In a five to one vote with Director Stephan Blanford giving the lone “No” vote, the Seattle School Board passed a resolution ,sponsored by Directors Sue Peters and Rick Burke, in favor of requesting the state to provide an alternative summative test to the SBAC based on the newly authorized ESSA. The request is to use a locally selected alternative summative assessment framework to measure achievement and student growth.

See Seattle Public School Board votes to pursue alternative to SBAC under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for additional information on the resolution.

We asked each of the candidates running for the position of State Superintendent to provide their thoughts on the resolution.

To follow is the response by Erin Jones:

I am in complete agreement with this resolution. In my first meeting with one of the new board members we discussed this very issue. I have been very skeptical of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA); however, I am encouraged that a board member from the largest district in our state is interested in having serious conversations about an alternative to our current assessment system. I am eager to walk with Seattle as they pilot a new model, and believe the conversations had in this district can provide a model for larger systemic change.

My campaign is built on four pillars that I believe must be addressed to transform education in our state: 1. Full-funding of Basic Education (McCleary), 2. Assessment reform to eliminate intrusive testing practices and place the locus of control for assessments back in the hands of classroom teachers, 3. Closing of opportunity gaps, and 4. Promotion of innovative school models (alternative learning environments funded and overseen by local dollars and local school boards) that will meet the diverse needs of our diverse student populations.

In my opinion, the Seattle school board resolution speaks directly to 3 of my 4 platform items in the following ways:

1.      FUNDING: The SBA has been incredibly expensive to create, to administer, to grade, and to share results. I would add that the SBA has also requires FTE, both at district and building levels to manage the complicated process and security issues. Let’s add to that the significant instructional time that is spent by classroom teachers to prepare students for the process – time that could be spent on teaching and learning.

2.      ASSESSMENT: This resolution supports my desire to create a less intrusive, more informative testing mechanism. Seattle has the opportunity to be a front-runner in the state and learn from other states that have already shifted to other models.

3.      CLOSE OPPORTUNITY GAPS: No Child Left Behind asserted that through testing, we would be able to hold schools and systems accountable to serve ALL children at high levels. However, the results and responses of the state/Feds served to further disenfranchise schools and communities that already felt “left behind.” One test, given purely in written/computerized format will always disadvantage those with less access to academic English and up-to-date technology. If Seattle is able to find a tool that can more successfully assess and provide strategies to better support students, this could be a huge win for the state of Washington! In the end, whatever we do must provide us with the information necessary to better address and meet the needs of students of color, ELL students, students with special needs, and students from low income communities.

As state superintendent, I welcome this opportunity to work with a district towards finding a more effective solution to our “assessment problem.” It is my hope that the current ESSA work groups will arrive at the conclusion that the Seattle school board resolution represents a legitimate option for the state of Washington.

Erin Jones

Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016