Teachers Union Asks Lawmakers To Study Impact of SBAC Test

by Christine Stuart | May 20, 2015 12:52pm
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Posted to: Education, Town News, Labor

CHRISTINE STUART PHOTO

CEA President Sheila Cohen along with CEA Vice President Jeffrey Leake, Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, and Researcher Ray Rossomando

The first year of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium testing isn’t completed, but the state’s largest teachers union is asking state lawmakers to study its continued use as a statewide assessment.

Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen pointed to an ongoingsurvey that found nine of 10 teachers said the SBAC preparation takes away significant time and resources from teaching and learning. The same survey found 86 percent said SBAC has a negative effect on the social and emotional well-being of children.

More than 1,140 teachers have responded to CEA’s survey since March 18. The data Cohen released Wednesday included responses through May 15.

She said the results of the survey —  which also found that 97 percent of teachers felt SBAC was not a useful indicator of school effectiveness and that 96 percent of teachers said SBAC was an obstacle for their students to overcome — should be a wake up call to legislators about the “relentless testing.”

The interim survey results CEA released Wednesday also showed students in lower performing, high poverty districts like Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, and New Haven were 154 percent more likely than students in wealthier, higher performing districts to click through test questions without reading them and 212 percent more likely not to have the computer skills necessary to take the test.

The survey also found 90.8 percent of participating teachers agree that “the time it took to complete the SBAC test caused student frustration and apathy.” This perspective was shared by 872 of the 1,144 classroom teachers surveyed.

“Lawmakers need to take action to restore precious teaching time and learning time for our students. Time is of the essence,” Cohen said.

CEA is asking lawmakers to amend S.B. 1095 to establish a state mastery examination committee and require that committee to examine and recommend statewide assessment options. The amendment that they want to see passed would require the committee to produce an interim report to the legislature by February 2016 and a final report on January 2017.

But time is running out in this legislative session to make that happen.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said they are aware that the clock is ticking and the union has been in contact with the Education Committee co-chairs on a regular basis.

“We are having very positive conversations with them about how we could create this task force and how we could move this idea forward,” Waxenberg said Wednesday. “Though no amendment has been filed as of yet, discussions are still ongoing, mindful of the deadline that’s approaching.”

Waxenberg said there’s no opposition from the co-chairs in “discussing the concept.”

It’s unclear whether there’s enough time to draft and adopt an amendment this year with so little time left in the legislative session.

Education Committee Co-Chair Rep. Andrew Fleischmann said Wednesday that he plans to offer an amendment to study the SBAC test. He said there are a lot of questions about the test that still need to be answered such as the duration of the test, its appropriateness for children of certain ages, and impact on instruction.

He said there’s enough time left to introduce the amendment.

CEA will spend $125,000 on a one-week television media buy to make sure lawmakers don’t forget about this issue before the session ends at midnight June 3.

But not everyone believes there is a problem with the SBAC test.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said that he can’t understand the concerns being leveled against the SBAC test.

“The SBAC takes students the same amount of time to complete as the CMT, but provides higher-quality data that is comparable across states,” Villar said.

He added that “The fight against SBAC is nothing more than a backlash against accountability. It’s a movement that seeks to maintain the status quo, rather than making informed decisions about what students actually need from their schools.”

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