The Right View: A student testing battle won, but the war continues

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Last week was very good for opponents of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Smarter Balanced is the nightmare of testing that parents are opting their kids out of in droves all over the country, including here in Maine. WCSH reported these Maine Education Association numbers for the opt-out rate around the state for high school juniors: Camden Regional, 50 percent; Lewiston, 55 percent; and, in Washburn, 80 percent opted out this spring.

From threatening letters going home to parents from superintendents around the state, to the angst and wasted classroom time caused by this test, I cannot say good riddance fast enough. And who would have guessed? The MEA and I are on the same page about something.

As Nick McCrea reported in The Bangor Daily News, Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor, said “the (Education and Cultural Affairs) committee understood that the Smarter Balanced contract wouldn’t be renewed by the governor under any circumstance, and the political turbulence around testing this year is intense.”

LD 1276, An Act To Improve Educational Assessments of Maine Students, is the bill that the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted unanimously to support. In part, it “directs the Department of Education to terminate the state’s membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium … and adopt a method of education assessment that … does not collect or disseminate personal data and attributes of students, such as attitudes, values, motivations, stereotypes or feelings.”

It goes on to require that “personally identifying data of a student derived from a state assessment of student achievement be disseminated only with the express written permission of each of the student’s parents or guardians … and prohibits a state assessment of student achievement from being aligned with the so-called common core state standards initiated and adopted by several states.”

Along with some other parts of the bill, Commissioner of Education Tom Desjardin testified in opposition to this last provision (his testimony was neither for nor against the overall bill). Indeed, putting out a request for proposals for new testing companies to now come in and test our kids on the developmentally inappropriate, dumbed down, incoherent, Bill Gates- and federally funded Common Core “State” Standards is a daunting task.

But what to do? Since those of us on this bandwagon will not rest until Common Core itself is burned to dust in the state of Maine, how does the Maine DOE find a testing company to test to the Common Core standards again in the 2015-16 school year, but then to the much higher, better standards that will follow once the succubus that is the Core is also eventually gone?

All of this bureaucracy and testing gets to be very costly. For instance, as just one example, Maine’s cost of membership in the Smarter Balanced consortium was $900,000 per year. Almost a million dollars in membership dues to a group that partnered with the American Institutes of Research in 2012 to develop and deliver the Smarter Balanced test.

AIR is another particularly insidious group that boasts it has “nationally recognized psychometricians and statisticians (who) use the most advanced sampling methods and state-of-the-art psychometric procedures to … inform policy and curriculum decisions.”


I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be happier that our ties with groups that affiliate with “psychometricians” will be cut. How many of you want your children “psychometrized”? Psychometrics is defined by Wikipedia as a field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement, including the objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits and educational achievement.

Despite being told over and over again that SBAC didn’t measure attitudes, values and beliefs of our children, in my telephone conversation with Desjardin, he confirmed that psychometricians are hired to analyze test results. That’s only part of the cost of the colossal $4.5 million the state of Maine has wasted on SBAC in federal grant money.

So buh-bye, SBAC. Watchful parents and teachers need to keep an eye on the Maine DOE and see whom they hire next. We’ve already seen what happens when no one is looking.

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Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and development chairwoman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.