Guest Opinion: Idaho schools get ready for new SBAC achievement tests


February 16, 2014 

Teachers, administrators and trustees in school districts and charter schools throughout the state of Idaho have been preparing for the implementation of the Idaho Core Standards and the aligned assessment from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Idaho educators are committed to making sure all students are prepared to take the SBAC pilot test this April. As representatives of the teachers, administrators and school board trustees across the state, we are committed to working with policymakers to provide the tools and flexibility necessary to help every Idaho child be successful.

Idaho schools have implemented state assessments for many years. In every instance, schools have worked through testing challenges, and they are currently working through the new challenges of the SBAC, including:

- Scheduling for a test that might require some students up to 7.5 hours over several days to complete.

- Making sure the school has the technology infrastructure.

- Ensuring there are enough computing devices available.

- Preparing elementary students with sufficient keyboarding skills.

Schools are busy addressing these challenges. The pilot will help them assure that they can successfully implement the test. In the simplest of terms, the pilot is a test of the test. This is an important step in order to evaluate the time and cost and to improve upon the questions before the test is fully implemented. Since the student scores do not count in the pilot phase, the state will have a year to work with the test developer to make the adjustments for a successful implementation in 2015.

The State Department of Education has been providing direction on the implementation of the SBAC assessment to administrators for a couple of years. Personnel from the SDE have presented workshops and webinars and they have also tried to address the challenges districts are facing. Recently, based on input from superintendents, the SDE will now give school districts the choice in testing their ninth- and 10th-graders in the pilot. We will expect that same level of collaboration and compromise moving forward.

After the pilot, our members are looking forward to providing the SDE with further feedback as we prepare for the 2015 SBAC.

Just as we have successfully implemented other state assessments in the past, we are confident we will successfully implement the SBAC for all Idaho students. The results from this pilot will be invaluable for teachers as they address the educational needs of their students to achieve success in life.

Karen Echeverria, executive director, Idaho School Boards Association. Rob Winslow, executive director, Idaho Association of School Administrators. Robin Nettinga, executive director, Idaho Education Association.

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