The Smarter Balanced Common Core Mathematics Tests Are Fatally Flawed and Should Not Be Used: An In-­Depth Critique of the Smarter Balanced Tests for Mathematics

My biggest critique of the Common Core is not the standard themselves — it’s the ham-handed way that publishers attempt to assess students’ knowledge. This recent article by Steven Rasmussen echoes these thoughts and is an utterly disturbing look into the way high-staking testing in mathematics is being implemented:


Here’s the introduction:

This spring, tests developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will be administered to well over 10 million students in 17 states to determine their proficiency on the Common Core Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). This analysis of mathematics test questions posted online by Smarter Balanced reveals that, question after question, the tests:
• Violate the standards they are supposed to assess;
• Cannot be adequately answered by students with the technology they are required to use;
• Use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces; or
• Are to be graded in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct answers as incorrect.
No tests that are so flawed should be given to anyone. Certainly, with stakes so high for students and their teachers, these Smarter Balanced tests should not be administered. The boycotts of these tests by parents and some school districts are justified. Responsible government bodies should withdraw the tests from use before they do damage.

The full report is 34 pages long, giving example after example of horribly written test questions. This example was my personal favorite:

Question 2: A circle has its center at (6,7) and goes through the point (1,4). A second circle is tangent to the first circle at the point (1,4) and has the same area. What are the possible coordinates for the center of the second circle? Show your work or explain how you found your answer.

In Question 2, the test makers ask students to solve a geometric problem and show their work. In general, asking students to show their work is a good way to understand their thinking. In this case, would anyone begin the problem by not sketching a picture of the circles? I doubt it. I certainly started by drawing a picture. A simple sketch is the most appropriate way to show one’s work. However, there’s just one major issue: There is no way to draw or submit a drawing using the problem’s “technology-enhanced” interface! So a student working on this problem is left with a problem more vexing than the mathematical task at hand—“How do I show my picture by typing words on a keyboard?”

I highly recommend reading the report in its entirety.

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