Monthly Archives: July 2015

Description of The SBAC… This Is What Children Face

For those of you who are new to this slithering mess the acronyms are as follows:

SBAC: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Snake 2AThe Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a service provided by a public institution (University of California, Los Angeles), governed by member states/territories and funded with member state/territory fees. Smarter Balanced has claimed to have “developed next-generation assessments to ‘accurately’ measure student progress toward college and career readiness in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics”. Complete information on the Consortium and its assessments, including full practice tests for each grade and subject, can be found at

SBA:  Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Smarter Balance Assessment is just exactly what it says.  It is the assessment itself.  Each child in 3rd through 8th and 11th grades, will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment in both ELA (English Language Arts) and Mathematics.

What is required of children taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment?

There are four components a child encounters throughout this assessment series.

The ELA Performance Task:  Children read varying texts on different screens.  They then are given a prompt they must “write” to, comparing and analyzing the texts they have just read.  The student then goes about writing their response and typically this involves several paragraphs.  These paragraphs must be typed into a text box.  Younger children are known to enter the computer lab first thing in the morning and often are not finished with this task by the end of the day.  They then come back the following day to peck at it again. Their hands do not span the keyboard.

The Math Performance Task:  Children read a contextual problem.  They are asked various questions around this problem and are asked to explain how they solve each layer of problem.  Children are required to type their explanations into the text box provided.

ELA Computer Adaptive Test (CAT): This portion of the test has children encountering approximately 30 multiple choice and short answer questions.  Some multiple choice questions have more than one correct answer.  The child must select each correct answer for that question or they get the entire question wrong.  Furthermore, if a child gets a few questions right, they then throw them a progressively harder question.  If the child misses a few questions in a row, they get thrown progressively easier questions.  Essentially, each child encounters different questions depending how they answer each individual question.

Math Computer Adaptive Test (CAT):  This component of the test is essentially the same as the ELA CAT.  The children encounter 30ish questions on this day, the level of difficulty fluctuating up or down, depending upon how the child answers each question.  The math problems involve multiple steps and typically require the child to utilize the frontal cortex of their brain, the place holding the capacity for reasoning and problem solving.  According to neuro scientists, the ability to reason and problem solve is solidified sometime between 11 and 15 years old.


The performance tasks are known to take a day a piece.  Some children take a second day to complete the task.  They begin the test, often once they arrive at school, and are still pecking away up to the ending bell.  Imagine, 8 year olds, sitting before computers for an entire day for ONE of the FOUR portions of this test.

Young children are taking this test for lengthy periods of time, more than is required of college age adults on final exams.

Thus, those of us who are in the trenches, looking at the eyes of our students, are proclaiming the developmental inappropriateness of this testing beast.  Not only is this unethical, it is also harmful to a child’s confidence and attitude toward learning.  Layer this with the studies coming out regarding the unreliability and invalidity of this test.

Testing is not learning.

Passionately Submitted,


The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity in Action

Fraction 3My son has had no formal instruction in fractions. Children are naturally curious. He quickly was able to figure out the value of each colored fractional piece by using concrete materials.

I asked what is one of those pieces worth? Two of the pieces? Etc…

Then I asked him if we could cut the black “candy bar” into 100 pieces?

“Yep” he said. He instantly grabbed the pen and started to try to show me the size of what one hundredth would look like?

This stumped him for a bit. He made it into 20 equal parts, then tried to cut the 20th into parts. After cutting it into 80ths, he said, “Oh, boy… I needed to draw one more line…” he did and then he said, “These are the approximate size of a hundredth, mom.”

I then asked, “What are you noticing about the half and the hundredth?

He said, “The half is much larger.” So, I asked… “what is happening when we cut the candy bar into pieces?” He said, “The more pieces there are, the smaller the part.”

Fraction 4“Give me more mom!”

I grabbed the 1/2 piece. How many ways can you make 1/2? He instantly went to work. He found 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, 5/10, 6/12. Wrote each of them like: 1/2 = 2/4.

I then circled all the denominators of the equivalent fractions. I asked, “What do you notice?” He said, “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12! They are counting by twos!”

Yes. What else do you know about those numbers?

Long pause.


I waited.

“They are even!”

Fraction 5Yes! I said. Now what if we cut this candy bar up into sixteenths? I wrote: 1/2 = /16. What would make an equivalent fraction?


“Give me more mom!”

So I wrote: /20 , /100…

“Too easy mom…come on! 10/20ths and 50/100ths. You are going to have to do harder than that!”

So I wrote: /80 , /150, /96.

