Sunday, August 23, 2015

Let's Talk SBAC Scores - Part Two

I watched Superintendent Randy Dorn's press conference last Monday where he reviewed the state's SBAC scores.

I found his remarks somewhat scattered as if he were trying to remember all his talking points.  (The contrast with his unflappable Deputy Superintendent of K-12 Education, Gil Mendoza,was interesting.)

As I mentioned in Part One of this series on the 2014-2105 SBAC scores for Washington State, the big takeway is that people who support SBAC are very happy (or putting on that happy face) on the announcement of these scores.  (Ready Washington - a coalition group of the OSPI, Stand for Children, Washington STEM, Washington PTA, LEV, DFER etc., a lot of people except for teachers - could not tweet out the results hard enough.)

The scores were in the low-high 50s (but naturally, breakdown differently across different groups).  

Highlights from the press conference:
- Dorn tried to explain "how we got here" (meaning creation of Common Core and SBAC).  I personally thought that was a bad move because many people don't like HOW Common Core and SBAC got here.

He tried to be very folksy on this point about how "two groups of people got together" and wondered if it wouldn't make sense if 4th graders in "different places" learned the same things.
He said "it was a great idea that worked really well" but then got politicized.

Wait, what? Weren't the CC standards being created by two groups representing two different groups of elected officials also political?

- He said that the "kids" had far exceeded the field test results which has been in the 20s and 30s and had "far exceeded expectations."  That "far exceeded expectations" was a very repeated phrase.  He said they were "grateful" that the scores were not as bad as the field test scores. 

- He said the assessment system is "a check of where kids are" and gives more info to teachers, parents and students as to "where do you line up on the spectrum for college/career readiness."

 - He said using computers for taking the tests is better because of all the physical steps needed for paper and pencil tests.

- He said next year's test-taking will be a "pristine lake in a canyon" compared to the "rapids" of this year.  He said, "The system isn't perfect."

- He did have a head-scratcher of a line when he said this is this is a generation that asks "why do I have to do this and how does this help me?"  My recollection of high school algebra was always with some kid at the back asking that question and I doubt if I am alone.

- Mr. Mendoza was very careful in saying that the "refusals" were very important to the results of this test.

- Mendoza said that 2015 is the baseline for the state and that basically, some kids can meet the challenge and others won't (but that doesn't mean they can't get there).  I appreciated that both Dorn and Mendoza seem to believe that one score doesn't define a kid.

- They acknowledged that the opt-outs at 11th grade had pulled the overall participation of the state down to 94% which does not meet the NCLB rate of 95%.  They warned of ramifications of that participation rate from DOE.

- Just from the slides (that came and went very quickly), it appeared that Native American students did the worst followed by African-American students.  What was interesting - and I have to go back and study the report more closely - it appear that Asian-American students did far better than whites.  Not just marginally, but a lot.

- They acknowledged that Science is not part of CC but there will be new state standards in Science and it will be tested in 2018.

Press questions

- Do you plan on punishing parents or students for opting out?  (I asked this one via Twitter but the rest of these came from the press conference.)

Dorn - I don't plan on punishing any parent or student.  He said taking the assessment is a huge advantage for students, a "where ya at?" for them.  He said they don't have a writing test so that should make it better.He said the Feds make the rules on withholding funds (as they did withholding some Title One funds this year).

He said the Feds could hold back up to 20% of the Title One funds.

He said they needed everyone to participate for the overall system to have accurate data. He said but parents probably don't care about that.

- About the 11th grade opt-outs.

He said he thought they opted out because many had already passed the 10th grade test and that the higher ed offerings for taking the test didn't seem to interest them.  He said it wasn't just students refusing the test that was the issue but that "responsible parents" told their 11th graders to take the test but then those students just didn't try.

(How he knows how many opt-outs were student decisions versus parent decisions is unclear to me.)

He believes this year's opt-outs are an "anomoly."

- About getting the test scores sooner.

He said parents will get their students' test scores the second week of September.  He said "we will get better at this with vendors."  

