Committee Examining SBAC Gains Additional Teacher Voice

West Hartford Education Association President Ted Goerner and CEA Policy Director Don Williams represent CEA on the Mastery Examination Task Force.

May 17, 2016

The state-level committee tasked with examining the impact and appropriateness of the SBAC exam has gained another teacher voice. West Hartford science teacher and local Association president Ted Goerner joined the Mastery Examination Task Force for the first time at its meeting today.

The task force agenda included a look at the usability, accessibility, and accommodations available to students taking the SBAC test.

Saying that he teaches the concepts of reliability and validity to his eighth graders, Goerner asked, "How can you control for all of the variables that exist when some students are taking the exam on Chromebooks while others have access to desktops with large screens and full keyboards?"

CEA Director of Policy, Research, and Reform Donald Williams shared responses from surveys of teachers in Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington that showed that an overwhelming majority reported problems with the SBAC accommodations available for special needs students and English language learners. He added that a resolution by the National Federation of the Blind warns states "about the use of the Smarter Balanced assessment, which, until the access barriers for students with disabilities that are currently being addressed are totally resolved, will be a violation of several federal civil rights statutes."

At their next meeting on June 8, task force members plan to discuss conducting a survey of Connecticut educators on their experiences with SBAC accommodations during the 2016 test administration.

Task force members also talked about plans for their additional future meetings through January 2017, when a final report is due to the state legislature.

"I would like the committee to hear presentations from a variety of folks," Williams said. "If we are going to do our job adequately we need a diversity of opinions—not just those of the state Department of Education and the Smarter Balanced Consortium."

Stephen Hegedus, dean of education at Southern Connecticut State University, pointed out that the committee's charge asks it to examine "whether the state-wide mastery examination is an appropriate student assessment."

Williams said that the task force might find the SBAC exam is appropriate for certain purposes and not others.

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