Source: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

California and seven other dark green states have signed a contract to give the Smarter Balanced tests next spring. Nine light green states are expected to contract with the consortium. Four blue Smarter Balanced member states won't contract next year. The red star is the location of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, where Smarter Balanced, the assessment consortium run by member states, is now located.

(Updated with correction on Sept. 4)

With the State Board of Education’s approval, California became the eighth state** Wednesday to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium for the standardized tests in the Common Core State Standards that students will take next spring.

An additional nine  member states are expected to sign on, making 17 states, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands,** committed to give the Smarter Balanced version of the standardized tests in math and English language arts, said Joe Willhoft, Smarter Balanced’s executive director. Four states ­– Michigan, North Carolina, Iowa and Wyoming have been affiliated with the consortium but are embroiled in political and funding disputes over Common Core and have put off signing on until at least next year, he said.

The state board’s unanimous consent was expected. California has been an influential governing member of Smarter Balanced, one of two groups of states that developed separate versions of Common Core tests over four years with a $350 million federal grant. California has also become Smarter Balanced’s home. As of July 1, Smarter Balanced  became an independent unit of  UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies in partnership with the the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) at UCLA.

With federal money running out this year, Smarter Balanced is now self-funded. California will pay $9.55 million annually for three years for a total of $28.65 million. That works out to $9.55 per student up to the first 1 million students, with no additional charge for the remaining 2.6 million California students who will take the online English language arts and math tests for grades 3 through 8 and grade 11.

The Smarter Balanced contract doesn’t include the cost of scoring, administering and reporting results of the assessments – the company ETS will do that for an estimated $17.75 per student, according to the state Department of Education. But it does include Common Core resources that districts laboring to implement the new standards this year should find valuable: access, starting in late fall, to a digital library of sample questions and lesson plans, along with a social networking site for teachers to exchange information, Willhoft said. There will also be interim assessments – sample, comprehensive tests that will guide teachers on areas of instruction they should focus on and tell them whether their students are on track to do well with the official tests in the spring. Interim tests, which teachers and districts will score themselves, should be ready no later than December,  Willhoft said.

The initial interim test may be pretty spare, because energy went into creating tens of thousands of items for the official or “summative” tests, Willhoft said. But in time, test questions will be retired and shifted to the interim tests, building a larger bank while providing teachers with more flexibility to create their own interim tests.

In public testimony, Bill Lucia, executive director of the non-profit organization EdVoice, criticized the lack of details on the interim assessments and the data library in the 30-page contract with Smarter Balanced. There are no specific “deliverables” and only “vague promises,” he said.

State education officials and state board members didn’t respond to his comments.

Correction: An earlier version stated nine states had signed a contract. It’s eight states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, a territory. Also, the relationship between UCLA and Smarter Balanced has been clarified.

 


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  1. Joan 2 years ago2 years ago

    In our local 1st grade classes the teachers are saying that this year they are teaching ‘Number Sense’ instead of math. And that instead of learning numbers up to 15, they will only go up to 10. But dig deeper. What?! Has everyone lost their minds?
    Who elected Joe Wilhoft? Local districts are losing all local control? Wake up your communities!

  2. Tressy Capps 2 years ago2 years ago

    Glad to see some comments here that reflect the truth about the communist core. Opt your children out of the testing and data collection http://www.pacificjustice.org/california-common-core-data-opt-out-form.html IF you can’t home or private Christian school them. Teach them about the God of the Bible. Our great nation was founded on Christian principles. The federal government has no business educating your child.

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    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Studies show kids who go to public school earn more than home schooled kids after controlling for income, and do way better in school. Public schools are where we build a sense of unity and togetherness, that we are all one nation. I think I'm a great parent, first 2 kids made it to Lowell, but I am no fountain of all wisdom, I am one person with one set of knowledge. … Read More