He said he wasn't really interested in national results -  "I'm not much of a data guy."  He said in states with no biology exam, there's no evidence their students do worse.  He thinks the biology test is a waste of time.

- About the very low scores for different groups of students.

He said yes, that's true and we are trying to get kids to be "college and career ready" and that means "ready to go to UW and take entry-level math."

(Just to be clear, under CC standards, "college ready" means community college, not 4-year universities.)

-About kids who might not graduate because of their test scores.  

Mendoza said that it wasn't a big deal for some seniors to have to go back to high school for a "5th year."  He meant for the students in question but I would think that most districts - but especially SPS - would not like having 5th year students (given the capacity issues).

- the biggest thing that Dorn said was that he believes these assessments are for helping kids to see where they are to work towards where they want to go but does NOT believe they should be used for high school graduation. 


Lynn said...

Does anyone think kids are likely to go back for a fifth year? They also have the option to enroll in community college - no high school diploma is required. Or you know - just drop out.

Anonymous said..., taking a test on a computer is not necessarily better, especially at younger grades where their keyboarding skills are not fully developed and become a hindrance rather than a help. Paper-pencil is much more straightforward for the younger grades - fewer things can go wrong, kids who need scribes can get scribes, scheduling test sessions is easier because you're not dependent on a finite number of machines to be available. I heard this loud and clear from some 3rd and 4th grade teachers I met at a tech conference. They loved tech, just not for testing.


Anonymous said...

"This year's opt-outs were an 'anomaly.'"


Roosevelt Dad

Anonymous said...

There was a guy from the 4-year colleges on the media day call that said that all of the public 4-year colleges and a few of the private colleges in the state planned to use the SBAC scores.

It sounded to me like these are for 4-year colleges too.

Ed Reporter

Lynn said...

Ed Reporter,

They did agree to use them. They'll also use SAT, ACT, AP and IB scores for various purposes. Kids who are planning to attend four years colleges generally already take some of these tests - so there's no value in hours and hours of SBAC testing.

Roosevelt Dad,

Yep. My sophomore will opt out next year.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, I'm curious as to why you say "college ready" for community college is different that college ready for four-year. Wouldn't we want both groups of students to have equal readiness? Or are you referring to things 4yrs want, such as language....

Anonymous said...

Roos Dad, your kid won't get a HS diploma without taking SBAC. First SBAC, then you can do the other options. Otherwise, no diploma.


Lynn said...


That was me, not Roosevelt Dad. I am aware of the graduation requirements. As they stand now, if my child takes the SAT at some point and his math score is at least 390, he can take the SBAC (and pass or spectacularly fail) as a senior and he'll be able to graduate. Of course, graduation requirements could change in the next three years and maybe my kid won't score at or above the 14th percentile in math, but we've got a couple of years to figure that out. Also, as he's likely to go to college, I don't necessarily see the value in the high school diploma.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One, yes, the 4-year institutions did agree to use the SBAC scores.

Two, however, the Common Core standards are only written for community college access (or non-selective 4-year institutions). Perhaps the 4-years have great faith in the SBAC test. I can only say that what is written about CC is that it is to be college ready for community college level.

From Politico:

"Policy analysts say it’s simply not practical for a statewide university system to issue a blanket policy promising that if a high school junior passes a Common Core math test, she’ll automatically be exempt from remedial math courses on any public college campus.

“It’s not just that people don’t agree on what ‘ready’ means,” said David T. Conley, a University of Oregon education professor who has researched both Common Core and college readiness. “It’s that most of the definitions of ‘ready’ are far too narrow, and we don’t gather data in many key areas where students could improve their readiness if they knew they needed to do so.”

That muddies the sales pitch that Common Core will prepare kids for the jobs of the future — and dramatically reduce the number of noncredit, remedial courses required in college."

Read more:

Anonymous said...

Dornan said that the Common Core are higher more rigorous standards. This is not true in Math. The 2008 Washington Math standards are better than Common Core and especially so on high school.

