15 Feb

History of the SBAC and How it Rose to a Nationwide Movement

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was created in 2010 with the aim of producing a universal assessment system to help students be well prepared for college and careers. The creation of the tests aimed to produce a vigorous assessment of the new, challenging common core state standards (CCSS) and help educators and school districts align teaching to these new standards. The SBAC originally consisted of a consortium of 30 states that submitted a proposal for a $178m federal grant to develop a new, groundbreaking series of tests for students. In 2014 the federal grant came to an end and the SBAC was transferred to UCLA and became a public agency.

 

The SBAC is funded by the memberships of the 16 states, that currently offer the tests, and all tests have been available for students to take since April 2015. Testing costs around $28 per student for the full package of resources and although it can cost states a significant amount of money to introduce, the resources that are included can actually end up saving money and time for educators. Around 220 colleges nationwide accept the high school summative SBAC tests as evidence for college readiness for credit level courses.

 

The progressive tests were created using a dynamic process of field-testing and in Spring 2014, 4.2 million students took the first field tests which facilitated the evaluation of over 19,000 assessment items. This allowed for the first set of achievement standards to be set, which were a starting point for discussion about achievement standards across the states that took part and as a baseline measure for the future.

 

The SBAC is designed to be a valid and reliable approach to student assessment, providing actionable data to provide interventions to help students succeed. For states offering the tests, the SBAC provides three components developed by nearly 5000 teachers nationwide:

 

  • Formative and practice assessments with a digital library of resources for students and educators.
  • Interim assessments
  • Summative assessments towards college and career readiness in English, Language Arts and Math

 

The SBAC summative tests are available for students in grade 3-8th and high school and are all administered via an interactive online platform. The tests take between 2.5 – 4 hours for each component and are either marked digitally or by qualified professional scorers. The marks for each assessment are available in 2-3 weeks for parents, educators and students. Each student receives a result of 1,2,3 or 4 on each test with 1 representing a student who is minimally qualified and 4 a student who is thoroughly qualified.

 

The movement towards rigorous and valid assessment helps both states and the nation ensure that students are leaving high school with a diploma that prepares them for adult life. The SBAC provides a way to ensure that every student succeeds and every school district is accountable for that because of the tests.

 

02 Aug

New Jersey’s Two-Faced Core Conundrum

New Jersey was a part of the first wave of Common Core adopters, agreeing to take them on June 23, 2010 with full implementation by the 2013-14 school year. While their ambition matched that of all the other states that were promised potential access to the $4.35 billion in “Race to the Top” grants, the state’s tune has changed dramatically the closer it has gotten to election year, and the more assured Governor Chris Christie is of running for Presidency.

The Typical Evolution

New Jersey isn’t a special case by any means. It adopted the Core, probably tempted by grant money more than interest in the future of its students, then began integration over the course of the five years since. There have been proponents. There have been opponents. However, even as recent as 2004, the Board of Education remained steadfast in its support of these new standards. As it was to turn out, the start of 2015 cast the Core in a different light.

Political Bias

As of May 2015, Governor Christie no longer supports the Core, promising the state that it will completely pull out once New Jersey standards are developed by the end of the year. According to him, the Core has caused nothing but five years of turmoil that has ripped apart the community, leaving frustrated parents distanced from teachers. News sources are quick to point out that this change has only come around the same time as his grab for the Republican nomination. Even with this, that’s not all that seems a bit off.

Christie, though now a firm opponent of the Core, is only confusing the parents he decried as frustrated by sticking with the PARCC, the yearly assessment that grades students on their aptitude regarding Common Core standards. While odd, Christie did explain that the only way to not lose federal funding was to stick with PARCC. In truth, the government requires yearly statewide testing, but it certainly doesn’t have to be with a test devoted strictly to standards Christie seems determined to dismiss.

The public is very much of this same opinion. Though New Jersey’s Board of Education is rolling with the punches as best as it can, it was more than happy to call out Christie’s hypocrisy. To them, if he truly wants to purge the state of the Core, he needs to get rid of everything tied to it. They even go so far as to point to PARCC as the main problem, not the standards themselves.

An Unsure Future

The debate will no doubt continue until the coming election finishes. Until that happens, however, New Jersey will remain a hotbed of outspoken politicians calling each other out on hypocrisy and flip-flopping while the actual effect on the students and teachers will continue to go ignored just like it always has.