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SBAC Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg raised concerns about SBAC at today’s meeting of the state’s High School Assessment Working Group. At right is teacher and former state Rep. Paul Davis.

Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.

Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May. The State Department of Education has yet to release the results of the field test administration last year.

This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.

King made the statement at today’s meeting of the State Department of Education (SDE) High School Assessment Working Group, a panel that is looking at the number and kinds of tests administered in Connecticut’s high schools. Members of the working group are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.

Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said the testing results have the potential “to scare the hell out of parents.” He added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

King maintained that “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores) and colleges around the country could require the scores for student admission.

While the SDE has not made any decisions about the extent of SBAC usage, officials in other states have, according to King, who explained that the California State University System and Community Colleges will use Smarter Balanced for their Early Assessment Program; Washington public institutions will accept Smarter Balanced scores for exemption from remediation; and West Virginia will replace the existing state-mandated readiness assessment with SBAC.

Connecticut Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell explained that — compared with previous state exams — SBAC is new, more rigorous, and this year’s administration will establish a baseline. She urged calm and perspective for those taking the test, those administering the test, and parents receiving the test scores. According to Wentzell, this year SBAC will establish a baseline; its purpose is not to produce anxiety but to promote student learning.

With the working group today, SBAC’s King reviewed the policy framework that established student cut scores last fall in four categories of student performance. (Click here to see the four levels.) SBAC intends that these categories will inform higher education and potential employers relative to college and career readiness.

CEA’s Waxenberg was among those members of the working group who expressed doubt that SBAC, in fact, can predict a person’s readiness for the world of work. He also said he worries about how students, who score in the lower bands of performance, will be perceived and will perceive themselves when they receive SBAC scores for the first time.

The working group plans to meet again on February 26.

SBAC employes 20 people at UCLA and expects its workforce to grow to 35 people in the future. Staff will be focused on preserving comparability of test results among participating states, updating test questions, technology, and conducting other research.


  1. How shocking and scary that the future of children’s lives will be determined by their test scores and “level.”- and that these people are so excited about the tech schools they are planning for these kids. This is like the Giver, some dystopian society. For the first time in my life, I’m glad I’m getting old because I don’t want to be around for this kind of society. Where everything is predetermined for children and they cannot dream. What will be next? Testtube babies, preprogrammed for tech careers or community college?

    January 22, 2015
  2. And will they need to use the failing scores in teacher evaluations, or was that delayed a year?

    January 22, 2015
    • The Connecticut Department of Education received a waiver last year from using SBAC scores in educator evaluations. The department requested a waiver again this year. Though the state has not yet received formal approval, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has indicated a willingness to work with states to extend similar waivers this year.

      January 29, 2015
      • Linda #

        Hey, remember when this was “state led”? Guess the joke was on us. Arne should stick to what he does best…shooting hoops with his friends in high places.

        Difficult to get rid of teachers? How do we get rid of incompetent political appointees who obey the oligarchy? Now there’s are national tragedy. So much for the “civil right$ i$$ue” of our time.

        January 29, 2015
  3. Linda #

    What will the shocking news be? Their children are failures taught by failing teachers in failing schools? Then what? What’s the plan….. fire all the teachers, charterize all the schools?

    January 21, 2015

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