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State Board of Education Votes to Replace SBAC with SAT for High School Juniors

The State Board of Education met today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

The State Board of Education met today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

CEA has been a strong advocate for reducing the number of tests students are required to take, and today’s state Board of Education vote to adopt the SAT as the state’s mastery test for eleventh graders in place of SBAC moves Connecticut in the right direction. The board’s SAT vote comes as the last step in a process that began with a recommendation from CEA and other organizations on Connecticut’s High School Assessment Working Group.

“As a student who took both tests last year I think this makes a lot of sense,” student board member Timothy Noel-Sullivan, a senior at Classical Magnet in Hartford, said. Many high school juniors were overwhelmed last spring when they found themselves taking the SBAC, SAT, and Advanced Placement exams all within a short time period.

Newly appointed state board member William Davenport said,  “As a high school teacher, I heard a lot of the same complaints from my students. After awhile the students don’t take all of these tests seriously.”

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell told the state board that the state High School Assessment Working Group made the decision to adopt a college readiness assessment to replace SBAC after hearing from teachers and students.

“CEA, AFT, and teachers’ voices played a big role on the High School Working Group,” she said.

Eighty-three percent of last year’s graduating seniors took the SAT while in high school, and Wentzell expressed hope that, now that the state will pay for the exam and it will be administered during the school day, more Connecticut students will take the exam and apply to college.

Though he is pleased that high school juniors will be taking fewer tests, student Noel-Sullivan offered some words of caution about the broader ramifications that accompany the switch to the SAT.

“I also think we should look into how to monitor what level of tutoring students receive if we’re going to use this test as a measure of school and teacher success,” Noel-Sullivan said. “Teachers can deliver the exact same material to all students. But if some students spend $1,000 on an SAT tutor, it’s important to be able to distinguish what’s the teacher and what’s the tutor.”

State Board of Education Chair Allan Taylor said, “We’ll see if $1,000 tutors make a difference. I’m not convinced they do.”

Board member Estela López, who ultimately abstained from the board’s unanimous vote to adopt the SAT, expressed regret that the state had decided to move away from the SBAC for eleventh graders. She said that many colleges and universities no longer require the SAT or ACT and that studies have shown the best predictor of student success in college is a student’s high school GPA.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if in another decade colleges won’t be requiring the SAT,” said board member Terry Jones. “We try to get this right, but it’s a fluid process and it will be changing.”

Jones said that in the working world what stands out are “individuals’ attitude, their passion to learn, and their curiosity. It’s those characteristics that make the difference and that’s one of the shortfalls of testing.”

The state currently must follow federal law that requires the administration of English language arts and math standardized exams annually in grades three through eight and once in high school.

Davenport expressed sentiments similar to those other CEA members and leaders have shared. “In the future, I’d love to have more flexibility so we’re looking at more overall measurements of students’ skills and success,” he said.

CEA and other education stakeholders have started to meet as members of a statewide Mastery Examination Committee to make further inroads toward improving the state’s testing system. CEA representatives on that committee want to hear educator’s personal stories about SBAC’s effect on their students. Please consider sharing your experience at a CEA County Forum this month—click here for more information.

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