Citing a statewide poll, the Connecticut Education Association that represents public education employees, says Connecticut residents are “fed up with Connecticut burdening students with too much testing” and “want their state legislators to take action.” CEA leadership, at a news conference today in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, “revealed a new, balanced approach that improves accountability, reduces testing by phasing out SBAC, and can serve as a foundation for legislation this year.” From the CEA:
CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “We have conducted the first state poll this year on testing. The new survey indicates that Connecticut voters say public school students are required to take too many standardized tests and spend too much class time preparing for these tests. Voters want our public schools to rely more on classroom-based instruction and performance measures and focus less on testing.”
“A child is more than a test score,” Cohen said, “and the time is now for the Connecticut General Assembly to act by phasing out SBAC and turning to a progress test already in use in Connecticut classrooms. This change would benefit students by 1) eliminating unnecessary, duplicative testing; 2) enabling Connecticut to meet federal and state accountability requirements; and, 3) restoring precious instructional time to help all children learn at high levels by engaging them with creative, innovative, and personalized class work.”
Key findings from CEA’s survey:
• A strong majority of voters agrees that students are required to take too many standardized tests. Overall, 67 percent of voters agree with that statement, including almost half (47 percent) who strongly agree with it. In addition, almost 3 in 4 voters (74 percent) believe that too many instructional hours are being lost to preparing for standardized tests, including half (53 percent) who strongly agree.
• Voters overwhelmingly believe that classroom-based information, and not standardized tests, is the most trustworthy and accurate means by which to assess student learning, performance and achievement. Almost 8 in 10 voters (78 percent) trust classroom-based information, like performance, and grades.
• Based on their frustration with too many required standardized tests, a majority of voters want their state legislators to vote for a bill to reduce the number of required standardized tests. Almost two-thirds of voters (64 percent) want their state legislators to vote for legislation that reduces testing. Notably, more than half of voters (56 percent) strongly support this potential legislation.
Closing the achievement gap
According to CEA, teachers in schools that serve Connecticut’s neediest students report that too much test preparation, repetition, and drilling is stressful and takes away from crucial time for learning.
Cohen said, “This is so troubling because we want students to love learning, have ample opportunities for one-on-on instruction, engage in exploration, and be creative as they acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”
She added, “Connecticut can provide transparency about how schools are doing and promote equity and opportunity for students–all while limiting the focus on high-stakes, standardized tests. We are advancing a two-pronged approach to school improvement that will help all children learn at high levels and improve Connecticut’s ability to close the persistent achievement gap.”
CEA’s legislative proposal guarantees more instructional time for students so that teachers can instill a love of learning and give children the opportunities they deserve. This involves phasing out the time-consuming SBAC test and instead using a progress-test approach–one already used by many school districts–to meet federal and state requirements. While SBAC is untested and unproven as an indicator of student performance, progress tests are valid and reliable. They have been used in classrooms for years, allowing teachers to effectively adjust instructional strategies to meet students’ needs in a timely way.
Eliminating duplicative testing
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg underscored the effective track record of progress tests. “If we want to help our students, then the critical objective is to eliminate the unnecessary, duplicative tests that have overtaken our schools. Phasing out SBAC and using progress tests is best for our students,” he said.
Progress tests provide immediate information to teachers, who can then quickly and effectively respond to student needs. Waxenberg emphasized, “Public education should be all about students, especially students with immediate and serious needs. Instead education has become all about tests. This needs to change. There is no legitimate reason why Connecticut cannot move forward to recapture the instructional time that has been taken from our children.”
CEA’s survey indicates the public does not believe high-stakes, standardized tests are the most accurate or trustworthy means by which to assess student progress. Cohen explained, “It is clear that parents, who were oversampled in this survey, do not want their children to be treated with a one-size-fits-all approach. A student is more than a test score. Connecticut teachers recognize that students are unique. There are developmental variations, multiple intelligences, a variety of diverse student learning styles, and individual needs and strengths that must be addressed.”
*Lake Research Partners conducted this poll by telephone January 18-21, 2015. The survey reached a total of 500 likely 2016 voters in Connecticut plus an oversample of 100 parents with children age 18 or under.
Summary of 2015 CEA Legislative Proposals Regarding Testing
1. Phase out and eliminate the burdensome SBAC test. This will save significant time for students, teachers, and administrators. Administration of the SBAC up through the end of the 2015-2016 school year will be considered pilot applications of the test.
2. Create an improved system of school accountability that is not tied to an arbitrary test score, but to more robust and meaningful assessments of student knowledge and growth. Reduce the amount that testing counts toward measuring school quality from 90 percent to 20 percent; include assessments of important college and career-ready skills that testing cannot accurately measure, such as collaboration and communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, self-direction, and social and civic engagement.
3. Establish a State Mastery Examination Board comprised of educators and experts, to convene on July 1, 2015. On or before January 1, 2016, the board shall identify the progress test that will take the place of SBAC from among those progress tests already administered in classrooms, and determine how the results from such tests shall be reported. Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, the progress test will be substituted for the SBAC in grades 3-8. The board will annually review the efficacy of the test, and every other year vote as to whether to retain the test or select a different test.
4. The examination board shall, in its initial and ongoing decision making process regarding the selection of a test, select a test that: a) assists teachers to the greatest degree in measuring growth and identifying needs of students during and throughout the same academic year; and b) to the greatest extent possible is blended with and does not subtract from classroom instruction time.
5. Prohibit high-stakes testing in prekindergarten programs through the second grade.
6. Establish a commission on student learning and school quality to identify key measures that indicate how well schools and districts prepare students to meet the objectives in the system of school accountability described above.
1. Eliminate the failed mandates of the No Child Left Behind and Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) regarding high-stakes testing, and federal waiver requirements that tie an arbitrary test score to teacher and school evaluation.
2. Maximize the flexibility in ESEA to assess all students, especially those in the greatest academic need, in a manner other than through high-stakes testing, and that supports and develops essential strengths and skills needed for college and career readiness.