Saturday, April 26, 2014

SBAC on Steroids?

California is an SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) state. This last week my school started the SBAC Field Tests and I was a Test Administrator for my 7th grade classes. Before I continue, let me post part of the Security Affidavit I had to sign.

That's right, I will not divulge the contents of the field test. However, I will first refer you to last year's post where I made a video comparing released CST questions and SBAC practice questions.  Here's a reminder (screen shot), comparing just two questions. 

This week, I felt like my students were looking at SBAC practice questions that were on steroids. Since I can't speak about the SBAC Field Test questions, I took my Deodorant 3 Act task and put what I think the SBAC steroid version might look like. I have nothing against SBAC. I tried to create a similar task that had rigor, complexity, and mathematical modeling.

First, my Deodorant task goes like this:
Act 1: How long will it take to use all of that deodorant?

Act 2: Data from the first 4 sticks. 

Act 3: The answer is still in the works. 

Sequel: How many sticks of deodorant would a person use in one lifetime?

Here's how I'd see this same task presented SBAC-on-steroids-style. 

I walked away this week, thinking our students need to do many things.
  1. Read the story. 
  2. Decode the text.
  3. Understand the question.
  4. Organize the data.
  5. Retrieve and access the correct skill(s) or skill set.
  6. Apply the necessary skills.
  7. Perform the correct operations with the above skills.
  8. Interpret their answer.
  9. Explain (and articulate) their answer.
As a teacher of many ELD students, I can safely say that the following steps are already challenging; 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9. Don't get me wrong. I believe in literacy, but I wouldn't want language to be a barrier when assessing a student's mathematical abilities.

Hear this though: Students must make sense of the problem before they can use mathematical modeling to predict the answer. Then, they must articulate how they got their answer. I would consider this expectation the new norm.

I'm not done. I could totally see SBAC taking this deodorant task and creating an additional question that would complete my 3 Act. Check out this doozy.

We're looking for students to drag numbers to both axes, use a line of best fit, make a mathematical prediction, and explain everything again. The only thing I left out of this question was for students to write an equation for the line they draw. 

I have more to say about this, but that's enough for now. I'm already thinking about how to better prepare my students for these types of questions, which should be my next post. If you have any thoughts, please share. If you've made it this far, here's a preview of Act 3 for my deodorant task. Don't worry, I keep my shirt on!



  1. Andrew, Please log your comments on the Testing Talk website. I'm all for high standards and rigor, but what you describe is not accessible to many students. In a few weeks one of my seventh grade classes will be piloting the PARCC assessment. I'm anxious to see what that will look like.

  2. When I was a teacher in Texas, a recurring problem was getting our ESL students to succeed on the numerous word problems on our state exam. These students could do math just fine in their math class, but the language barrier made interpreting word problems exceedingly difficult. I understand why the state test contextualizes math problems - because math is often contextualized in real life - but the constraints of the test made it artificially difficult for these students to demonstrate the skills they spent all year developing.

    With regards to your SBAC task on steroids, how many of this kind of task would appear on the SBAC? Are all question like this? Just a small fraction? I could see students spending an entire math period (or two!) with the questions you presented here. One concern I have about making the entire math test so rigorous is how much stamina and endurance students will have to complete the test. I'd hate to see students burning out because all their effort went into the first 2-3 problems of an exam.

  3. I will admit that I didn't watch your whole video, but your frame above doesn't connect very well. The CST question is solving a one step equation where the SBAC question is distribution and addition/subtraction of like terms. I do not think you can compare those two very well. Looking at what you plan to do with your 3Act now, I like it, in fact I may have to use this in my classroom next year.

    I realize that your "proposed" questions for this 3Act still takes into account your lesson design- therefore I won't comment about how long this may or may not take students to complete. I do agree on the level of tasks you ask the student to do. I would think that if you include the writing of the equation, this would be a complete task that would be leveled for 8th grade.

    The only question is being able to find programs to allow you to dynamically create tables and scale based on numbers that students drag, drawing lines of best fit, etc. We went to online testing and these type of interactive questions and the toughest part for our students was not the actual math, but the interface and getting the program to display what the student wanted.

    Great stuff Andrew.