There Is a Better Way—Testing Done Right Is Within Reach
Indisputable evidence from the frontlines of teaching took center stage today at a CEA news conference in Hartford as teachers urged lawmakers to examine the needs of students and reject a test that is not valid, reliable, or fair.
While several teachers offered compelling testimony about their experience with SBAC at today’s news conference, their perspectives were bolstered by dozens of their colleagues who shared their stories with reporters via video.
The teachers appearing in the video were representative of the hundreds of teachers from all corners and all counties of the state who spoke about the SBAC test and its impact on students and schools in a CEA Listening Tour held last fall.
Watch the video below.
“Testing has an important place in our public schools to drive classroom instructional improvement,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “Our students, however, need and deserve valid and authentic testing, rather than the unreliable SBAC that takes far too much time away from classroom instruction. It is time to put a stop to Connecticut’s singular focus on this unfair, high stakes, snapshot assessment as the basis for all critical decisions affecting our students.”
CEA Director of Policy, Research, and Reform Donald Williams said that the lengthy SBAC test is not developmentally appropriate or fair for students, especially those who are young, in special education or English-language learner programs, come from homes without regular computer access, or from economically disadvantaged school districts.
“By enacting the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, President Obama and the U.S. Congress signaled a new era in public education,” Williams said. “They have severed ties with more than a decade of harmful federal mandates, and provided Connecticut with an opportunity to move forward and correct the SBAC mistake.”
Williams continued, “All Connecticut students deserve authentic, classroom-based assessments that strengthen their skills—not tests that take time away from classroom learning, and provide no educational benefit.”
The four educators who joined Cohen and Williams at the news conference spoke about their firsthand experiences with SBAC.
East Hartford teacher Annie Irvine said that she loves her job but, as she helps her third-graders navigate their first exposure to a high-stakes standardized test, “I’m troubled by the amount of SBAC preparation that cuts into our precious instructional time.”
Irvine said that, due to testing and test prep, it’s impossible to cover the topics and subjects she should cover. “SBAC eats away at the amount of meaningful instruction teachers are able to provide and it does not inform instruction,” she said.
West Hartford biology teacher Ted Goerner said that there are many factors related to the technology required to administer SBAC that affect the validity of the test. As an example he cited the different-sized screens on the different computers students use for testing that affect font size and how much scrolling a student has to do. “If you can’t make valid comparisons, then you don’t have a valid test,” he said.
“We have ELL students transitioning into our Connecticut school system with varying skill levels speaking various languages—including some students with very little formal education,” said Danbury guidance counselor Juanita Harris. Regardless of the amount of time ELL students have been in the United States, the amount of English they speak, or their familiarity with computers these students are required to take the SBAC test.
Harris said that being required to take a lengthy, computer-based test in a language they don’t understand leads some English language learners to disengage from learning. Many experience additional distress, insecurity, and anxiety on top of what they are already experiencing with the transition to a new country, home, and school.
“As a special education teacher I was taught to assure that the assessments given actually assess what they are supposed to assess,” said Mystic Middle School teacher Bruce Yarnall. The math questions on the SBAC, however, test his students reading abilities as much as they test their mathematical abilities.
Yarnall’s special education students cannot read at grade level and are therefore at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the math test. “My students could probably do the math if they could understand the questions,” Yarnall said.
Cohen said, “If Connecticut policymakers hold tight to SBAC, they jeopardize our children’s future. It is time to return the joy of learning to our schools, replace SBAC with an assessment that is valid and fair, and once again emphasize learning and classroom instruction instead of punishing children with tests that provide no benefit to their education. The majority of other states are moving in this direction—it’s time for Connecticut to stand up for its students as well.”
Watch video of the entire news conference below. Read the press release from the news conference here.