The actual teachers at Community Colleges got ZERO say about using SBAC results for math placement. Typical top-down edicts like most all of this scam.

Why will SBAC be used for math placement instead of Compass Testing ? Because bureaucrats need some justification for this Common Core SBAC scam.

Inquiring Mind

Anonymous said...

Do I have this correct: over 2/3rds of special needs students did not meet standard? If I am correct or in the ball park at least, why isn't this a headliner? Who cares?


mirmac1 said...

In Delaware - Cold Hard Proof DOE Is INTENTIONALLY Embargoing Smarter Balanced Results & Have The Results Already

Anonymous said...

...if my child takes the SAT at some point and his math score is at least 390, he can take the SBAC (and pass or spectacularly fail) as a senior and he'll be able to graduate.

@ Lynn, how does that work exactly? You can "bank" your passing ACT/SAT/IB/AP scores for use later if you need them, but that option doesn't kick in until you need to use them (e.g., you didn't reach the graduation cut point on the SBAC). At that point, the student is supposed to work with their school to submit an application and score report to OSPI. I don't know how long that process takes, but If you don't know you didn't pass the SBAC until after your senior year has ended--and when the school staff who are supposed to help you deal with OSPI are gone for the summer--it sounds risky. I would think taking the SBAC in one's junior year makes more sense.


Anonymous said...

Do I have this correct: over 2/3rds of special needs students did not meet standard? If I am correct or in the ball park at least, why isn't this a headliner?

Maybe because it's nothing new? Special ed students, as a group, have scored lower for years. It's not an SBAC issue.

Statewide MSP results from last year had the following percentages of special ed students NOT meeting standard:

3rd grade: Reading 62.1%, Math 65.7%
4th: R 57.4, M 72.6
5th: R 61.7, M 74.0
8th: R 70.8, M 80.5


Lynn said...


What's the risk though? Colleges don't ask for your diploma. This makes me wonder if other graduation requirements that are not needed for college entrance are worth the trouble. I wonder how OSPI and the district would respond if students started refusing to jump through their hoops.

As an aside, I just saw that a make-up SBAC will be given to seniors in November at Garfield.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, I have asked about this in the past and found out that, yes, a high school diploma is technically not required for admission into our state 4 year colleges; however, for our more selective universities like UW and WWU, it's the difference between two equally qualified students. The one with the diploma will get the nod over the one without.

Also, I've been told that certain scholarships and financial aid require high school diplomas.

It seems like a big risk to me but an interesting approach on your part.

This might be something I'm going to explore further.

Ed Reporter

Lynn said...

@Ed Reporter,

I think that would be interesting. Kids are compared to other qualified applicants in the admission process at the UW and WWU long before any of them have a diploma. Is it likely that they would have their admission revoked for not taking three semesters of PE or completing their volunteer hours or taking the SBAC?

Anonymous said...

@ Lynn, many college acceptance letters will also include something about admission being contingent upon successful completion of high school, and they may require official proof.

Here's what UW says:

All applicants are admitted to the UW on a conditional basis, pending a review and verification of final official transcripts. The University reserves the right to withdraw the offer of admission if:

- Your test scores or final academic records fail to show completion of required courses or degrees
- You failed to maintain satisfactory scholastic standing in your coursework, or
- Our decision was based on incomplete, inaccurate, or falsified information or documents provided in your application. Any evidence of false information or alteration of transcripts will result in withdrawal of your admission to the University.

Graduating from high school and getting accepted to college are stressful enough. I plan to help my child minimize the risk of something going wrong in this process, so we'll aim to complete the requirements sooner rather than later. The political point to be made by delaying SBAC participation a year doesn't seem worth the risk to us, but I respect anyone's decision otherwise.


Anonymous said...

That's a good question.

Ed Reporter

Lynn said...


