Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.
Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May. The State Department of Education has yet to release the results of the field test administration last year.
This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.
King made the statement at today’s meeting of the State Department of Education (SDE) High School Assessment Working Group, a panel that is looking at the number and kinds of tests administered in Connecticut’s high schools. Members of the working group are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.
Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said the testing results have the potential “to scare the hell out of parents.” He added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”
King maintained that “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”
Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores) and colleges around the country could require the scores for student admission.
While the SDE has not made any decisions about the extent of SBAC usage, officials in other states have, according to King, who explained that the California State University System and Community Colleges will use Smarter Balanced for their Early Assessment Program; Washington public institutions will accept Smarter Balanced scores for exemption from remediation; and West Virginia will replace the existing state-mandated readiness assessment with SBAC.
Connecticut Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell explained that — compared with previous state exams — SBAC is new, more rigorous, and this year’s administration will establish a baseline. She urged calm and perspective for those taking the test, those administering the test, and parents receiving the test scores. According to Wentzell, this year SBAC will establish a baseline; its purpose is not to produce anxiety but to promote student learning.
With the working group today, SBAC’s King reviewed the policy framework that established student cut scores last fall in four categories of student performance. (Click here to see the four levels.) SBAC intends that these categories will inform higher education and potential employers relative to college and career readiness.
CEA’s Waxenberg was among those members of the working group who expressed doubt that SBAC, in fact, can predict a person’s readiness for the world of work. He also said he worries about how students, who score in the lower bands of performance, will be perceived and will perceive themselves when they receive SBAC scores for the first time.
The working group plans to meet again on February 26.
SBAC employes 20 people at UCLA and expects its workforce to grow to 35 people in the future. Staff will be focused on preserving comparability of test results among participating states, updating test questions, technology, and conducting other research.