Anti-SBAC bill surfaces

Freshman Rep. Ron Nate is pushing a bill designed to remove Idaho from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Nate New
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg

Nate, a Rexburg Republican, introduced the legislation as a personal bill on Friday, online legislative records show. It did not go through either of the Legislature’s education committees, which traditionally take the lead on school policy.

On Monday, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, referred Nate’s bill to the House Ways and Means Committee, which rarely meets.

Bedke’s move assures the bill would go around the House Education Committee, if it advances.

House Bill 65 calls on Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra to “immediately” begin the process of removing Idaho from the SBAC, a multistate consortium that developed a test aligned to Common Core standards. This spring, Idaho students are scheduled to take the ISAT by Smarter Balanced tests for the first time.

Some degree of anti-SBAC sentiment has been simmering in the Legislature for the past few days. On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee put a pending rule on hold after questions arose about flexibility to opt out of the SBAC.

But on Thursday, Ybarra said Idaho is required to administer SBAC tests this spring because of stipulations within the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver, which does not expire until August.

“The federal government requires testing; it is in the waiver meaning by law we will use the SBAC this year,” Ybarra said. “In order to get a waiver out from under NCLB, we will use the SBAC. There is no way out.”

If any school or district opts out, or if more than 5 percent of a school’s students skip the Smarter Balanced tests, the respective schools will be penalized on their annual achievement and accountability reports, Ybarra said.

SBACThe waiver dates back to Ybarra’s predecessor, former Superintendent Tom Luna.

Nate’s bill directs the state to funnel any money it saves from leaving the SBAC into teacher pay. No student would be required to take the SBAC test or answer any questions developed by Smarter Balanced in order to graduate.

Nate’s bill does not address finding another assessment aligned to Idaho’s academic standards, as required under federal and state rules. The bill includes an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately, if it is passed by the Legislature and avoids Gov. Butch Otter’s veto.

Nate’s wife, Maria, is a prominent Eastern Idaho opponent of Common Core.

Dr. Geoff Thomas
Geoffrey Thomas

Nate isn’t the only Rexburg resident trying to opt out of the SBAC. On Jan. 16, Madison School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas wrote a letter to Ybarra and State Board of Education President Emma Atchley proposing that his district opt out of the SBAC this year and replace the test with the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Thomas said the MAP test costs about half as much to administer (at $13.50 per student) and takes about half as long to complete.

“I call it the odious SBAC, it’s just an extraordinarily long test for kids,” Thomas said. “Classroom instruction time can be preserved, and we can still use the computer labs. All that will not be disrupted (for testing).”

When Idaho schools field-tested the SBAC last spring, Thomas said his district created an opt-out provision that several hundred students and their families used it. Thomas was the first person to use the opt-out form, which he signed on behalf of his two daughters.

SBAC proponents say that when Idaho adopted higher academic standards, the state also needed to develop a more comprehensive and time-consuming test.

Former State Department of Education Chief of Staff Luci Willits has said the adaptive SBAC test, including multiple formats and measures, makes it preferable to predominately multiple-choice tests, such as the MAP test. Willits now works for Smarter Balanced.

Thomas, named Idaho Superintendent of the Year earlier this week, said he had not heard a response from Ybarra or Atchley as of Wednesday.

Idaho is classified as a governing state within the SBAC, a status that supporters say gives the state a high level of influence and authority in developing and administering the tests.

Late last year, a committee 120 Idaho parents and teachers reviewed more than 33,000 SBAC questions to flag them for biased, sensitive or offensive material. Only three questions failed to make the cut, according their report, issued Tuesday.

Additional reading:

The full text of the Madison School District’s letter to Ybarra and Atchley:


Dear Chairman Atchley and Superintendent Ybarra,

This correspondence is to share with you the discussions and thinking of the Madison School District 321 Board of Trustees in regards to administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test and our planning in regards to administering an alternative comprehensive test, the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP.

The Madison 321 Board of Trustees is unanimous in their resolve that the MAP test will provide a superior testing experience than the SBAC. The board is desirous that given the critical importance of classroom instruction time, any test must truly benefit our students academically. This is the impetus for the board’s intention to administer the MAP assessments this spring.


