A public release of sub-standard results for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) scores, commonly known as Common Core Testing, statewide quickly went viral in mid-September. Parents, teachers and administrators critical of the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) quickly voiced ‘told you so’ responses.
Educators supportive of Common Core note that CCSS is a completely new way of teaching and challenging students. It is an approach which appears to be challenging parents as much (or more) than the student and is still in its early implementation stages.
“We’re very proud of our staff,” OJUSD Assistant Superintendent Kristi Rapinchuk said. “We had the highest K-12 Unified district wide English Language Arts SBAC score in the county. We had one of two of the highest K-12 Unified district wide Math SBAC scores in the county. We had the highest 11th grade English Language Arts score in the county and I’m also proud of the seamless administration of what is a very different assessment.”
The tests were administered in early 2015.
They were delivered in primarily computerized setting. Technical delivery of the test went smoothly for Oakdale. In the past STAR tests would have been mailed out much sooner, yet do to the newness of the SBAC system student reports did not begin to come back from the State until late September.
“We tested grades three through eight and grade 11, that’s who everyone in the state tested,” Rapinchuk said.
She and her team, she added, began reviewing results in May. The assistant superintendent shared they noticed about half of the fourth grade scores were missing Math results. They quickly pointed out the data problem to the state. The state indicated it was not just happening in Oakdale, it was happening throughout the state of California.
“They’re using the term, what we released to the public previously was a Snapshot of Data, but the public didn’t understand that. It was not clear from the State level,” she stated. “That’s why when you talk about program improvement status and adequate yearly progress, that’s not going to come for a while because they have to make sure they have the accurate school district, county and state data before they can even identify baseline for us.”
Rapinchuk said school officials, like parents, are still waiting to see what the larger picture reveals.
“As a parent when I begin to see that, okay Oakdale overall had the highest in the county and this is all great. But shoot, we only have ‘X’ percent that are at standard or exceeding standard,” Rapinchuk said. “That’s lower than the STAR Test, that did not shock me at all. I was very pleased with our results. The new SBAC test has been internationally benchmarked and what that means is groups of experts went out and they looked at countries that are outscoring the United States and they said what is your expectation for a third grader. What’s common across these countries that are outscoring us?
“As a result they came back as a team and developed standards that would meet or exceed countries which have been outperforming the U.S. From there an assessment was developed to measure if students can compete globally with countries that have been surpassing us in the job market.”
Rapinchuk pointed out the increased rigor and the depth of knowledge students are gaining as they learn through CCSS, noting that the curriculum needs to continue to stretch the student in order to make them competitive especially in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math professions).
Compared to the state the Assistant Superintendent shared Oakdale tested lower in both English Arts and Math. Rapinchuk stated this finding prompts a study of sub groups (i.e.: English learners, low income, Hispanic, white or migrant). Noting that at large California has 25 percent of the nation’s English Learners, she added that the Central Valley serves as home to a great portion of that 25 percent.
“In a testing environment where you are having to construct responses, as opposed to choosing A, B, C or D, it seems that it would be much more difficult for an English Learner,” she said. “One thing we’re looking at is how does this new expectation affect English Learners and students with disabilities and other numerically significant sub groups for us.”
All of that, she stressed, is just part of meeting student needs.
“It isn’t to blame the sub groups, we use it to inform our instruction,” Rapinchuk stated. “How do we keep our expectations just as rigorous? We’re not holding anybody back, yet we’re still meeting the needs of the kids that might be struggling with the new rigor.
“My hope would be that as our community becomes aware that we are not going to back away from the expected rigor. We are leaning straight into it,” Rapinchuk summarized, “and yeah, our scores are lower with the SBAC than they were with STAR. We are not going to back off in our expectations; we are just going to work away at it. So my hope would be that parents would celebrate the teachers that are working so hard. Encourage them. Instead of, hey lower the tests so we get our high scores again. Nope, not in Oakdale.”