Category Archives: Vermont

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.


Exemplary Common Core Rollout in Vermont

In only one other state has Common Core been adopted and then treated with respect in regards to its effect on the students and teachers. Vermont joined the many adopters on August 17, 2010 with the goal to see a full integration by the 2013-14 school year. While mistakes have been made along the way, the state is a far cry from the outrage felt in other states.

Handling it Like Adults

While Vermont is full of proponents and opponents alike, the main focus has always remained on the children. Because of this almost tunnel vision view of the adoption, even the opponents are happy to go through with the change even though they still await evidence to see if it’s as wonderful as the proponents believe it will be. For the most part, however, educators are on board, seeing the new standards as a relevant way to prepare their students for college and the real world.

To Vermont, the Common Core was a welcome change, replacing antiquated curricula that varied dramatically across the small state. The leaders that adopted the change have kept in contact with the teachers across the state to make sure they’re comfortable with the shift as well. It’s this open dialogue that has ended up saving Vermont from the debates now tearing apart other states.

Public Mistakes

Unfortunately, not everything had gone according to plan. The biggest mistake the state made was its poor communication with the public. Because of this, parents have a skewed take on the Core. While educators nevertheless hold workshops and invite everyone out to meetings, it seems to be coming a bit too late. Miscommunication has led to a somewhat troubling rift that will take some time to smooth over.

Differences in Preparation

Another challenge faced by the state falls on the readiness of each school. Though some were already hooked up to the internet and outfitted with all the latest technologies, many are struggling to find the resources to upgrade. On top of this, the state as implemented a “ready or not” approach that seems to have ignored the needs of the struggling schools.

In essence, the state believes it is the responsibility of each school and each individual teacher to prepare in time for full Core integration. The results have been predictable. Those educators that know how to plan in advance have been prepping since 2011 and are, currently, awaiting the go ahead. Those that are a bit lazier are now scrambling to pull together what they need to help the kids pass their new standardized test.

All in all, Vermont stands as a glowing example of the positive effect a continued stream of open dialogue has on implementing new standards. Though not an entirely perfect rollout, it nevertheless has staved off some of the more troublesome problems seen across the rest of the country.