Your palms are clammy and cold, your heart races, your mind swirls through math facts and grammar rules. You’re standing outside the door, waiting to be let in. It will be seven long, grueling hours of torture. You can’t risk making mistakes, not when everything is at stake. Your teachers have been fine-tuning and training you for this moment for a very long time. Your parents have been grilling you on how important it is. It’s the moment of truth, the moment you’ve been made to believe that matters more than anything… It’s the SBAC test.
Is this how you feel as the SBAC test nears? If you’ve already taken it, did you think it was that bad? Or maybe you took it and found out it really isn’t horrible after all. However you feel about the SBAC test and whether or not you already took it, it’s worth your time to learn a little about the SBAC and also pick up some tips from other students.
So what is exactly is the SBAC? It’s a standardized test that’s used to test kids in public schools. In 2008, reading, writing, and math standards in U.S. public schools were much too low to prepare students for college and the real world. So the Common Core Standards were created, which listed common knowledge and skills that every student should know; Oregon adopted these standards in 2010. Because of this, new ways of testing students had to be created. Thus, the SBAC - the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium - was created. It tests students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 on math and ELA (English and Language Arts).
While past standardized tests focused on rote memorization and bubble-filling, the SBAC involves writing short essays and answers, reasoning, and showing your work in multi-step problems. For example, in a reading question, instead of telling the student to read a passage and answer multiple-choice questions, the SBAC will tell students to write a short essay about the passage. Instead of telling students to choose the answer to a math question, the student will be required to explain their answer. The standards - and test questions - are designed to align with college and work expectations so students can be prepared for the real world. The test also helps educators to know where students excel and where they need extra help and to determine what areas need work in the school.
Parents have the choice to opt out their child, which means the student doesn’t have to take the test. However, this can have some negative effects on our school. Rebecca Smith, Baker Charter School’s testing coordinator, says, “Parents opt out of testing for various reasons, such as religion. We want all students to take the test to help us as teachers and as a school understand what we are doing well and what we need to improve upon.” If parents opt their children out of testing, it will be difficult for educators to know how to help that child. Also, the school could lose funding and might be appear to be inefficient in teaching students.
With all of this being said, you should not stress out about it! Remember, there are hundreds of other students just like you who are taking the test, so don't feel alone! Isabel Lopez, a BWA Junior, says, "I am a little nervous, but I feel that taking the prep assignments has prepared me a bit for them." Some students are pretty confident, though: Branson Gilbert, a BWA 8th grader, says, "I [feel] pretty confident, I wouldn't say I am excited about it but I am not nervous."
This test is very important, but it is just a test. It does measure your skills in certain areas, but it does not measure you as a student or person. You should spend sufficient amount of time preparing, but don't work yourself up over it. And what better way to get ready for the test than to hear advice from students just like you?
"My advice is to not stress about it, because the test is probably not as hard as it sounds," says Branson. He hasn’t been preparing for the test specifically, but he’s been taking notes on things he thinks are important. Isabel uses Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) and other websites and assignments her teachers provide her to study for the test. "My advice is to study for the test, but also be aware that you don't need to be stressed out... If you don't pass in a certain area it will be OK there are options out there that can help you. I feel that it can be important because we can see what level we are at, but it doesn't always describe how we learn or how smart we are in our own way." Ms. Smith recommends taking practice tests on the state website and doing any assignments your teacher gives to prepare for the SBAC.
So when your testing day arrives, have confidence in the knowledge that you aren't the only one going through this! Standardized tests may be scary and stressful, and you may even think they're useless; the truth is, standardized tests are important to help teachers know where we need help. The SBAC is just a set of questions on a computer, not a man-eating monster: you can get through this! And if it's any help to remember, after the SBAC there are only a few weeks until summer break, so work hard!
Thank you to Ms. Rebecca Smith for her help on this article!