As you may recall, the U.S. Department of Education funded two testing groups to write tests aligned with the Common Core standards. One is the Partnership for Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC), and the other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Since the Department is legally prohibited from attempting to control or influence curriculum or instruction, this grant (for $360 million) may actually be illegal, but no one has gone to court to challenge it. Meanwhile, both PARCC and SBAC agreed to adopt the same cut scores (passing marks), aligned with the rigorous achievement levels of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This was a fateful and unwise decision. Catherine Gewertz pointed out in Education Week that most students were likely to fail, given the alignment with NAEP:


The two common-assessment consortia are taking early steps to align the “college readiness” achievement levels on their tests with the rigorous proficiency standard of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a move that is expected to set many states up for a steep drop in scores.


After all,  fewer than four in 10 children reached the “proficient” level on the 2013 NAEP in reading and math.


Thus, it is reasonable to expect that most children will “fail” both PARCC and SBAC and will continue to “fail” them for many years into the future. If these scores count for graduation, most students will never graduate. What will we do with them?


This reader, a teacher, says that PARCC has received lots of scrutiny, but SBAC has not. Any reader want to chime in?


For months, I have been disheartened that there has been so much media attention devoted to PARCC but not to SBAC. Don’t get me wrong: I welcome the focus on the nefarious funding-sources and profiteers of PARCC and I love, love, love the large scale civil disobedience we have seen by kids, parents, teachers and even, in some brave cases, by principals and superintendents, in places like New Mexico, New Jersey and New York. But we are not seeing the same level of journalistic interest in and investigation of the Smarter Balanced tests being suffered here in Oregon and elsewhere. Why not?


My hunch is that it has to do with HOW BLOODY DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE SBAC FROM ANY SOURCE OTHER THAN SBAC ITSELF. Seriously, I recommend you do a google search and experience for yourself the Orwellian scrubbing of the Internet by the Consortium.


I am not a journalist and I can say tonight: I have never been more saddened by that fact. If I *were* professionally trained, I would have the expertise to spend the next month getting to the bottom of this clearly corrupt enterprise: any organization that spends this much energy obscuring every last detail about its origins, governance, finances and practices cannot be entirely above board.


But, using my admittedly amateurish journalistic skills, here is what I have found and, if I WERE a journalist (and not a full time teacher), here are some leads I would pursue:


1. Since SBAC’s Race to the Top grant ran out, it has been housed at UCLA’s education school. ( This move also seems to coincide with the end of publicly available quarterly reports, which list SBAC’s subcontracts. The most recent report I could find was from June of 2013. There you will see contracts with Educational Testing Service, AIR, Amplify, McGraw-Hill, Pearson and many more. (


2. In its new home at UCLA, SBAC is collaborating with something called the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) and guess what? It is funded by some of the very same organizations that are getting contracts with SBAC (ETS, for example), as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (


3. From what I can find, UCLA’s education school is also enmeshed in the charter school movement. In fact, UCLA offers a certificate on Charter School Finance Policy and Administration! ( If I were even remotely cynical, I might ask myself who stands to benefit the most from a new standardized test for which it is projected that 60-70% of kids will fail? Might it be charter schools that can swoop in and offer “alternatives” to “failing” schools, where “failing” is measured by standardized tests?


4. Who the heck wrote the SBAC? Looks to me like ETS and McGraw Hill, which received (at least) a combined $82.6 million from the Consortium (that’s us!) for “test-item development” and other services. (


SOMEBODY has got to connect all these dots and show that the SBAC,  just like the PARCC, is a giveaway to profiteers, was NOT crafted by educators with the best interests of students in mind, and is another step toward taking the “public” out of public education.