Category Archives: Arizona

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.


Arizona’s Steps Back from Common Core after Ruling in Favor

Though adopted in 2010 by Arizona, the state has chosen to back pedal its ruling on Common Core. Decided October of 2015 with a vote of 6-2, the Arizona Board of Education is officially distancing itself from the new standards altogether. While this may seem sudden, the Core has long been under attack by the state since adoption.


Early Changes

After what seems like enough time to put the standards into practice and see some improvement, Arizona decided it was time to begin breaking away from the Core in 2014. The Governor, Jan Brewer, took the first steps by deleting the name, changing it Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards instead. Unfortunately, the parents still sought more change. Because the standards themselves actually remained intact, parents vocally decried that the change was in name alone. It was because of this that such recent drastic measures have been taken.


Total Repeal

After a 45 minute meeting discussing the repeal bill that was proposed, the decision was reached that all Common Core standards would be done away with. Their argument rests on the perception that Arizona is a capable enough state to prepare students that are smart enough and engaged enough when compared to the rest of the world.

That being said, the talk didn’t go without its opponents. In fact, many were exhausted of the back and forth, citing that the entire thing is politically driven instead of driven by the needs of the students. This is further underlined by the fact that students have been improving while the Common Core has been in effect. Recent surveys found that teachers saw the Core as a positive.

If that’s the case, why, then, would Arizona decide to remove a program that has been doing what it promised to do?

The truth behind the matter is that the vote was more symbolic than anything. It was done to calm the fears of the parents’ adamant on seeing its repeal. In fact, the current standards will stay in place no matter this publicized vote. To actually drop the standards implemented originally by the Core would require a much more formal process.

Even so, this has done little to dissuade angry calls from parents and educators on both sides of the debate. Yet the biggest concern has been over funding. With finding from the Core providing 8-10% of the total amount spent on each student, educators had to be sure their vote didn’t harm the state’s educational budget.

Going forward, Arizona will now have the ability to amend, replace or delete the current standards left over from the days of the Core. While these changes certainly cannot be made easily, requiring a lot of review and oversight, educators are still asking parents to submit their thoughts on the subject, thoughts that will have an effect on the next decade of Arizona’s educational system.