There have been a lot of questions about the Common Core Standards (CCS) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests. There have also been conflicting messages, misinformation, some correct information and some boldface lies about opting out of the tests.
Much of the confusion is due to the fact that our state legislators, in their finite wisdom, chose to approve the CCS for our state, sight unseen. That’s right, the CCS had not been completely developed or reviewed when our elected officials in Olympia voted to approve them for every school district in our state. The concomitant SBAC test (in other states it’s the PARCC test), which has not been deemed valid or reliable by way of a peer reviewed study, is now being taken by students within the Seattle Public School district.
It has been projected that at least 60% of our students will “Fail” the test. Has this been a mess since day one with these tests? Yes, an expensive debacle in terms of costs, resources and precious teaching time. For this reason, parents are opting their children out of the PARCC and SBAC testing and teachers are refusing to give the test.
Because of the anticipated pushback from parents and teachers, as has been witnessed in other parts of the country, certain school board members and our new (never got vetted) superintendent have come out with misinformation and threats. Yes, our superintendent, Dr. Larry Nyland, came out directly and threatened teachers with dismissal if they didn’t get with the program and give the test. Nyland also stated in his nastygram that the test will only take 8 hours of a student’s class time. This does not include the practice tests that students took in preparation for taking the SBAC. The practice tests can take an equal amount of time according to teachers who I have spoken to who have administered the practice SBAC.
Maybe it will, but if you add to that the WA KIDS assessments, End of Course (EOC) exams, the MSP, the MAP test, Amplify, the PSAT and the SAT, we are talking many hours of testing and therefore late school starts, classes with test weary students in the afternoon and libraries closed because the computers used for the testing are in the library. This testing will go on until the end of the school year in June. This testing does not preclude whatever actual quizzes and tests teachers typically give in their classroom that pertain far more directly to the information provided in the class at age appropriate levels.
You thought the MAP was bad? Well, the powers that be came back with a battery of tests that even an adult with a college degree can’t manage. But let’s get to the facts. We took the ten questions we have heard the most, researched the answers and present them here.
Frequently asked questions about the SBAC and opting out
1. What standardized tests are being given in the Seattle Public Schools and how much time will it take?
The number of hours required for each test varies by grade level. School Board Director Sue Peters requested from the district the number of hours that are required for each test per grade level. Buried on page three of Tolley’s quarterly report to Superintendent Nyland, is a graph that shows the requested information.
Your Principal is required, per Nyland’s instructions, to provide every parent with the testing schedule for their school. If you have not received a schedule, request one and make sure all of the standardized tests are listed on the schedule including the practice SBAC test (which all students are to take) and the makeup SBAC test.
It’s important to know when the makeup SBAC will be because once again libraries will be closed if your school does not have computers and rooms set aside only for testing.
Parents at a north end elementary school received their schedule and there are 30 hours total of standardized tests to be given to each student between March and June.
2. How do I opt my student out of the tests?
The note to your principal can be short and to the point. Remember to include the practice and makeup SBAC in your note.
One Seattle mom sent a note to the principal opting her student out of the SBAC and found out that her child had taken the practice SBAC. It had not been included in her note.
Also, for parents who simply keep their children at home the day of testing, without a note, your student might take the makeup SBAC without your knowledge. You can find a note here that was used by a parent and accepted by the Principal at a Seattle Public School.
Understand that if your child does not take the SBAC, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), it will show as a “not tested” NOT a zero.
3. Are there accommodations for ELL and IEP students?
Accommodations for the SBAC tests are described in the Smarter Balanced Guideline in the chapters regarding accommodations. We are not aware of a policy in place specifically for IEP and ELL students within the Seattle Public School district who will be taking the SBAC.
The Language Arts test for high school students does not allow for a translator. That I learned from a teacher who had a student break down in tears when she could not understand the words in a paragraph.
4. If my child opts out what will they be doing during testing time?
Seattle Public Schools’ policy now is that “students who do not participate will receive supervision but not instruction during assessment time.”
In New York and Connecticut parents successfully lobbied their state legislators to pass into law alternative accommodations for students who are opting out. In New York some districts provide alternative spaces such as an art room where they can read, paint or draw.
In Seattle, if enough students opt out, it can be an opportunity for parents to organize and provide students with enrichment opportunities. Otherwise, make sure your student has a book to read or other quiet activity they can engage in during the test periods.
5. If I opt my child out, how will I know how my student is doing?
Simple answer, ask your teacher.
A teacher knows more about your student and their progress than anyone else. Also, the teacher develops assignments, quizzes and tests based on the material presented in class. Their performance in terms of those activities will reflect how they are doing.
6. How will opting out affect my teacher?
At this time, based on the Seattle Education Association’s (SEA) bargaining agreement, there is no direct impact that the student’s performance will have on the teacher’s evaluation, whether your student takes the test or not.
