Juniors will take their first-ever official state-standardized Smarter Balanced test on Monday and Tuesday at Palo Alto High School. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, students enrolling in certain California colleges may use the Smarter Balanced test scores to determine placement in courses.
The Smarter Balanced test is a new state assessment based on the Common Core State Standards. The test is administered electronically and it assesses skills in reading, language arts and math.
According to the Smarter Balanced website, 101 California schools will be accepting Smarter Balanced scores to waive placement test requirements. However, the scores will solely be used by colleges in the California State University (CSU) system and community college system, not the University of California (UC) system.
According to college counselor Sandra Cernobori, the Smarter Balanced scores are not used for admission into colleges. Rather, they are exclusively utilized by state colleges and universities so that students do not have to take placement tests once they are accepted into a CSU or community college.
“The Smarter Balanced has nothing to do with getting in [to college],” Cernobori said. “It’s having to do with whether or not they [students] need to take a placement test after they’ve been admitted, or if their scores on either the SAT or ACT or on the Smarter Balanced have waived that requirement.”
According to Cernobori, there is a section on the test where students can indicate whether they want their Smarter Balanced scores to replace traditional placement test scores.
“There’s a bubble that you fill in on the test sheet that says that you would like these [the test scores] to also be considered for this other purpose [placement in college courses],” Cernobori said.
Cernobori says that allowing colleges to look at Smarter Balanced scores for placement purposes will probably most likely not make much difference to most students. However, according to Cernobori, it would save them time if students end up attending a CSU or community college.
“It might be an advantage after they’re admitted in terms of waiving the placement test,” Cernobori said. “There’s nothing to lose, there’s not a ton to gain, but there’s a little bit to gain, so might as well bubble it in.”
The test is being used so that students can have more variety with placement test scores at colleges.
“It’s a different kind of test, so sometimes they do better on it [the Smarter Balanced exam],” Cernobori said.
According to Cernobori, this option has existed before, except with a different exam (Standardized Testing and Reporting program, or STAR Test).
Junior Neta Hart says she might indicate that she wants her scores on the Smarter Balanced to be used for placement. However, she is not concerned about her scores on the test.
“I focus more on the ACT,” Hart said. “ I know that most colleges will look at the ACT, not the Smarter Balanced test. … I only knew about this test two days ago.”