The first administration of SBAC that will yield student and school level results is coming soon, and State Department of Education (SDE) Officials say they think districts are ready, but they’re not so sure about parents. “I stay up at night worrying about how to prepare people for this,” said Chief Academic Officer Ellen Cohn.
Cohn said that the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) mark a significant shift for schools, and that districts continue to need support. “This is like leaving JV and going to varsity — these are different assessments,” she said.
The SDE is working on materials, including brochures and web resources, to help parents understand that students’ results may differ from what they’ve come to expect on the CMT and CAPT.
“One of the pieces of information that’s not been well broadcast is the level of engagement our office has had in the development of the test,” said Gail Pagano, an education consultant for the SDE and the state’s SBAC lead. “Nine members worked over four years to develop the test. I’ve had a lot of input in math items.”
Pagano added, “People from other states in the [SBAC] consortium say that this is more Connecticut’s test than any other state’s test.”
Ninety percent of Connecticut districts administered a field test of the SBAC last year, however, since it was only a field test, schools and students will not be receiving results.
Technology Readiness Coordinator Abe Krisst said, “We’re in the process of preparing a very big picture, 10,000 feet report on some aspects of the SBAC results — state-level only.” Krisst indicated that the report will be out soon.
The test administration this year is being used to set a benchmark and will yield student-level results. The testing window runs March 17 – June 12 for grades 3 – 8 and April 27 – June 22 for grade 11, and the SDE expects to be able to provide results approximately one month after the testing windows close.
New accountability system
SBAC scores will be one part of the new accountability system the state will use to identify low-performing schools, as required by federal law. As part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver application the SDE is preparing to submit to the U.S. Department of Education by March 31, the SDE is assembling a new accountability system that will rely on more factors than just state test scores.
Under the new accountability system some schools’ rank will change. Morgan Barth, director of the SDE’s Turnaround Office, said that the state may need to have some provocative discussions about schools that have ranked at the bottom for many years.
Barth said that in other states schools that fail to turn around have been closed, taken over by the state, or reconstituted. “We’ve been taking a collaborative approach with the Commissioner’s Network,” he said. “There will be difficult choices down the road, especially for those schools already receiving extensive money and support.”
Another piece of the NCLB waiver requires Connecticut to “report annually to the public on college-going and college credit-accumulation rates for all students and subgroups of students in each local education agency and public high school.”
Ajit Gopalakrishnan, bureau chief in the SDE’s performance office, said that the first data report from the cohort of 2010 graduates will be released soon. “We’ll be able to not just track enrollment, but also credits earned, and report back at the district and school level, but not the kid level.” Gopalakrishnan said that data is only reported for groups of twenty or more students to protect individual privacy.
There is no doubt that the SDE will need to “work on materials, including brochures and web resources, to help parents understand that students’ results may differ from what they’ve come to expect on the CMT and CAPT”. Does any teacher really expect the SDE to come clean and admit that the former Commissioner is responsible for setting the “cut-score” at such a high level that only 30% of students taking the SBAC are expected to meet the Proficiency standard while, conversely, 70% will fail or fall below proficiency criteria? How will state education officials spin that egregious, predetermined outcome? Will the SDE actually admit that the projected SBAC results are actually designed to maintain the continuing narrative of our failing schools and our ineffective teachers? Like all 50 states, Connecticut failed to educate 100% of its public school students to the unrealistic NCLB-required proficiency standard and, as a result, the SDE was bullied into accepting new accountability systems that will fail to serve the educational needs of children, parents, and those educators who dedicate and commit their energies to their students. I am sure that the SDE Turnaround Office is waiting with great anticipation the opportunity to privatize more schools with the infusion of additional funding while continuing to inadequately fund nearby schools in the same community. The inequitable funding of CT’s public schools, especially in low-income communities, is scandalous and these schools have not been “receiving extensive money and support” as stated because the financial resources have been diverted to the “turnaround” schools. Sadly, the SDE, despite their effort to create positive spin on this education reform travesty, is blatantly disingenuous and cannot be trusted.