Juniors and sophomores, rejoice with happiness because you don’t have to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test this year or the next.
The SBAC has officially been moved from being administered to the junior class, to the freshman class.
“We received that information from the state that it was a possibility- I don’t remember the exact date, I think it was some time over the summer. And then it was early in the school year [that] they let us know it was a definite that it was being changed from 11th grade to 9th grade. So just this school year was when we found out,” Shannon Warden, BFA’s Assistant Principal for Curriculum, said.
It is rather odd for the state to suddenly switch what grade is going to be administered the SBAC, but there is reasoning behind the switch.
“My understanding is that with the new requirements for what’s called the Every Student Succeeds Act [ESSA], there are certain measures that every school will have to determine how they’re performing… What this data’s trying to do is to spread out the different measures of how our students are doing in our school as a whole over time instead of doing everything junior year,” Warden said.
Even still, sophomores and juniors are not out of the waters with major assessments.
“9th grade will be SBACS and we’ll be able to look at how students have done and grown in English and Math [in] elementary school through 9th grade; we’ll be able to look at that continuum. 10th grade will be assessing students on what’s called Fitnessgram, which is a PE assessment around wellness. And then 11th grade will be a new science assessment that used to be the science NECAP, and now [I think] they’re calling it Vermont Science Assessment (VTSA),” Warden said.
According to Warden and the State of Vermont, packing all of the tests into junior year is not a good idea to practice.
“[The state of Vermont] is just trying to spread it out so [with] the different grade levels, we’re looking at a different measure… [and] it’s to spread the assessments out so that they’re not all happening junior year. Because that was overwhelming, and it was a lot. And what can happen is [something] called “testing fatigue,” where students kind of wane off and they’re not giving you their best; they can’t perform as well as they could because they’ve been taking so many tests that it gets exhaustive,” Warden said.
The point of the assessment, according to the SBAC website, is to allow schools and teachers to view where their students are with their learning.
“Our system helps inform teachers’ instruction by identifying where students need more support. Teachers also have access to a digital library of resources to help improve their instruction and meet students’ individual needs,” Smarterbalanced.org explains.
A concern that strikes many teachers and administrators hearts is the fact that students might not take the tests seriously.
“For teachers, [the SBAC] is a reflection on their program and how well they’re doing their job. You hear students say “Why do I care how I do on the SBAC? It doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t affect me in any way.” But it affects your teachers and your school more than anything else. It might not be following you to college or your colleges are going to look at it for entrance but people are looking at your teachers by those scores and judging and assessing your teachers by those scores. I always feel like, whenever I hear someone say “Oh, what do we care?”, I go “Oh, please! You have to care! You have to care for us and for your school and it’s about school pride!” MaryEllen Tourville, a freshman English teacher, said.
Many colleges lack interest in the scores of students who took the SBAC tests.
[Colleges getting access to scores] is not clear [on if it will happen in the future]. It’s not an expectation from the state or the federal government that we put those scores on a student’s transcript. Colleges have not expressed interest in those scores [either]. I did have, earlier this month, a request for student scores for a program that a kid was applying to. Do I think we could use the scores more? Maybe. Do I think that if they were going on a transcript and getting sent to colleges, would kids take it more seriously? Probably,” Warden said.
Teachers hope that students see the tests in a different view.
“Just like you would work your hardest at a championship game [or any game] or you’re involved in drama and you have a drama competition or festival, you’d always put your best foot forward to show what your school can do, and I wish students would take that approach towards the SBAC test,” Tourville said.
The school has to delve into a complex system that is no easier than the test that students are required to take.
“It’s a big change for high school because we’ve assessed students in [junior year] for so many years… we need to look at how will that test be given, what will our day look like, so it’s a lot of planning and a lot of logistics to work out. It’s a shift in thinking too because usually, what was happening before when assessing [juniors], you could get a better picture of where students were at from what they learned at BFA. To test [freshman], we’re looking at a very short amount of time that kids were receiving instruction at BFA. We’ll be able to look at individuals and say, “Here’s where their strengths are, here’s where they need to improve.” As a school, it’s a little more challenging as there’s not enough data and not enough time to really, in my opinion, to provide students with learning opportunities, and then see how we’re doing,” Warden said.
Overall, the state plans to eventually have some sort of “assessment” for each year in high school.
“I think that [instead of the tests being administered freshman, sophomore and junior years that they be administered sophomore, junior, senior years] makes a lot of sense and I think the state was working towards that by saying by the end of senior year, students need to have completed another measure, whether it be through dual enrollment, AP class(es); a lot of the kids take the SAT or the ACT again senior year一 some people for the first time, or completing a Tech Center program,” Warden said.
Rejoice, 2017-18 sophomores and juniors, for you have narrowly missed taking the SBACs. But don’t become too complacent, as there are more state assessments that are sure to come your way.