Administrators: Jury still out on SBAC
Updated 10:04 am, Wednesday, September 23, 2015
As they prepare to send individual scores to parents, Darien school administrators advised board members to avoid drawing sweeping conclusions from Smarter Balanced Assessment testing results to judge the aptitude of students.
In response to a question from school board member Katherine Stein about how the scores might be used to establish placement for students academically, Superintendent Dan Brenner said he is reserving judgment on the test’s ability to gauge student capability. “The truth is we need to get our head around exactly what those tests were used for. The real caution on this is when you have only one year of data we don’t know about the validity or reliability of the test,” Brenner said. “You have to be careful in terms of making decisions of where kids land based on that.”
During a special Board of Education meeting Monday night, Dr. Susie Da Silva, Darien’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and Brenner presented a broad breakdown of SBAC scores from last year.
“The reality is the Smarter Balanced test is one snapshot of a child’s achievement …,” Da Silva said. “This one particular measure should not be the sole measure we use to base our assessment of a child’s performance in terms of their classroom and how we assess our school or our district.”
But in the short term, Da Silva said, individual student results can help identify areas of instruction that should be bolstered.
“We’ll continue to drill down to the level to see in what area we need to grow and whether the curriculum is meeting the needs of the children,” she said.
According to data released by the State Department of Education, Darien had the highest percentage of students in the state who met or exceeded achievement levels across all grades in English and Math.
This year was the first the Smarter Balanced Assessment test was administered statewide to students in the grades 3-8 and 11th grade, with the test being aligned to the Common Core State Standards and replaced the Connecticut Master Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test last year.
For all classes between grades 3-8 in Darien schools, more than 80 percent of students met or exceeded the achievement goals for English Language Arts, with 92.4 percent of seventh-graders meeting or exceeding the goals.
Da Silva said numerical standings ranking Darien against other similar districts in its reference group such as New Canaan, Ridgefield, Westport, and Weston also are somewhat distorted, in that even a small number of students who answer a wrong question or two can skew the rankings several percentage points.
“Not that we want to minimize that we’ve done well in some areas…,” Da Silva said. “But when you look at a certain category a one-percent change can represent four kids, so it is something you want to keep in mind when you look at our results compared to other districts.”
During the meeting was the topic of the rate of completion that 11th graders taking the test in the spring.
While almost 97 percent of students districtwide participated in the test, only 86 percent of 11th graders completed the English Language Arts portion of the test and 76.74 the math part of the test.
Brenner said he believed that the lower completion rate was due to the test having little or no impact on their academic standing at the high school.
With the blessing of federal education officials, next year 11th graders in the state will take the SAT but not the SBAC to avoid two rounds of standardized testing.
Da Silva said the district’s schools are scheduling public meetings to discuss the SBAC results in each school. Parents who have concerns about their child’s performance on the SBAC will be able to address it individually with school principals in the coming weeks.
“They don’t want parents anxious about this one piece of information,” Da Silva said. “…t is just one piece of a reasonable assessment.”