Smarter Balanced Update: No Scores Until After Labor Day! Are Charters Getting A Chance To Have Better Scores? #REFUSETHETESTDELAWARE

REFUSE THE TEST DELAWARE, Smarter Balanced Assessment

At the Delaware State Board of Education meeting last week, Dr. Penny Schwinn and Carolyn Lazar gave a presentation on preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessment participation numbers.  The blogger Kavips, based on the same report presented to the State Board that I published a couple weeks earlier, compared the number of students taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment to the school profiles section of the DOE website.  Kavips found, within a margin of error, that approximately 15% of Delaware juniors opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  However, Schwinn and Lazar explained this data only shows when the Smarter Balanced window was launched, meaning when the test actually started.  For all grades, with the exception of 11th grade, this was pulled at the end of the testing window.  For juniors, this was pulled in April, when many juniors were just beginning the test.  No explanation was given for why it was pulled then and not at the end.

The State Board was very curious about the participation rates, more specifically, if the 95% participation rates went below.  Both Schwinn and Lazar said it was too early to be able to accurately say if any subgroup went below the “required” participation rate.  Subgroups can be minorities, special needs students, early English learners, low-income, particular grades, and whatnot.

American Institutes for Research, the vendor for SBAC, has what is called the TIDE (Test Information Database Engine) database and according to Lazar this holds a “variety of student information” but didn’t go into details about what kind of data is stored there.  The purpose is to help define accommodations for individual students quicker so there aren’t as many technical issues, which was a huge problem last year.

Schwinn and Lazar went over the survey data given to assessment coordinators and testing administrators in each district, and they heard back from over 300 teachers.  Only 28% said they had no technical issues.  When asked if the other 72% came from particular districts, Schwinn and Lazar said they had not broken down that data yet but they will.

In terms of when the scores will be released, Schwinn said she anticipates all data to come back by Labor Day.  Schools and districts will receive their information before statewide results are released, which will occur at the September 17th State Board of Education meeting.  The reason for the delay on the scores is due to many SBAC states having a huge number of pen to paper parts of the assessment to score.

One thing that didn’t catch my attention before, but does now is when schools are starting the assessment.  Most local school districts started the assessment in March, but many charters didn’t start until late April or May.  I am basing this on the number of parents who emailed me or sent Facebook messages to me concerning opt-out, as well as many charter school board minutes I read where they talk about the Smarter Balanced Assessment testing.  Does this give charters a leg up on information that appears on the assessment?  Not to go all “conspiracy theory” here, but I’ve always predicted charters will somehow do “better” on these assessments than the local school districts.  This is just a theory, but definitely something to watch for…

In terms of next year’s testing window, the below “draft” was released by the DOE  office of assessment.  This does not give a schedule for each school or district’s exact testing window but rather the statewide schedule.  Board member Pat Heffernan did express a desire to see this window narrowed but understands there are issues of bandwidth and technical issues.

14 thoughts on “Smarter Balanced Update: No Scores Until After Labor Day! Are Charters Getting A Chance To Have Better Scores? #REFUSETHETESTDELAWARE

  1. I wonder if the DOE targets specific school districts by having the ones with low priority schools test first in March/April and then others to follow giving them an edge on addditional teaching prep time. Wouldn’t be surprising.


  2. This particular testing issue (timing) is often related to resources. Resources per student per school. The computer time must be scheduled so that each student has sufficient time to complete the test. Some charter schools clearly have more resources than nearby public schools.
    Heck, one charter school will soon have its very own STEM lab, thanks to DE taxpayers!


    1. Thanks to the Charter School Performance Fund and the generous donations of the Longwood Foundation no doubt…

      But in theory, wouldn’t this give the charters who do test later than most districts an unfair advantage as there would be more “prep” time for the test? Or even way out there, if there is a “cabal” that gives out the questions to certain schools, this would allow them the time to do that and teachers would be able to teach specifically to those types of questions…


      1. No doubt that this is an issue. Perhaps someone knows better, but I believe there is a “window” of time during which the test can be administered, and it is NOT directed by the state specifically when during that window each school or district administers.

        Administration of the test as early as March is unfair to students, but, dare I say, even more so for teachers. For it is teacher assessment these tests were designed. A full 1/4 of the school year remains when some are testing.
        Even within a district, or a school building, the difference of a week’s instruction and learning can impact teacher evaluation.

        The problem of early administration is compounded by the popular assumption that the school year is finished. By middle school, it’s not unusual for students to express surprise and disappointment that instruction continues.
        Things just seem to slow down after testing. The urgency dissolves.

        Timing of the tests is just one more factor contributing to their lack of validity.


  3. Schools/Districts set their testing schedules based on the state testing window, those schedules are not determined by the State and those schedules go before the local board for approval (I’m thinking this happens in all districts but perhaps just the district office creates the testing schedule -they went before the board in my district)


    1. Thanks for that info MHS. I did notice a large number of charters chose a later part in the testing window though, and I would like to think they would want to get the test over and done with so they can get back to instruction. By choosing a later start time, if there were issues surrounding the assessment, this would not give them a large window to fix those issues…. I’ll have to reach out to some charter folks I know…


    2. I’ve always assumed you are up in New Castle based on your Kilroy’s comments MHS and you are a teacher. Did your school have any issues with the tech aspect of Smarter Balanced?


      1. I retired in 2014 so I wasn’t in the schools this year, but still have lots of friends teaching. There were some issues that they hadn’t most of their issues occurred during the interim assessment that they gave which was the smarter interim, not the comprehensive interim but the smaller units. They addressed most of their issues then and some of them apparently were specific to the interims and didn’t happen with the summative platform. There were a couple of issues with training and making sure that teachers selected the correct assessment (interim vs summative). The other issues were the same ones they had before with regard to Haitian Creole students. Other than that I didn’t actually hear too many issues with them. My friends in middle school and HS mentioned the tests took shorter time periods than the elementary teachers mentions. I don’t have enough of a sample size to estimate any time approximations through 😃


    3. Thank you for clarifying. This is what I thought. So why would some public schools have started as early as March (and I know that is correct) but for resource (computers) issues?


    4. Even though MHS is TECHNICALLY correct, this is still a problem. Schools only have so many computers and labs. They are, in essence, *forced* to start testing at such an early date (when up to a THIRD OF A YEAR’S curriculum has yet to be taught) because of the lack of capacity to handle a school filled with students who need to take the test.

      What is the DOE and State Board’s plan to remedy this absolute inequity?


      1. I would bring that up at the next state board meeting in August Mike, that’s a good question! Or email Penny Schwinn. Cause the State Board will just say “thank you for your comment” and move on…


  4. The SBA tests curriculum for the entire school year. Why would any school district give it in March, when there are still two months worth of material to be learned? Since test results (scores) don’t come back until around Labor Day and have no diagnostic educational value for students or parents, why not give the test the last week or two of school?


      1. Yes, Mike. This is the point I attempted to make earlier in stating the scheduling is often based on resources. Those resources are computers. It is a problem in many schools.
        We did get laptops with state funds- that are supposed to be used solely for testing.
        1. They are junk
        2. Just try to get on line…

        Liked by 1 person

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