As you may know, at its August 5th meeting, the State Board set the minimum scores required to earn a diploma on state assessments, as required by law. We appreciate those who have provided input and feedback to the Board at meetings and community forums. The adopted scores and supporting details can be accessed here.
The Board followed through on its equal impact philosophy, adopting a mid-Level 2 score requirement for the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessment (scale score: 2548), and followed the same philosophy for the Math End-of-Course exams. The SBAC math score (2595) was set to be commensurate with the ELA requirement. These minimum scores are just a little more than half way up the Level 2 scale; about 60% of the way between Levels 2 and 3.
The Board wanted me to help explain their decision to you all, and emphasize a few points we can all work on together for the betterment of students.
First, the Board wants to emphasize that Level 3 remains the goal for all students on the new (SBAC) assessments. A Level 3 score represents a career and college-ready score for our students. The Board wishes – indeed expects – all students to eventually be able to achieve this level of proficiency. Although the board has set a transition standard at a rate below Level 3, this was done to ease the transition for our system and demonstrate fairness to students. It was not done to compromise or confuse our ultimate goal.
We have every reason to believe that students will respond to the Level 3 challenge. Over 70 percent of 10th graders achieved a Level 3 this year – exceeding earlier predictions – and we know our students are capable of much more. The Board has already indicated that it will revisit this issue frequently and may move the minimum score requirement to a Level 3 in the near future. The Board believes that emphasizing a Level 3 score as the goal now will help ease that transition when the time comes.
Second, as exciting as the 10th grade results were, the results from juniors on the SBAC were perplexing. Fewer than half of juniors took the assessment, and those who did were greatly surpassed in achievement by their sophomore counterparts. The sophomores outperformed the juniors to such an extent that it is obvious that something is wrong. As a result, the Board was limited in its ability to use this data to set scores for the math SBAC.
As a system, we need to strategize about ways to communicate with students about the 11th grade assessment, and provide the proper encouragement and incentive for students to do their best, even prior to its requirement for a diploma. We should continue to emphasize the valuable information SBAC gives them about their level of preparedness for post-secondary education, what corresponding classes they can take as seniors to improve their readiness, and the potential it offers to avoid expensive remedial coursework at community and four-year colleges. A participation rate of less than 50 percent on a state assessment is a problem of practice we can all work on together.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while these assessments are important to our goals, but they are not the goals themselves. There is a difference between taking these assessments seriously, and letting a test define a student. No test defines a student. Kids are complex, hopeful, and individual wonders. Students who score at Level 1 can, with hard work, be successful in college and career. They should be reminded that many others have before them. A well-rounded student who is truly “career and college-ready” is more than simply proficient in Math and Language Arts. Let’s acknowledge the important role that SBAC assessments play in career and college-readiness, without letting them become the definition of career and college-readiness. Kids are so much more.
Thank you for partnering with us. We can do great things together. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to us.