Connecticut Education Association News Release

Educators Urge Legislature to Focus on Learning, Not Testing

No research exists to support linking evaluation to SBAC

March 7, 2016

Connecticut teachers today urged the legislature's Education Committee to ensure students and teachers a greater focus on learning versus testing by adopting Senate Bill 380, an Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance on the Mastery Examination from Teacher Evaluations.

Speaking for 43,000 teacher members, CEA President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg presented a comprehensive report, including research from around the country, detailing why state legislators need to eliminate the link between teacher evaluations and SBAC that is scheduled to take effect in September. The CEA report included sections explaining that:

  • SBAC was not designed to evaluate teachers making its use in teacher evaluation invalid, unreliable, and unfair.
  • Countries where students score highest on standardized tests—including Finland, China, and Singapore—do not use these tests to evaluate teachers.
  • Linking SBAC to teacher evaluation is unfair to teachers who teach English language learners and special needs students.
  • The link is punitive to teachers who work in schools that serve high-poverty communities.

Senate Bill 380 addresses a critical failing of teacher evaluation since 2012—the planned linking of almost one-quarter of a teacher's evaluation to state mastery examination scores (SBAC). This linkage was done without any scientific or research-based evidence that such a link was valid, reliable, or fair for the purpose of teacher evaluation. It turns out there is no such evidence. No vendors of mastery examination tests claim their test is a valid measure of teacher performance.

Deep concern about high-poverty schools

Recent research in Maryland, Illinois, and at the National Center for Education Statistics, has shown that standardized tests create a significant technology gap for students in high-poverty schools—students receive lower scores on computer-based tests than they would using pencil and paper. Coupling unreliable and discriminatory test scores to teacher evaluations is not valid, and punishes dedicated teachers in the schools where they are needed most.

Christopher Emdin, the associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University, said that using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers is "dangerous" and deters teachers who want to make a difference in schools that serve students in high-poverty communities. Emdin said, "Just as we will have an issue with teacher recruitment, there will be another issue of an exodus of good teachers from schools where they are most needed."

The right stuff needed to drive growth in student achievement and teacher development

According to Cohen and Waxenberg, teachers are the first to take responsibility for their students' learning. However, student growth and development are best demonstrated through classroom work including:

  • portfolios of student work aligned to the curriculum;
  • student performance assessments or tasks assessed using a mutually agreed to scoring system (such as constructed projects, student oral work, and other written work);
  • teacher developed tests aligned to the curriculum; and
  • periodic assessments that document student growth over time.

"The primary purpose of teacher evaluation is to support teachers' growth and development so that they in turn are better able to help their students' succeed," Cohen said. "Including SBAC scores in teachers' evaluations in no way helps improve student learning. That is what the research clearly and indisputably shows. To ignore that is to ignore what is best for our public schools and the future of our state."

Parents also concerned—Connecticut legislation should help, not hurt, students

According to a Gallup Poll released last summer, 67 percent of parents with school-aged children think that there is "too much emphasis on standardized testing in the public schools." And 63 percent of parents oppose using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.

Tying a teacher's evaluation to a test score hurts all students. Entire schools are pressured to teach to the test, resulting in less time for activities that engage students in critical thinking and creative problem solving. More time on test prep means less on debates, science labs, interdisciplinary projects, and entire subjects like social studies, history, art, and music. Studies show these subjects and activities increase student engagement in school, improve cognitive functioning, and increase overall academic achievement.

The requirement to use the test scores for teacher evaluation in Connecticut has been waived for the past two years. It is time to make that waiver permanent, and for the legislature to act and take credit for preventing bad policy and unintended consequences that are harmful to teachers and students.

"Those of us who are professional educators are passionate about teaching and public education," Cohen said. "We know for certain that teaching is more than testing, that a student is not a test score, and very bluntly—neither is a teacher."

Visit cea.org to read the CEA report summarizing research about the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluations.

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

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