'Glitches' Blamed for Nationwide Common Core Test Delay

As the Common Core standards continue to draw intense controversy from parents, teachers, and taxpayers across the country, one of the test consortia creating and operating the multi-state assessments aligned with the standards has abruptly delayed its field tests by one week, causing major scheduling problems in some school districts.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) informed states on Friday that the nationwide start date for the online, computerized tests would be changed from Tuesday, March 18, to March 25, citing logistical issues. The tests are considered “field” assessments that would serve to “test the test.”

SBAC consists of 23 states, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

The consortium announced the delay of testing Friday via an article in Education Week by guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk. The article began, “One of the two state consortia developing exams aligned with the Common Core State Standards is giving itself an additional week to iron out any glitches before field-testing begins.”

SBAC officials, according to the Education Week article, said the delay was not related to the test’s content, but to “important elements, including the software and accessibility features (such as read-aloud assistance for certain students with disabilities).”

"There's a huge amount of quality checking you want to do to make sure that things go well, and that when students sit down, the test is ready for them, and if they have any special supports, that they're loaded in and ready to go," Jacqueline King, a spokeswoman for Smarter Balanced, said. "We're well on our way through that, but we decided yesterday that we needed a few more days to make sure we had absolutely done all that we could before students start to take the field tests." 

About three million students in 20,000 schools participate in SBAC. It is not clear how many schools are affected by the delay since some states do not have schools scheduled during this week of testing.

In Connecticut, school officials called the delay a major concern. About 90 percent of Connecticut school districts have chosen to give the SBAC “field” assessment, rather than the old Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) this year.

“The amount of confusion is huge,” said Bridgeport Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz, who told the CT Post that her district already had planned that while high school juniors took the test Tuesday, freshmen, sophomores, and seniors were booked for a different schedule with workshops, speakers, and special programs.

“We have no idea the availability of our speakers the following week,” Rabinowitz added. “I understand the state had no choice, but this is major.”

In Darien, Connecticut, Superintendent Lynne Pierson said the change in date will affect the district’s testing calendar. The greatest concern, she said, is how the delay will interfere with the Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT tests at the high school.

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said the delay was “disappointing.”

“The inconvenience this creates for our districts is real,” Pryor said. “With that said, we are pleased that SBAC is being appropriately cautious regarding necessary quality assurance.”

In Wyoming, about 75 schools are scheduled to field-test part of the exam.

Wyoming Assessment Director Deb Lindsey said the SBAC delay is not a concern for her.

“It is affirming to me that they’re placing really great importance on having a high-quality assessment right out of the gate,” Lindsey said. “Far better to delay by one week than to launch when you’re not fully confident you can launch successfully.”

The delay underscores the concerns of millions of parents and teachers who say that the Common Core standards and the aligned testing represent a centralized, top-down education system that is fraught with bureaucratic red tape. The main idea behind having testing “consortia” is to have the same test given to many students across the country, in keeping with the nationalized Common Core standards.

Many teachers, however, have said they have not had sufficient time to prepare students for the tests. Increasing numbers of parents, meanwhile, have worked to have their children “opt out” of the testing.

On Wednesday, during a public hearing in the Connecticut legislature on the Common Core standards and testing, Pryor, a Common Core supporter, said the state can’t force a student to take the tests, but that the state and local school systems could face federal sanctions if too few students do so.


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