By Allica Derry

    The Smarter Balanced test. It was created to align with the Common Core state standards and test students more on their critical thinking and less on the information they’ve stored. The standards as well as the test were created to ensure students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in college and in life.

The Common Core standards aren’t anything new, they’ve been implemented into classrooms through assignments and subject-matter already. Teachers can take their own spin on it which is helpful for the students, as well as the teachers themselves. The big difference between Common Core standards and the OAKS, is that Common Core is a lot more critical thinking, requiring short answers to reading passages and explaining how you got your answer on a math question. It’s less about the facts and more about the student’s skills.

The Smarter Balanced test was created to align with Common Core, this way students can practice and show their critical thinking skills. The Smarter Balanced test isn’t any or much harder than the OAKS test, it just requires students to think more instead of spitting out facts and information. Students have to analyze reading passages, and be able to answer questions that require the students to think more and write a short response. On OAKS it was more about if the student could pick out the information and make a logical answer. The standards themselves make students go through deeper thinking, it allows students to ask harder questions, write more in depth, and be able to think critically for themselves.

The standards themselves are not state standards they are national standards, which can be confusing. The Common Core standards are the standards for all 43 states currently operating on Common Core. The standards were chosen in mind that most schools weren’t able to meet the last set of standards that had been implemented and almost a decade was spent trying to fix them. Common Core is supposed to be new and improved but, it still needs some tweaking.

The test requires students to know how to use it, from the online calculator, to highlighting, and having to accurately put in answers. It will take time for students and teachers to get used to it but hopefully as the years go on things will start to run more smoothly. Hopefully the test isn’t tweaked too much, the students need to be able to know the general lay out and get used to it and be able to know what to expect. “The time spent learning how to use the test is what’s most problematic”-Clair Wiles. Next year things should run more smoothly and students should be able to access all of the online tools efficiently.

Students only take the test once their junior year, if they do not pass they can make it up with a work sample. All students have other options if they either choose to opt out of the test or just don’t pass, they can still make it up and graduate on time. None of these standards are new, they’ve already been implemented into assignments and other work, they just weren’t openly discussed. Lately more teachers have been talking about the standards, with this years juniors taking the test this spring, teachers have also been stating that some of their assignments align with the standards. The Common Core standards really only ask students to think a little more and pull their own conclusions and opinions from work assignments and more.

There’s no need to worry about not passing, there are always other options that will allow you to graduate on time. The test only affects a student’s graduation date, it does not affect class grades or anything of the like. The Smarter Balanced test can also be used as a placement test if passed, but it can only be used for 24 Oregon colleges (17 of which are community colleges and 7 universities).