      Studies show kids who go to public school earn more than home schooled kids after controlling for income, and do way better in school. Public schools are where we build a sense of unity and togetherness, that we are all one nation. I think I’m a great parent, first 2 kids made it to Lowell, but I am no fountain of all wisdom, I am one person with one set of knowledge. My children are taught but dozens of great teachers with different points of view over many years, all of which add to their knowledge and make them unique. I wouldn’t want them to be limited to me or my wife and I, or the 2 of us plus people we handpick of a certain religion. Your values are best if exposed to other values. What if I’m wrong? I surely am on many things. Let them decide for themselves. I do criticize the maintaining of bad teachers, but that’s only maybe 5-10%. They got a lot of exposure to great teachers. I say you are doing a grave disservice to your kids by homeschooling them or sending them to Christian School. They won’t fit in with America’s future, which is open, tolerant, more like Europe, accepting of gays, lesbians, interracial couples, atheism, open-minded sexuality, and intellectual and artistic freedom. These schools try to bring back the ’50s. Your kids won’t fit in. They also won’t be unified in helping America be all it can, they’ll be resentful of most Americans. We have to respect each others’ differences, not raise kids to hate. Calling people who disagree with you communists is just one example.

  3. Christine Ruelos 2 years ago2 years ago

    If the purpose of common core is for the good of our children's education, then why did these "people" try to take the common core tests and do the workbooks and see if they can do it...wow...it's sad that they think this CCSS will actually put us in the world map of great education. From the land of great opportunities...we have leaders making decisions about something they know nothing about. When the curriculum … Read More

    If the purpose of common core is for the good of our children’s education, then why did these “people” try to take the common core tests and do the workbooks and see if they can do it…wow…it’s sad that they think this CCSS will actually put us in the world map of great education. From the land of great opportunities…we have leaders making decisions about something they know nothing about. When the curriculum of math in the old ways have been working for years and years, many kids are still suffering with it and now they change it to something even more difficult and would actually require the kids to think…they actually feel that it’s the solution to make them better students and thinker. Hello people !!! Now they just made those same kids even more frustrated and worst than where they were. Because now they can’t learn the concept of addition and subtraction just by simple adding and subtracting…now they have to go around the problem and include boxes and shapes and things to learn the concept and explain what they learned in an essay…good luck with that…actually, good job leaders of America…now you just created an even stupider generation…perfect…that way they can’t question what you are doing coz they have no clue what the hell is going on…they can’t even add 2+2 …wow !!! this is just so sad !!

  4. Sonja Luchini 2 years ago2 years ago

    Common Core curriculum still has enormous problems. Teachers who have been involved with pilot testing last school year have told me they were unable to give notes and concerns about errors/misinformation to the publishing companies, but could forward their "suggestions" to the State where they might or might not be addressed. This article written in 2011 explains how we are losing enrichment curriculum: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/mar11/vol68/num06/High-Stakes_Testing_Narrows_the_Curriculum.aspx And it's crazy instruction like this that has teachers wondering if the … Read More

    Common Core curriculum still has enormous problems. Teachers who have been involved with pilot testing last school year have told me they were unable to give notes and concerns about errors/misinformation to the publishing companies, but could forward their “suggestions” to the State where they might or might not be addressed.
    This article written in 2011 explains how we are losing enrichment curriculum: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/mar11/vol68/num06/High-Stakes_Testing_Narrows_the_Curriculum.aspx
    And it’s crazy instruction like this that has teachers wondering if the real reasons for pushing CCSS is them and their students cry: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/04/watch-this-math-teacher-take-almost-an-entire-minute-explaining-how-to-add-9-plus-6-using-common-core-math/
    This has nothing to do with children – it’s about business opportunities for businesses. We are wasting precious education funding on this nonsense and making our children crazy in the process. A recent Stanford study found that the CCSS “is totally unnatural and definitely bad for brain development.”: http://peter5427.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/stanford-study-common-core-is-bad-for-the-brain/

    This movement is absurd, hurts children, punishes teachers and sucks money away from public education for the things that really let children learn: arts, music, theater, sports – fun!

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    • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

      Sonja:I followed the links, and the Stanford study you cite did not conclude that the Common Core is bad for brain development. It doesn’t talk about Common Core at all.

