Skip to main content
Common Core testing uses digital platform
MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014 10:08 AM

Education is quickly becoming a platform for new developments in technology, and never has that been more true than in the last few years. Now that states are implementing the Common Core State Standards, they need technology more than ever. Every state that has implemented the Common Core has pilot tested one of two assessments, both of which are designed to assess student knowledge of Common Core-aligned curriculum: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) exam and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment. Both tests are different. In fact, the SBAC test requires the use of computers.

Adaptive computerized testing
The PARCC exam is fixed, meaning that it's the same for every student taking it. Additionally, the PARCC? test can be taken either on the computer or with paper and pencil. This is not the case for the SBAC test?. The SBAC? exam uses adaptive testing techniques in which the computer will select questions from a test bank in response to how the student performs. If a student succeeds at mid-level questions, the computer may assign more challenging ones. For a student to complete the SBAC? test, he or she must take it on a computer platform. 

Developers of the SBAC exam note that the test's responsive design provides teachers and schools with more information about student performance than the PARCC assessment does.

"In fixed testing, you learn a lot about what the struggling student doesn't know how to do, but not very much about what the struggling student does know how to do." Jaci King, director of Higher Education Collaboration at Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, told edSurge.

Because the SBAC test responds to student ability, struggling students may be given simpler questions to answer. The test is designed to help students succeed.

Testing in different states
Both the SBAC and PARCC exams were developed by a consortium of states. The U.S. Department of Education awarded grants to states to develop tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards. One set of states created the PARCC exam?, while the other set developed the SBAC test. In the spring of 2014, all states performed pilot runs of their respective tests. The pilot testing was meant to sort out which questions were effective, how well the tests measured student knowledge and what details needed to be changed.

"The field test gave us an opportunity to measure the quality of test items, determine our technological readiness and experience a whole new way of testing," Tom Torlakson, California state superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. "Now we know that the system as a whole is in very strong shape, and we know where local challenges lie in time to address them."