The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is bad for our state. North Carolina must withdraw from SBAC. When NC signed up to be a governing state of SBAC, commitments were made on our behalf. Who in state government has bothered to read the SBAC agreements, the Race to the Top Application and appendices’ or the No Child Left Behind Waiver? Consider this an informational text reading assignment for all elected officials.
Governor McCrory, Lt. Governor Dan Forest, Rep. Thom Tillis, Sen. Phil Berger and members of the LRC Common Core Study Committee, you must read these agreements and withdraw NC from SBAC.
First Some Background straight from SBAC:
Smarter Balanced is a state-led consortium working collaboratively to develop next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that accurately measure student progress toward college and career readiness. The Consortium involves educators, researchers, policymakers, and community groups in a transparent and consensus-driven process to help all students thrive in a knowledge-driven global economy. The Consortium’s projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, comprising 99 percent of activity resources, with the remaining support provided through generous contributions of charitable foundations.
SBAC is the glue that ties everything together, national assessments, CCSS and data collection. First the standards were developed and adopted and the next step was to develop national assessments. Isn’t that out of step, why not standards, curriculum and then assessments? Simple, by going directly from standards to assessments, the curriculum will have to fall in line. Bill Gates has been open about the push for assessments to drive the curriculum.
Some basic questions to consider when reading the agreements:
Who had the authority to enter NC into these binding agreements? Where did that authority come from? Was a legal analysis performed prior to joining SBAC? Was a financial analysis prepared? The first agreement I will address is Governance.
Smarter-Balanced-Governance. (Agreement was written by the US Department of Education, make sure to review Appendices A and B for organizational charts)
I.B.3. Teachers will be involved in the design, development, and scoring of assessment items and tasks. Teachers will participate in the alignment of the CCSS and the identification of the standards in the local curriculum.
– Who are these teachers and where can we find a list of them, how were they selected to participate in this process?
I.B.4. Technology will be used…
– What are the costs to the taxpayers? Does NC get to choose vendors?
I.B.8. Representatives from higher education and employers / business leaders will be involved in order to link the design and scoring of the assessments to evidence of college and career readiness, and to sustain these linkages over needs.
– Who are the representatives from higher ed / business leaders and how were they selected?
II. The state of Washington is the Lead Procurement State and oversees all financial procurement on behalf of the Consortium. The Lead Procurement State oversees the management of funds, in collaboration with the Executive Committee and oversees all procurement on behalf of the Consortium. All financial activities will be governed by the laws and rules of the state of Washington.
– Isn’t that interesting, guess who lives in the state of Washington and what major company is located there? Bill Gates and Microsoft. NC citizens have no say in major educational and financial decisions which directly impact our children.
– Is this government by consensus? NC has no appointees on the Executive Committee, we just get to approve Executive Committee Members. We are held to Washington state law. What a deal! These public-private partnerships are undermining our Republic.
II. B. A Governing State is a state that: (6) Is committed to using the summative assessment system developed by the Consortium and will fully implement statewide, no later than the 2014-2015 school year, the summative assessment for both mathematics and English language arts in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11.
– this clause means we are fully committed to CCSS and the assessments. The only safeguard we currently have is the provision inserted into the budget (H/T NC Institute for Constitutional Law, see CC-Budget Provision Memo 81413 TY JD JD edits) :
Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 115C‑174.11(c), the State Board of Education shall report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee prior to the purchase and implementation of a new assessment instrument to assess student achievement on the Common Core State Standards, including the Common Core Smarter Balance Consortium Assessments. The State Board shall not purchase such an assessment instrument without the enactment of legislation by the General Assembly authorizing the purchase.
What will the Study Committee and General Assembly do? Will they move forward with implementation or withdraw? We have to apply constant pressure on them and increase our efforts to educate others. Teachers, we need you to join us to withdraw from SBAC and CCSS. We can and we must do better for our children.
III. Organizational Structure. (I won’t go into detail on all sections, but have highlighted a few points).
A. State Education Chiefs
B. Governing State Leads: 1. Must be an employee of a Governing State Education agency, 2. Have prior experience in either the design or implementation of curriculum and /or assessment systems at the policy or implementation level, and 3. Be willing to serve as the liaison between the total state membership and work groups.
