math. Interestingly, their responses were not fixed to a single response (e.g., not all the advanced math students felt confident).

Also of note, students reported feeling like the Math Performance Task was “ridiculously hard” as one stated, yet overall, these students felt more comfortable with the math side of the Field Test.

Good information from the very group who will be the most impacted by assessments in the long run.



One thought on “Tales from an SBA Field Test Site

  1. Teri Knight

    Thanks. This is helpful, and troubling.

    Teri Knight ELD Teacher Dexter McCarty Middle School 503/665-0148


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