Handed him the pen. And watched. He put 40 above the 80 and 75 above the 150… instantly. Then paused at the /96. In about 5 seconds he wrote 48/96.

I asked, “How did you figure the last one out?”

He said, “Well, I broke the 96 up. First I thought of 80. Half of 80 is 40. Then I took half of 10, that is 5, then I just had 6 left. Half of that was 3. Soooo…. 40 + 5 + 3 = 48! Half of 96 is 48, so 48/96ths = 1/2″

(80 + 10 + 6 = 96)… He took half of each of those and added.

I did not directly teach him one thing. He made the connections and the discoveries with my guidance. Took all of 25 minutes!  Asking the right questions is the gateway to a child’s natural propensity for curiosity.

RIGORCrying Child 2 VS.


Fraction 1

Passionately Submitted,


 References: The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity Part One

The Real (CC)… Curiosity and Creativity

Part One

The CC Switch-a-roo.

CC has become the acronym for Common Core.  No more… !

Exchange the two Cs for Curiosity and Creativity… the REAL CC.

Curiosity and Creativity emphasizes the heart of inspiring and educating children.

The Common Core Standards are just that… Common.  No child is common. The standards streamline learning with claims of “rigor“, when what our children need most are learning environments in which they can learn at their individual developmental pace.  Because children grasp skills and concepts in different ways,  honoring each child’s learning style creates an atmosphere of “vigor“,  the essential nutrient needed most in their earliest years of learning.

The concerns with the common core include:

  1. Standardized Learning.  An attempt is made to box children into learning the same things at the same time at the same pace.
  2. Only that which can be measured is aspired to and made most important through high stakes testing.

Very limiting.

The landscape of learning is a much wider path.  Children traverse it when they are allowed to explore.  They like to see what is around the corner and over the hill.  Through the common core, we have compartmentalized their learning and are keeping them on straight and narrow roads.  Children are contained to only one road at a time.  They master a road, check (test), and then are allowed onto the next straight road.  Check (test).  And so forth.

What of traits like curiosity and creativity?  Are these measurable?  Do we consider these important attributes for our children?

Sir Ken Robinson outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish. He captures the following principles eloquently in his TED Talk: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.

  • Human beings are naturally DIFFERENT and DIVERSE.
  • If you can light the spark of curiosity in a child, they will learn without any further assistance…. CURIOSITY is the engine of achievement.
  • Human life is inherently creative.   One of the roles of education is to awaken and develop these powers of CREATIVITY.

So often the standards are referred to as “rigorous”, but rigor is about death…  Education’s death valley.  Rather, the aim for our children needs to be “vigorous”… about thriving and growth, and vigor is about life.  In order to meet the goals of a society filled with thinkers, innovators, inventors, explorers, painters, historians, writers, mathematicians, adventurers, etc…  we can not lose sight of the valuable role curiosity and creativity play.

Reassuring children have vast opportunities to use their natural Curiosity and Creativity, the real CC, within the learning process, will enable each different and diverse child to flourish in the valley of life.

The Vigorous Curiosity and Creativity (CC) in Action

Fraction 3My 8 year old son has had no instruction in fractions. Through the use of concrete materials, he quickly figured out the value of each colored fractional piece.

Then I asked him if the black “candy bar” could be cut into 100 pieces? He instantly grabbed the pen and started to try to sketch the size of a hundredth. This stumped him for a bit.

He made it into 20 equal parts, then experimented with dividing the 20th into parts. After drawing the 4th line, he achieved success by dividing the bar up into 5 equal groups of 20.

After comparing fractions and examining the sizes of fractional values he was able to conclude, “The more pieces there are, the smaller the part.”

As he wrestled with each mathematical question I asked, he continued to request a progression of more difficult problems.

My questions had him hooked, and his natural curiosity had his engine revving.

Fraction 4      Fraction 5

By the end of the fraction expedition, he had begun making sense of the concept of equivalency by finding several ways to make 1/2. He made many connections with my intentional guidance.

Asking the right questions is the gateway to a child’s natural propensity for inquiry. Tapping into where a child is developmentally, utilizing multiple learning styles, and honoring their unique intelligences, are the keys to unlocking the door to new learning.

Curious children naturally learn.

The world is full of valleys, mountains, bridges and tunnels… Children are capable of paving paths unforeseen.

RIGORCrying Child 2 VS.


Fraction 1

Passionately Submitted,



The full 25 minute fraction lesson linked here.

Definition of Rigor

Definition of Vigor

Rigor Belongs to Mortis… Not Our Children