No Time to Lose—New Test Committee Must Get to Work
Connecticut’s new Mastery Examination Committee—created in June by lawmakers to examine the state’s eight-hour, standardized SBAC test for third through eighth graders—should convene as soon as possible to get assessment right for children.
CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “All indications are that this test is not a valid indicator of student knowledge and skills. This situation is of paramount concern to teachers who want the Mastery Examination Committee to begin the critical work of investigating the fairness and validity of Connecticut’s testing program and to identify alternatives.”
Governor Malloy announced today that the state has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to use the SAT as the mastery exam for eleventh graders in place of SBAC. This announcement comes after the legislature approved and the governor signed a bill to eliminate SBAC testing for eleventh graders earlier this year based on the recommendation of a committee made up of education stakeholders.
Cohen continued, “We want to thank the legislature and the state Department of Education for working with teachers this past legislative session to eliminate SBAC for high school students—that was a good start. But Connecticut must continue moving forward to improve testing.”
Yesterday, CEA sent a letter to Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell respectfully requesting that she immediately convene the committee.
The state Department of Education announced last Friday that it is making SBAC results available to school districts.
“As Connecticut parents receive their children’s test results, the advice from teachers is to examine the results with caution, significant caution, and to look to other valid indicators of student learning, such as frequent progress monitoring, student work portfolios, classroom assessments, and teacher observations,” said Cohen.
Along with the commissioner, administrators, school board members, testing experts, and others, CEA wants to be a partner to improving testing. Teachers, parents, students, and communities had basic expectations about what a new, fair testing program would do: enable teachers to target instruction to individual student needs; enable educators to make sound curriculum and professional development decisions; and help parents to understand what their children know and are able to do.
Unfortunately, SBAC does not meet those expectations or basic criteria for a testing program that produces useful and valid results about what students know and are able to do.
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg explained, “We are updating the public, policymakers, and reporters today on Connecticut’s first, comprehensive survey of teachers throughout Connecticut on SBAC—a research project we completed this summer.
Nearly all of the 1,666 Connecticut K-12 teachers surveyed—97 percent—said that SBAC is NOT a useful indicator of school effectiveness. Ninety percent said that SBAC took away significant time and resources from teaching and learning.”
Other findings include:
- Eighty-five percent of elementary school teachers reported that the computerized testing format was developmentally inappropriate for their students.
- Seventy-one percent of teachers reported that students “exhibited widely disparate and inequitable computer skills” while taking the test.
- In a comparison of poor (Alliance Districts) and affluent school districts, teachers working in high-poverty districts said that the format of the SBAC test placed their students at a greater disadvantage, with one-third more students adversely impacted by inequitable computer skills compared to students in affluent districts.
- Forty percent of teachers in Alliance Districts reported that “the majority of their students clearly gave up on the test and clicked through,” but only 15 percent of teachers in affluent school districts reported the same.
- Sixty-four percent of teachers said that SBAC’s accommodations for students with disabilities did not work well.
Waxenberg stressed, “The results indicate that the SBAC test is problematic for all students, but especially for younger students, students from low-income families, students who need special accommodations, and students without regular computer access at home.”
Waxenberg continued, “Our survey results show SBAC is not meaningful in making critical judgments about student, school, and teacher performance as well as decisions about individualized student instruction, programs, and funding. The technology is a disaster—SBAC cannot measure what students know and are able to do.”
Cohen concluded, “These observations from our teachers in the survey cannot be ignored. They come from teachers who have incomparable firsthand knowledge of what children need to succeed.”
The first report of the new Mastery Examination Committee is due in six months. The committee, which is overseen by the state Department of Education, has not yet convened and must make the following reports to the legislature’s Education Committee: (1) an interim report by February 15, 2016, and (2) a final report with recommendations by January 15, 2017.
Watch video of the complete news conference below.