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Letter to the Editor: Let’s talk SBAC

The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of this newspaper. We welcome supporting or opposing views on any published item. Received September 15, 2021.

As a candidate for RSD17 Board of Education, I believe it’s essential to provide timely and accurate information to our community. An informed community is a strong community.

Let’s Talk SBAC, short for the Smarter Balanced Assessment taken by grades 3-8 in ELA and Math.

A couple of notes before diving into the data.

1. SBAC scores are just a single, point-in-time assessment. The results provide insights for how students perform in comparison to other students around the state and for individual students across years.

2. The scores are not the end-all-be-all of district, school and student success. In the best case scenario, they are used to help identify learning strengths and growth areas for a district, and help parents understand what skills their children should work on for the year ahead.

3. With the pandemic, SBAC was harder to administer due to the complexity of remote, hybrid and in-person learning options.

Okay, let’s get into it!

Overall, Region 17 schools performed on par with past performance, which is a positive sign given the interruption in learning during the 2019-20 school year.

● Over 7 in 10 students were proficient or higher in English Language Arts (ELA) and nearly 6 in 10 were for math.

● We did see a slight dip in math performance compared to past years. This was the first time in the last six years we’ve had proficiency under 60%. Statewide, there was a significant dip in math, too, showing that the disruption in learning negatively impacted math performance more than ELA.

● Compared to neighboring districts, we performed on par, if not better. This shows that we remain competitive in the region.

Okay, so now what?

● On an individual level, the scores are a great communication tool between families and teachers. Look over the score report and start a conversation about what areas you can further support at home.

● On a district level, we should first celebrate the fact that we’re achieving great ELA results, even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. This will pay huge dividends down the road for our students. For math, we are already implementing extra support, funded by the federal American Rescue Plan funds, and providing after school and summer learning opportunities. This will hopefully close the gap quickly and permanently.

Overall, we’re in a good spot. The state saw significant drops in performance for remote learners, and learners from high-need backgrounds (low income, English Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities). We largely weathered the storm by offering a full in-person experience, and allocated resources to support our students.

Keep up the great work, RSD17 students, teachers and families! Our students benefit when we work together for their future.

Hamish MacPhail
Board of Education Candidate
Resident of Higganum

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