CEA calls for elimination of the SBAC in Connecticut

Sent on Behalf of CEA President Sheila Cohen
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Below is a summary of media coverage of CEA’s news conference regarding the elimination of the SBAC in Connecticut.

Channel 8 coverage with video: http://wtnh.com/2016/01/07/cea-calls-to-ditch-standardized-test/

Channel 61 also covered but video is not available online

The AP article was carried by a number of publications nationally, including the two CT publications below

AP: http://www.centralctcommunications.com/newbritainherald/article_144b3ff0-b588-11e5-9097-636c4c34b57b.html

AP: http://www.thehour.com/news/connecticut-union-wants-test-replaced-for-all-grades/article_73c044da-b588-11e5-b6a4-131a144cfd1f.html

CT Post: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Teachers-want-SBAC-dumped-in-Connecticut-6742933.php#photo-9216487

New Haven Register: http://www.nhregister.com/article/NH/20160107/NEWS/160109648

Middletown Press also carried the Register story: http://www.middletownpress.com/social-affairs/20160107/cea-calls-for-elimination-of-sbac-in-connecticut

As did the Torrington Register Citizen: http://www.registercitizen.com/article/RC/20160107/NEWS/160109727

The Day carried the Courant’s story: http://www.theday.com/state-news/20160108/teachers-union-calls-for-elimination-of-smarter-balanced-test

CT-N video of news conference is here: http://www.ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=12359

I’ve pasted the Hartford Courant article (which was on the front page of courant.com and also the front of the print Connecticut section) and the Waterbury Republican American story below as they both require subscriptions to access.

Teachers’ Union Calls For Elimination Of Smarter Balanced Test

CEA wants to dump Smarter Balanced test and possibly get rid of a state standardized test entirely

HARTFORD — The state’s largest teachers’ union called Thursday for the elimination of the state’s new standardized test created by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Donald E. Williams Jr., the former legislative leader who now works for the Connecticut Education Association, said the computerized Smarter Balanced test “provides no useful feedback to teachers about their students, and has disrupted schools throughout the state.”

The test is “not valid, reliable or fair,” Williams said during a CEA news conference at the Legislative Office Building at the Capitol complex.

Sheila Cohen, president of the union, said the test is not “developmentally appropriate or fair for students, especially those who are young, in special education or English-language learner programs, come from homes without regular computer access, or from economically disadvantaged school districts.”

The recently passed federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the successor to No Child Left Behind — gives the state new flexibility and the opportunity to consider a different way to assess student performance, Williams said.

5 Things The New Federal Education Law Means For Connecticut

Ideally, he said, the education association would like to see the state pursue “innovation slots,” which will be available to some states under the new legislation and will enable those states to design a new form of assessment other than a standardized test.

That new method could rely on portfolios of classroom work, or essays or projects that might span an entire year, he said.

Failing that option, Williams said, the CEA would like to work with a vendor to create a new standardized test that is better aligned with classroom learning and does not pose some of the technological challenges presented by Smarter Balanced.

Williams said that although it’s probably too late to switch to a new test for this school year — testing usually begins in March — the union hopes to see Smarter Balanced gone by next year.

He noted that some states have already abandoned Smarter Balanced in favor of their own locally designed standardized test.

Advocates for the Smarter Balanced test lashed back quickly against the union’s plea, with Jennifer Alexander, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, labeling it “a knee-jerk reaction to a new system. Their proposal is that we move away from [Smarter Balanced] when we’ve only just begun, and we’ve already invested millions into its implementation. It’s not only educationally unsound, but financially irresponsible.”

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said Connecticut has already invested millions over the past five years in developing and piloting the new test, which was first administered to students in every district last spring. “And the CEA’s proposal would throw it all away,” he said. “That just doesn’t make sense.”

Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said the department will review CEA’s proposal. “Discussion is important, as is collaboration,” Wentzell said. “We all want the same thing: for our kids to succeed and reach their potential. Just as classroom tests are important tools to help inform educators’ practice in the classroom, statewide assessments are essential to ensuring that we are delivering on our promise to all our children.”

