Rebuttal to Chris Powell's Editorial

Rebuttal to Chris Powell's Editorial from CEA President, Sheila Cohen

The following is a rebuttal to Chris Powell's editorial in the Journal Inquirer. The original response can be found on their website.

We appreciate Chris Powell's acknowledgment that the Connecticut Education Association is spot on with our advocacy to reduce high-stakes testing. ("CEA is right on testing but for the wrong reason," March 2.) However, Powell completely misinterpreted our message, and that requires our correction.

We want to phase out the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and replace it with progress tests that give immediate and useful feedback to teachers.

Powell opined that these progress tests would not be standardized and that their results would not be comparable across schools and the school systems. That is not true.

Our proposal calls for establishing a State Mastery Examination Board comprised of educators and experts, so that board can identify the progress test that will take the place of SBAC from among those progress tests already administered in classrooms.

The point is that we realize the board needs to select one test to enable a common indicator among schools and school districts. Teachers realize there is a role for testing in our public schools, and we are more than willing to be accountable.

While we want to de-emphasize high-stakes testing, we want to elevate other indicators of student growth and school performance. As part of Connecticut's approach to accountability, we think schools should report on indicators of essential college- and career-ready skills that testing cannot accurately measure, such as collaboration and communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, and social and civic engagement. These are essential elements of a 21st-century education, and we diminish their importance not only at our students' peril, but our own.

Powell also suggests that high-stakes testing is not a burden on students. Again, not true. A history lesson appears in order. The testing that has overtaken our schools has its roots in the federal mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act adopted by Congress in 2001. It required high-stakes standardized tests in reading and math every year from third to eighth grade, and then once again in high school.

In the wake of NCLB, schools imposed additional tests devised to prepare for the high-stakes test, and class instructional time was reduced to narrowly focus on test preparation — often by taking additional pre-tests, which in turn required even more test-prep time, and dramatically less learning time.

With our less-testing initiative, teachers should be congratulated for advocating for better learning conditions for students. Instead Powell twisted the facts — that are clear and readily available at — to malign teachers and their unions. That is disgraceful and a blatant disregard for the facts.

Sheila Cohen
CEA President

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