REXBURG — Madison School District is sticking to its decision to opt out of the SBAC, but it hasn’t been easy.
An article published by idahoednews.org states that this decision could cost the state $10 million.
“It certainly could be that extreme,” said Tim Corder, special assistant to state Superintendent Sherri Ybarra. “It’s against the law to opt out. The state signed an agreement and took that money and [the federal government] expects you to honor the deal.”
The federal government has threatened to withhold Title 1 funds if 95 percent of the kids refuse to take the SBAC test.
Because Madison’s students account for almost two percent of Idaho’s entire student population, Madison’s decision to opt out could affect whether the rest of Idaho meets the 95 percent requirement.
Earlier this week Corder reportedly told the House Education Committee 20 percent of all Title 1 funds would equal about $10 million.
“It’s now the Legislature’s call on how they address that cost,” Corder said.
But Madison Superintendent Dr. Geoffrey Thomas told the Standard Journal the Madison School District wouldn’t have met that requirement even if they had stayed with the SBAC.
He said hundreds of their parents opted children out last year. Students would “opt out in droves,” he said, if the SBAC had stayed in Madison for another year.
Thomas said the district is not trying to be defiant. He said the MAP test complies with state standards and he doesn’t think the state cares what test the students take.
“Not every state uses the SBAC, for crying out loud,” he said.
An Ybarra staffer would disagree.
According to the idahoednew.org article, Angela Hemingway, State Department of Education director of assessment and accountability, said she does not think MAP meets the state guidelines.
“MAP is a high-quality assessment. However, it is our understanding that the current version of MAP does not meet the current [US Department of Education] peer review guidance for use as our statewide summative assessment,” she said.
Thomas and his associates do not know where Hemingway got this idea.
Thomas said her statement was inaccurate and perhaps her department was looking at an outdated version of the MAP test.
“Why are they worried about the MAP test?” Thomas said. “They should be worrying about the SBAC.”
Thomas said he wrote a letter to Ybarra in January, explaining respectfully why they would nix the SBAC in their district.
He got a letter back from Ybarra March 18, which said the district is required to comply with the No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Thomas thinks Ybarra’s office obliges her to say this, regardless of her personal feelings.
“That’s the only thing she could do, was say not to do it,” he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill told the Standard Journal the State Department of Education seems concerned about Madison’s actions, but Hill said he is “sympathetic” to Madison’s position.
Thomas doesn’t know what will happen if the opposition continues, but he said the board will have to look at legal measures to restore funding if Title 1 monies are withheld.
He said he feels the district should not receive penalties for its decision.
They are staying with the MAP, he said, because it is less expensive, shorter, better for kids, in line with state standards and, in general, superior to the SBAC.
He said the board is hoping to “lead the way in this effort ... to restore the rightful place of testing” in the system.
His board has thought long and hard about this decision, and they’re not changing their minds, he said.
“Something needs to be changed,” Thomas said.
He also said the opposite argument is hard to make, and all he has gotten is positive feedback.
“A 5th grade student actually jumped out of his chair to give me a high five thanking the board and me for the decision not to administer the SBAC,” he said in a statement on the district website.
He said that when this sort of thing happens, he knows he’s on the right track.