After a vote in the House Education Committee on February 11, 2015, regarding parents’ rights to refuse the SBAC assessments, (Link) I had the opportunity to speak with one of the legislators who voted to not allow parents to decide what is in the best interest of their children. I was somewhat befuddled at his reasoning for his vote. As I thought about what I could have said to help him understand that the SBAC is not just a test to measure knowledge, I decided that maybe the following analogy might be appropriate.
You join a group of people that want to build and design an experimental car that will help the whole country get to work more efficiently. You sign agreements to drive this car before the final details of the car are given to you. This basis for this car has been tested before, but has never been successfully built. But that’s ok because they have a new plan to make it work this time. Their plan is so good, they have copyrighted it. This plan is the “silver bullet” of the automotive industry. This car is so different that you spend millions of dollars training people how to drive this new car. The car is field tested, but you are not allowed to see the results of the field test. Shortly before your new car is to be delivered, you find out that parts of the car are not what you thought they were going to be. As it turns out, they had to make up some parts of the car as they went because the original plans that the car was to be based on, were not very clear. They have copyrighted the original plans, so you cannot change the parts of the plan to do not work.
Oh, by the way, the car may not be reliable. But go ahead and drive it now. They will work on that in the future.
That is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). The standards have never been used successfully anywhere in the world before. We are told “if you implement them our way, the standards will raise academic achievement, close the achievement gap, and prepare your children for college and the workforce.” We didn’t even ask for empirical evidence of those statements. There will be a new assessment that will prove that academic achievement is growing and it will help align our children to where they best fit in the workforce needs of the 21st century. You see, K-12 education is no longer about reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s now about workforce development.
So we spend $8.4 million dollars to re-train teachers, because we have to do it their way for it to work this time. They have even copyrighted the standards. We can’t change anything. We spend more taxpayer money at the local level to buy curricula aligned to the new standards and electronic devices for every student to be able to take the computer adaptive assessments. (Link at 7:23)
The new assessment has never been tested, so they will use our children, without our consent, as their crash dummies in the field test, but parents won’t get results from that field test. 
Then we sign contracts, in the millions, to be able to administer and grade the new assessment, before it is even rolled out. , , , , We have also signed an agreement with the Regents of the California University system, UCLA/CRESST, in which we lose all educational autonomy. In that agreement we began making monthly payments in July 2014 for a test that hadn’t even been released yet. We are paying about $9.55 per student annually for testing on top of the previous contracts.  And I have to admit, that I don’t know if I have found all the expenses related to the testing. We have done all this while telling local schools we can’t increase funding to be able to pay teachers better.
And now the new assessment is rolled out. By SBAC’s own documents, without any external validity study, showing that the assessments will test the new standards. In fact, again by SBAC’s own documents, the standards we have been told are higher and clearer, are so unclear, that SBAC had difficulty writing assessment questions. So some of the questions may test items that haven’t been taught. 
Oh, and the reliability of this new assessment to get stable and consistent results?  Well, they will work on that in the future.
Doug McRae, is a retired educational measurement specialist who has served as an educational testing company executive in charge of design and development of K-12 tests widely used across the United States, as well as an adviser on the initial design and development of California’s STAR assessment system. He has written about issues he sees with the SBAC cut-score setting. 
We hear a lot about getting accurate data to report how the Common Core is working out. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is the test the federal government uses to measure academic progress across the country. It is often referred to as the “Nation’s Report Card”. Only selected students in grades 4 and 8 take that test. And if chosen students’ parents do not want their child to take that test, all parents have to do is tell the school they do not want their child to take that test. Done. No problem. Every student does not need to take these types of tests to get accurate results.
But in all reality, the rights of parents to refuse these tests isn’t even about validity, reliability or cut scores. Nor is it about the state adopting a flawed vision of what K-12 education should be. It isn’t even about the taxpayer money the state has chosen to waste on this flawed vision.
First and foremost, parents refusing to allow their child to participate in state testing is a parental right guaranteed by the 14th amendment and broadly protected by the Supreme Court (see Meyer and Pierce cases). The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” Furthermore, the Court declared that “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35). The Supreme Court criticized a state legislature for trying to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402.). In Meyer, the Supreme Court held that the right of parents to raise their children free from unreasonable state interferences is one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (262 U.S. 399).
Parents do have the responsibility and the right to direct the education of their children.
Is our loyalty to a consortium of states, or is our loyalty to the people, parents, children and teachers of South Dakota?
There could come a point when the two are in conflict. We have to think about what does this mean? If this isn’t a problem, what is it? I see this could possibly be a conflict between the two right now. Where do our loyalties lie? And in the future, we have fundamental questions that need to be looked at now.
What are our attitudes towards the people, parents, students and teachers in the state?
Has the opinion of the education experts become so important, that even when there is empirical evidence in direct conflict with what these experts say, we ignore that evidence?
Are we willing to give our parents, children and teachers respect?
Have we become so enamored with a position that we will hold it no matter what? No matter the cost to our children and teachers? Even when there is evidence to the contrary?
We are at a point in this education reform agenda where, not only the legislature, but also the Board of Education, the Department of Education, the education associations, and the local school board, we all have to ask ourselves these questions. It seems to me that we have reached a point where we need to clarify where our allegiance lies.
I ask you to stand with parents. I ask you to stand with their fundamental right and responsibility to direct the education of their children. Our children are not in school to serve the needs of the school, the Department of Education, the education associations, the testing companies, or the needs of the workforce. Our children are in school to get a great education so they can be free to decide what they want to do in life. Stand with parents’ fundamental rights to refuse a test which can serve no true educational purpose.
 Smarter Balance Tests Still a Work In Progress by Doug McRae, Doug McRae is a retired educational measurement specialist who has served as an educational testing company executive in charge of design and development of K-12 tests widely used across the United States, as well as an adviser on the initial design and development of California’s STAR assessment system.
South Dakota MOU with SBAC.pdf
7 thoughts on “Common Core and SBAC: An Unreliable New Old Car”
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Can you please direct me to which document states that the SBAC had difficulty creating a test because the standards were unclear? I looked at your #10 footnote and could not find it. Would prefer original SBAC or DOE source material. Thanks.
You can find information about challenges writing assessment items in the SBAC Year Two Report and the SBAC Year Three Report. The memo that is posted is the original SBAC document sent to all SBAC Leads. It was posted by the state of Idaho. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/reports/sbac-year-2.pdf http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-assessment/reports/sbac-year-3.pdf
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