I don't see a high school diploma listed a a required degree anywhere - and the required courses (College Academic Distribution Requirements) do not include several high school graduation requirements - PE, Washington State history, US Government for example.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I did 20 years ago. I went to a college that didn't require a high school diploma, skipped the 3 quarters of PE and home Ec., and took the GED. It saved me 2 years of my life starting college early, which was a great savings. When I was looking local public universities required a high school diploma, So I went private. Money was exchanged for time in the process. Money always provides for more options.

Community colleges are a great way to have more higher Ed options. As I remember the local universities would accept an associates degree in place of a high school diploma. If you do running start and earn your AA, but do not jump through the testing and credit requirements at high school, you still get the AA right? That should be plenty for college and career readiness.

Options Abound

Lynn said...

Options Abound,

Good for you! I'm a little annoyed that I didn't think of that decades ago.

I can confirm your impression about running start - we were told that at an info session. My child didn't choose to go that route - but it's good to know what your options are.

NOnSense said...

Wouldn't a final transcript list all of the classes you've taken, your grades in said classes, and your final GPA? Unless things have changed drastically in the past 15 years, nowhere on a final transcript are any standardized tests given. They see you've passed all of your IB courses with a 4.0 and they are going to say, "waaaaiit a minute... where are those super-important SBAC scores?" Will they really rescind an offer (7 months after the fact) to a highly qualified student? Let's hope not. I think being able to eloquently explain an ethical position (such as refusing the SBAC) shows more college readiness than any test.

Anonymous said...

Neither my brother nor I have high school dipolomas. Which we love to tease our public school teacher mom about. We both went to college in other countries & got in by taking entrance exams. My kids have many friends who are doing high school in non-traditional ways, like running start, early entrance, independent study, study abroad, or a mix of those. I really think that if high school were more flexible, like community college, more kids would finish.

-done that

Anonymous said...


I don't know. I imagine different schools and different states do their transcripts differently.

According to the WA State HS Transcript Developer/User Guide (, it seems like this sort of info does appear on transcripts:

Beginning with the graduating class of 2008, it is a graduation requirement to meet the state
reading standard on the high school assessment or by one of the approved alternatives. This heading should
be displayed on all transcripts for students in the graduating class of 2008 and later....A student who has met standard on the high school assessment or one of the approved alternatives will have a value of MET displayed here.
The same is true with the writing, math and science standards.

There's also this: If the student has earned either the certificate of academic achievement or the certificate of
individual achievement, then this status should display EARNED."
These are our diplomas (CAA is general, CIA is for students with an IEP).


David Spring said...

Melissa, Thanks for this post. Randy may think the Opt Out Movement is going away but he is mistaken. In early March, 2015, I started a website called Opt Out Washington (dot) org and just posted a link to it on a couple of Facebook pages. The website included reasons for opting your student out of the SBAC test and a form folks could fill out (based on the official Washington state form) as well as a warning about tricks school district officials are supposed to use to "talk you out" of opting out. To my shock and amazement, the website and form went viral. In the next ten weeks, more than 25,000 parents downloaded the Opt Our form. One parent on Bainbridge Island actually printed up more than 100 street signs with a link to our Opt Out Washington website and put them up on every street corner in Bainbridge Island. As a consequence of these signs, Bainbridge Island School District had the highest opt out rate in Washington state. As more parents become aware of the insanity of the SBAC test, I am certain that the Opt Out rate next year will be even higher than it was this year. Regards, David Spring M. Ed.

Anonymous said...

David Spring,

There is no such thing as an official Washington state opt out form. Simply another example of you missing the boat and exaggerating your claims.

David Spring - The Donald Trump of the Opt Out Movement.

Reader 420

seattle citizen said...

Jeez, Reader 420, why the vitriol? Spring's post was pretty straightforward...Can't we all get along?

Anonymous said...

It's not straightforward at all and you're being obtuse to claim it as so. Spring touts the success of getting Bainbridge Island parents to be the highest out outers in the state. Do you know what else Bainbridge Island parents are? Some of the richest and whitest parents in the state. They also have one of the highest vaccination personal exemption rates in the state. They just love to opt out of stuff that might be of some advantage to children who don't have the privilege they do.

