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SBAC Creates Barriers for High-Poverty Districts, Not a Valid Measure of Student Growth

CEA Director of Policy & Research Donald Williams

CEA Director of Policy & Research Donald Williams at today’s meeting of the state Mastery Examination Committee.

New research showing that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test disproportionately disadvantages students and teachers in high-poverty districts was distributed to members of the state Mastery Examination Committee today.

The study of 600 teachers, conducted by Abacus Associates for the Connecticut Education Association, underscores mounting concerns by legislators, educators, parents, and others about the test’s validity, fairness, and negative impact on students—particularly those in high-poverty districts and those with limited access to computers.

CEA Director of Policy, Research, and Reform Donald Williams, who spoke at the Mastery Examination Committee meeting, also expressed strong concerns about the test’s failure to measure student growth or to account for summer loss. While summer learning loss varies across subjects, grade levels, and socioeconomic groups, students on average score lower on assessments administered after summer break than on those given at the end of the school year.

“Summer loss is a real problem and is more pronounced in some districts. If we’re looking at measuring growth from April to April, you can’t measure whether there was summer loss. I think that is deeply flawed,” he said.

Williams told the committee, “We will be disagreeing fundamentally if some in the group believe SBAC is designed to measure growth.”

A more appropriate way to capture accurate information about students’ academic growth and needs, he said, is to measure students’ growth from September to June.

Commenting on SBAC’s shortcomings, Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), acknowledged, “It gives you a score at the end of the game; it doesn’t tell you why you won or lost.”

Williams added, “We’re not saying we should not have a mastery exam. We’re not saying we should not use the mastery exam. But use the test for what it was designed for: to give a big-picture snapshot that could influence programming, professional development, curriculum, interventions, and other factors—not as a high-stakes determinant of school rankings, administrator rankings, or teacher rankings.”

He concluded, “We want a variety of indicators of growth. We want a rich, holistic set of indicators of student growth and development that provide a full picture.”

  1. Why not just use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills?

    October 21, 2016
  2. John Bestor #

    All ESSA requires is a yearly measure of Reading skills and a yearly measure of Math skills and a test of Science skills every three years. This could be accomplished with one 45-minute test in each area in order to meet the federal requirement. ESSA gave states flexibility in determining its own assessment practice. Upon signing ESSA, President Obama called for less student time in testing and test prep. We should call for meeting minimum federal assessment requirement with a more effective, proven, verifiable assessment protocol that is also less time-consuming, less costly, and less controversial. Twenty-five years of high-stakes testing with both CMTs and SBACs have failed our students, parents, teachers, and citizens. While the NAACP has finally recognized the damage unfair and incessant testing has done to underserved communities, the advocates of “corporate education reform” remain unwilling to even consider research-based evidence that runs contrary to their predetermined misguided solutions. Combined with teacher-made measures of authentic student achievement, perhaps we can begin to close the achievement gap and build meaningful educational opportunities and success for students. With CEA Regional Meetings taking place across the state, would membership support a more assertive stance by Mastery Examination Task Force members, such as refusing to sign on to Task Force recommendations when they are due in January? After all, despite strong efforts by Don Williams, Ted Goerner, and Maria Ferreira, their message has fallen on deaf ears by persons who refuse to hear. Tell leadership it is time to push-back with increased resolve.

    October 19, 2016

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