While many states have embraced improvement in their statewide assessment programs and have rejected invalid tests, Connecticut remains stuck in a program that is harmful to teaching and discriminatory to students.
In spite of mounting concerns about the validity and fairness of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test—which is administered to students in grades 3-8—a divided state committee in charge of reviewing the test voted to retain SBAC and ignore concerns raised by teachers and administrators. Representatives of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Connecticut submitted a Minority Report detailing the problems with SBAC.
“We strongly disagree with the findings in the State Department of Education’s report and voted against it,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “At a time when the state is facing a billion-dollar budget deficit, legislators must consider the wasteful spending of tax dollars on a deeply flawed test. The majority of states have already rejected the SBAC test—a troubling fact left unexplored by the State Department of Education’s report.”
CEA was a strong force behind the legislative action that created the committee to investigate and address issues with SBAC, but the committee, which includes education stakeholders and members of the corporate reform movement, dismissed concerns raised by Connecticut educators and national research.
“Our Minority Report ensures that legislators will have the perspectives of teachers, parents, and administrators when they consider the facts,” said Cohen. “It is unconscionable that the State Department of Education’s report would fail to acknowledge the pressing and harmful problems created by this test.”
Donald Williams, CEA Director of Policy, Research and Reform and a member of the committee, provided the committee with research, surveys, and information indicating SBAC’s lack of validity, reliability, and fairness, and the discriminatory impact of the test on students. That information is not reflected in the final report prepared by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE).
The CSDE, which serves on the SBAC executive committee, did not invite any independent testing experts to present research questioning SBAC’s validity, reliability, or lack of fairness.
“CSDE did not invite any speakers to discuss alternatives to SBAC or to explore criticisms of SBAC. CSDE employees presented most of the SBAC-related information to the committee, providing a one-sided view of the issue,” Williams said.
“The future of the Smarter Balanced Consortium is uncertain, as the number of states affiliated with SBAC has declined dramatically. Connecticut students should not be left behind and stuck with a flawed test that has been replaced in a majority of other states,” added Williams.
“We have an opportunity to move forward in a positive way by using valid assessments, and using them for their designed purpose,” said Cohen. “Testing must serve and not supplant academic standards, and tests must be independently validated. Unfortunately, Connecticut’s students will miss that opportunity if our students and schools are judged with an invalid assessment. Other states have already learned this lesson, and we must do so as well.”
Minority Report Released
CEA, along with AFT CT, has released an alternative to the CSDE report, a Minority Report detailing teachers’ concerns regarding the pressing and harmful problems with SBAC, which will be submitted to the state legislature.
The Minority Report identifies scientific research and mounting evidence from other states and education experts across the country highlighting serious concerns with the validity, reliability, and fairness of the SBAC test and the harm it is doing to children.
The CEA/AFT-CT Minority Report addresses
- the unreliability of the SBAC test as a measure of student growth year over year
- the misuse of the test for purposes it was not designed for, including school, teacher, and administrator evaluation
- the discriminatory format of the test, which disadvantages students in high-needs districts with limited access to technology
- the bias in the test that discriminates against students in high-poverty districts
“The CSDE report ignores the views of parents, teachers, and administrators. Schools and students are devoting large portions of the school year to test prep and administration on an assessment that does not inform day-to-day classroom instruction or provide teachers with information on how to meet student needs. Students deserve assessments that are free from bias and that help meet their academic needs,” Williams said.