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.

 

12 Aug

Rhode Island – Small State, Big Controversy

Adopted July 1, 2010, the Rhode Island Common Core is still hanging in there amidst a torrent of opposition. Interestingly enough, it seems the smallest state in the nation is having one of the loudest battles regarding its educational future. Even so, it would seem that the noise may be just that—noise.

Quiet Until 2014

Unlike most states that began fighting their Cores in 2013, Rhode Island was a bit delayed. Arriving at the start of 2014, opponents have begun growing their voices. Including some teachers, a few parents and three communities, the group is publicly questioning if the cost of implementing the Core has been worth it. There was even a bill introduced by Republican Gregg Amore asking for a delay of a new test until 2015. As it turns out, the bill was supported.

Such malcontent stems from the main argument that the Common Core is a government plan to infiltrate and take over the entire US school system, a future that does not sit well with the states that very much enjoy their solidarity. Tacked on to this is the belief that the heavy focus on math and English is only there to undermine the values the state places on other subjects by limiting what teachers can do.

Core Debate

In truth, the Core developed out of a desire to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of educational might. Studies have shown that America is no longer the educational utopia it once was, falling behind countries like Germany and Japan. It also emerged as a potential solution to finally close the gap between the education received by low-income and that of high-income children, a move that would even the playing field come college application time.

As the cry for delay of implementation grows louder, so, too, does the questioning of who developed the Core for Rhode Island. Some college professors weren’t invited and remain unconvinced the new curriculum was fine-tuned by childhood experts. In response, now ex-Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist cited evidence of deep teacher involvement. As one of the biggest proponents of the Core, she was sure to bring in many educators from across the state to develop the standards into something that would work for the state and its children.

Tied to this is the fear that the standards will stifle teacher creativity, stealing away their freedom to teach. According to those behind it, the standards are a living document, designed to be flexible enough for each teacher to adapt it to his or her classroom.

No matter the acceptance or hatred of the Core, so far those against it are only asking for a delay, not a full blown reprieve. If educators can keep it in play for long enough to deliver proof that it works, there’s a good chance Rhode Island won’t join the number of states already pulling out.