A new report on student testing is a step forward, according to Connecticut teachers, but much more investigation and research must be done before policymakers can assure students and parents that Connecticut’s approach to student testing is effective and non-discriminatory.
The Connecticut Mastery Examination Committee, empowered to investigate SBAC, delivered its interim report to the legislature today, before the required February 15 deadline.
“We are pleased that the committee summarized its work to date, examining the onerous testing issue that impacts our students and public education,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen.
The interim report contains important feedback and surveys from teachers, parents, and administrators, and includes concerns that:
- The SBAC test discriminates against low-income students
- The test does not provide appropriate accommodations for special needs students and English language learners
- SBAC is developmentally inappropriate for younger students
- It does not drive academic improvement and takes too much time to administer
- SBAC creates a technology gap for those students without home access to computers or the internet
Donald Williams, CEA director of Policy, Research, and Reform, who represents CEA on the Mastery Examination Committee, said teachers are deeply appreciative of the legislature’s willingness to explore meaningful change needed in our state testing program by creating the committee.
“As legislators examine the report, we ask them to be attentive to serious concerns that teacher representatives raised with the committee,” said Williams. “As the committee continues its examination of SBAC, evidence is mounting that computerized, online assessments such as the SBAC test puts many students—especially those from low-income families—at a disadvantage and undercuts the validity of the results. This hard evidence cannot be ignored.”
Recently released studies reinforce those concerns and further highlight the discriminatory technology gap that invalidates the SBAC results. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) found that students who took that multi-state, Common Core aligned assessment, which is similar to SBAC, scored higher on a paper version than they did on a computerized version of the very same exam. This raises serious concern that computerized assessments are testing students’ ability to navigate the computerized platform rather than their knowledge of the subject matter.
Another study, conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, found that many low-income families are under-connected, with mobile-only Internet access and unreliable connectivity. Students without computers and Internet connections at home are left ill prepared for online tests taken on computers compared with their peers who have their own computer and high-speed Internet access.
“Testing has an important place in our public schools to drive classroom instructional improvement,” said Cohen. “Our students, however, deserve reliable assessments rather than the SBAC test that discriminates against many students and takes 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.”
Cohen said Connecticut must ensure high-quality education for all students by 1) relying on evidence of student growth and development instead of a one-time 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.
CEA is hopeful that mounting evidence about the problems with SBAC will help Connecticut join the 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.
The committee’s final report is due on January 15, 2017.