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Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Race to the Top Application and 15 of Its State MOUs

July 30, 2015

On July 29, 2015, I posted the 1,609-page Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) Race to the Top (RTTT) application.

In this post, I offer the 1,294-page Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) RTTT Application.

Here is an excerpt from the SBAC executive summary (page 4):

Following the principle of “responsible flexibility,” SBAC will provide options for customizable system components while also ensuring comparability of high-stakes summative test results across States. In addition, the Consortium is committed to creating a policy environment that fosters innovation while supporting the development of accountability systems that incentivize the right behaviors for students, teachers, and administrators and avoid inadvertently incentivizing behaviors that run counter to SBAC goals.

If a behavior supports SBAC goals, it is “right.”

If not, it is wrong.

If you stare at that paragraph long enough, you’ll see Skinner offering an approving nod.

Like PARCC, SBAC holds technology in high regard– and assumes it is reliable and readily available:

SBAC’s system capitalizes on the precision and efficiency of computer adaptive testing. …

In summary, SBAC’s proposed learning and assessment system is grounded in a sound Theory of Action. 

I’m not sure how many hours these “theory grounders” have spent wrangling with obstinate or otherwise state-of-the-art-challenged public school technology– or of considering what (or who) schools and districts will have to cut in order to pump dollars into test-intended technological upgrades.

Test-score-driven behavior modification can be pricey.

The State of Washington is running this SBAC show. See pages 6 and 7 for signatures of WA Governor Christine Gregoire (June 09, 2010), School Chief Randy Dorn (June 10, 2010), and State Board of Ed Chair, Jeff Vincent (June 15, 2010). The same signature page is repeated on page 10.

Page 11 lists the 31 SBAC member states, 17 of which are “governing states” and are marked with asterisks (click image to enlarge):

SBAC 06-10

Below the above list is the note, “Washington State (#1) is a Governing State in addition to serving in the unique role of lead Procurement State/Lead State for the Consortium.”

Notice that California was not on the SBAC membership roster in June 2010. At that time, California was with PARCC and was the first state to leave PARCC in June 2011– and the PARCC profit potential dropped notably with the anticipated loss of at least a few million CA students who would have otherwise taken PARCC.

California joined SBAC in June 2011. SBAC was of course happy about this.

Now, to the memoranda of understanding (MOU’s) included as part of the SBAC RTTT application. These can be found on the following continuously-numbered application pages:

Kansas, 384

Michigan, 400

Montana, 415

West Virginia, 431

Ohio, 447

Colorado, 501

North Dakota, 516

Delaware, 532

Alabama, 549

Kentucky, 565

New Hampshire, 581

Pennsylvania, 597

Oklahoma, 613

New Jersey, 629

Georgia, 645

The SBAC RTTT application only includes the above 15 MOUs. In order to be eligible for RTTT money, a consortium was not supposed to drop below 15 members, so it seems that MOUs for 15 members was proof enough for the SBAC RTTT application.

On another note:

In October 2010, WestEd became the SBAC project manager. The RFP (request for proposal) for SBAC project manager begins on page 754.

One more item:

SBAC has institute of higher education (IHE) agreements (“letters of intent”) with a number of postsecondary institutions. The brief agreement is as follows (this one taken from one of Iowa’s signature pages, page 1025):

Each IHE or IHE system commits to the following agreements:

1. Participation with the Consortium in the design and development of the Consortium’s final high school summative assessments in mathematics and English language arts in order to ensure that the assessments measure college readiness, and

2. Implementation of policies, once the final high school summative assessments are implemented that exempt from remedial courses and place into credit-bearing college courses any student who meets the Consortium-adopted achievement standards (as defined in the NIA {notice inviting applications}) for each assessment and any other placement requirement established by the IHE or IHE system.

Now, the idea of SBAC’s collaborating with higher ed is not unexpected. The problem is that higher ed is agreeing that whatever SBAC produces by way of high school summative assessments cannot fail: The decision that students passing SBAC high school assessments will bypass remediation was formally set years before there were SBAC assessments.

Number 2 above allows SBAC to create a narrative of success that can be used to market SBAC:

Passing an SBAC high school summative assessment assures that students will not need remediation. SBAC really ensures college readiness!

That is the message. Whether students really would need remediation is not the question. The arrangement for an SBAC summative assessment passing score to mean “no remediation necessary” was decided by contract before SBAC was created.

And if SBAC misses the mark and postsecondary remediation is still needed for some students even if they pass SBAC?

Not discussed in the IHE letter of intent.

This rushing to prematurely-declared success is a corporate reform hallmark.

Here we go again:

cart before horse



Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.

both books

  1. Don’t forget NC… the state where the current CCSSO President resides.

  2. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    I didn’t realize that WA “is a Governing State in addition to serving in the unique role of lead Procurement State/Lead State for the Consortium.” Wow, and WA lost its waiver to NCLB because the legislature failed to pass a law that would force the use of standardized test scores to evaluate the teachers, but WA was “all-in” for the coming SBAC before it even existed. Hmmmm… yeah, the cart before the horse.

    • WA Teacher permalink

      CCSS/SBAC was a major snow job perpetrated by our WA OSPI. They had “forums” where we could get info and supposedly give feedback, but it was clear from the start everything was a done deal. Our state PTA was on board from the get-go, as were our usual rhee-phormy groups like DFER, LEV, and Stand on Children, plus everyone’s favorite Gates foundation. OSPI is infested with the rephormy types, as is at least one of our Educational Service Districts, in this case the Puget Sound ESD. Then there’s READY WA, a disgusting propaganda outlet that trumpets the words of TFA’ers as “teacher voices”.

      The tech support for SBAC was ludicrous. Kids got kicked out of the tests all the time. Some kids got kicked out after each question. Upon contacting tech support (AIR), we got helpful messages like “we cannot recreate the problem, so try a Windows machine”, or “log out and log back in”. We had Macs, Chromebooks, and the iPads, and the same things were happening on all of them. The iPads “secure browser” came with a handy bug: if kids hit the tab key while they were putting in their answers, they were kicked out of the test. Sometimes they got their answers back, sometimes they didn’t. Some used the tab key to their advantage to get out of the test. Others hit it accidentally and were frustrated with the loss of time as they had to wait for the whole thing to shut down, then start back up again to login and continue working.

      All of our colleges and universities signed an agreement to recognize SBAC as proof that a kid was “college and career ready”. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t remember all of it. I was too floored by the fact that our colleges and universities were willing to sign on to use the results of a brand new test – one that lacked validity and reliability, one that advantaged richer districts with lots of tech, and one that would purportedly fail a large portion of our students – to determine the future educational options for our students in WA.

      WA State needs to clean house in OSPI and the PSESD. Big time.

  3. Dan Wever permalink


    Just a short note from El Paso. We are now using Cathy Mincberg to train our board and we hired Tom Vander Ark for $125,400 for strategic planning for the next 5 years. The trustees will be so brainwashed public education in our district is doomed.



  4. In re reading ( your stuff never gets old ) this article—the consortium is NOT suppose to go below 15? Isn’t the SBAC sitting at 13 states right now?

    • SBAC is at 15 last I read. However, the size of the consortia was a condition for the federal grant, which has run out as of 2014.

  5. A college admissions officer told me : ” Smarter Balanced, what’s that? Oh, we never use it. That’s for ranking schools and teachers. It’s a poor indicator of student success.”

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium MOU With Delaware, Signed By Governor Markell | Exceptional Delaware
  2. Mercedes Schneider Reviews SBAC Test Contracts with States | Diane Ravitch's blog
  3. Ed News, Tuesday, August 4, 2015 Edition | tigersteach

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