Category Archives: Idaho

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.


Idaho Aligns Standards to Common Core

That cluster of standards that govern how Idaho teachers teach and how students learn are now aligned with common core. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction came up with the cluster of integrated instruction that is used in Idaho. If the idea that people almost 2,400 miles away contributed to how children in Idaho are instructed and what learning goals should be applied at each grade level, consider this: Common core is really a uniform approach to instruction and learning that a whole host of people across most of the states in the union agreed upon. One reason why they were able to forge a common core is that they all agreed that children should graduate from high school either career ready or college ready. College ready means that the students are able to enroll in credit based basic classes at two or four year universities. Since it takes a certain set of skills and a particular level of knowledge in order for this to occur, it wasn’t hard for them to agree upon what this picture would look like. Common core provides a guide for how to get to that outcome.

The Basics

So now, in Idaho, standards are aligned with other common core participants from Kindergarten through 12th grade related to English Language Arts (ELA), Literacy and Math. One thing you’ll see in English Language Arts classes is students learning how to read and comprehend more complicated text. This means that a child in a ELA classroom in Idaho will be gradually introduced to more complex texts when they move to higher and higher grades. They also will see vocabulary that will help them to grasp more academic terms and their meanings. With direct instruction, a mix of conversation and reading; students are expected to be able to tackle more advanced vocabulary along these lines.

Reading ELA Instruction

Students will read all types of text that align with common core. They will still read narratives, but they will get exposure to more informational text. This won’t happen exclusively in Reading or ELA classes. Instead, there will be reading of foundational US documents in Social Studies, like the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation. Social Security Act and the Brown vs Board of Education court decision. Other possible American documents that they may read include the Voting Rights Act, speeches, The Apollo Flight Plan and personal letters of historical significance.

Students will also read Shakespeare, classic myths, stories from around the globe, American literature and more. Technical subjects and Science reading will also be included. With common core, when students read such text and are called upon to answer questions about what they read, they will have to refer back to the text for evidence before answering. For example, they may find their answer in paragraph three, line two. In order for students to accomplish these evidential responses they must be able to read for comprehension. Skimming the text will not get them the results they are required to provide.

Writing Instruction

When it comes to writing, students in Idaho will still do narrative writing as before. However, they will also be called upon to write informational pieces, sequential pieces and argumentative pieces. In regards to the later, they will have to soundly support their arguments. Students in Idaho will now be writing in Science, Social Studies, History and technical subjects.

Common core is largely about helping students become independent learners able to build knowledge.

Speech Classes

Even speaking and listening skills have to be developed in order for students in Idaho to be ready for college. Speech classes will be governed by new standards with common core. For example, students will need to be able to start and participate in discussions where they collaborate with others. This includes one-on-one, teacher led, and in groups of various sizes. They will learn to build on one another’s ideas, engage in decision-making dialogue, read and be prepared to discuss the reading material. In addition, students in speech classes in Idaho will have to provide evidence from the read text to support the points of their discussion. The students will engage in civil discussions by voting after discussions, reaching a consensus on matters and presenting¬† ideas.

The well-prepared student exiting a speech class should even be able to clarify, verify and challenge each others’ information during discussions, probe for details and more information; as well as listen to diverse perspectives and respond to such. They will be able to justify the position or stance they take on an issue. Summarizing and synthesizing the comments they hear will also be some of the fruits of their experiences in speech classes under common core.


Common Core in Idaho is on another plane. The rigor and more specified objectives will mean that teachers will have to prepare lessons with more details, use a more diverse set of materials and execute their lessons with new outcomes in mind. The expectations and demands on the students are on a higher plane when it comes to Blooms Taxonomy.