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SBAC Testing 2015

2015 Smarter Balance Assessments (SBA)
in English/Language Arts and Math

Updated 4/9/15

The testing this spring is called “operational”.  What does “operational” mean?

Operational means that all portions of the test will be active and results from the test will be made available to teachers, families, and districts.

What information will teachers and families receive about SBA results (scores)?

Families and teachers will get student scores on the 2015 SBA. The draft of the score report will reportedly include new achievement levels: standard not met, standard nearly met, standard met and standard exceeded.  Reports will also include a composite score between 2,000 and 3,000 that will indicate the achievement level.  From everything we have seen in other states we should expect scores to be very low—BFT leaders will advocate for messaging to families that explains why this is so.

Which students will take the SBA this spring?

All students in grades 3-8 and all 11th grade Berkeley High students will participate in the SBA assessments this spring. The only category of students exempt from the SBA is EL students who’ve been in the country for less than 12 months, and they’re only exempt from the ELA portion of the test. 

It feels like we’re barely getting our feet under us with Common Core—will these test results be used to judge schools or teachers this year?

Recently, the California State Board of Education unanimously voted to suspend the Academic Performance Index (API) for the second year in a row.  The current API is based on standardized test scores and is widely used to evaluate a school's performance in boosting academic achievement. At the same meeting, the State Board of Education voted to begin moving towards multiple measures of school quality that will include things like attendance data, graduation rates, suspension data, percent of students college-eligible, etc. Specific proposals in this area are expected later this year. This means that neither individual teachers nor school sites will be judged based on 2015 SBA results.

What are parents’ rights to opt out their students from taking the test and what are my rights in informing them about this choice?

According to the California Ed Code (section 60615) parents and guardians have the right to opt their child out of testing with a written request. Teachers have the right to inform parents of this right but not to “solicit or encourage” that parents exercise it. For example, teachers could include the following language in a class newsletter: “Parents planning to opt their student out of this spring’s Smarter Balanced Assessment should send a letter to our principal informing him/her of this and requesting an appropriate alternative activity.”

What will happen to my school if less than 95% of students participate?

Based on everything BFT knows about No Child Left Behind, and the many BUSD schools that are labeled “Program Improvement” under the law, there is absolutely no reason to believe that any school is at risk of losing any federal funding if this participation threshold is not met.  Based on what we know now, there do not appear to be any negative ramifications for a school if less than 95% of students participate in this test.

How is it fair that one school will take the SBA up to four weeks later than another school?

Reportedly the tests given earlier in the testing window will cover less material than the tests given later in the school year. The tests are also reported to be “adaptive,” meaning the questions students see will change depending on whether or not their answers are correct.

What is the current status of the CAHSEE?

The California High School Exit Exam would be suspended for several years and its role would be re-examined under a bill introduced last week by the chair of the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 172 by Carol Liu, calls for suspending the CAHSEE test in the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years and eliminating it as a graduation requirement during that time. Currently students are still required to take the CAHSEE as a graduation requirement.

Are students supposed to already know how to use the technology and how to take a computer-based test?

This is the subject of ongoing discussion.  It’s doubtful that anyone believes students have all of the technology know how to take a computer-based test at this time.  BFT believes we need an articulated plan for providing students with 21st century technology skills.

Will Chromebooks at my site be available for non-testing purposes?

According to the information we have received, Elementary teachers should expect that all Chromebooks at their site will be in use for testing all day during their site’s testing window—there will be little to no availability for non-testing use. Middle School teachers should ask their site administrator—each school ran testing differently last year with different impacts on Chromebook availability.

Does BFT have a position on the SBA?

BFT recognizes that there have been myriad and significant problems with misuse of standardized testing data. There are also serious questions about the validity of the SBA: teachers who were able to view their Interim Assessment data reported wide discrepancies between SBA scores and student performance as measured by ASOU and TCRWP assessment. BFT continues to encourage robust discussions about assessment, and about the validity and appropriate use of SBA data. The foundation for these conversations is BFT’s Quality Education Agenda, in which we state that schools should use a variety of formative and summative assessments in order to communicate student growth and replace standardized testing with ongoing, teacher created, curriculum- and skill-based assessments. The QEA also states that assessments should be used only to inform and improve instruction, not to evaluate or punish students and teachers, and that all students should have a broad curriculum that includes history, science, garden and nutrition, cooking, PE and arts. We also recognize that being able to disaggregate data and have rich professional learning conversations about sub-groups of students and individual students has been an important part of our equity efforts, and has helped us to make more culturally responsive decisions about our instruction and resources.  This will continue to be true using our ongoing local assessments.


NOTE: THIS FAQ IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SEND US ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT THE 2015 SBAC TESTS AS WE WILL CONTINUALLY UPDATE THIS DOCUMENT.