State Board of Education establishes graduation scores on Smarter Balanced Assessments

Dear Stakeholders:

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.SBAC SCores

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.


Ben Rarick

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18 Responses to State Board of Education establishes graduation scores on Smarter Balanced Assessments

  1. C.J. Nickerson says:

    Thank you for the paragraph that put these tests in perspective. The idea of not letting these tests define only students in levels 3&4. This language needs to be widely spread.

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  3. Nicholas Bishop says:

    Tests are dumb they do not capture how smart, funny, interesting, happy, and lovable person you are.

    • Donald Trump says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Nicholas

    • Michelle says:

      That is true, Nicholas. However, the test is only evaluating your reading and math skills. A person can be smart, funny, interesting , hapy and loveable and have terrific reading and math skills. Conversely, they can be smart, funny, interesting , hapy and loveable and have terrible reading and math skills.

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  5. Kaelen Aramaki says:

    I am perplexed by this statement in the above. “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.” Why would an 11th grader, who achieved a passing score of 3 or 4 as a 10th grader, choose to suffer through the hours more of testing required to retake this test their Junior year? It takes away from valuable class and study time for those kids that have proven proficiency, and sitting for days for unnecessary testing is exhausting and stressful. Of course they opt out. With this understanding, it very logically follows that the overall test scores of Juniors taking the test would drop dramatically. Those who passed with high scores have opted out and only those that struggled to pass or failed as 10th graders are retaking the test as Juniors. Nothing is wrong with the Juniors scores unless they are overwhelmingly below passing, at which point it can be concluded that those struggling to pass are not being reached to ensure success the following year. That is what needs to be addressed in the Junior year scores assessment. A comparison of 10th grade scores to 11th grade scores is not productive. A focus on lifting those who struggled so that there is a higher percentage of passing scores should be considered a success and more relevant to discuss in an article like this.

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  7. Hanna Ro says:

    How do you retake the test?

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  9. ISD Parent says:

    …how about some common sense when reflecting on the low participation and success rates for the tested Junior class? likely has more to do with the test than the students. I urge all to take a sample test to see what the test really is…. Awful. Become aware please! The SBA tests are simply not ready for use and have a long way to go to be accurate tools for measuring proficiency in Math, English and Science. Likely more time will be shifted in class to mastering the tests and less on the curriculum. Cart before the horse with SBA.

  10. Cora L. says:

    Interesting. It says that even with a Level 1 score, a person can, and often does, succeed in career and college endeavors. Well…they CAN’T if that Level 1 score keeps them from obtaining a diploma. My son has ADD and struggles through Math. He tries so hard and it may keep him from getting his high school diploma. This system is terrible for children with disabilities!

    • Cora L. says:

      …and let’s all be clear. Not everyone is meant for college or an office career. There are many other careers that can be held even if a child did not do well on these exit exams. The fact that a diploma can be withheld is just kicking someone when they’re down. My son has test anxiety and does not score well on exams. His school work is much better, which should be the final indicator.

  11. Tracy Friend says:

    When will result be sent to parents for students that took the test before end of last school year.

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  13. Reva Rice says:

    How do I opt my high school students out of taking the EOC tests?

  14. Lola says:

    I don’t think class of 2021 should take a science state test that determines whether they graduate highschool or not its to much pressure let alone the 24 credits

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