Category Archives: Alabama

History of the SBAC and How it Rose to a Nationwide Movement

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was created in 2010 with the aim of producing a universal assessment system to help students be well prepared for college and careers. The creation of the tests aimed to produce a vigorous assessment of the new, challenging common core state standards (CCSS) and help educators and school districts align teaching to these new standards. The SBAC originally consisted of a consortium of 30 states that submitted a proposal for a $178m federal grant to develop a new, groundbreaking series of tests for students. In 2014 the federal grant came to an end and the SBAC was transferred to UCLA and became a public agency.


The SBAC is funded by the memberships of the 16 states, that currently offer the tests, and all tests have been available for students to take since April 2015. Testing costs around $28 per student for the full package of resources and although it can cost states a significant amount of money to introduce, the resources that are included can actually end up saving money and time for educators. Around 220 colleges nationwide accept the high school summative SBAC tests as evidence for college readiness for credit level courses.


The progressive tests were created using a dynamic process of field-testing and in Spring 2014, 4.2 million students took the first field tests which facilitated the evaluation of over 19,000 assessment items. This allowed for the first set of achievement standards to be set, which were a starting point for discussion about achievement standards across the states that took part and as a baseline measure for the future.


The SBAC is designed to be a valid and reliable approach to student assessment, providing actionable data to provide interventions to help students succeed. For states offering the tests, the SBAC provides three components developed by nearly 5000 teachers nationwide:


  • Formative and practice assessments with a digital library of resources for students and educators.
  • Interim assessments
  • Summative assessments towards college and career readiness in English, Language Arts and Math


The SBAC summative tests are available for students in grade 3-8th and high school and are all administered via an interactive online platform. The tests take between 2.5 – 4 hours for each component and are either marked digitally or by qualified professional scorers. The marks for each assessment are available in 2-3 weeks for parents, educators and students. Each student receives a result of 1,2,3 or 4 on each test with 1 representing a student who is minimally qualified and 4 a student who is thoroughly qualified.


The movement towards rigorous and valid assessment helps both states and the nation ensure that students are leaving high school with a diploma that prepares them for adult life. The SBAC provides a way to ensure that every student succeeds and every school district is accountable for that because of the tests.


Alabama sees Potential in future of Common Core but still is worried

As far as states go, it was relatively surprising that one of the hearts of the south readily picked up the Common Core. Though not a federal program, it was nevertheless backed by the government with promises of grants and other aid for troubled school systems. Since then, though, the state has been see-sawing back and forth between respecting its challenges and abhorring them.


The Current State of Affairs

Most recently, Alabama held a hearing regarding a bill that would do away with Common Core altogether. Held in the capital of Montgomery, parents and local educators gathered to discuss if this bill should pass or not. New reporters quickly noted a disparity between the two factions. On the one side sit the educators, pleased with the challenges this new way of thinking is bringing. They also cite just how much of a waste of time it would be to throw away all of the hard work they’ve put toward implementing the Core. Parents, however, want things to go back to the way they were so that they don’t have to learn how to help their children. Core math problems don’t look the same as the math problems the parents had in college, leading to a group of people driven by fear instead of the best interest of their children. So far, though, there’s no word as to how the bill will progress, leaving the state in an uneasy place.


A Bigger Reach

Alabama’s continual back and forth with the Core has led to broader implications both within and outside of the state. Since its adoption, Alabama lawmakers managed to successfully get President Obama to sign a bill in 2015 that stated the government could no longer attach federal aid to educational programs like they did with the Core. On a conservative note, this is a big win for all local parents and teachers as it allows them to think more on the actual merits of a program rather than be enticed by the desperately needed help for underfunded school systems.

Beyond this, though, testing for Core standards has brought to light yet another issue plaguing the state – over assessment. While the federal government requires only one yearly test of student aptitude, Alabama students face no less than eight. Though great for gathering statistics, it’s a trend that is seriously cutting in to crucial learning time on actual subjects and not on how to test for each one. For this, Alabama educators are calling for the creation of statewide assessment audits and for federal money to go toward bettering one test and not creating more, building a system that works to bolster teacher morale.

As for Alabama’s Core future is concerned, the educators are going to try their hardest to keep it around, but education is a far more complicated process where scapegoating is the last thing that will promote a better future for students.