SBAC changes

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The State Board of Education has made some recent changes regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.

The SBAC test, otherwise known as the Idaho Standards Achievement Test, has met disapproval locally and statewide from many parents, students and educators. The test is accused of being too lengthy, difficult, expensive and disruptive to instructional time.

SBAC opponents also complained that results took too long to reach districts and that the test caused blockage of computer labs.

Last week, the State Board of Education approved a pending rule that allows the class of 2017 to graduate from high school without earning a “proficient” or “advanced” score on the SBAC.

According to Idaho Education News, while 61 percent of juniors received at least “proficient” on the English language arts portion of the test, just 30 percent of high school students in Idaho earned “proficient” on the math section of the SBAC last year.

The rule must now be approved by the Idaho Legislature, where the rule might be accepted, rejected or rejected in part.

In October, the State Board approved two waivers relating to the SBAC in the coming year: one that means high school sophomores won’t be required to pass the SBAC and the other that means ninth-graders won’t have to take the test.

According to an Idaho State Board of Education press release, it will be optional for school districts to administer the test to ninth-graders for 2015-16, and the high school class of 2018 will not be required to achieve a “proficient” or “advanced” score to graduate. Students who score below these scores can retake the test or complete alternate requirements to prove mastery of Idaho math and English standards.

Madison School District Superintendent Dr. Geoffrey Thomas confirmed that the ninth-grade students of Madison will not be required to take the SBAC test. The school district plans to administer the test to the rest of the grades, but parents will be able to opt their children out of taking the test.

“We will administer the test but respect the parental right to opt out,” Thomas said.

Thomas, who opposes the SBAC test, said he is pleased with the changes the State Board made to the SBAC requirements.

He said he feels the State Board listened to concerns expressed by the public and responded accordingly.

“My feeling is that the State Board has done a very thorough review,” he said.

While the rule approved by the State Board last week still awaits approval by the Idaho Legislature, Thomas anticipates that the Legislature will approve the rule as well.

“It would surprise me if they didn’t follow the recommendation of the State Board,” he said.

Thomas also said it wouldn’t surprise him if the State Board made further changes to the SBAC requirements in the future.

“But I can’t speak for the board,” he said.

The Measures of Academic Progress test, which the Madison School Board tried to get approved in the place of the SBAC, is still an option for Madison students. However, with the exception of the ninth grade, it would have to be paired with the SBAC.

Thomas said he feels it would be excessive to administer both tests, but he leaves the decision to administer the MAP test, which the superintendent has said meets state requirements, to individual teachers and administrators.

Sugar-Salem School District Superintendent Alan Dunn said there is only one important difference the changes made by the State Board will make in their district. That difference is that the students who were previously required to pass the SBAC and had to fulfill additional requirements if they didn’t will no longer need that additional help.

“It won’t affect us a whole lot,” Dunn said. “We’re still going to have our students take the test.”

He said the district will probably not require the ninth-graders to take the SBAC, but he will discuss the matter with the board at a later date. The board will also discuss the district’s opt-out policy closer to testing time, but Dunn said there has been no discussion about altering the policy from last year.