If you look at the data on the OSPI Report Card, you will see a strong, positive correlation between testing opt outs and wealth. The wealthier the district, the higher the opt out rates.

You people who claim the Opt Out Movement is a social justice movement are a joke. Look at Bainbridge Island, Issaquah, etc. opt out rates at 11th grade then look at Pasco, Yakima, etc. Within Seattle, look at Nathan Hale, Roosevelt, etc. then look at Cleveland, Rainier Beach, etc. It's a joke.

This isn't a social justice movement. It's a spoiled rich kid movement.

Reader 420

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the spoiled rich kid movement can spread to other families with better things to do than take endless tests. This isn’t education — it is ed reform nonsense.

S parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader 420, opting out may not have as much to do with wealth as those who have the time or are more keyed in to testing issues. I think the numbers will change as more and more parents - across all incomes and race/ethnic backgrounds - learn more about this issue.

I'm not sure anyone is saying this is a social justice issue but I think that parents have the right to ask questions and make decisions for their children based on the answers. I don't call that "spoiled."

Christina said...


Why don't more IEP teams determine an alternate assessment for subject mastery, or agree on accommodations for Special Education students, or opt out, instead of subjecting the students to the SBAC, if the majority of them cannot meet basic standards scores on a computerized test? How does having a large percentage of Special Education students performing poorly on a high-stakes standardized test benefit the students, their teachers and their schools?

Anonymous said...

@ Christina,

To your first question, I have no idea why IEP teams do/don't do what they do/don't do. When such a high percent have scored "well below standard" on past MSPs (and presumably on the recent SBAC as well), I have to agree that it seems unnecessary--and not helpful--to put kids through that. But I don't have the sense that IEPs are SPS's strong suit, is that right?

As for your second question, I suspect that having a large percentage of SpEd students do poorly on high-stakes standardized tests doesn't benefit anyone. My point in that earlier comment, which I assuming is why you addressed me, was that the disparity in SpEd vs. non-SpEd when it comes to meeting state standards on these types of tests doesn't seem to be big news.


Jamie said...

My kid is starting at WWU in September. She was accepted in early spring but they also required you send them your final HS transcript by July 31. I can't speak for other schools but I know the counseling office at her high school sent out a notice saying they needed a postage paid envelope from everyone who wanted transcripts sent so I assume it's fairly common.

seattle citizen said...

Reader 420 - I graduated from Bainbridge Island (though I grew up in a wealthy town back east.) You're just like Tamara Paris, who wrote an "article" for the Stranger a number of years ago dismissing everyone on Bainbridge as wealthy dolts. She visited, looking for beer evidently (how very working class! How droll! Beer, can you imagine?!), couldn't find any, got lost, and ended up at the Suquamish casino, across the bridge, where someone (drunkenly....or maybe it was post 4:20) gave her the low down on the stupid, snobby rich people on BI. Which she used as her "evidence" in her story.
I complained to Dan Savage, the editor, that she had written an article about BI even though all she'd seen was through her car window, then beer goggles (or post 4:20 haze...)
He asked if I would give her a tour to set the record strsight. I agreed. I met this unpleasant person off the ferry and showed her around, showed her all the cool things about BI. Did you know those rich whites had the only newspaper brave enough to condemn the interment of Japanese Americans as it was happening? That Winslow has the second co-housing community in the country? That there are still farms there?
Slandering the inhabitants of BI (and by implication ALL people who have made a little money) is stupid. They're people, too. That some over there might have more money than you doesn't make them bad people, nor does it automatically make their actions bad. It's a fact that poor people often have less time to be active in the community. That wealthier people might have time to be active is a fault? You sound like an activist-sort, 4:20 - Where do YOU find the time?

Po3 said...

If a student has earned their credits and passed all their classes, families should not have to spend time and energy trying to figure out how to get their students aligned to enter college.

Out of the gate, SBAC is proving to be a BARRIER not pathway out of high school into college.

