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Connecticut Education Association Statement


October 19, 2016

SBAC Denies Students Basic Civil Rights

New survey finds test is critically flawed and puts students in high-poverty districts at a clear disadvantage.


Education is the great equalizer, opening doors of opportunity and success for all students, but a new survey finds those doors are closing on the children in the state's poorest communities.

Research conducted by Abacus Associates for the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and released to the members of the state Mastery Examination Committee today, gives new weight to growing concerns raised by legislators, educators, parents, and others that SBAC is not only critically flawed but also disproportionately burdensome and unfair to students and teachers in high-poverty districts.

The scientific survey of 600 CEA teachers who teach subjects and grade levels tested by the SBAC assessment—either math or English language arts in grades 3 through 8—found impediments, especially for students in high-poverty districts, that run counter to Connecticut's obligation to provide every student with an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. It also raised concerns regarding the denial of basic civil rights to students who are harmed by inequities caused by the construction and technical administration of the test.

"It is unacceptable to require schools to use the SBAC test for high-stakes purposes, such as labeling a child a failure, because it creates barriers to equal access and school success for students, predominantly minority students in high-poverty schools," said CEA President Sheila Cohen. "This survey adds to the mounting evidence from other states and education experts across the country, highlighting serious concerns and issues with the validity, reliability, and fairness of the SBAC test and the harm it is doing to children."

Cohen added, "Students deserve assessments that are free from bias and are designed to benefit them. A mastery exam is supposed to measure knowledge in a fair, uniform manner, and not discriminate against students on the basis of income or whether they have desktops, laptops, or computer tablets at home."

Key findings include:

  • SBAC has significant challenges in providing adequate and equal accommodation for all students. In Connecticut's poorest school districts, teachers have observed that students are disproportionately and harmfully impacted by SBAC.
  • SBAC's computerized format has created a technology gap that may directly impact the results and validity of the test.
    • Teachers reported significant problems with the computerized platform, including system and computer crashes (53 percent), problems logging in (44 percent), and students unable to complete portions of the test due to technical problems (33 percent).
  • The problems with technology are especially burdensome for students who have less access to computers in the school or at home, and for schools in high-poverty districts.
    • Sixty-two percent of teachers in the poorest districts reported computer crashes, compared to 47 percent in the wealthiest districts.
    • More than half (52 percent) of teachers in the poorest districts observed students having problems logging in, compared to 37 percent in the highest-income districts.
    • Forty-one percent of teachers in the poorest districts observed students unable to complete portions of the test due to technical problems, compared to 29 percent in the wealthiest districts.
  • Preparation for SBAC takes away time and resources from classroom teaching. This challenge is present throughout the state but is worse in high-poverty school districts and is most intense for elementary school students in the poorest districts.
    • An overwhelming majority (85 percent) of teachers in the poorest districts say SBAC prep takes away time and resources from teaching and learning, compared with 62 percent of teachers in the wealthiest districts.
    • In elementary schools, 92 percent of teachers in the poorest districts said time and resources for learning and teaching have been reduced, compared to 66 percent in the wealthiest districts.
  • SBAC leads to student frustration, anxiety, and disengagement and negatively impacts the social and emotional well-being of children in the classroom. These concerns are present throughout the state but are worse in high-poverty school districts.
    • Eighty-two percent of teachers in the poorest districts observed that students were frustrated by the time required to take the SBAC test, compared to 64 percent in the wealthiest districts.
    • More than two-thirds (69 percent) of teachers in the state's poorest districts said SBAC is having a negative effect on the social and emotional well-being of children, compared to 53 percent in the wealthiest districts.
  • By a ratio of more than 5-to-1, teachers said that Connecticut should find or develop an alternative test to use in place of SBAC.
    • The majority of teachers (87 percent) noted that SBAC fails to provide feedback concerning students' needs, or strategies for improving instruction.
    • Nine out of 10 teachers (90 percent) said SBAC is not a useful indicator of school effectiveness.
    • Almost all (95 percent) said it is not appropriate to use SBAC results to compare the performance of teachers, administrators, schools, and districts.

"The high-stakes SBAC test is hurting too many of our neediest children and fueling the disparities in our public schools," explained Cohen. "Bad policy decisions have brought us to this point, but we must as a state commit to providing educational equity and resources for all students to succeed."

Cohen added, "We are hopeful that mounting evidence about the problems with SBAC will compel Connecticut to join the many other states that have moved decisively away from SBAC and instead adopt a state-developed test that is fair to all students."


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


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