The Connecticut Mirror reported last week that a quarter of public school districts failed to meet a federal requirement last spring that at least 95 percent of their students take the Smarter Balanced test. The state has said that if more than 10 percent of students in those low-participation districts miss the required exam for a second consecutive spring, the district will lose funding and its performance ratings might be downgraded.

Annie Irvine, a third-grade teacher in East Hartford, said test preparation for Smarter Balanced takes away too much “precious instructional time.”

She said at the news conference that she spends hours teaching students to transfer reading skills to a computer and “more time coaching, cajoling, and convincing students that they can sustain enough stamina to attempt long and dry reading passages that they will see. All while trying to teach them how to type, which they can’t do in Grade 2 because their fingers are too short.”

Ted Goerner, a West Hartford teacher, said he is concerned about the disparity in testing conditions that students experience if they take the test on a Chromebook, compared with taking it on a desktop computer.

It’s much harder to read and navigate the test on the tiny Chromebook screen, he said, compared with the screen with the much larger desktop. “If you can’t control these variables, you can’t compare valid comparisons over time.”

Juanita Bush Harris, a Danbury guidance counselor, said that students who are learning English are at a major disadvantage taking the test. Those students are transitioning into Connecticut and arrive with widely varying skill levels, she said, and sometimes no formal education.

She said she has seen these students exhibiting “excessive levels of distress, insecurity and anxiety” on taking the test.

Harris said, “I say to you that the [Smarter Balanced] may be invalid, certainly is harmful, and we need to look and see if it is discriminatory.”

Copyright © 2016, Hartford Courant

Teachers union wants state test dropped
SBAC exams called unreliable, time-consuming

 HARTFORD — The state’s largest teacher’s union is pushing state officials to dump the state’s recently adopted high-stakes test for elementary and middle schools students.

Connecticut Education Association leaders held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, calling on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and lawmakers to replace the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test. They want one developed either by a state consultant or state educators.

CEA leaders said they believe in the need for student testing, but not with the intensity and frustration brought on by SBAC. CEA President Sheila Cohen said SBAC is hurting students.

“Our students deserve valid and authentic testing, not the unreliable SBAC that takes far too much time away from valuable classroom instructional time,” Cohen said.

In October, Connecticut leaders agreed to replace SBAC tests at the high school level with the SAT tests prepared by the College Board. This move was praised by CEA.

The union is also pushing against an element of school reform adopted early in Malloy’s administration, the use of student performance results as part of teacher evaluations.

Connecticut lawmakers have already established a group to examine issues surrounding the state’s standardized test. This “Mastery Examination Committee” is due to deliver an interim report to the General Assembly’s Education Committee by Feb. 15, and a final report by Jan. 15, 2017.

In December, federal lawmakers passed an overhaul of federal education law. Among other things, it ceded much of the federal Department of Education’s authority over testing back to states. Now, CEA is urging Connecticut leaders to use that authority to move away from SBAC testing.

Federal law still requires testing in grades three through eight, and once in high school. Results must be shared publicly, and also break out performance of racial groups and economically disadvantaged students.

Former State Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. — now working as CEA’s director of policy research and reform — said the group is hopeful new tests could be in place before Connecticut’s elementary and middle school students in spring 2017.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test was designed by and for multiple states. It was intended as a better measure of student performance on recently adopted “Common Core” learning goals.

At Thursday’s news conference, CEA representatives and teachers shared a litany of complaints. They feel tests are too advanced for the youngest test-takers. They complain about uneven access to technology, with some test takers using tablets and others computers.

They feel these tests put English language learners, special needs students and low-income students at a distinct disadvantage. They complain instructional time is lost preparing students for the test. They also feel these complex tests are an emotional strain on a wide swath of students.

Williams said the tests take eight to 12 hours to complete and provide no useful feedback to teachers.

“It’s really hard to believe that policymakers in Connecticut want to sacrifice opportunities and access to a more well-rounded education in the name of a single high-stakes test,” said Annie Irvine, an East Hartford teacher.


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