One school finds enthusiasm about SBAC test

Elisa Hahn reports.

SEATTLE -- Amid the growing number of parents who are having their students "opt out" of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests, at one Seattle elementary school not a single student has submitted an opt out form.

We went inside Rainier View Elementary to find out why.

Fourth graders in Kaitlin Robert's class were trying their hand at some practice questions on the standardized test. Each one on a loaned out laptop, typing, clicking and dragging their way through test questions.

Roberts has them take a break to talk about the reading material.

"We're reading some non-fiction chapters. What are some features that we know?" she asked her class.

"Captions?" answered one student.

Roberts then encourages students to share what they've learned with each other, and immediately you hear kids tell each other what they know.

"A captions tells us what are you doing [in the picture]," one kid said.

"It tells you what is happening in the picture," said another.

You can't help notice the excitement in the discussion. The look of intent on their faces working on computers.

"Overall the students are successful, from what I'm seeing," said Roberts. "And they're very proud of their work."

That is the attitude that the principal of Rainier View Elementary is encouraging all her staff and students to have about the Smarter Balanced Assessment test.

The message is even pinned up on the bulletin board at the entrance of the school.

"Our teachers are excited. We love the opportunity to ensure that our students are ready for high school, college and life," said principal Anitra Pinchback-Jones. "So it's really not a hard sell in regards to teachers here at Rainier View. It's about our commitment."

Hundreds of students at several Seattle high schools have submitted opt-out forms for the SBAC test.

Teachers are speaking out against the test as well, for its predicted high failure rate, the computer format, and for the eight-plus-hours it takes for students to complete the test.

Opponents have criticized the inequity of the computer-adaptive test, especially for kids who don't have computers at home.

But the school's tech specialist says she hasn't seen students shy away from the format, no matter their background.

"A lot of times you'll see adults and you teach them something new with technology, and they're afraid to try it. They're afraid they're going to do something wrong. Kids click. They'll try it. If it doesn't work, they'll try it a different way. They're much more comfortable," said Elaine Dondoyano, technology specialist.

The principal believes the small difference in attitude makes a difference in instruction - getting teachers and students excited about the SBAC, ready to rise to the challenge.


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