Board of Education waives 2017 SBAC requirement

Members of the State Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a pending rule that will allow the class of 2017 to graduate high school without passing the state’s Common Core-aligned tests.

The move means members of next year’s graduating class will not be required to earn scores of “proficient” or “advanced” on the new Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced, often referred to as the SBAC. Last year, only 30 percent of Idaho’s high school students earned a score of at least “proficient” within the math section of the SBAC tests.

Members of the State Board of Education had already given the rule a preliminary green light in August and then brought the proposal out for public comment before taking it up again on Monday.

The board’s rule next heads to the Idaho Legislature for final consideration. Lawmakers may accept the rule, reject it outright or reject portions of it. If the rule survives the 2016 legislative session, it will take affect the day the session ends, Chief Planning and Policy Officer Tracie Bent said.

During the 2015 session, lawmakers rejected a similar rule that would have exempted the class of 2017 from having to pass the test after disagreements over when in their academic careers students must pass the test cropped up.

Last month, board members voted to approve two other waivers regarding the SBAC tests. Those waivers mean ninth graders won’t have to take the test this year, and sophomores also don’t have to pass it this year in order to graduate.

Idaho’s teachers administered the lengthy SBAC tests for the first time officially during the 2014-15 school year, and scores beat projections.

But the backlash to the high stakes tests continues to grow. Earlier this month, members of the Idaho School Boards Association passed a resolution pushed by the Boise Independent School District that is designed to replace the SBAC and remove the test as a graduation requirement. Now, the ISBA is expected to lobby those issues during the upcoming legislative session.

On top of that, a group of 10 plaintiffs in September filed a federal lawsuit seeking to throw out the SBAC test and cease implementation of Idaho Core Standards, the Gem State’s version of Common Core.

Monday’s one-hour State Board of Education meeting was conducted via teleconference. The board’s action on graduation requirements also dealt with transferring students credits between middle school and high school and alternative paths to graduation. Board members plan one more set of meetings prior to the legislative session, with those meetings slated for Dec. 9-10 in Twin Falls.

The 2016 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 11.