The purpose of our website is to explain why the new Washington state Common Core test, called SBAC (pronounced S-BACK) is extremely harmful to our children - and provide you with specific information on how you can opt your kids out of this monstrosity. New York students have been dealing with Common Core tests for a couple of years now. Here is how one New York student described the Common Core test she had to take.
During the past 20 years, Washington tax payers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a series of disastrous and harmful high stakes tests. These included the WASL test and the MSP test. Look at how one Third Grade child described the WASL test:
The same corporate interests (and even many of the same people... see here) who produced these prior test disasters are back again with the SBAC test – looking to make even more money by harming even more of our children. Shocking as it may seem, the SBAC test is much worse than any previous test. SBAC is the first test that has been specifically designed to unfairly label more than half of the students in Washington state as failures. Just look at the following chart which was posted on the SBAC and OSPI websites in the fall of 2014:
Only the blue and green bars are considered “passing.” Levels 1 and 2 are considered to be “failing.” So the SBAC test will declare 61% of Washington's 80,000 Third Graders to be failures this summer. That is more than 48,000 children whose lives will be permanently harmed by being labeled failures. For comparison, the prior WASL test only labeled 31% of Third Graders as failures in 2008 and the MSP only labeled 35% as failures in 2013.
What makes the SBAC failure rate even more despicable is that Washington State students are among the highest achieving students of any students in the nation and even in the world. In 2013, the national average math score for 4th graders was 241. Washington students scored 246 – one of the highest average scores the nation. 86% of Washington Fourth Graders scored at Basic (Grade Level) or Above on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test. The NAEP test is the longest running and best researched test in the nation. So only 14% of our 4th Graders were below grade level in 2013. For more information on how well Washington state students have done on national tests, see here.
Check out this chart:
Notice that the failure rate on the 2015 SBAC test (61%) will be more than four times higher than the percent of students who are below grade level on the 2013 NAEP test (14%). Put another way, of Washington's 80,000 Third Graders, only 10,000 are below grade level. But 48,000 will be unfairly labeled as failures by the SBAC test. This means that 38,000 Third Graders who are actually at or above grade level will be told they are failures! This is a crime against our children. Our kids are not failures. It is the SBAC test that is a failure! The reason the SBAC test is a failure is because it is unfairly labeling students as failures who are at or above grade level.
Welcome to the SBAC Shell Game
An unfairly high failure rate is not the only glaring defect of the SBAC test. According to the SBAC website, there are more than 42,000 SBAC math questions. Very few of these questions have any research to confirm that they are fair questions that actually measure what they claim they are measuring. Therefore, very few of these 42,000 questions are valid questions. But to make matters worse, the SBAC test uses a controversial process called Adaptive Test Question selection. This means that students in any given grade or any given class will NOT be given the same test! Instead, the questions will vary depending on how the student answered the first few questions. Many students have already figured out that they will get easier questions on the rest of the test if they deliberately miss the first two or three questions. My daughter who is a 9th grader, told me that she and all of her friends know this as they have posted this information on Instragram.
But what makes this process of changing test questions based on student responses even more horrible is that there is no way to determine whether any given test or combination of questions is reliable or valid compared to the other SBAC tests. Each test for each child is a black hole. Each test is a shell game. Neither parents nor teachers will ever get to see the actual test that their students took.
What High Stakes Computer Driven Tests Really Measure is Not Academic Ability but the Income Level of the Parents
Below is a chart comparing the test scores of a low poverty school district (Mercer Island) to a neighboring high poverty school district (Renton). Both school districts are in Washington State and are only a few miles from each other (Source: OSPI Washington State Report Card). Note that the difference of about 20% in test scores is about half of the difference in poverty rates scores between the school districts. Some low income kids do well. But most low income kids suffer and will continue to suffer until their parents get a job and the children get a stable home.
The SBAC test unfairly labels three out of every four low income students as failures. Low income kids, who lack all of the extra help and stable home life of upper income kids are particularly harmed by SBAC. While SBAC unfairly labels two out of three upper income kids as failures, it labels three out of four lower income kids as failures. SBAC is a form of class warfare against poor kids.
