State Board disagrees with the new commissioner’s proposed assessment change

At the March 23, 2017 SBOE meeting, commissioner Edelblut mentioned in response to a question that the department was about to issue an RFP for a new assessment for next year.  He declined to share it with the board for feedback before it was released.

Commissioner highlights key RFP goals

The department issued a 151 page RFP on March 29.  The board shared an extensive list of concerns with the department at its April 6 meeting. (here in the video).

The RFP discussion began with the commissioner outlining key elements of the RFP:

  • the request that vendors provide as part of their solution a way to use their “interim assessments” to replace the summative assessment to reach an annual determination for each child;
  • the importance of assessing writing;
  • timely and easily understood feedback so that “that can become formative for the student because we know that the Smarter Balanced feedback is not available until the next year, so that is not very useful…I want to see feedback get back to parents quickly…”

Here are the details about when Smarter Balanced scores are actually available.

Cindy Chagnon asks where is the input from the field?

Board member Cindy Chagnon responded (here on the video) that it didn’t seem to make sense to change the assessment now and change the standards later.  She said that, given that the department had spent years preparing for the Smarter Balanced assessment, this quick change seemed precipitous:

“We spent years discussing, spent so much getting feedback from all the stakeholder groups and the schools, the superintendents and the principals.  And then we did pilot test…and gave Smarter Balanced recommendations…We had professional development in the districts…  And before we ever got started, there was so much input, there were all these conversations with the superintendents’ association and the teachers’ association and all these districts…there was so much that went into the process ahead of time…”

Uncertainty and disruption

Board member Bill Duncan made the point that the RFP is not necessary, that the department could continue with the current assessment for the next year rather than enter the “deeply disruptive” RFP process in which the State will face significant “legal risks and cost risks that I advise you that we should not do.  If we were to take the alternative approach of continuing with Smarter Balanced for the next year and, while we are reviewing the standards, use that time to engage the field” in ways they have been engaged in the past eight years.

Board member Helen Honorow said (here) that, “You’re going to end up with uncertainty and confusion in the field…It feels like it’s putting the cart before the horse unnecessarily…Why wouldn’t you propose Smarter Balanced again for at least a year while we go through the standards review…?

What longitudinal data is needed?

Cindy Chagnon added, “We always talk about longitudinal studies and we always say it takes a 3 year cycle to really make real analysis of what we need to do…and to only have a two year, and then go to a one year difference and then go to another test after we change the standards, there’s very little value in that.

Commissioner Edelblut responded about longitudinal studies, saying,

“One of the things I find curious is that when we started working with Smarter Balanced, even though we have been working with it, they still have no longitudinal data.  Whereas there are other…there are assessment tools in the field today that, when our students engage with them, they will immediately provide us longitudinal information for college and career readiness.  I would hope that that would be something that, as we get the different proposals in, that we would have.”

This post discusses the requirement for longitudinal data.

Commissioner: why is the board interested now?

The topic ended with Duncan saying that, although there was not time to discuss the issue fully, his detailed memo with concerns about the RFP would be in the record.  Commissioner Edelblut responded,

“I would just add on the record as well that as interested as this board today is in this process, before I came on as commissioner, I did not, I’m not sure why, it seems to me, Bill, that this is a matter that this board would have taken up, if there’s this type of interest in it, that this board would have taken up back in October or something like that rather than come to us when we’re already in an expired contract.  I’ll just put that on the record.”

Duncan responded,

“On the record, I will respond that, we considered this under control by the department, where this looks like a very ragged out-of-control process to me….”