Santa Barbara- S County

Common Core State Standards -- Testing The Test

Smarter Balance Field Test

Common Core, Smarter Balance Field Test

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Some say the new Common Core State Standards will ramp up our children academically and give students an international edge. Others argue that parents need to do their homework; this curriculum is not the right direction for California.

And what about this spring's field test linked to the Common Core?

No more fill-in bubble exams and no more STAR tests for California students. It's been replaced by Smarter Balance, a new way to measure how our kids are doing in school under the Common Core. All but six states have adopted the new standards for math and English/language arts.

The Smarter Balance exam has no scores and no impact on a student's GPA, yet. But it's coming at a time when some students are just plain sick and tired of tests.

"It didn't seem like a big deal to opt out of the test," said Santa Barbara resident Audrey Swanson. "But looks like maybe it might have been."

To make matters more complicated, other testing is still being done. Swanson's 10th grader was part of a group that protested taking a different state progress test,
just as the students are preparing for rigorous AP exams and their first test under the new Common Core.

"It wasn't all that important," said Swanson. "It wasn't that necessary to take one more test that really didn't count when they have other tests that are much more important and do count toward their GPA.

And Common Core is also running into opposition; all but six states have adopted the standards. But there is a growing movement -- coast to coast -- for parents to "opt" their kids out of that testing. Santa Barbara Unified School Superintendent Dr. David Cash says it hasn't happened here locally.

But at least one parent is thinking about it. "Common core is Pandora's box of education," said Lori Anderson, a Nipomo mother.

Anderson believes the new curriculum "falls short" for her 9-year-old son, and she's up in arms over this new field test. "They have no idea what they're being tested on," Anderson said. "Teachers don't know how to prepare the students for the test. They don't know what kinds of equipment, what the results will be. It's like, our kids are guinea pigs."

"It made it harder the further you got, but it seemed like it would get easier if you didn't know it," said Cadyn Cole-Dombroski, an eighth-grader at Santa Barbara Junior High School.

Cole-Dombroksi took the test and said using a computer made it less confusing than the old fill-in-the-bubble style. Still, she agrees the field test requires a balance in patience by everyone -- including teachers.

"They try to tell us how it's going to work," Cole-Dombroski said. "But they really don't understand it."

Yes, parents can opt out, but Cash is adamant the field test is extremely important and he doesn't recommend students skip it.

"I don't want to have an assessment instrument that we don't know how to deliver," Cash said. "There will still be issues next year. It won't be perfect."

But skeptical parents aren't convinced.

"These standards are sub-par," said Anderson.

"Those are people who haven't spent much time looking at the math," Cash countered. "What I saw in the English/language arts, expecting kids to cite sources, evidence, highlight, to support their argument -- those are things I have to do every day in my job," Cash said.

"We're going from local control to federal control of education," Anderson said.

"That's a lot of additional misinformation," Cash said. "It wasn't created by the federal government but the Department of Education. It was created by governors and the state superintendent of public instruction," said Cash. Those include former State Superintendent Jack O'Connell and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the end, this is on our children. So, who better to give us advice about change?

"I think they should try it out for awhile," said Cole-Dombroski. "If they don't like it then they can say that they don't like it because we haven't really tried it yet. So they don't know what it's going to be like."

The Smarter Balance field test is taking place now through May in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

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