The real problem in our state and in our nation has been a rapid rise in poverty thanks to all of the money being robbed from the poor and middle class and horded by the super rich. Childhood poverty in the US and in Washington state has risen rapidly in the past 15 years. In 2000, only 30% of the students in Washington state were eligible for Free or Reduced Price Lunch. Today, almost 50% of all students in Washington State qualify for FRPL. Below is the rate for the past 16 years that OSPI has been posting this statistic as part of the OSPI Washington State Report Card. http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?year=2012-13
The child poverty rate in Washington State is currently at a shocking 46%. How can this be? The underlying cause to this rapid rise in childhood poverty problem is the increasing lack of jobs for parents. Washington State has a total population of about 7 million people. Of these about 1 million are school age children and about 4 million are adults in the workforce. Unfortunately, Washington only has about 3 million jobs. This means the real unemployment rate in Washington State is about 25% - not 6% as reported in the mainstream media. In addition, of the 3 million jobs, about one million jobs have been cut from full time to part time jobs – which are cheaper for wealthy corporations as part time jobs do not require paying for health care and other benefits.
We do not have a failing schools problem. We have a lack of jobs problem. One in four children live in extreme poverty because their parents do not have a job. Another one in four children live in borderline poverty because their parents only have part time jobs (as is shown in the graph above).
Thanks to billionaires corrupting our political system, deregulating the banks and crashing our economy, nearly half of the children in our State and in our naton are now living in or near poverty. Child poverty in turn is the leading cause of school failure. If we want kids to do better in school, it is time to make sure that their parents have a living wage full time job!
What about competing with all of those kids in China and Europe?
The real problem in the US is childhood poverty. Kids without food or a home and living in the back of a car or in someone's basement are not going to do well in school. On every international test, when we adjust for the extreme poverty in the US, our kids, our teachers and our schools are performing among the best in the entire world. The average poverty rate in other developed countries is only 10%. But in the US, it is over 20%.
Students in US schools where the child poverty rate was less than 10% (similar to other developed countries) rank first in the world in reading and science and third in the world in math.
When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose higher, US students ranked lower and lower. Below is a chart showing international math test results for two states in the US – Massachusetts and Florida. Massachusetts has a poverty rate below the US average at 15% while Florida has a child poverty rate above the US average at 25%. Take a close look at how each State would rank in the developed world if they were an independent nation. Massachusetts has international math scores near the highest in the developed world while Florida has among the lowest math scores in the developed world. The reason Florida is doing much worse than the rest of the nation is that it has been subjected to toxic testing for a longer period of time.
Sources: Child Poverty Rate from
International Test comparisons
The other reason Finland does so much better on international tests than the US is that the child poverty rate in Finland is only 6% - one of the lowest childhood poverty rates in the world.
Why do rich kids do better on high stakes tests than poor kids?|
Here is what child development researchers say: “Children whose parents read to them at home, whose health is good and can attend school regularly, who do not live in fear of crime and violence, who enjoy stable housing and continuous school attendance, whose parents’ regular employment creates security, who are exposed to libraries, music and art lessons, and who are surrounded by adults who model high educational achievement will, on average, achieve at higher levels than children without these educationally relevant advantages.”
Carnoy, Martin & Rothstein, Richard (January 2013) What Do International Tests Really Show About U.S. Student Performance? Economic Policy Institute, Washington DC. http://s2.epi.org/files/2013/EPI-What-do-international-tests-really-show-about-US-student-performance.pdf
The problem is not public schools in the United States or public school teachers in the United States or public school students in the United States; it is childhood poverty and the lack of jobs in the United States. If we could only get billionaire tax evaders to pay their fair share of State and federal taxes, we could hire more people to be teachers and build schools and roads which would greatly reduce poverty and thereby increase the achievement levels of all students in the United States.
Instead, to distract us from the real problem, billionaires spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting worthless high stakes high failure rate tests like SBAC. It is time to say no to the abuse being inflicted on our kids. It is time to say NO to the billionaire's SBAC testing scam.
Click on the menu items above to learn more about how high stakes testing harms kids and how you can opt your kids out of the SBAC testing scam here in Washington state.