Any impact on overall scores resulting from opting out could trigger further observation and evaluation of a teacher but at this time there is no direct percentage of a teacher’s evaluation that is based on test scores.
From SEA/SPS 2013-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement, “Teachers of tested subjects who receive a low district-determined student growth rating will be observed both formally and informally in the first ninety (90) days and will participate in a student growth reflective inquiry process regardless of their Summative Performance Rating.”
7. How could opting out affect my school?
All public schools in Washington State are deemed failing now per the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) agreement signed onto by our legislators promising that all students in all public schools would meet 100% proficiency by 2014. A foolhardy proposal that ultimately failed. For more on NCLB, see Diane Ravitch post From Diane Ravitch to Senator Lamar Alexander: Don’t Forget Rule #84 in the “Little Plaid Book.
There was no carrot with NCLB, just a stick. The stick was that Federal funds would be taken away from schools or districts that did not meet 100% proficiency. So far the sky has not fallen in our state.
There was an offer of a waiver by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to all states that no funding would be taken away if test scores were tied to teacher evaluations. Washington State did not take the waiver because of that caveat.
Unfortunately, our legislators are backpedaling now and trying to tie test scores to teacher evaluations. Like I keep saying, politicians need to stay out of the business of education. They know just enough to be dangerous and not enough to make informed decisions.
In New York the State Commissioner put out a warning to parents, teachers and stating opting out would cause financial havoc on the state and districts. Parents ignored the Commissioner and opted out anyway.
Per Leonie Haimson with Class Size Matters, and the Network for Public Education (NPE), “According to Superintendents, 35% of districts had at least 5% parents opting out last year; nearly a quarter of all districts had at least 10% opt outs and not a single school lost funding or were faced with any penalty whatsoever.” (For additional information, see Superintendent views on the impact of New York State’s education reform. Another good source of information is Monty Neill’s post at Fair Test, Why You Can Boycott Standardized Tests Without Fear of Federal Penalties to Your School.
Leonie continues, “In a state with a waiver like Washington, a “priority” school must set aside 5-15% of its Federal Title I and II funding to use in state-approved programs in the school. The money is not ‘lost.’ It generally may be used for various school improvement efforts like tutoring. Don’t believe the myths; the feds cannot take funds away for this, the most they can do is put restrictions on the use of Title I funds so it must be spent on tutoring, etc. though even this has not been done anywhere in the country so far.” See NJ Legislators Need to Stand up for Our Children by Christopher Tienken, Ed.D. and Julia Sass Rubin, PhD for additional information.
What parents, educators and students can do now is help build their school community and start conversations about authentic assessments. A good place to start is with the book Pencils Down by Wayne Au, PhD and Melissa Bollow Tempel . You can read the introduction here.
8. Will opting my elementary student out of SBAC affect middle school math placement?
Since there are already cases of middle school students being placed without MAP and/or MSP scores (transferring from another district, opting out, etc.), there are likely already protocols in place. Parents can inquire directly with Anna Box , Mathematics Program Manager at SPS, email@example.com, (206) 252-0992.
9. If my high school student opts out, will it affect their graduation?
The Washington State Board of Education has made the SBAC a high school graduation requirement beginning with the graduating class of 2019. For current high school students who do not need the test for graduation opting them out of testing will not impact their graduation status. If they do not pass the required state exams, they will have the option of using the SBAC in place of the required state exams.
10. I have decided to opt my student out of the SBAC. What more can I do?
My advice to parents and teachers is to learn about the Common Core Standards (CCS), the history of their development and how the Common Core Standards are impacting the educational and intellectual landscape of our country.
One good resource is Stop Common Core Standards in Washington State. On the main page is a video of an excellent presentation that has been given recently around Seattle.
Also, check out Mercedes Schneider’s post Smarter Balanced: Lacking Smarts; Precariously Balanced, and regarding your students privacy, or lack thereof, see PARCC and SBAC States Agree to Deliver Student-level Data to USDOE.
One last fun item from Anthony Cody, High Stakes Testing Makes Surveillance Necessary: Students, Parents, Activists Being Monitored.
Explain to other parents, school board members and your elected representatives why you are opting your student out of the SBAC and any other standardized tests.
There are a group of us who will meet with parents or PTA’s to talk about the CCS and the SBAC. If you would like more information on group meetings, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook at the Seattle Opt Out page and if you want to become more involved, contact us at email@example.com.
If you would like to see for yourself what it’s like for your student to take the SBAC, here are the step by step instructions to get started with the practice test. Finally, we appreciate any teacher, parent or student input or comments on your experiences with the SBAC testing. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your observations and experiences below.
There is a flyer for your use here.
I will end with this video: Dr. Joseph Rella Exposes the Common Core Reform Agenda Comsewogue Superintendent Joseph Rella has been a forceful and articulate critic of public school reform in New York State. At this East Northport Community information meeting, he exposes Governor Cuomo’s actual school agenda.