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Teachers Rally at the Capitol for More Learning, Less Testing

“We want legislators to get rid of SBAC now. The clock is ticking,” CEA President Sheila Cohen told teachers, principals, students, and the public at a rally tonight at the State Capitol in Hartford.

In reaction, the crowd erupted in cheers, replying, “Let us teach. Let us teach. Let us teach.”

At a rally at the State Capitol, CEA President Sheila Cohen told teachers, principals, students and the public that

At a rally at the State Capitol, CEA President Sheila Cohen told teachers, principals, students and the public that “We want legislators to get rid of SBAC now.”

More teaching and less testing was the theme of tonight’s rally. “We want legislators to know that testing is not learning. Excessive testing and test prep is wasting children’s time,” Cohen said.

Hundreds of people packed the North Lawn of the State Capitol for the rally. Cromwell teacher Tim O’Neill described it as a show of solidarity to ensure that legislators hear the voice of teachers.

A group of Rocky Hill teachers explained that today was the last day of SBAC administration in their school district. Teacher Lynn Marinelli said, “I feel bad that we put the kids through something that is not fundamentally appropriate.” Her colleague, Rocky Hill teacher Kristen Hassett, said she felt compelled to attend the rally to speak up for her students. “SBAC took important time away from teaching,” she said.

Hundreds of teachers, principals, parents, and children rallied at the State Capitol to call for an end to excessive testing.

Hundreds of teachers, principals, parents, and children rallied at the State Capitol to call for an end to excessive testing.

Simsbury teacher Missie Champagne said, “the integrity of public education is at risk. Connecticut needs a state testing program designed by teachers.”

Rep. Ed Vargas told the crowd that “overtesting—a multi-million dollar industry— is “wasting our kids time. It’s torturing the kids. We are impoverishing our children.” Vargas was just one of the many legislators who addressed the rally.

Senator Beth Bye said, “We have to make sure that testing is informing the teaching.” Bye said she heard from a concerned kindergarten teacher who said she has tested her students 52 times.

Rep. Tim Ackert said, “We don’t learn from tests. We learn from teaching.” Sen. Len Fasano told the crowd that Connecticut asks a lot of teachers, adding tests do not “test the heart and soul of your teaching. We are with you.”

Rep. Gail Lavielle described the situation in public schools as “too much, too fast, too soon.”

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The rally featured signs proclaiming “A Child is More Than a Test Score,” “Testing is Not Learning,” and “Children’s Time: A Terrible Thing to Waste” as people showed their support for CEA’s plan to reduce testing and increase accountability in public schools.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the crowd, “The train called testing is going to crash. There will be causalities—the students we teach every day—and we can’t allow that to happen. We need to get rid of high-stakes testing.”

There was no short of concern expressed by teachers at tonight’s rally. Here are more of their comments:

“High stakes testing is robbing students of valuable learning time. We can see the difference in what we’re able to cover.” – Lisa Plavin, Martin Elementary, Manchester, 26th year of teaching

“SBAC takes away from instructional time. And it doesn’t give us any real usable data. I don’t see results I can use.” – Jill Inkel, Martin Elementary, 5th grade, Manchester, 13 years of teaching

“Legislators need to see how the testing translates in the classroom. There’s more testing than teaching now. Today’s rally is important to bring awareness.” – Tom Myler, Newington Kindergarten teacher

“It is not what’s best for the children. Students feel the pressure .They’re aware. The pendulum has swung completely. We need balance between teaching and testing.” – Susan Scarrozzo, Newington

“It’s bogging us down, and it is not beneficial. There needs to be more dialogue with educators before decisions are made. I’m here to advocate for students.” – Rose S. Rose, Laurel School, Bloomfield, 1st grade teacher

“Students are frustrated. They’re trying to work hard, but it feels like every single day is another test. It’s just too much. ” – Mardi Loman, Bloomfield High School, English teacher, 21st year of teaching

Rep. Ed Gomes was one of many legislators who spoke at the rally.

State Sen. Ed Gomes was one of many legislators who spoke at the rally.

“When it’s not working, it’s idiotic to keep doing it. Listen, fix it, and don’t be so entrenched. It’s okay to change your mind when it’s not working.” – Kristen Keska, East Hampton High School, history and government teacher, 9th year of teaching

“I’m tired of politics driving education. We have so many great teachers in classrooms. Now, they don’t have time to do what they do well. Parents should be angry.” – Nancy Usich, Avon, Roaring Brook School, 2nd grade, 34th year of teaching

“Resources are stretched. We’re overlooking basic educational needs. Testing is not going to help as much as teaching.” – Renu Saharan, Wilby High School, Waterbury, special ed teacher

“It is extremely important for parents and teachers to be here today. We’re doing more testing than curriculum, teaching and planning. We want kids to be actively engaged in learning, but they’re learning is interrupted by preparing for tests and taking tests. They’re endless, they take away from teaching, and they limit time for instruction.” – Monique Butler, O’Brien Elementary, East Hartford, 5th grade

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Students from across the state attended the rally and wore t-shirts that said, “I am more than a test score.”

“This testing is done for one reason and one reason only: To put money in the pockets of big corporations. People bought into it, but it doesn’t drive instruction. It’s extreme.” – Patty Borjestedt, 2nd grade teacher, Newington

CEA is calling on lawmakers to phase out SBAC, reducing high-stakes standardized testing while supporting high academic standards. This approach also improves school accountability — taking a giant step forward by reporting on indicators of student growth and development that really matter to students, teachers, families, and communities.

In a poll conducted for CEA earlier this year, nearly two-thirds of voters surveyed want their state legislators to take action to reduce the number of required standardized tests. Why? Because people increasingly know that high-stakes standardized tests are not the most accurate or trustworthy means by which to assess student progress. Voters also concluded that classroom-based information is the best way to evaluate student performance, achievement, and learning—not tests.

Legislators who addressed the rally tonight urged teachers to contact their legislators to speak up about overtesting. Please contact your legislators and tell them to allow teachers to do what they do best—respond to the educational needs of students, encouraging their curiosity and creativity, and nurturing their quest for knowledge and love of learning.

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