Archive for October, 2014

Where is Smarter Balanced Now?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Of 10,339 schools just in California, only 49% have satisfied the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards for 2014. This year was the year every student in the United States, even a student defined as English Language Learner or identified as needing Special Education services, was expected to be proficient in reading and math.

The U. S. Department of Education has tried waivers to give states more time to devise a plan to show achievement of impossible goals. Race to the Top grants were offered to states that had a plan to achieve these impossible goals. School districts that performed well were celebrated.

Then, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed so that all school districts across the country could find results for testing that was comparable from state to state. States formed two consortia with the goal to implement the standards through professional development, curricula, and, of course, assessment. As you know, the U. S. Department of Education gave each consortium approximately $175 million to set up models for school districts, taken from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds which expired October 1, 2014.

And controversy began. Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) found states dropping out of the consortia. Quarrels began with companies authorized to develop the assessments over student data. Arguments overflowed concerning the cost of investment in textbooks and technology to support the standards. Antagonism spread over how education corporations (like Pearson, Houghton Mifflin, and Scott Foresman to name a few) were waving expensive Common Core materials in front of public schools.

Much anger can be found on the education blogs about the U.K. public-traded corporation Pearson that was chosen to develop assessments for PARCC. What is Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium doing?

It makes you wince that South Carolina has withdrawn from the SBAC and insists it will set up its own standards and have ACT, known for college preparedness testing, develop assessments for 2015. No notice was given why South Carolina withdrew from the consortium. Grumbling, but no action, has been heard from New Hampshire and Missouri state departments of education.

On the plus side, nine consortium members have made a deal with the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to establish SBAC as a separate entity based at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Information for SBAC will be consolidated. Currently, Nevada is the governing state for the consortium and Washington handles the fiscal responsibilities.

SBAC is inviting 65 K-12 teachers, college faculty, parents and others to examine assessments currently used and establish achievement levels. 4.2 million students took math or ELA or both ‘computer adaptive’ assessments this spring-a Practice Test that mirrors end-of-year assessment and/or Training Tests that familiarize students with software and navigation tools for technological assessment. At least in California, no scores are being handed down until next year.

Challenges have registered about the writing-heavy ELA assessment. It is feared that dual language students and Special Ed students will be at a disadvantage. At the same time, Joe Willhoft, the executive director for SBAC, has been part of collaborative data and assessment efforts for a long time. West Ed, based in California, has been brought in to manage services.

Next step: solve assessments difficulties.