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Smarter Balanced is Looking for a Pal in ACT or SAT for High School Assessment

February 28, 2017

On February 27, 2017, the University of California at Los Angeles, on behalf of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a “college admission collaboration” in which SBAC “wishes to engage in collaborative work with developers of college admissions tests”– in other words, SBAC is looking to beef up its high-school assessment game by befriending the likes of SAT or ACT.

In the parlance of *choice,* SBAC is giving itself a voucher to *escape its consortium zip code.* Of course, that does not mean that either SAT or ACT will choose to hitch its lucrative college admin wagon to the disadvantaged SBAC star.

ACT and SAT do not need SBAC. Thus, theirs is the upper-hand choice to refuse the SBAC voucher.

Complete details are in this RFP statement of work. Below are excerpts in which SBAC tries to present its dilemma regarding garnering the high school assessment market as “promising,” even though those high school students might not see any value in the benefits of a SBAC assessment:

The Smarter Balanced Assessment System was developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium currently UCLA GSEIS-Smarter Balanced (“Smarter Balanced” or “the Consortium”) in response to the 2010 Race to the Top Assessment Program. Current Smarter Balanced members include 15 states, one territory, and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Smarter Balanced assessment development began with in-depth discussions among many groups of educators, content experts, and researchers of the high level content identified in the Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”). …

The resulting Smarter Balanced Assessment System includes interim assessments, formative assessment resources, and summative assessments in ELA/literacy and mathematics for students in grades 3-8 and high school. …

Given this promising outlook for providing relevant and useful information to postsecondary institutions, Smarter Balanced members have engaged in discussions of how to improve the high school assessments and seek to develop solutions that address three specific stakeholder concerns. First, members have expressed that some high school students are not motivated to do well on Smarter Balanced tests, perhaps because they do not believe that avoiding remedial work offers sufficient value for their efforts. Second, members indicated a concern that the Smarter Balanced high school tests compete for time which students perceive may be better allocated to other activities (e.g., other tests, additional instructional time). Finally, Consortium members do not currently have a systematic method of providing to postsecondary institutions the data regarding students’ college and career readiness.

Framework – The Smarter Balanced High School Strategy

Spring 2015 marked the first Consortium-wide operational administration of the Smarter Balanced summative assessments. For the vast majority of Consortium members, the Smarter Balanced summative assessments serve as both the state accountability measure and the federal accountability measure under the requirements of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)/Every Student succeeds Act (ESSA). However, the impact of the Smarter Balanced high school assessments has reached well beyond the realm of K-12 accountability systems. Historically, acceptance and placement decisions within the nation’s postsecondary institutions have been made independently of the large-scale high school assessments informing most states’ accountability systems. Smarter Balanced, in contrast, forged a relationship with postsecondary educators and institutions by involving those stakeholder groups in all aspects of test development and maintaining a focus on college and career readiness. The result is an unprecedented relationship between the accountability assessments used in high schools and their contribution to academic decisions in the postsecondary setting. Currently 256 colleges and universities accept the Smarter Balanced high school assessments as evidence of students’ ability to successfully engage in credit bearing mathematics and English language arts/literacy coursework. These 256 colleges and universities represent public higher education systems and private institutions in 10 states. In most of these states, these institutions enroll more than 80 percent of the state’s undergraduates. This is very significant for the approximately 600,000 high school students who will complete Smarter Balanced assessments as part of their states’ large-scale assessment programs.

Given these stakeholder concerns, and the desire to continue providing relevant, valid high school assessments, Smarter Balanced wishes to engage in collaborative work with developers of college admissions tests to better meet the needs of students. Smarter Balanced is open to a variety of solutions to this complex problem. One possible deliverable would be a system that allows a student to engage in a single testing event resulting in both a Smarter Balanced score and a score that can be used as part of the college admissions process. However, Smarter Balanced encourages suppliers to propose innovative solutions and collaborative relationships.

Indeed, “collaborative relationships” might be what SBAC will need to survive. As Ed Week notes in an article about the SBAC RFP, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is promoting the college entrance exam as the preferred high-school-level standardized measure:

Smarter Balanced has a number of reasons to worry about its market share these days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law passed in December 2015, invited states to use college-entrance exams, rather than standards-based tests, to measure high school achievement. A dozen states are already using the ACT or SAT for this purpose….

The business of Common Core is not panning out quite as lucratively as intended. All of the profits that were supposed to be rolling in due to the nationwide scaling of all things CCSS (e.g., assessments, teacher prep, textbooks) have not rolled in as planned. Just ask Pearson, which just reported its greatest pre-tax loss in history, all because the US education market *is failing* to deliver on the promise of the hand-over-fist profits that Pearson CEO John Fallon just knew were in Pearson’s future when in February 2014 he offered no Plan B for possible CCSS profit lag.

SBAC is trying to find a college-admissions-testing pal to keep it in the assessment game.

We’ll see who accepts the SBAC voucher RFP– if anyone.  Neither ACT nor SAT might bite, but some unknown, storefront voucher school college admin assessment group might….

Stay tuned.



Want to read more about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. I wonder if ACT might end up being interested because Smarter Balanced has been given he green light by the federal government but here in Alabama where the ACT Aspire is given, the federal government has very recently (about a month before testing season here) threatened to withhold funding because it hasn’t been proven that ACT Aspire matches the standards which are basically Common Core except for a few that Alabama tossed in along with the Common Core Standards. The state school board is now scrambling to show that they match and the new state superintendent says he doesn’t like Aspire anyway.

    • and in the meantime, it is turning out that colleges which do not require “entrance” exams are pulling in a growing number of students

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