Ybarra supports another year of SBAC to collect data

The state needs another year of SBAC tests and data to determine how to move forward, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said Wednesday.

Debbie Critchfield

During a work session Wednesday, State Board of Education member Debbie Critchfield asked for an update on the state’s assessment system, including the Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced — often referred to as the SBAC.

Critchfield said the board should be prepared to answer three questions:

  • Which test should the state use?
  • Which grade levels are appropriate to test?
  • What is the role and appropriateness of high-stakes tests?

“We don’t have enough information to make that decision right now,” Ybarra said. “We have one year under our belts, we still have some data issues at the department (of education) and we still have people learning to upload students into the system. Until we get another year under our belts, we do not know the answers to those.

“We are taking that test this year, and until we get another year’s worth of data, we haven’t made any other decisions,” Ybarra added, moments later.

Sherri Ybarra

Ybarra did tell board members that Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium leaders will shorten this year’s tests by 30 minutes by removing a classroom activity from the performance section. She also said legislation approved Wednesday by the U.S. Senate to replace the No Child Left Behind Act will play a role in how states move forward with testing and accountability.

Idaho also has one more year remaining on its testing contract, Ybarra said.

Ybarra added that the tests were not designed to be tied to teacher evaluations or accountability, but twice emphasized that “we are very supportive of accountability.”

Board members took no action Wednesday, but said they want to review proposals in February and consider making a decision about assessments in April.

The Legislature is also expected to take a look at the SBAC test during the upcoming session. The Idaho School Boards Association recently backed a Boise Independent School District resolution aimed at replacing the SBAC with a different assessment. And 10 plaintiffs have filed a federal lawsuit over the tests and Idaho Core Standards, with the suit backed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

At Wednesday’s meeting, some board members appeared frustrated that state education leaders were not in a position to answer the public’s questions about testing and education.

Richard Westerberg
Richard Westerberg

“For me, the issue is let’s start framing up what the timeline looks like and what decision are necessary and who makes them,” board member Richard Westerberg said. “We don’t have nearly enough kids graduate (high school who are) college-and career-ready. That’s not a debate, that’s just true.”

When the board meeting resumed Thursday, Ybarra said changing to a new assessment will take “at least a couple of year” because of the time involved in writing a new test, reviewing the bank of questions, conducting a bias and sensitivity review and training educators on the new test.

“A change in assessment… is not something we could do overnight, behind closed doosr and come out next year and say, ‘Hey, we have a new test,’” Ybarra told board members. “Trying to get a new test is going to take a lot of work and is going to take us at least a couple of years to go through the process.”

Idaho’s 60-percent goal

In other action Wednesday, board members learned Idaho has not made any progress towards Idaho’s flagship 60-percent college attainment goal over the previous three years. In fact, the numbers of students earning a degree or certificate declined in each of the previous two years, although the percentages are still within the data set’s margin of error, chief research officer Cathleen McHugh said.

According to research McHugh shared, 42 percent of Idaho’s young adults met the state goal in 2012. That number fell to 41 percent in 2013 and 40 percent in 2014.

McHugh discussed several strategies for improving the rates. Meanwhile, Ybarra lamented the fact the state does not track the education achievement of students who begin military careers right after graduating high school.

Idaho’s education officials use a combination of the state’s own data and U.S. Census Bureau estimates to calculate the college-completion rates.

This week’s meeting took place in Twin Falls, but was streamed online.



Clark Corbin

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