State releases final round of SBAC numbers

The results are final from the first round of Idaho’s new exam aligned to Common Core standards.

And Friday’s State Department of Education data drop yielded some news about the much-maligned online exam. Students spent less time on the test than originally expected — although testing still took about five hours or more at all grade levels.

The new numbers come as the SBAC exam faces close scrutiny from some educators, who believe the test takes too long and yields little useful information about student achievement and growth.

Named for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — the multistate group that developed the test — the SBAC exam measures students on math and English language arts, the pillars of the Idaho Core Standards. Students took the SBAC from March through May, and this is the first time the exam is being applied as a measure of student growth and school performance.

The State Department of Education released district- and school-level SBAC scores Friday — and statewide scores that didn’t change much from the initial results released on July 1.

Students generally beat the projections set before the exam by a panel of 500 teachers. Scores held steady on the ELA portion of the exam — and improved in the upper grades, with 61 percent of high school students scoring “proficient” or better. Math scores dropped from elementary and junior high school grades, with 30 percent of high school students scoring proficient or better.

Test times were uniformly better than projected, and sometimes considerably so. Here’s how average testing times broke down by grade, compared to projections:

  • Third grade. Projected, 7:00; actual, 6:08.
  • Fourth grade. Projected, 7:00; actual, 6:02.
  • Fifth grade. Projected, 8:30; actual, 7:56.
  • Sixth grade. Projected, 7:30; actual, 6:07.
  • Seventh grade. Projected, 9:00; actual, 6:37.
  • Eighth grade. Projected, 7:30; actual, 5:31.
  • Ninth grade: Projected, 8:30; actual, 4:57.
  • Tenth grade: Projected, 10:00; actual, 5:49.
  • Eleventh grade: Projected, 10:00; actual, 5:21.

It took five months for the state to release final SBAC scores. Grading was plagued by a variety of technical and staffing issues, and schools ended the 2014-15 academic year without scores in hand. On Friday, the State Department of Education said its vendors — American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., and Measurement Inc. of Durham, N.C. —have fixed the technical glitches and have hired additional staff to grade exams.

The SBAC has come under criticism, on several fronts.

A group of citizens has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to throw out the SBAC contract and nullify the Idaho Core Standards.

The Boise School District is leading a push to replace the SBAC with another exam that would yield more useful student data.

And last week, the State Board of Education waived the SBAC as a high school graduation requirement for Idaho’s class of 2018.