Education

One way to cut down on standardized tests? Long Beach wants to swap SAT for 11th grade exams

FILE PHOTO: Long Beach schools want to scrap the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test for 11th-graders and replace it with the venerable Scholastic Aptitude Test, the exam most colleges and universities require for admission.
FILE PHOTO: Long Beach schools want to scrap the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test for 11th-graders and replace it with the venerable Scholastic Aptitude Test, the exam most colleges and universities require for admission.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The superintendent of Long Beach schools wants to scrap the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test for 11th-graders and replace it with the venerable Scholastic Aptitude Test, the exam most colleges and universities require for admission.

“We don’t want to over-test our kids, by any means, but we also want to give them every opportunity to be college and career ready,” said Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Chris Steinhauser.

Long Beach 11th-graders already take more tests than many other public school students. For the last two years, the school district has required its high school juniors to take the SAT, free of charge, along with the required SBAC test. Many of those students also take Advanced Placement tests.

The proposal was first reported in Education Week.

While its unclear if the shift would meet state and federal testing requirements, switching the tests could ease a burden that's already heavy for these high school juniors.

The 11th grade is when the drumbeat of the college application process sounds the loudest, so for many of these students the importance of the AP, SAT and the American College Test (ACT) overshadow that of the SBAC test.

“Students don’t take [the SBAC] test very seriously,” said University of Southern California education researcher Morgan Polikoff, “because it has no real consequence for them and in contrast, of course the SAT and ACT do have consequences for kids.”

But California officials do attach consequences to the SBAC. The state compels students in the third through eighth grades and the 11th grade to take it in order to measure how well students are learning new learning standards that put a premium on problem solving and critical thinking skills. School district leaders and principals are encouraged to examine low scores to shift resources and increase help for students and teacher training.

State, county, school district, and campus SBAC scores are made public.

The SAT and Smarter Balanced test cover similar material, Steinhauser said, so the SAT would still hold teachers accountable for the new common core learning.

But that’s not a widely-held view.

“Both SAT and ACT are not explicitly aligned with any particular set of standards in terms of what students are supposed to be learning in high school,” researcher Polikoff said. “SAT has made moves in recent years to more strongly align itself with common core but I haven’t seen external evidence that the new SAT is really well aligned.”

The change, Steinhauser said, wouldn’t cost the school district or state any additional funds but it would require either a waiver from the eleventh grade testing from the State Board of Education or a new state law.

Long Beach is starting on a path already completed by several states. Colorado, Connecticut, and Illinois have already started using the SAT to measure high school achievement and meet federal requirements.