The state’s largest teacher’s union has criticized Connecticut’s school testing program, saying it distorts teaching.

The Connecticut Education Association said the Connecticut Mastery Test, now in its 17th year, is stifling creativity and forcing teachers to take time away from the school curriculum.

“We need to get back to a balance on this whole testing issue,” association president Rosemary Coyle said Tuesday.

The exam — which measures reading, math and writing performance in the state’s public schools — has drawn criticism from politicians and the public, who believe it causes unwarranted emphasis on testing drills.

Coyle said time spent on preparation for the exam and using the results as the sole measure of progress are negative consequences of the test.

State officials defend the test, which is administered to children in grades 4, 6 and 8.

“The Connecticut Mastery Test has had tremendous influence on teaching and learning in Connecticut,” said Thomas Murphy, state Department of Education spokesman. “We believe it has done a lot of good.”

-Associated Press