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Teachers, Parents, and Superintendents Share SBAC Concerns with Mastery Examination Committee

Members of the state's Mastery Examination Committee heard parent, teacher, and superintendent groups' concerns about SBAC.

Members of the state’s Mastery Examination Committee heard parent, teacher, and superintendent groups’ concerns about SBAC.

Groups representing Connecticut teachers, parents, and superintendents shared their concerns regarding the SBAC test with members of the Mastery Examination Committee today.

CEA, the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association (CT PTA), and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) presented key survey findings including concerns with technology to the effects of overtesting and the time needed to administer and take the SBAC test.

Donald Williams, CEA director of Policy, Research, and Reform and a member of the Mastery Examination Committee, highlighted a survey of Connecticut teachers, as well as a survey of teachers from other states, outlining serious concerns and issues with the validity, reliability, and fairness of the SBAC test and the harm it is doing to children.

Teachers surveyed said 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 come from economically disadvantaged school districts.

According to CEA, Connecticut should ensure high-quality education for all students by 1) relying on authentic, classroom-derived evidence of student growth and development instead of an invalid standardized test; 2) ensuring that student tests are free of cultural bias; and, 3) working to close the achievement gap rather than worsen a technology gap through SBAC.

The nation’s new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in December, signaled a new era in publication education, severing ties with more than a decade of harmful federal mandates. It also provides states, including Connecticut, with an opportunity to move forward and correct the SBAC mistake that punishes students on the basis of income and lack of access to digital technology

“The new federal law that provides greater flexibility to states, together with the legislatively created state Mastery Examination Committee, empowered to investigate SBAC, creates an important opportunity to improve the quality of the education we provide for our students,” said Williams. “Connecticut should join many other states that have moved decisively away from the federally sponsored SBAC and PARCC tests and adopt a state-developed test that benefits all students.”

Don Williams, CEA director of Policy, Research, and Reform.

Don Williams, CEA director of Policy, Research, and Reform.

Williams also shared a video of teacher testimony compiled last fall at County Forums held across the state. The video provides a sampling of the insightful and heart-rending comments and concerns about the harmful effects of SBAC and redundant testing on students. Here are some of the issues teachers shared in the video:

  • SBAC takes away significant time and resources from teaching and learning.
  • The SBAC computerized testing format is developmentally inappropriate for students.
  • SBAC accommodations for students with disabilities do not work well.
  • ELL students experience distress being subjected to SBAC.
  • SBAC does not enable teachers to target instruction to student needs.
  • SBAC does not help parents understand what their children know and are able to do.
  • Because of the high-stakes attached to SBAC, it negatively impacts classrooms—creating a culture of overtesting, narrowing the curriculum, and disengaging youngsters from learning.

These serious concerns are not isolated. They mirror comments from students and teachers collected by the state Department of Education after the SBAC field test, and findings from surveys of teachers in Oregon and Washington on SBAC.

Click here for CEA’s report to the Mastery Examination Committee.

Click here for CEA’s teacher survey.

Superintendents’ concerns

Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of CAPSS, summarized some of Connecticut superintendents’ concerns regarding SBAC testing, many of which align with teachers’ concerns, including testing results not driving improvement, the time required to administer the test, and inappropriate accommodations for English language learners.

Key findings:

  • More than half of Connecticut superintendents (53 percent) responding to the survey said SBAC does not give districts results that drive improvement.
  • More than half of Connecticut superintendents (56 percent) said the amount of time taken to administer SBAC is not appropriate.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Connecticut superintendents said accommodations offered by SBAC to English language learners are not appropriate.

Cirasuolo said, “Many students with special needs should not have taken SBAC last year. There should be allowances for local judgments as to when special needs students take the test.”

While not reflected in the survey, Cirasuolo said technology is also a major issue, one that he says goes beyond SBAC.

“We need to address the technology issue as part of everyday learning, not just in assessment, but in instruction. The same instruments used for instruction should be used for assessments,” he said.

Click here for the CAPSS survey.

Parental concerns

CT Parent Teacher Association immediate past president Don Romoser.

CT Parent Teacher Association immediate past president Don Romoser.

Technological concerns also top the list for parents, according to Don Romoser, immediate past president of CT PTA, who highlighted the survey’s key findings for the committee today.

  • Forty-two percent of parents said using computers for SBAC testing is difficult for their children due to the lack of computer and keyboarding skills and training. They also expressed concerns about inequities in computer distribution and the ability of an entire classroom to take the computerized test at the same time.
  • More than half of parents (55 percent) said SBAC is not an appropriate way to assess student mastery of material. Many parents expressed concerns about the amount of test prep and time taken away from instruction.
  • Nearly two thirds (61 percent) of parents said SBAC does not take the appropriate amount of time and their concerns included the overall testing window time, screen time, and test prep time.
  • Six out of 10 parents said SBAC does not offer constructive information regarding the individual student needs in math and English language arts.
  • Two thirds of parents (66 percent) said SBAC results do not offer them ways to help improve student learning.

The CT PTA findings are similar to a recent Gallup Poll where 67 percent of parents said there is too much emphasis on standardized testing, and 78 percent said the most important measure of educational effectiveness is classwork and teacher observations.

Click here for the CT PTA survey.

Next steps

The Mastery Examination Committee will present an interim report to the legislature on or before February 15, 2016. A final report is due on January 15, 2017.

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for February 8, at 1 p.m. at the State Department of Education in Hartford.

  1. Only the Teachers Union representatives gave fight towards getting rid of the SBAC, everyone else wanted to talk about distractions and dragging our feet. “Challenges” in implementation and administration of the test took up the majority of time at the meeting, and only those items were “flagged” by the commissioner to be looked into in the future. When the SBAC’s validity, reliability, and fairness was brought forth as major issues – it was barely touched and the survey information was attacked by the CAPSS President. Plus, the feedback from the PTA was immediately discounted to near zero value by calling it “anecdotal” and pointing at low response rates. The only voice that wasn’t challenged or reduced in value was the Superintendent (CAPSS) feedback which did not express significant issues with the test regarded whether or not it’s a legitimate method to measure academic achievement. Even when we KNOW there are informed and brave superintendents out there with this position.

    January 12, 2016
  2. John Bestor #

    Thank you for your informative update on the mastery testing task force. It is reaffirming to know that parents, teachers, and superintendents have all recognized significant problems with SBAC testing. Perhaps, now the committee can turn its attention to meaningful changes in the mandated testing plans. It seems clear that ESSA has provided the committee with an opportunity to design and develop an “authentic assessment”, based on evidence-based classroom performance indicators, that will establish a new era of meaningful, student-centered testing that CT teachers, parents, students, and citizens have proudly come to expect from educational leadership. The hard work is just beginning, and I hope those who have stood by and promoted the knowingly-flawed SBAC test will be able to take in the message of these surveys in order to move forward with a CT Assessment System that will truly enhance learning.

    January 11, 2016

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