Since the introduction of developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards and unfair Common Core high stakes tests, there has been a 40 percent increase in the suicide rate of elementary school students in the US and a 20 percent increase in the suicide rate of high school students. Specifically, according to the US Census, in 2000, 205 elementary school children ages 5 to 14 committed suicide. In 2013, 286 children committed suicide for an increase of 40%. In 2000, 3,988 young adults ages 15 to 24 committed suicide. In 2013, 4,741 young adults committed suicide for an increase of 19%. In total, for ages 5 through 24, in 2000, before No Child Left Behind, 4193 kids committed suicide. In 2013, the total number of kids who killed themselves was 5,027 kids for an increase of 834 needless deaths per year or a 20% increase.
According to the “There is growing evidence that the pressure and anxiety associated with high-stakes testing is unhealthy for children–especially young children–and may undermine the development of positive social relationships and attitudes towards school and learning. … Parents, teachers, school nurses and psychologists, and child psychiatrists report that the stress of high-stakes testing is literally making children sick.”
Here is an example of the kind of ridiculous question this Third Grader was expected to answer. (note that this question was taken from the nation's most popular Second Grade Common Core Math Book, called Math Expressions). According to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, "Math Expressions Common Core focuses on the priority core concepts at each grade level, identified by the Common Core State Standards, to build in-depth understanding of major mathematical ideas."
In Unit 6, Lesson 5, Problem 4 is the following question for Second Graders:
"Brian has some boxes of paper clips. Some boxes hold 10 clips and some boxes hold 100. He has some paper clips left over. He has three more boxes with 100 paper clips than he has boxes with 10 paper clips. He has two fewer paper clips left over than he has numbers of boxes with 100 paper clips. What number of paper clips could he have?"
Do not feel bad if you have trouble answering this math puzzle. We have given this problem to state legislators who were unable to solve it. The fact that state legislators are requiring Second Graders to solve math puzzles that legislators themselves cannot solve is an indication of how inappropriate the Common Core standards and tests are for very young children. What makes this question difficult is not merely that there are three equations and three unknowns, it is that there is more than one right answer to the question. The difficulty of this question is somewhere between Algebra One and Algebra Two - both of which require the ability to engage in abstract reasoning. The authors of Common Core, and the SBAC test are apparently not aware that Second Graders are still in the concrete thinking stage of brain development and are not capable of abstract reasoning.
Here is how such age inappropriate questions and tests harm young children:
“Recently, my 10-year-old daughter asked me what it would take for me to let her stay home from school forever...Not tomorrow. Not next week. Forever. She said: ‘I’m too stupid to do that math.’ Your child is broken in spirit when they have lost their confidence and internalized words like stupid. That damage is not erased easily.”
To make matters worse, the SBAC test falsely claims that it can measure whether students are career and college ready. There is a mountain of evidence that no three hour high stakes test can measure college readiness. For example, the largest study ever conducted on the ability of bubble tests to determine college readiness - involving more than 81,000 students in California - found that the SAT test was no more able to determine college readiness than a coin toss! Instead, the most reliable predictor of college readiness was a student's high school Grade Point Average (GPA) – or the average of the combined grades from 24 teachers who worked with the student during their four years of high school. http://www.cshe.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/shared/publications/docs/ROPS.GEISER._SAT_6.13.07.pdf
Put in plain English, high stakes bubble tests like the SBAC test are not as reliable or as valid as grades from teachers. Those who claim that the SBAC test can predict college readiness are not telling the truth. If the goal of an assessment system is to determine career and college readiness, then Teacher Grades are clearly a more valid assessment system than the SBAC test.
By sharp contrast, teacher grades are given by a teacher that has spent 180 days with the young child and is in the best position to provide a fair and accurate determination of whether the child is progressing at grade level.
The only thing the SBAC test does is make billions of dollars in profit for the scam artists who sell and promote the SBAC test and the Common Core books that are used to prepare kids for the SBAC test.
The new ESSA allows states and school districts to replace the Common Core SBAC test with any other assessment system that is fair, valid and reliable. We should immediately end the SBAC test in Washington state and replace it with Teacher Grades. As always, I look forward to your questions and comments.
David Spring M. Ed.
Coalition to Protect our Public Schools