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Problems with SBAC Focus of State Department of Education Meeting

Kristine Goldhawk tells members of the state's High School Assessment Working Group about her school's experience with SBAC. At right is Stratford teacher Lisa Tryon.

New Canaan teacher Kristine Goldhawk tells members of the state’s High School Assessment Working Group about her school’s experience with SBAC. At right is Stratford teacher Lisa Tryon.

Students and educators who came to the State Department of Education this afternoon to share their experiences with the state’s High School Assessment Working Group said that SBAC is taking away valuable learning time, lacks relevance to students, and places a significant burden on eleventh graders — many of whom are left taking a considerable number of tests in a short amount of time.

In addition to SBAC, many high school students take the SATs and AP exams in the spring of their junior year. That’s why the working group is considering replacing SBAC with another assessment such as the SAT or ACT. Read more about prior meetings of the working group here and here.

Thomaston High School senior Megan Foell serves on the State Student Advisory Council and is a student member of the State Board of Education. She said, “From the end of sophomore year and throughout junior year we’re bombarded with preparing for college. The tests are all clustered around the same time, and districts often implement their own district accountability assessments as well.”

Lisa Tryon, a Stratford science teacher, said that the number of tests all at once is overwhelming for students, and consequently for their teachers. “Educators are swapping laptops back and forth between schools and resources are strained,” she said.

Five mobile computer labs were removed from New Canaan High School to support testing at the elementary level, according to social studies teacher Kristine Goldhawk. She said that the performance-based assessments the school administered in the spring have basically been halted.

Amity High School teacher Seth Davis said that, because the SBAC is irrelevant to students, it’s not very accurate. “So many students already take the SAT, and that score is relevant to them,” he said.

In New Canaan, the SBAC testing window opens right before AP exams are administered. Goldhawk said, “It’s the worst possible time because students are taking the SBAC either right before or right after their AP exams and they’re mentally exhausted. We have a lot of students taking three, four, or five AP tests, and all the testing is very draining for them.”

Paul Newtown, principal of Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, agreed that the timing of SBAC is ridiculous. He said that SBAC administration is blended around AP testing and that the amount of time required to administer SBAC is onerous.

Tryon said that progress monitoring assessments such as STAR, which her district uses, are far more useful than SBAC because educators receive data immediately. “With SBAC, we can’t use the data to help students that year at all,” she said.

Interim Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel said that in the first years of SBAC administration the State Department of Education (SDE) decided to allow districts the maximum flexibility in scheduling the test. In future years, she said the SDE could tighten up the testing window, which might allow districts to have data back before the end of the school year. The SDE currently projects that the first year of SBAC results will be available in July.

  1. Phil Apruzzese #

    Based on this information from educators – teachers and some administrators – why isn’t CEA and the other union calling for parents to opt their children out of this testing that will not be good for our children? It’s time to be bold – not passive and afraid to act. Students and teachers alike will pay for this ill conceived and damaging testing in the long run. Time for teachers to demand that their union officials – Act like a union and stand up for them and their students. And one more question- won’t this round of SBAC tests be the base line data for teacher evaluations in coming years?

    April 7, 2015

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