Teachers from across the state are sounding the alarm about the negative effects of SBAC on the social and emotional well-being of children. According to the initial findings of a new survey of K-12 teachers in Connecticut, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing is having a detrimental impact on children—from anger and frustration to crying—and creates an obstacle to teaching and learning.
At a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford today, CEA President Sheila Cohen said teachers’ concerns must be heeded or our children will develop disdain and apathy toward education instead of cultivating a love of learning.
“SBAC is an ineffective and wasteful assessment that is putting our students’ emotional health at risk and denying them the education they deserve,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “This survey is a powerful wake-up call to legislators about the relentless testing that has overtaken public schools and overwhelmed children. Lawmakers need to take action to restore precious teaching and learning time for our students.”
According to the initial findings, nine out of ten teachers (90 percent) said SBAC preparation takes away significant time and resources from teaching and learning. Almost all (96 percent) said SBAC is not proven to be beneficial toward improving student learning in the classroom. And 86 percent said SBAC has a negative effect on the social and emotional well-being of children.
The survey also found that SBAC is discriminatory toward Connecticut’s low-income and special needs students. Seventy percent of teachers said that students exhibited widely disparate and inequitable computer skills when taking the SBAC test. In high-poverty districts, teachers were significantly more likely (212% more) to report that their students lacked sufficient computer skills to succeed on the test. And nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of teachers said SBAC’s built-in methods of providing testing accommodations to students with disabilities did not work well.
“SBAC testing promised to put Connecticut on the fast track toward closing the achievement gap. Instead it’s derailing the future of children in our neediest communities—hitting our urban and low-income communities the hardest,” said Cohen.
More than 1,140 teachers responded to the online survey between May 8, 2015, and May 15, 2015, and a final report will be released mid-June.
Other initial key findings include:
- Seventy-nine percent of teachers reported that their students lost significant access to computers/technology throughout this school year because the SBAC test administration and preparation has limited access to computers in their school.
- Almost all (97 percent) teachers said SBAC is not a useful indicator of school effectiveness.
- Ninety-six percent of teachers said SBAC is as an obstacle for their students to overcome.
- Ninety-four percent of teachers said the proposed timeline for SBAC to deliver results will not allow them to use the information in a meaningful way.
- Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of teachers said the computerized test administration format is not developmentally appropriate for their students.
“Although the survey is still open, a substantial number of teachers have already responded, and their replies indicate that many of the proposed benefits of SBAC have not been realized,” said Steven Stemler, Associate Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University. Dr. Stemler, who analyzed the data, said the survey results suggest that: “Teachers believe that SBAC is making poor use of children’s time in the classroom. The data reveal that large numbers of classrooms throughout the state have encountered technical challenges in administering the SBAC test, that students have had negative emotional reactions to the test, and that SBAC is not a useful indicator of school effectiveness.”
“A child is more than a test score, and we need to put the focus back where it belongs—on student learning, not testing,” said Cohen, “and voters agree that excessive testing must end.”
According to the first statewide survey of voters on standardized testing this year, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Connecticut residents polled want their state legislators to take action to reduce the number of required standardized tests.
Proposal to end excessive testing
At the news conference CEA unveiled a proposal for legislators to end excessive standardized testing and amend Senate Bill 1095. The plan calls for establishing a State Mastery Examination Committee consisting of educators, parents, and other experts to ensure that the most important perspectives on student learning are included. The committee would review SBAC and its impact on teaching, learning, and students and recommend statewide assessment options that are responsive to student needs, informative to teachers, not intrusive or time consuming, aligned to classroom teaching, and in compliance with federal law. The committee would produce a report to state policymakers next year, recommending the best path forward for Connecticut’s students.
“We know SBAC is wrong for our students, but it’s not too late to make a change,” said CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg. “Legislators need to take action to turn things around for our students. By implementing our proposal and addressing high-stakes standardized testing, legislators can restore critical learning time in our classrooms and make Connecticut a national leader in education.”
CEA also released a new television ad featuring teachers, principals, parents, students, and the public calling on legislators to reduce testing and make more time for learning. The ad can be viewed at www.cea.org.
The Connecticut Education Association represents 43,000 teachers in Connecticut.