Monday, April 11, 2016

SBAC Testing Season

Spring SBAC testing is starting fairly soon for most students.  Based on the data last year most HCC students did not opt out despite some  more vocal statements of opposition. (See: 2015 Testing Results).  As this is a subject that I'm very concerned about I thought we should have a thread on it. Here's a sample of the two poles of opinion on the subject.

Opt Out

"Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests. Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.

What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.

The tests today are pointless and meaningless."

This one's from local educator Jesse Hagopian:

"Parents and teachers across the country have united to demand an education system that recognizes children’s needs aren’t satisfied by filling in bubbles on an exam. So, before we throw our schools into the deep end, let’s demand authentic assessment now!"

Opt In

"Before ESSA, a No Child Left Behind provision required all students to take the same tests. As it was interpreted by both the Bush and Obama administrations, the provision also barred material from those tests that was significantly above or below grade level. As a consequence, most current assessments do a lousy job of measuring academic growth by pupils who are well above grade level. They just don’t contain enough “hard” questions to allow reliable measurement of achievement growth at the high end. In other words, the ceiling on those tests is so low that most advanced students can pass them even before the school year starts. 
Thankfully, ESSA allows computer-adaptive tests (CATs)—such as those developed by the Smarter Balanced consortium—to be structured and administered in ways that measure growth at every level, without overburdening any student with a ridiculously long paper-and-pencil test. And if combined with a real academic growth accountability model—one that holds schools to account for ensuring that all their students make progress over the course of the school year—this can finally create incentives for schools to attend to the further learning of their high-achievers. Making sure that every state allows for above-grade-level testing is critically important as we implement ESSA."

Some Facts:
  • Advanced learning had initially publicized that starting next year you will need to take the standardized tests in order to qualify but not to maintain eligibility in AL programs.  Even that seems to have been rolled back.
  • If you want to opt-out the usual procedure is to email your teacher and sometimes building coordinator or principal.
  • 5th grade SBAC data is being used by some Middle Schools for math placement although there are alternatives.


Lynn said...

The superintendent has acknowledged that Advanced Learning is incorrect in claiming they can reject referrals of students who opt out.

Assessments – As reported at the March 9th work session, Smarter Balanced assessments are beginning in March with most of the testing in April and May. We will again be sending a memo to parents. Board members have raised questions about use of the assessments for gifted selection. We will try to parse that wording carefully. SBA results are not required (you could be recommended by a teacher); however you may not be screened into the initial process if you don’t take the test and you aren’t recommended by a teacher. If you are recommended by the teacher you still need to take an approved test (at added district expense) to meet the standardized portion of the selection requirement.

From page four of this document:

Anonymous said...

I'm not against testing, per se, but tests like SBAC that take up to an entire school day to complete seem ill-conceived. The KTEA-III administered by a private assessor took only 30 minutes and more accurately reflected what my kid can do when faced with a math test that is not depriving her of recess, water, and bathroom breaks. I know we seem to keep swapping out tests every few years, but is the district looking into a less onerous option that would still be adaptive?

Cat Mom

Anonymous said...

Aren't SBAC tests funded by the state, so *free* to the district, as opposed to the costly tests for AL?

We decided to opt out of SBAC this year and have our 8th grader take the SAT. The scores don't go on record, our child gets a preview of the test, it's one (very long) morning instead of multiple days, and we get results from an out of level test.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Cat mom, but my 4th grader has SIX days of SBA testing time coming up. True, the tests aren't all day on those days, but it is not like they get any other work done during the rest of the day. We're not opting out, but it is ridiculous.

Non-SBAC fan

NorthEnd Parent said...

Have a 6th grader at JAMS, and have opted out. These tests are ridiculous and pointless.

Anonymous said...

No cost?

The tie up of the resources - computers, library, etc - is absurd and highly impacts schools. Plus the district/schools have to invest in a lot of tech that they probably wouldn't have bought in that particular configuration just to take the test.

Not to mention the SBAC's reliance on fairly specific and rapidly turning obsolete tech interfaces invalidates the tests in many ways, b/c kids take them on different platforms at different schools, some schools have better tech than others, some kids have less exposure to the nuances of using a laptop, track pad, etc. The tests involve dragging and dropping, but with cursors and track pads - not the touch screens many kids are now used to. So it's testing familiarity with the format as much or more than content - ridiculously unbalanced.

Yes, that's a cost, even if the state supposedly pays for "the test" - ha.

-Opted out

Anonymous said...

I heard a rumor today that 4th grade math SBAC scores will factor in grade 6 algebra placement. Can anyone fact check this?

open ears

Anonymous said...

I don't think that's a rumor, that's what the packet that came home from JAMS explicitly said. You must have 2 out of 3 of teacher rec, 4 on SBAC, algebra readiness test.

Jams Math

Anonymous said...

4th grade SBAC, or 5th?

Anonymous said...

It didn't specify, but I assume 4th because 5th grade results won't be available in time,

Jams Math

Benjamin Leis said...

@Jams Math - I'm following up a bit on this since its a topic near and dear to me.

Apparently based on some communication with the JAMS staff they are planning to use the 5th grade SBAC data which will be available in time this year.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what the procedure is for opting a kid out at HIMS?
-Opting Out

Benjamin Leis said...

I added a link to Jesse Hagopian's article at the top.

Lynn said...

The procedure for opting out at any school is to contact your principal in writing (email will do) and state that you are choosing to opt your child out of the SBAC. You can add any benchmark testing throughout the year if you like.

Anonymous said...

Here is a section of a letter recently sent from the principal of Washington Middle School to all WMS families, in which the misinformation about SBAC results being required for HCC qualification is conveyed:

• Beginning in 2016-2017, Smarter Balanced will be used as the achievement measure for Highly Capable eligibility. In order to be designated as Highly Capable or as an Advanced Learner, multiple criteria are considered, including but not limited to measures of both cognitive and achievement abilities. If a student goes through the Highly Capable referral process, but refuses to participate in Smarter Balanced testing in 2016-2017, the student will not meet all of the criteria for Highly Capable services or the Spectrum program. Note that families in this case will have the option to appeal the decision.

This would clearly dissuade parents who hope to qualify their kids for HCC from opting out. The district really needs to do more to correct this misinformation.

- Seattle parent

Anonymous said...

From Melissa Westbrook's comment on her blog's post about Sue Peter's call for budget ideas:

It was pretty funny to try to hear staff tell the Board that there was only a 5% difference in outcomes for HCC cohorts versus HCC kids not in a cohort class. Director Peters asked if one year of SBAC test scores was the only measure. The answer was...yes. Please, one year of a brand-new test ( seemingly too long and not developmentally appropriate in all case) is NOT enough to base any kind of judgment and Peters was wise to point this out.

Anyone know the context for this statement by staff?

Anonymous said...

It's a grade level test, for crying out loud! Not funny if this is their measure of program effectiveness.

Anonymous said...

I have planned to opt my HCC middle school student out of SBAC. The wording on the district opt out form is not super clear in my opinion whether opting out affects only initial eligibility or maintaining eligibility of HCC enrolled students. I had assumed it only affects initial eligibility decisions, but to make certain, does someone (Benjamin?) know for certain?

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that as long as your child is enrolled in an HCC class or program, they are maintaining their eligibility. If there is policy stating otherwise, I'd certainly like to see it. The refusal form is talking about initial HCC eligibility, not continued eligibility. We've opted out of SBAC for middle school (though we don't opt out of EOCs, and we didn't opt out for MSP or WASL is in the past).