In Oregon, there have been schools that perform well, and others that have not exceeded as much as others. According to the official Smarter Balance website state pass/fail rates, 63% of Oregon high school students passed the English portion of the test and as of last year, 34% passed the math exam.
Four Oregon schools in 2016 performed exceedingly well in their Smarter Balance scores. One of these top achievers was Helix High School, with a class of 16 students, of whom 100% passed the state test.
Students in Helix have taken this test since Oregon has used it for state testing, but this final year of Smarter Balance, some students are not sure how well they are going to perform.
Elizabeth Ward is one of the few students at Helix who will be taking the last Smarter Balance Test. Of the juniors in her class, she is one of the many that feel they are not ready for what is to come.
“It dictates whether or not you graduate, and that’s something that I think a lot of students worry about. They say ‘I feel like I’m not going to pass’ especially if they are academically behind,” Ward says.
Juniors are not the only students in Helix that are nervous for state testing. A topic that has been floating around the school and even perhaps the state, is what will become of state testing after Smarter Balance is over?
Ward has thought of this as well. “I would rather take the Smarter Balance Test because people can tell you what it's like and what's on it, meanwhile the unknown test is something nobody knows about. I would rather take that risk,” Ward said
Sophomore Brianna Myrick is a Helix student who will not be taking Smarter Balance. Instead, she will be taking a new test that the state will be producing. The state has no idea what the test will be or consist of, but they do know that the first deadline to present the new state test is in April.
In Helix, Oregon, statewide testing is a debate that has long been discussed. The question students are asking is one that will have a person debating the subject themselves: Would a student rather take Smarter Balance, a test that students are typically not confident in, or would you rather take the unknown test that teachers do not even know about?
The students do feel that they have the educational support from the Helix teachers to get them through the test, but the anxiety-gripping feeling of not passing the test overwhelms it easily. “I think the teachers do a really good job of preparing the students for the test,” Myrick said.
Because teachers have prepared students for Smarter Balance, the sophomores only know what is on Smarter Balance, so when the new test arrives, they have a year to prepare, “It's kind of nerve wracking because you don’t know what to expect. With Smarter Balance we have what you guys (older students) have said about it and what everyone else has said, but we’re like the experiments in this new test,”said Myrick.
Myrick and Ward have shared feelings for those who are taking the state tests, “To the sophomores? I wouldn’t celebrate too early. Because there is still that unknown test. You don’t know if your test is going to be harder or more difficult,” Ward said.