Idaho Dept. of Ed: We know the SBAC might not be valid, but insist that it is tied to certification and compensation anyways

SDE logoRecently, I inquired to ISDE’s Director of Assessment and Accountability about Idaho’s recent decision to give the SBAC to sophomores this year instead of juniors; I thought this decision was problematic due to the fact that the SBAC includes questions from 11th grade Common Core Standards in both English Language Arts and Mathematics.

However, I was shocked during this exchange when the Director told me that the decision was due to the fact the state was worried students wouldn’t take the test seriously, and they didn’t want their data set tainted…because, you know, then the results wouldn’t be valid.

Here is the Director’s response to my question of the logic in giving 10th graders the SBAC instead of 11th graders:

“Grade 11 is optional this year as your juniors have already met graduation requirements with the old ISATs and might not take the new tests seriously if they were used for accountability.”

Well, that’s convenient.  I’m glad the State Department can cherry-pick the students who take the SBAC “seriously” and which students will not; I’m sure they will give that same privilege to teachers…oh..err…I guess not.

See, here’s why my jaw was left open: The Director of Assessment admitted, rightfully and logically, that if students won’t take the test seriously, then there is no point in assessing them because the data will be invalid. And, if that’s true, let’s not assess those kidos because it would be a total waste of time and resources, not to mention the fact that the data would be completely useless.

Thus, it would be logical to conclude that if there is a possibility the data is not accurate, then the SDE surely wouldn’t want to tie those scores to something as significant as a teacher’s livelihood.

Oh wait…they want to do exactly that?  Shucks!

According to the the Idaho State Department of Education’s recent Tiered Licensure recommendations, SBAC data will be tied directly to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation.

Why, if  the Dept. of Ed admits SBAC data isn’t accurate due to a student’s ability to botch the results by not faithfully executing the assessment, would ISDE be insisting that the data be tied to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation?

The insistence of tying data that is admittedly invalid is synonymous to tying a fortune cookie to real-world events.  I don’t know about you, but my lucky numbers haven’t  hit the lottery; what a scam! Time to hold those cookie-makers legally responsible.

The new SBAC takes a long time.  A really, really long time.  As in multiple days long time.  Enough wasted time that an Idaho Congressman publicly asked the state to scrap the SBAC kind of time.

Imagine asking a class of elementary students to sit down for eight plus hours to type on a keyboard kind of a long time.  Third graders totally want to sit down and take a test all day long, right?  Best day ever!

Isn’t it logical to conclude at some point that at least some of those kidos get wise and decide they would rather blow off the test to go outside to recess rather than spending an excruciatingly long period reading closely on a difficult text passage or spending more time  editing a written response?  When the kido makes that decision, do we hold the teacher responsible for the invalid data?

According to the state: Yupper!  In fact, let’s tie their certification, employment, and compensation to the test.  That totally makes sense!

Let’s compound that scenario for special education teachers who work with a population of students qualifying for a special education eligibility under categories of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Emotional Disturbances, and Autism Spectrum diagnosis.

Yup, I’m sure these students will always take the multi-day SBAC with the utmost earnestness; it’s not like the very behaviors they demonstrated to qualify for special education services to begin with would impede their ability to complete the SBAC with total validity of the results?

I wrote to Superintendent Luna about this concern as it seems to me that tying test scores to what the Director of Assessment publicly states is not valid seems like a poor way to attract special educators to the state.

LunaSupt. Luna was kind enough to provide a thoughtful reply; however, we continue to disagree on the impact this proposal will have on special educators and special education students.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the instructor of the students, the single person in the room who is best informed on the student’s actual knowledge of reading, writing, and mathematical ability, is unable to judge if a student is taking the exam seriously or if the student is simply “clicking” through answers; that’s because the teacher is prohibited from looking at the student’s screen during the examination according to SBAC protocol.  That totally makes sense.  

Nope.  It’s not like the teacher could identify students who simply want to get to recess or complete the test as quickly as possible with no regard for the results.  It’s not like they spend five days a week with the student identifying their abilities.  Don’t trust that instructor…they might actually be able to identify the students that took the exam seriously and those who did not.  Who in the world would want to know that?

I implore citizens across the state to write to the State Board of Education regarding the proposed Tiered Licensure Certification.

You can email the board at

If you want a template to use in writing the State Board, feel free to check out my letter.

This legislation ties a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation to a student’s standardized test score that the Dept. of Education admits might not be valid.

There is little incentive for teachers to work with at-risk populations of students who might not “take the test seriously” considering their certification, compensation, and employment is at risk; that’s the opposite policy we want to create.

We want to ensure that the best teachers working with these students to ensure they graduate with the skills needed to participate in the workforce.

Once, in Athens, there was an actor  named Aeschines who decided to try his luck at politics.  That actor tried to claim certain truths in public, while  engaging in the opposite policy privately behind closed doors.

His opponent coined the word hypocrite.

Perhaps there is a lesson Idaho State Department of Education can learn in this story when they acknowledge the SBAC is not valid on one hand, yet attempt to tie it to certification, employment, and compensation on the other?

Oh, and for the record, Aeschines, the hypocrite,  had a very short political career; he was banished to exile.  Turns out the public has a knack for identifying hypocrites, and doesn’t tend to like, or vote, for them much.


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