Next Monday, April 20th,  the State Board of Education will conduct the required public hearing on the progress of the HB1490 Standards Development Work Groups. In addition to hearing the reports from the various work group chairs, the public will be given time to comment.

State Board of Education Meeting

Monday, April 20, 2015

11:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Public Hearing
State Board of Education Room
205 Jefferson Street, 1st Floor
Jefferson City, MO 65101

The public needs to know that on March 31, 2015, the state filed its official request for renewal of our NCLB waiver and in that waiver request, DESE wrote the following on page 20

1B. Transition to College- and Career-Ready Standards

The State Education Agency (SEA) has transitioned to college- and career-ready standards statewide in English language arts and mathematics for all students and schools. During the 2014 legislative session the Missouri General Assembly passed HB 1490, which requires independent workgroups to review standards in four content areas: English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Members of the workgroups are appointed by various state organizations and legislative offices. The product from those groups is to be submitted to the State Board of Education by October 1, 2015. The law states that the State Board has final authority to approve and recommend revisions. [emphasis added]

Is this an indication that the State Board of Education may be planning to reject the work of the Work Groups? Is this a coded message to the USDoED not to worry, that it only looks like Missouri has dropped the Common Core Standards? It looks like they are making the case that the State Board can still override the will of the people by not approving the work of the work groups or recommending changes that would bring them back in line with Common Core.

Monday is the public’s chance to tell them that such actions would place them at extreme odds with the will of the people.

In addition, Monday is a chance to let the Board know the public’s problems with the Smarter Balanced Assessments which are currently being implemented around the state. As reported by the Missouri Education Watchdog blog this morning, numerous districts around the state are experiencing problems with the test crashing and are struggling, in some cases, to even be able to log in. These are only the latest problems with the test. Below are other problems with SBAC that we have written about before.

  1. The report of the SBAC test validity and reliability that was sent to legislative leadership  demonstrates that evidence of SBAC external validity and reliability is lacking.[1] Publicly available formal and informal SBAC publications do not include evidence of reliability and validity [2],[3],[4],[5]. This means that the test does not meet the requirements of Missouri statute. It also means that the test does not meet the requirements of NCLB which require states to use tests that are “valid for the purposes for which the assessment system is used; be consistent with relevant, nationally recognized professional and technical standards, and be supported by evidence…of adequate technical quality [emphasis added] for each purpose.” NCLB, 2001, §200.2(b)(4)(I,ii) We are currently giving a test that does not meet the requirements of the regulation cited as evidence that we need to give the test.
  2. External reviews of SBAC claim that it is merely a “work in progress” and is “vulnerable to hacking.” One reviewer called it “bizarre”.  [6],[7],[8],[9] The rush to implement the test before it was fully developed is causing a number of technical problems as well as the problems of the quality of the data it produces. Parents are only now realizing that personally identifiable information about their child was pre-loaded into the SBAC system long ago, without their knowledge. Knowing that the system is vulnerable to hacking is causing stress for parents and calls into question the state’s ability to protect student identities.
  3. Though HB1490 restricted Performance Test Items (essay questions) to only those created by Missouri teachers, there are performance items in the SBAC Assessments being currently given that do not meet that requirement. In addition, those items are likely to be scored by minimally educated and trained individuals hired by CTB to do the scoring.
  4. Results of this year’s test cannot be compared to last year’s SBAC pilot program of the computer adaptive version because they were simultaneously testing both the testing infrastructure and the test items. It is not possible to statistically tease out which factor may have led to a wrong answer. This year’s test is a fixed form test which is not standardized to last year’s version. Thus we will not be able to determine AYP by comparing the two SBAC tests. Since DESE has so far promised that next year’s test will again be the adaptive test, we will still not be able to determine AYP from comparison of the this year’s and next year’s.
  5. Because so many districts were not ready with the infrastructure to support all students testing on-line, many alternatives have been utilized to get every student through testing. This means that there is a lack of standardization in the delivery of the test as some students are on desk top computers, some on laptops, some on tablets, some in classrooms, some in libraries etc. In addition, the students whose parents are refusing the test who are being held in the testing room under Sit and Stare policies further negatively affect the standardized testing atmosphere making proper analysis of the testing student’s results difficult if not impossible. Districts should have been advised not to do this so as not to taint the results of testing students, but DESE has chosen instead to support such punitive policies.

Therefore, the public should ask the State Board of Education to:

(1)  Immediately halt the implementation of the Smarter Balanced Assessment  in Missouri given the problems we have had so far and the fact that the test will yield no useful results. HB1490 further required the test be considered a “pilot program” and that no teacher evaluations or decline in district accreditation status could be based on the scores from this year’s test. Therefore it is a waste of the state’s time and money to continue the delivery of this very faulty test.  No state has yet had any financial consequences for decisions that conflict with the waivers conditions that the USDoED put forth. Even should they decide to impose the proscribed consequences, all that would mean is a loss in flexibility in spending 20% of Title I funds, not a loss of funding to the state.

(2) Issue a directive to school districts that students who are not testing should not be permitted in the testing room, i.e. sit and stare policies are counterproductive to standardized testing conditions and should not be used.

(3)  Resist any temptation to return to the Common Core Standards which would be in direct opposition to the will of the people expressed in HB1490. The Board should work with the Work Groups to justify with research and evidence any suggested revisions to the documents submitted in October.


Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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