(And yes, colleges ask for final transcript and yes that transcript will indicate if student has MET the following three state requirements: Reading, Writing and Math.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

"How does having a large percentage of Special Education students performing poorly on a high-stakes standardized test benefit the students, their teachers and their schools?"

Here's where things get a little crazy from NCLB (and rages on even as NCLB is being revamped).

The idea was that schools were only reporting some scores before NCLB, not all scores (like SPed and ELL). Schools could make themselves look better. Some schools did include all scores but were doing well enough in the general population to look okay.

The intent of NCLB (among other things) was to force schools to break out ALL their populations. Where it went off the rails was to punish schools for not having the same results for ALL populations. Schools - good and bad - were dinged for not getting to some "level" rather than getting credit for moving the needle. Some schools were doing very well for Sped and ELL students but because it was the same growth as other students, it didn't count.

So to the question, how does it help with testing? It would help to measure GROWTH and not some arbitrary set standard for all students.

Ed reformers have turned this into what they call a "civil rights" issue, saying if you don't hold schools to high standards for all, you are cheating minority students.

Cheating or punishing? That's anyone's call.

Anonymous said...

@Seattle Citizen

Who slandered the inhabitants of BI? Are they not some of the richest and whitest people in the state? Do they not have the highest testing opt out rates in the state? Do they not have some of the highest vaccination opt out rates in the state?

But isn't it presumptuous of you to assume that, if only poor (and African American and Latino) parents were better informed, they too would opt out? You must be looking at different polling and survey results than I. The ones I've seen show that minority parents actually value testing results and accountability. I'm not sure I would agree with your conclusion.

Reader 420

seattle citizen said...

Reader 420, I'm not going to butt heads with you. I didn't say anything about how informed people in poor communities were, nor did I mention African American (or African Immigrant) or Latino parents, some of whom, no doubt, are wealthier and might well have opted their kids out.
Your whole tone reflects your view that Bainbridge Islanders, and all wealthier parents, are the parents of "spoiled rich kids" and who needs that kind of arrogant, judgmental dismissiveness.
I am active in both the Black and Native communities in Seattle, and your broad brush dismissal of people with some sort of wealth, or white people, does you and some important causes no good at all.

Anonymous said...

I think it's unfortunate that so much of the attention last year during opt-out season was on the 11th graders, as this fueled the idea of opting out being an issue of privilege. Juniors' primary motivation--which came through in their statements--was of the "how does this help ME" variety: "I don't need this, it's a waste of my time, so I'm not going to do it."

But while taking the SBA last year was not beneficial to most, it could have been beneficial to some. For the class of 2016, passing the SBA math and/or English would help meet graduation requirements. I'm betting that not all 11th graders had already passed other state math and English assessments, so taking the SBA would have given them additional shots as checking off a requirement, or at the very least some practice with it if they are planning to retake it this year. Taking it and failing would also give them the opportunity to use alternate assessments instead. But since the focus of vocal 11th graders, and their parents, was all about how they didn't NEED it, it was clearly a message that only represented a subgroup of students--the more privileged group of kids who have already been able to meet the standards. I think that fueled the feeling that opting out is an issue for the well-off. It partly was.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader 420, you certainly are here to rouse the conversation, no?

I believe if MORE parents - across the spectrum - had access to and better info about opting out, many more would. I believe the movement will only grow across the country.

HF may be right in the reasoning about why 11 graders opted out in large numbers here. But the perception across the country is fed by who in which districts (and schools) opted out. But the drumbeat of "it's all wealthy, white kids" is one that the ed reformers love.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the whole point of school is to maintain the status quo and the achievement gaps, not to reduce it. Everyone has to prove that they're better than someone else, don't they. The moment that minority students (and those with disabilities) look like they've made substantial gains on the standardized test de jour - HSPE/MSP, it means only one thing: Change the test! And so we did- to ensure that there WAS an achievement gap. Because you gotta make sure that the right people pass! And that the industry feigning interest in the "failures" is adequately fed.