February 21, 2020

SBAC: the new, national, standardized test

By the CVU School Board

In 2010, Vermont adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math and English. Since that time, Chittenden South Supervisory Union schools have been working diligently to integrate these more rigorous standards into daily lesson plans. The aims of these standards are to:

1. Provide high-quality academic standards that are consistent across the country

2. Raise the bar for student achievement

3. Help ensure that students are college and career ready

CCSS accentuate the importance of applying learning to new, real life circumstances and emphasize problem solving and the ability to articulate and justify one’s answer. In 2011, CSSU launched a four-year plan to facilitate the implementation of the CCSS at each school. This spring, the CSSU is administering the new national test that will be used to measure student achievement based on the CCSS, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, known as SBAC.

How is SBAC different from NECAP? And how does in link to the Common Core?

SBAC replaces New England Common Assessment Program, known as NECAP, math and English tests. In March, SBAC will assess students in grades 3-8 and 11. The new tests are different from NECAP tests in many ways, such as:

• Students at all tested grade levels will use a computer to take the test.

• The test is computer adaptive. This means test questions are adjusted based on student responses, individually tailoring the exam to the range of a student’s ability. Not only should this make testing a more positive experience for students, but it should provide a more accurate picture of a student’s achievement as well as information that can be used to immediately inform individual instruction plans.

• Relative to NECAP, SBAC questions are expected to be more complex and require multiple steps and take more time to solve. To complete SBAC tasks, students must be able to organize, analyze, describe, defend, conclude, argue, articulate and evaluate information presented in charts, graphs and challenging informational text.

• Student performance will be calculated and compared across the 31 states who have adopted the Common Core, rather than among only four NECAP states.

• Unlike NECAP, SBAC tests will be given in the spring rather than fall and over the course of an extended test window (mid-March-early June).

• Individual student results (with the exception of longer, performance tasks) will be available for teachers shortly after student tests are completed. We do not yet know whether parent reports will be available this first year.

• National, State and CSSU results will be available sometime this summer.

Outcomes: What can we expect?

While students and educators adjust to the new test expectations and rigorous standards they are based upon, a decline in student performance results throughout Vermont and across the country is anticipated in the first two to four years of SBAC implementation. Since the NECAP and SBAC tests are like apples and oranges (different assessment tools based on different foundational standards), the Agency of Education has advised that school districts not directly compare the results they yield. While we know that any new initiative of this magnitude comes with challenges and altered results, CSSU will, nonetheless, watch trends as they evolve over time and learn from our performance results.

Williston representatives to the CVU School Board are Jeanne Jensen, Polly Malik and Gene McCue. 

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