Party at Snake Mountain! (Plus Edu-Mountain Applejack!)

That you are, Skeletor.  That you are.

That you are, Skeletor. That you are.

Why are Skeletor and that creepy looking Toad Guy living large, True Believers? I’ll tell you….it’s because Skeletor, in alliance with the smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium 9that’s a real thing) has exported a complex, hard to execute and time consuming Standadized Test to the Edu-Mountain. That Toad Guy is their local rep, to the Edu-Mountain…and the two are celebrating their Dark Victory.

Skeletor lives in Snake Mountain…the protagonist works at an Edu-Mountain…a lot of mountains in the setting these days. Just saying.

Quick history lesson. This SBAC test is the one that has replaced the CAT6 exam, and has not been able to “go live” for the past two years, due to technical glitches. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is, obviously enough, a standardized test consortium….sort of a Cartel for testing. It creates Common Core State Standards-aligned tests (“adaptive online exams”) to be used in several states, not just California. It also uses automated essay scoring, which removes the need for any human graders at all…speeding results, but also changing the “game” of testing. Its competition in the effort to become the leading multi-state test provider is the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

The Consortium was formed in 2010, so this is a recent Evil, unlike say, Pearson. The “Amplify” technology company provides the all important digital technology for the tests. SBAC signed a contract with Amplify to create a digital library of formative assessment professional learning tools designed for Common Core State Standards teachers. Amplify also signed a contract with Smarter Balanced before its purchase by News Corp to develop reporting tools for teacher assessment. So…that’s the short form.

My students will be trenching in for three days of the “computer graded essay” assessment. This particular test is not the all important one…it is one of the so called “interim assessments, a testing “warm up” if you will. All I know is this: a non-essential test, with a grade that will not affect my students in the least, is consuming three whole days of educational time. If Skeletor isn’t drinking from his pimp chalice at Snake Mountain over that, I just don’t understand evil anymore.

What states are part of this testing cartel? Obviously California, but the list is long. Member states in the consortium include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Iowa, North Carolina and Wyoming are affiliate members…which I don’t fully understand. Does that mean that they are debating it…or like they are pledging a fraternity?

Previously SBAC had thirty members…so I guess it is not as long a list as it used to be. Member states can associate with one or both consortia, without committing to use either test. That’s the free market at work, right there…the invisible hand of market and finance completely determining our young people’s futures. I say that because these tests can influence class placement, which in turn influences opportunities in education…you see where that leads.

Beginning in the Spring of 2015, SBAC began assessing students with their new assessment format. The assessments are given in grades 3 – 8 and 11, in the content areas of Math and English Language Arts. Each test, called a Summative Assessment, consists of a Performance Task (PT) and a Computer-Adaptive Test (CAT). Performance tasks are things like solving a real world math problem or writing an analytic essay. The Computer Adaptive test is new technology.

Say you are taking the english test. You read a passage, and answer the first multiple guess question correctly, but not the second or the third. The test has a DEEP bank of questions, ranked by complexity…so it generates new questions specifically for you, to precisely determine what you do, and do not know. It also means the guy next to you doesn’t have the same questions, effectively nullifying the idea of cheating.

Obviously, this has a whole lot to do with No Child Left Behind, and the Common Core State Standards Initiative, both of which a storm of non-educators barraged me with questions about this past week. Common Core gets a lot of negative press from people’s impressions of it via Facebook posts. Newsflash, people…Facebook is the WORST way to learn anything. Common Core isn’t really bad or good, it’s just a thing. A thing not unlike the suspension of your car. You need the suspension, to hold it up…its what you build the car on. Most of the time, the other parts are way more important, because they make the car work.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K–12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. So…it’s like the suspension. There’s a list of things to know, and skills to have, but individual teachers interpret those and teach them as they see fit. There’s no Common Core text book, or Common Core way to solve problems in math. That’s all @#$% @#$%. the internet lies to us all the time, people.

If you have a bad teacher, Common Core doesn’t fix it. If you have a good one, they aren’t suddenly hamstrung by Common Core…they pretty much have the same latitude they used to. In both cases though, Common Core driven standardized tests like SBAC exist, and those often drive what is taught, more than any set of standards or curricula. That’s where things go wrong.

Again…I’ll be stuck in a computer lab adminsitering such a test for three days. No content is delivered during that time…I’m little more than a baby sitter. Skeletor and his man on the inside at the Edu-Mountain will be partying it up though.

Mildly depressed that this is the bulk of my week, I decided to take Applejack, a Pony who has been in the strip a few times about this time last year, and give her an Edu-Mountain setting makeover. Partially because she’s a pretty good pony, and partially because I’m playing a bunch of games on my Kindle about farming…and Applejack farms apples. Somebody would have to do farming at the Edu-Mountain. Even my Card Wars Kindle game has a lot of Corn based creatures, that you farm into existence. It seemed on point.

Let’s look at the sketch.

Armored up for the Edu-Mountain!

Armored up for the Edu-Mountain!

I guess if she planted Wheat, she could grow a crop that was turned into breakfast cereal. This is doubly appropriate…because I still have to serve Breakfast in the Classroom, and “Smarter Balanced” sounds like a breakfast cereal in the same category as “Total.” Presumably a lot of fiber.

Tomorrow, I may color Edu-Mountain Applejack, so there’s that.


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