Category Archives: Oklahoma

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.


Oklahoma’s Repeal of Common Core

Though initially on board with adopting the Common Core, things came to a screeching halt when the state decided to drop them as a way to maintain state control of educational standards. Interestingly enough, Oklahoma is notorious for having some of the lowest educational achievements in the entire country. Nevertheless, it was a move that made dissenters pleased but teachers upset.


Tests First

Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma first pulled out of the standardized test that was to be associated with the Core, PARCC. This, however, was hardly a detrimental move as many states are opting out of this test altogether. Following a survey, it was found that only one in five of Oklahoma’s 1,773 schools would have enough technology to even administer the test, not to mention the sheer impossibility of funding an overhaul to get every school the technology to do so. In addition, their state test only took two to three hours while PARCC would have upped that number to nine. It was a decision in 2013 that was not driven by anti-Core individuals so much as the reality of Oklahoma’s situation.


Core Second

Interestingly enough, however, it seemed that Oklahoma, a state that appeared to be for the Core, eventually dropped it in 2014. What made this so shocking was the fact that Governor Mary Fallin had been loudly proclaiming the Core’s benefits since 2011. She even loudly defended them at the National Governors Association in early 2014. One day after this, Oklahoma introduced a bill to repeal the Core. It practically zoomed its way through the state government and ended up on Fallin’s desk. However, in a move that would shock many, Fallin approved the bill.

This proved to be a hard hit for the state’s teachers that had been preparing for Core implementation for three whole years. Many didn’t even know of the change as the Core was dropped in June, months before they would return to teach. For a lot of teachers, this was a rough blow for their students. As it turns out, there are quite a few schools in the state where many students that start the year will have moved to a different school by the end. Teachers saw the Core as a way to help those students that were always on the move across the country by regulating what was learned, when.

However, even though the Core is gone, its spirit still remains. No matter what Oklahoma is using, most teachers have adopted and adapted numerous ways the Core taught them to reassess teaching children. Now firm believers in the benefit of teaching in a way that promotes students to make discoveries on their own, classrooms are faring a bit better. While the government continues to argue about where the state’s education is headed, the teachers are doing all they can to make sure their students are prepared for anything.