Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Maine drops out of Smarter Balanced


Gov Paul LePage, Republican of Maine, last week signed a bill that terminates the state’s membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC, the larger of two multi-state testing cooperatives funded initially by the federal government.

Legislative Document 1276, as filed with the state’s Senate and House, reads:

An Act To Improve Educational Assessments of Maine Students

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. Department of Education to adopt educational assessment that does not collect personal student data.

On the effective date of this section, the Department of Education shall terminate the State’s membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the use of the Smarter Balanced Assessment used to assess student achievement in the 2014-2015 school year. The department shall adopt a method of educational assessment pursuant to the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 20-A, section 6202 for the 2015-2016 school year and each school year thereafter that complies with federal law but does not collect or disseminate personal data and attributes of students, such as attitudes, values, motivations, stereotypes and feelings. The method of assessment must be selected with direct input from education stakeholders and must specifically address the needs of students and citizens of the State.

The people of Maine seem more concerned about the collection of data about students’ feelings than about the quality of the assessment instruments being developed by SBAC.

Which is exactly how it should be. Even tests administered by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC, have students take a little survey at the end that probes for information about their feelings regarding the test.

The surveys are optional, but most students take them anyway. They’re a complete waste of time: they don’t tell us anything about how well the students understand the Common Core, which, lest we forget, was the goal of both assessment consortia in the first place, and the survey responses are linked to each individual student for research purposes.

Education support services companies, some of them very large, plan to conduct research using the survey responses. None of this information will help our teachers or schools improve. None of it will help any individual student learn. The results of the survey for PARCC aren’t even being reported back to the schools—not that schools have any use for them, but it just seems pointless to have students do something that doesn’t drive feedback to educators in those kids’ lives.

SBAC is getting smaller. The following states were in the consortium this past school year: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the US Virgin Islands.

Now we learn that Maine won’t be in the consortium next year, although it’s unclear whether or not whatever test the state ends up using for math and English language arts will include questions from the SBAC item bank, which Maine officials helped to develop.

Missouri is also looking to get out of the consortium, as Gov Jay Nixon, a Democrat, cut off funding for SBAC in his latest budget and ordered the state to find a new exam.

Likewise, Wisconsin procurement officials have already issued a request-for-proposals, looking for tests that will replace those from SBAC in 2016. Legislation is pending there that would also cut off funding for the test.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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