‘Smarter Balanced’ or badly worded?

 Darren and his fellow math teachers took a practice “Smarter Balanced” test to see what problems students will encounter on the Common Core-aligned exam. Many of the 11th-grade math questions “were worded in an obtuse way,” he writes.

. . .  we have highly qualified, very competent math teachers at my school, and some of the problems had a few of us gathered around trying to figure out exactly what a problem was asking for.

The “performance” problem asks students to compare the New York and Massachusetts systems of assessing fines for speeding. After graphing the two, students are asked if they agree that a new Massachusetts-based model would be “fairer” for New York speeders. To get full credit, students must agree and justify their answer by citing at least one comparison between the values in the two systems.

Darren asks:

Is “fair” defined?  Will everyone define “fair” the same way?  Are you comfortable with a performance task for which you’re only given credit if you agree with the problem-writer’s (unexpressed) view of “fair”?

. . . Why must two values be given?  Where is that requirement stated?  

It’s fuzzy, Darren concludes.

Students had no trouble taking the “Smarter Balanced” test on computers, reports the San Jose Mercury News. “Mastery of online graphing tools and directional arrows is no sweat, even for students who don’t use computers at home.” But the content of the exam — which is just for practice this year — was “challenging — and at times intriguing.”

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  1. At least the computer-administered tests have the virtue of being automatically graded.  However, if that is the best the test authors can do to make their questions clear and unambiguous, the lot of them need remedial education.