  5. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    I remember that Amplify Insight, a News Corp. subsidiary, was awarded a contract to develop software for the formative assessments of SBAC. There's no mention of formative assessment in this article but you do mention the interim assessments, which seem to be applied interchangeably in teacher practice as described both here and by Amplify itself as tools to provide interim assessment. So when Willhoft says the resources are "spare", I wonder what did … Read More

    I remember that Amplify Insight, a News Corp. subsidiary, was awarded a contract to develop software for the formative assessments of SBAC. There’s no mention of formative assessment in this article but you do mention the interim assessments, which seem to be applied interchangeably in teacher practice as described both here and by Amplify itself as tools to provide interim assessment. So when Willhoft says the resources are “spare”, I wonder what did SBAC get for that $12.5M contract to Amplify. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but just wondering….

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    • Rob 2 years ago2 years ago

      Don … no need to wonder … it is all publoc record and the contract available on the Smarter Balanced procurement website. But to help … Amplify was NOT hired to develop formative assessments or even formative assesmment items. They were in fact hired to deliver what is referenced as the “Common Core resources that districts laboring to implement the new standards this year should find valuable” and the software in which they reside.

  6. john mockler 2 years ago2 years ago

    John I would pay more attention to Bill Lucia and a lot less to the self serving and vague Joe Willhoft. Bill has actually created a state testing program that worked. best John

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    • Doug McRae 2 years ago2 years ago

      John -- Agree with you, glad you joined in. I also made comments to the board chiding them for not even considering shorter less expensive tests designed to do the same thing as the tests Smarter Balanced is still developing, or considering a competitive way to acquire the same services that Smarter Balanced is offering. I also left a series of questions for the board to elicit information needed to "value" the assets and services … Read More

      John — Agree with you, glad you joined in. I also made comments to the board chiding them for not even considering shorter less expensive tests designed to do the same thing as the tests Smarter Balanced is still developing, or considering a competitive way to acquire the same services that Smarter Balanced is offering. I also left a series of questions for the board to elicit information needed to “value” the assets and services being offered by the UCLA-Smarter Balanced MOU the board was considering, things like how many test questions has Smarter Balanced developed under federal funding, how many test questions have qualified as valid questions for summative end-of-year tests [with those questions all being public domain since they were developed using federal funds, thus available for CA’s use at no cost outside the $9.5 million annual fee for the MOU], as well as how many additional test questions Smarter Balanced expected to develop in the future. But, the board just listened pro forma to the public input from Lucia and myself, and voted to accept the MOU without a word of discussion or inquiry after the public comment. Not an impressive way to spend taxpayer money, at least for this taxpayer.

  7. Patricia Repka 2 years ago2 years ago

    I have been surprised, pleasantl so, to find out that fewer and fewer states are signing on to this insidious idea that educating our students need to be be entwined in a creepy way with our currently socialist government. This is step #, oh I don't know, # 3 or 4 in the current administration's effort to turn our country into an educated (but not too deeply), but still stupid electorate. This … Read More

    I have been surprised, pleasantl so, to find out that fewer and fewer states are signing on to this insidious idea that educating our students need to be be entwined in a creepy way with our currently socialist government. This is step #, oh I don’t know, # 3 or 4 in the current administration’s effort to turn our country into an educated (but not too deeply), but still stupid electorate. This president is a maligant turmour that happily will be excised and none too soon. I beseech parents to read for themselves what Common Core is all about. But, for those who wish, and need to, endeavor to have some alcohol nearby to steady their nerves.

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    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      Paranoid delusions. Do you realize taxes were far more progressive under Eisenhower and Nixon and early Reagan than now or anything Obama has proposed? Individualizing the only black President under the guise of him being extreme, which he's not. Eisenhower complained of the military industrial complex which sucks away education money, and no one has fixed that, we keep invading countries who had nothing to do with terrorism and wasting trillions. … Read More

      Paranoid delusions. Do you realize taxes were far more progressive under Eisenhower and Nixon and early Reagan than now or anything Obama has proposed? Individualizing the only black President under the guise of him being extreme, which he’s not. Eisenhower complained of the military industrial complex which sucks away education money, and no one has fixed that, we keep invading countries who had nothing to do with terrorism and wasting trillions. Let’s make a bet, I bet you’ll say the same thing about the next President. Oh, but that will be a woman. So paranoid.

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