Planning my future with Smarter Balanced assessments

Some students know their plan after high school, and some are still figuring it out. When I took the Smarter Balanced assessments last spring, I was somewhere in between, and I was eager to use my test scores as a tool to know whether I was on track to pursue my dreams.

During my sophomore year, I took the assessments a year earlier than required, so I could find out as soon as possible if I was on track. My teacher explained that Smarter Balanced measures what students should know and be able to do when they graduate, including skills like problem solving, math and writing that we will need in college and our jobs.

I planned to make the most of the tests by moving at my own pace, thinking through my answers, and working to see each problem with fresh eyes. I didn’t get stressed about the tests because I saw them as a chance to opt in for a better education and learn more about myself. When I got my scores back, I was happy to learn I had a solid foundation in English, and I felt motivated to continue to improve and find new challenges, like starting Running Start at Highline College.

My math score indicated I needed help to accomplish my goals, however. My plan after high school is to study computer science and management at the University of Washington, then work at a company like Microsoft or Google. I’ve talked to mentors and my teachers who have all told me I’ll need strong math skills to succeed on my path.

To get on track, I made a plan to spend extra time on math. I found resources online, asked my teachers for help, worked on math problems in my spare time, and took higher level math this year. While it has been tough, I am confident my grades will reflect my hard work and progress.

My math score motivated me to work harder. I want to go to college ready to take classes for my major. If I score a 3 or a 4 on the high school Smarter Balanced assessment, I can avoid remedial classes, saving time and money. High school students should seize the Smarter Balanced opportunity to know if they are on the path to reach their goals, or if they need a little extra help in math, like I did.

Taking tests can be challenging, but the results give students like me important information to get the most out of our time in high school. Just like I used my scores to get on track in math and seek out new challenges, I want to see other students find their strengths and weaknesses too. If we use Smarter Balanced as a tool, we can empower ourselves to be ready for success after high school, no matter what path we choose.

Elizabeth Min is a Decatur High School student who will begin her senior year this fall.