Data flap could lead CA to drop test consortium

Data flap could lead CA to drop test consortium

(Calif.) One of the Legislature’s leaders on education is fed up with the multi-state consortium that provides schools with assessments, and has suggested that California should consider going it alone.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and chair of the education committee in the lower house, said in an interview last week that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has failed to give teachers useable feedback from interim exams and doesn’t seem too interested in fixing the problem.

“I think California ought to think about going it alone,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be a member of the consortium. We can develop these tools on our own if they are not going to develop them for us. So, my question becomes, why are we in this consortium?”

O’Donnell is running legislation aimed at getting the state and school districts to provide classroom teachers with better interim data. AB 1035 would clarify that the Legislature expects student scores on interim assessments will be recorded so that teachers can view them by the standard being tested.

Interim testing is considered an extremely valuable component because it gives teachers early insight into what material students are having trouble comprehending. But the current system delivers a single score on a broad block of content that might contain multiple standards.

Teachers are also not able to see actual student responses to specific test questions, which prevents the kind of ‘item analysis’ educators had hoped to conduct using the new platform.

O’Donnell’s bill passed out of the state Senate last week without dissent and returned to the Assembly for concurrence on only minor amendments.

“This way the teacher will be able to tell what standard a student is struggling with,” O’Donnell said. “Right now, with the way the interim assessments are being recorded, you can’t do that.”

The consortium is one of two established in 2010 with a grant from the Obama administration to design tests that were aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards. As many as 45 states at one point utilized the assessments developed by one of the consortiums but, largely because of a shift in political sentiments related to the Common Core itself, only 27 states used the consortium assessment in 2016-17.

California joined the Smarter Balanced group in 2011 when there were a total of 30 states participating. Today there are only 16.

California is by far the largest state still a member of Smarter Balanced, which also includes Michigan, Washington, North Carolina and Oregon.

Officials at Smarter Balanced have said they will make the changes needed to give teachers scores by content standard, but O’Donnell remains skeptical.

“I met with the executive director and we held a hearing on the issue earlier this year,” he said.  “I understand that they will be making improvements, but I’m still concerned that SBAC doesn’t appreciate the importance of the issue.”