– To be appointed as a lead, the requirement is only an employee of a Governing State Education agency. There is no legislative oversight in this agreement; this is the fox guarding the hen house. Please make your representatives aware of this and hold them accountable if they still think Common Core and national assessments are a good thing for NC. Governor McCrory you have no authority over SBAC.
C. Executive Committee – why can a non-profit representative serve on this committee? Washington State is a permanent member on this committee as the Lead Procurement State. Are NC voters okay with this? Also, there is a Project Management Partner, WestEd (surprise a Gates grantee). For more on WestEd, see What is WestEd and why should you care.
WestEd/SBAC is required, by the document entitled “Cooperative Agreement” which is written by the U.S. DOE, to coordinate “across consortia,” which means working closely with Achieve, Inc., (program manager for PARCC, the Common Core’s other testing arm) as well as having to coordinate, report and give status updates to the DOE. This triangulation appears to be in violation of federal laws prohibiting federal involvement or oversight in state educational programs.
According to the company itself, its activities and “influence is enormous, from the daycare center… to the floors of Congress… Our products and services… sometimes even shape national policy… Legislators need sound information to inform their decisions… WestEd offers them access to the best research and to the most effective practices…. We give policymakers the information they need.”
D. Executive Committee Co-chairs
E. Decision-making – Consensus will be the goal of all decisions….When the Executive Committee has identified an issue requiring consensus with higher education or another key stakeholder, the voting member is responsible for ensuring that his or her state has consulted with the appropriate individuals to develop a mutually agreeable position on that issue. At his or her discretion, the Executive Director will confirm that such consultation has occurred.
Is anyone else alarmed by this? Our founding documents are written to protect the rights of the minority, where is that protection in this agreement? Who is deemed a stakeholder, The Hunt Institute? The Business Roundtable? Jeb Bush? Bill Gates? Certainly not NC citizens, parents and taxpayers.
There are also serious process issues. For example, the Process for all Consortium decisions that require a vote: All voting state members shall receive information on the decision or issue at least (4) working days in advance of the scheduled decision. Only 4 days, that’s insane, where is the debate and discussion? When making decisions, the Executive Committee may act by a majority vote of its nine voting members. So this unelected committee of bureaucrats can bind NC with a simple majority vote.
G. Work Groups
H. Supporting Roles – this includes the Project Management Partner, WestEd as described above. It also includes a Technical Advisory Committee. Members will contribute their knowledge and expertise regarding Universal Design and item writing, psychometrics, accommodations for ELLs and SWDs, standard setting, etc. It also includes Advisory Partners who are engaged as needed to advise the Consortium.
Who are these advisory partners and how are they selected? I’m sure Achieve, The Business Roundtable, The Hunt Institute, David Coleman, Jeb Bush and Bill Gates are on speed dial.
IV. Membership Policies
B. Exit from the Consortium. Any state may leave the Consortium without cause, but must comply with the following exit process:
1. A state requesting an exit from the Consortium must submit in writing its reasons for the exit request,
2. The written explanation must include the statutory or policy reasons for the exit,
3. The written request must be submitted to the Project Management Partner with the same signatures as required for the Consortium MOU,
4. The Executive Committee will act upon the request within a week of the request, and
5. Upon approval of the request, the Project Management Partner will then submit a change of membership to the USED for approval (USED is the U. S. Department of Education)
The mechanics of exiting the Consortium don’t seem to be difficult. Politically, Gov. McCrory may find it difficult but he was not elected to make easy decisions. He was elected to do what is right for our state. McCrory is on record saying that his concerns with education is too much testing. Well then, this should be an easy decision to withdraw NC from SBAC since it drives the testing.
FYI – SBAC NC representatives:
- State Superintendent: June Atkinson, Ed.D.
- K-12 State Lead: Tammy Howard, Director of Accountability Operations
- Higher Education Lead: Suzanne Ortega, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina
Next up will be Part 2 of why NC must withdraw from SBAC, stay tuned –
Cooperative Agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and the SBAC and the State of Washington