SBAC: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

What is this new SBAC test anyway? First off, SBAC stands for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which is a long name that basically stands for ‘a test your child has to take’. Some of your children took the first version of this exam already as some schools administered it in spring 2014. All of your children will be taking it in spring 2015 (it’s never too early to get an Orange County private test-prep tutor).

To get a taste of what your children will be going through next year, I decided to take a section of the practice test myself. You can also take a section if you want. So how did I do? Unfortunately I didn’t get a score because of a technical error (I couldn’t answer all of the questions because some of the electronic components where inactive. This does not give me a great first impression and brings up a whole other issue: Is computerized testing really better than paper testing, given that, on paper, I could have filled in all the bubbles with my pencil? That is another topic entirely but one worth exploring. So, aside from the technical difficulties, what did I think of the test? To be honest it seemed a tad like the SAT, but in a simpler format. It was multiple choice and the section I took was based on a short passage. However, there were some important differences to consider.

First, there are multi part questions. For example, If your child gets answer 6A wrong, they will most certainly get part 6B wrong, as part B directly relates to or supports part A.

I highly recommend that you take a practice test yourself to better understand what the changes will be:

View an SBAC practice test here: Smarter Balanced Practice and Training Tests

Why do we need an SBAC?

The general theory behind grade level standardized testing is to measure the following: How well students are learning, how well teachers are teaching, how effectively school districts work, and if the current content of aforementioned standardized tests represent the ‘average’ student (READ: “Content Knowledge and the Common Core Standards“). Keep in mind that the ‘average’ student in the state of California might be different than the ‘average’ student in another state and that the ‘average’ student in 2014 might be different than the ‘average’ student in 2020.

The term ‘average’ is also a tricky one since its definition can change so rapidly and extensively. For instance, a C grade used to accurately define the average student (technically it still does) but the average college bound senior will certainly not have a 2.0 GPA (that would be straight Cs). Most students and parents are not really happy with being defined as average but we still have to define average in order to become ‘above average’. The justifications go on and on and, whether we like it or not, consistent standardized testing is a reality of 21st century student life.

common-core-standardsTo get some more official definitions and reasoning about the SBAC, take a look at the CA department of education site: California Department of Education

Just down the road from Irvine Unified, Capistrano Unified offers some helpful information about the SBAC, check it out here: Capistrano Unified School District

My next thought about the SBAC is, why do we need to keep changing standardized tests? (We will also see a new SAT in 2016.) The main goal of standardized testing at the secondary level is to determine if common core ideals are being met and to what degree as well as to identify areas for remediation. So why is it so difficult to meet common core? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that different children learn in different ways and it is hard to test the abilities of every student in one exam.

Perhaps finance comes into play. The more money going into a school district means more teachers, better qualified teachers, and smaller class sizes. Unfortunately the opposite holds true, less money means less quality. Regardless, the best way to cope with all these changes is to be informed. One issue that is of great concern is that I can’t seem to figure out how the SBAC is graded. (The SAT, on the other hand has a handy formula in the back of their practice test book – Make sure you run through the test book with an Orange County private SAT tutor). I would like to know which questions are worth more than others and which, if any, give partial credit and so on.

This is what a few public school teachers have to say about speculation of the SBAC: UHS Evaluates Upcoming Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment.

It seems that these teachers are as curious as I am. However, curiosity means that we, as educators, don’t really know what all this means yet. I would be very happy to see children learn about things that they can apply to everyday life and to learn interdisciplinary skills, but I am not yet convinced that an update in standardized testing will result in this.

I am waiting anxiously, along with all of you, to find out if SBAC takes our children’s’ education to greater heights or keeps things stagnant (An Irvine in-home academic tutor will take your child’s learning to greater heights). The only way to know for sure is to wait, listen and find out.

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