Some pass on Smarter Balanced

Allie D'Aquila, Staff Writer

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Every year, high school juniors all over the country take the Smarter Balanced test, a standardized test aligned with Common Core to assess student performance in the areas of English, math and science.

The goal of taking the SBAC is to demonstrate that students have met the essential skills required for graduation. As a result, many students who have already met their essential skills requirements through the SAT or ACT choose to opt out of part or all of the Smarter Balanced test.

Whether to take Smarter Balanced has become controversial, however, because schools benefit from high scoring students, even if the students themselves do not directly benefit from their performance. This has led some to believe that students who choose not to test are depriving their schools of important benefits. On the other hand, some students feel used by their schools or worry that teachers will focus their classes around the test rather than the course curriculum.

“I thought I had to take it,” said junior Lilly Bland when asked why she chose to take the test. “I’m a little stressed, but I just don’t know much about it.”

Bland said she had no idea what to expect and that she was not even sure what subjects would be on the test.

Junior Amber Jun chose to opt out.

“I don’t know how it would benefit me,” Jun said. “School work and extracurriculars were piling up, and I decided that an extra class period to work on stuff would be more helpful than a test that doesn’t count for anything.”

Jun said the argument that the school needs her data was not compelling.

“I understand that the district needs data, but juniors are already stressed out and having to take other standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Add the SBAC on top of that and it just seems like too much.”

Some teachers shared their students’ concern that teachers might “teach to the test” in order to pull out higher scores. Some also worry that the SBAC puts too much stress on students. Some teachers stated that their least favorite part of testing is the amount of time spent testing that they feel would be better spent elsewhere.

On the other hand, there are teachers who recognize the importance of measuring how much students have learned, and they say SBAC helps to ensure that graduates have attained the appropriate level of skill. When it comes to opting out, some teachers stated that they respect the choice of the students and their parents, while others expressed worry that students do not know what they are really opting out of. One teacher expressed frustration that an influx of high-achieving students opting out can lower a school’s ranking, which can be a factor in college admission, as students from higher-ranked high schools can sometimes have an advantage.

To test or not to test is a personal decision to be made by students and their parents, and according to the Oregon Department of Education website, opting out has no impact on a student’s eligibility to graduate, as long as they have completed all graduation requirements.