Teachers call attention to Connecticut testing that harms children

Connecticut Education Association News Release

Teachers call attention to Connecticut testing that harms children

Elimination of misguided federal mandates allows state to move forward with replacing burdensome,
discriminatory testing

January 7, 2016

Connecticut teachers are calling on the governor and state legislators to join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs. The lengthy SBAC 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.

"Testing has an important place in our public schools to drive classroom instructional improvement," said CEA President Sheila Cohen. "Our students, however, need and deserve valid and authentic testing, rather than the unreliable SBAC that takes far too much time away from classroom instruction. It is time to put a stop to Connecticut's singular focus on this unfair, high stakes, snapshot assessment as the basis for all critical decisions affecting our students."

According to CEA, Connecticut should ensure high-quality education for all students by 1) relying on authentic, classroom-derived evidence of student growth and development instead of an invalid standardized test; 2) ensuring that student tests are free of cultural bias; and, 3) working to close the achievement gap rather than worsen a technology gap through SBAC.

Joined by classroom teachers from across Connecticut, CEA, the state's largest teacher organization, held a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford today to explain that the time is ripe for improvement in assessment. That is because the nation's new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), sparked by concerns expressed by parents, students, and teachers across America, recognizes that assessing what students know and are able to do is much more complex than a single test score could ever show.

Legislative action in Washington and Hartford provide right context for action

Donald Williams, CEA director of Policy, Research, and Reform, said, "By enacting the Every Student Succeeds Act in December, President Obama and the U.S. Congress signaled a new era in public education. They have severed ties with more than a decade of harmful federal mandates, and provided Connecticut with an opportunity to move forward and correct the SBAC mistake." (See attached excerpt from the Every Student Succeeds Act.)

Williams pointed out that the state legislature also signaled a willingness to adopt change last year by creating the Mastery Examination Committee. "The new federal law together with the state committee empowered to investigate SBAC creates an important opportunity to improve the quality of the education we provide for our students," said Williams.

CEA leaders held "Listening Tours on Testing" across the state last fall. Hundreds of teachers attended and shared insightful and heart-rending comments about the inadequacies and harmful effects of SBAC and redundant testing on students.

Teacher testimony provides indisputable evidence that SBAC does not work

Williams said, "We heard from teachers who have seen first-hand the problems with SBAC and the negative impact on students." Williams introduced a video that provided a sampling of the teacher concerns voiced during the listening tour.

A number of teachers in the video were present at today's news conference. They include Annie Irvine, a third-grade teacher at Langford Elementary School in East Hartford; Ted Goerner, an eighth-grade science teacher in West Hartford; Juanita Harris, a Danbury High School guidance counselor; and Bruce Yarnall, a special education teacher in Stonington.

The following are some of the concerns expressed by teachers during CEA's listening tour:

  • SBAC takes away significant time and resources from teaching and learning.
  • The SBAC computerized testing format is developmentally inappropriate for students.
  • SBAC accommodations for students with disabilities do not work well.
  • ELL students experience distress being subjected to SBAC.
  • SBAC does not enable teachers to target instruction to student needs.
  • SBAC does not help parents understand what their children know and are able to do.
  • Because of the high stakes attached to SBAC, it negatively impacts classrooms—creating a culture of overtesting, narrowing the curriculum, and disengaging youngsters from learning.

These serious concerns are not isolated. They mirror comments from students and teachers collected by the state Department of Education after the SBAC field test, results of a CEA survey of Connecticut teachers released in August 2015, and findings from surveys conducted this fall of teachers in Oregon and Washington on SBAC.

Other states are innovating; Connecticut must, too

Connecticut is leaving too many students behind with its singular focus on SBAC, an unfair, high-stakes, summative assessment. CEA President Cohen said, "If Connecticut policymakers hold tight to SBAC, they jeopardize our children's future. It is time to return the joy of learning to our schools, replace SBAC with an assessment that is valid and fair, and once again emphasize learning and classroom instruction instead of punishing children with tests that provide no benefit to their education. The majority of other states are moving in this direction—it's time for Connecticut to stand up for its students as well."

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The Connecticut Education Association represents 43,000 teachers in Connecticut.

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