The Controversial SBAC

UnknownAdvocates of the Common Core maintain that it  sets high quality academic goals for English language literacy and mathematics.  The Common Core aims to insure that high school graduates are prepared for college or the work force. Theoretically, students moving from state to state  would be able to enter a new school seamlessly because of the national nature of the Common Core.  While the syllabi indicate grade-by-grade benchmarks in certain subjects, they do not mandate the methods by which school districts must meet those standards. Why, then is the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the tool for tracking the Common Core, facing significant opposition? Why has Missouri issued a restraining order that will temporarily halt [some aspects of] Common Core SBAC tests in the state? Let me try to elucidate some of the issues surrounding this controversial testing program.

One article, “Common Sense for the Common Core” asserts that (support for the program) outweighs opposition to it, by 31% to 12%; however, more than half of Americans (58%) do not even know what the Common Core is.”  A poll from last year claims that 2/3 Americans support national standards.  Yet opponents assert that the Common Core is an attempt for the federal government to usurp a state power–education, by using the “power of the purse”and withholding funding to states that do not participate in SBAC.  A recent article in The Washington Post reported, “A Missouri judge said the state’s membership in a federally funded testing consortium charged with creating an assessment aligned with the Common Core standards is illegal. And what’s more, he ruled that the state should stop paying fees to the group, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The  basis of the case is that the SBAC is  provides “an unlawful interstate compact to which the U.S. Congress has never consented, whose existence and operation violate the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution. ” While the ruling may not survive, the court case demonstrates the opposition to the mandated testing.

Furthermore, opponents raise concerns about student privacy.  The website for the Independent Voter Network charges, “Central planners have used the initiative to intrude on citizens’ privacy by soliciting information about students’ and parents’ religious views, voting habits, income level, blood type, and health history.” However, those who defend the testing argue that the data collection is similar to what schools have previously required.

National test opponents also argue that the SBAC, scheduled to begin the middle of this month (March), takes valuable time away from learning. Moreover, the test results arrive too late for  the current year educators to provide any meaningful remediation.  Parents complain that their children experience undue stress that testing can generate.  Contrary to a statement by Governor Malloy of Connecticut,  parents CAN opt out of the test, so some parents are refusing to include their children in the testing. Clearly, the debate will continue to rage as long as the two sides cannot find common ground for Common Core.

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