Massive numbers of test questions for the SBAC are still under review – creating reliability and validity issues.

Feedback from the SBAC is not provided until the following year, thereby eliminating the opportunity for guiding instruction and adequately determining student placement or progress.

The SBAC test is excessively long ranging from 7 1/2 to 9 hours, depending on student abilities and grade level.

The additional individual school building level cost to proctor the SBAC ranges up to $13,500 in order to meet the logistical personnel requirements as determined by SBAC protocol.

The SBAC test itself is costly at $26.69 per student.

Due to the length of the SBAC, lost instructional time is staggering. Our estimate is that 4 1/2 to 7 days of actual classroom instructional time are lost due to testing.

SBAC test preparation and testing window also cuts deeply into crucial preparation time for students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) test.

Due to SBAC testing preparation and length of the exam, elementary schools are seeing upwards to 4 to 5 weeks of continually disrupted classroom instructional, small group and individual intervention time.

SBAC testing prohibits student access to technology labs for instructional purposes for an entire month.

The SBAC testing window opens in March, and if that test is administered early, it greatly reduces post-test motivation, as the SBAC is a high-stakes test and there is great focus and emphasis placed on the test.

Idaho colleges and universities do not recognize the SBAC as a valid entrance requirement.

The Alternate Plan:

The MAP assessments are designed and delivered by North West Education Association, or NWEA (the accrediting body for Idaho public schools), and in our opinion is a far superior test.

MAP is a computer-adapted test created to measure more effectively personalized student learning.

MAP provides assessments in three areas: mathematics, reading and language usage.

The MAP may be used as a Common End of Course Assessment (CECA) for English and Math.

The MAP is fully aligned to Idaho Core standards providing a useful, instructionally relevant and reliable measurement.

The excellent turnaround rate for results provides stable, valid and reliable measures of student work and progress.

The MAP is a much more concise test with 30-minute sections for Math, Reading and Language Arts for a total of 1 1/2 hours testing time in grades 3-5.

In grades 6-10, the time per section is 45 minutes per section (2 1/4 hours total)

The MAP may be administered repeatedly, allowing districts to guide and measure student growth and instructional readiness throughout the year.

MAP costs are essentially one half of the SBAC test at $13.50 per student. The total expense includes access to NWEA testing documents and guaranteed student, class and school test results summaries returned within 24 hours.

The board feels that the state will cover the expense of the MAP test.

Since test results are provided immediately, they thereby provide valuable progress monitoring information to teachers, students and parents.

MAP tests are given in grades 3-8 and 10. To avoid test duplication, grade 10 would be allowed to utilize the PSAT test. In grades 9 and 11 testing would be optional.


Earlier this year, Madison piloted the MAP assessments at Madison Junior High with 300 students participating along with all 75 students at Central High School (alternative high school) and every student attending our after-school programs with excellent results. Teachers, administrators and students expressed favorable comments of the testing experience and felt the MAP satisfactorily met or exceeded their respective needs.

Madison 321 would be happy to serve in the capacity of an alternative comprehensive testing pilot project and then be able to provide the state with meaningful comparative data at the conclusion of the testing.

The desire of our board and district is to be fully in compliance with federal and Idaho state board rules in regard to the necessity and the real purpose of testing. However, we feel the administration of the MAP test serves the academic and logistical needs of students and teachers much more effectively than the SBAC.

For the numerous reasons stated above, we are proposing that Madison 321 utilize the MAP test in place of the SBAC, thereby providing students with a test that takes a third of the time, greatly reduces disruption of valuable instructional time, costs roughly half of the SBAC and provides relevant, timely and meaningful feedback.

We are confident that after a comparison of the two tests, Idaho will be able to see that the MAP will better meet student and teacher curricular needs.

Thank you all for your service. Your time and dedication to Idaho are deeply appreciated.

Respectfully submitted,

Dr. Geoff Thomas


Kevin Howell, Chair

Brian Pyper, Vice Chair

Kathrine Holyoak

Amy LaBaugh

Doug Sakota


Clark Corbin

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