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Commissioner Says Beginning of New Era as Districts Receive SBAC Results for First Time

Education Commissioner

Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell spoke to state superintendents this morning about SBAC results.

Connecticut school districts are today getting their first look at SBAC results, and the state Department of Education anticipates releasing state-level results sometime between August 31 and September 5, according to spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly.

Earlier this month CEA held a press conference urging caution and highlighting the many problems with SBAC that teachers have witnessed. 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.”

At a back to school meeting for superintendents today, Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell set the stage for how she believes statewide and local results should be interpreted.

“This is not only a baseline year, but the beginning of a new era,” said Wentzell.

This year’s SBAC test administration has been used to establish a baseline going forward. Earlier this year an SBAC employee told state education leaders that Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.

Several other states that administered the SBAC exam have already released student results. Those results have generally shown fewer students scoring at proficient compared with results on states’ previous mastery tests. One concern that has arisen in other states mirrors Connecticut teachers’ own observations—some students either became overwhelmed or didn’t see the SBAC as a meaningful exam and therefore clicked through, finishing quickly.

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell spoke to superintendents at a back to school meeting held this morning at A. I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford.

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell addressed superintendents at a back to school meeting held this morning at A. I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford.

Wentzell said district officials will need to avoid the temptation to use familiar methods of planning to improve student performance moving forward. “We now have the incredible opportunity to change the conversation about student results in our districts,” she said.

Wentzell said that some student results from the SBAC test will resonate for districts but that districts really need to focus on “inquiry around data that surprises us.” She said that when districts receive unexpected data they need to look into whether a new program was implemented as planned, children received appropriate supports, teachers received sufficient professional learning, and adequate resources were allocated.

“As you work with state assessment data, remember it is only a piece of the puzzle,” Wentzell said.

She said the best way to improve SBAC results is not to practice the SBAC. “The only way to improve performance is through authentic engaging instruction. It will improve scores and, more importantly, it will improve lives.”

Wentzell said that test prep is not instruction. “Time taken for the state test is time stolen from instruction,” she said.

“In Connecticut we believe growth is as important as performance,” Wentzell said. The state has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education for a new school accountability system that will take student growth into account. The state Department of Education has said it plans to release results under the new system for the first time in late 2015 or early 2016, however the growth component will not yet be able to be factored in after only one year of SBAC results.

Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman also spoke to the superintendents this morning, saying that the state is seeing more students graduating and the achievement gap closing. “Please continue your hard work with teachers and other education professionals in your system. We all have to work together as a team,” she said.

One Comment
  1. John Bestor #

    The State Department of Education is hard pressed to put a positive spin on the embargoed unveiling of the controversial SBAC results. Rather than truly taking “the incredible opportunity to change the conversation about student test results in our districts”, Dr. Wentzell fails to demonstrate leadership and calls on district superintendents to focus on implementation issues rather than look at the psychometric failures of this invalid, unreliable, non-standardized, and unproven assessment. Although presented as “only one piece of the puzzle”, this mandated high-stakes testing process has been forced on CT public school students by educational leaders who are afraid to address the damage that it is doing to students, parents, and the profession of teaching. And, “one piece of the puzzle” makes for a politically-correct sound bite that will not be experienced by teachers in their discussions at grade-level meetings with their building administrators. Leadership would require scrapping this failed test experiment and working with those who actually teach to develop a meaningful and multi-faceted assessment system.

    August 19, 2015

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