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.

 

18 Aug

South Carolina’s Controversial Common Core

Though adopted July 14, 2010 during the first wave of Common Core introduction, South Carolina has always treated the movement with outright hostility. Never a state to stay calm, such seemingly blatant disregard for the state’s solidarity in educational standards has kept the state on edge for the better part of four years. Almost inevitably, though, the standards were dropped, however whether this was a wise decision is still being debated just as intensely.

State Pride

In a sentence that sums up South Carolina’s mentality, Governor Nikki Haley called for Core repeal by stating, “We don’t ever want to educate South Carolina children like they educate California children.” This is in regard to the ideal that the Core would unite the states so that every child everywhere would receive the same level of education. So, for instance, if a teen moved during high school, they would have no problem picking up where they left off.

Unfortunately, the message was taken to mean government takeover more so than college readiness. To further slander the Core, opponents sought out difficult and confusing math problems as testaments to what a poor decision adoption of the standards was. When teachers were asked about it, they were quick to point out that no state or classroom was ever forced to use specific problems, meaning the “evidence” was entirely misleading.

Core Cancellation

Deceptive though it was, it opened the floodgates of contempt, resulting in an official repeal signed in 2014 to go active for the 2015-16 school year. Interestingly enough, this bill also came with stipulations to prevent educators from simply re-adopting chunks of the Common Core and renaming it. Under this new bill, an Education Oversight Committee must sign off on all standards before they can go into effect. Though this certainly seems hypocritical in light of South Carolina’s detestation of any kind of federal control, it is in place due to reports coming from Indiana. There, opponents are accusing the state of simply changing the name but not the Core.

Teacher Worry

As the new school year without the Core looms ahead, educators are working hard to develop South Carolina standards for where they want their state’s children to be. Ironically, opponents of the Core have turned out to be unhappy with the new standards, seeing them as so difficult that they set their children up to fail. The Board of Education backs this belief by confirming that they are indeed more challenging. Teachers also support the difficulty increase, citing the fact that parents now can’t expect their children to learn how they learned. The world has changed and so have its demands upon graduation. The educators believe in their students and understand that in order to truly prepare them for graduation, the standards need to be made just a little harder.