Raising Rigor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment

In one year, our students will be taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in place of our current state wide assessment system. You can click the logo below to find out more.

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Our district participated in the pilot test of this assessment, and I was lucky to get a chance to see what we are up against. You can take that first part of the test here (there is not a performance task sample ready yet).

When I peered over the shoulders of my students, my jaw just dropped.  The rigor of this test far exceeds what I’ve been used to for the last 8 years.  There were two parts to the test that I was able to see; a multiple choice/short answer and then a performance task type of test.  The first part was kind of standard, but included a lot of dragging, clicking and typing.

The second part was what really got me.  Nothing in our textbook would ever prepare students for this!  The first section of the problem was a full page of reading that they could go back and refer to over and over.  The second section contained about 20 questions related to that reading passage that built on each other in difficulty.

Notice, this was a MATH test, not a reading test.  If you can’t read you really can’t do well on this test.  If you can’t persevere, you really can’t do well on this test. If you can’t sort through massive amounts of information, or use appropriate strategies and tools, or PERSEVERE when the going gets tough…you will not do well on this test.

In come the Standards for Mathematical Practice. If you aren’t familiar with them, you should get familiar. They are amazing, they are exactly what we’ve needed and wanted students to do since the dawn of time.

I have been thinking about some ways to prepare students. Here are some things I am thinking for the coming school year:

1.  My plan this year is to incorporate deep problem solving DAILY.  I will use mini lessons and structure to help them get started, and then get them working independently. We will do this every day for 15-20 minutes per day, I’ll even set the timer!

2.  I plan to incorporate and embed those Standards for Mathematical Practice. I will explain that they are behaviors that great mathematicians do! I created a systematic way to introduce them to students.

3.  I am going to let them struggle. Sometimes we learn best with our mistakes.  Struggling can help us do our best critical thinking.

4.  I will help them read for understanding, I may even incorporate reading math problems during Readers Workshop. We’ll talk about how math reading can be different than reading for enjoyment. I am going to use these open ended problems that are full of reading, encourage persistence, and are real world.

5.  I’ll blend in reading, writing and math content into my problems so it becomes seamless.

To prepare them for the task coming (which they very well SHOULD be able to do), we’ve all got a lot of work ahead of us! I hope we can join together and re-ignite student’s passion for projects, hands on activities and rigor.

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