Children across Connecticut may soon have reason to rejoice at the prospect of having to take one less standardized test.
Over the last two years, some parents in areas around the state have pulled their children out of taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, which provides measurements for Connecticut’s Common Core standards. This movement follows on the heels of similar initiatives in states including Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan and New York. The Empire State saw over a quarter of a million parents opt their children out of Common Core-mandated testing.
Opponents of the SBAC, including Jonathan Pelto, a Connecticut education activist and blogger, said the test is not indicative of academic excellence at a school. Rather, income, parental education and language barriers most impact the testing results. Pelto added that, despite strong evidence revealing a weak correlation between test performance and quality of instruction, the state uses the test scores to evaluate teachers and designate low-performing schools for privatization. The tests would also place an undue burden on children and strain their self-esteem, Pelto said.
“Within Connecticut, we have the largest achievement gap in the country because we have high income inequality,” Pelto said. “If 80 or 90 percent of poor children are failing these tests, you then set up this dynamic where a child is told repeatedly throughout their career that they are failures.”
Although opponents of the Common Core point out many faults in the SBAC, parents and teachers should be able to gauge students’ performances on a regular basis to see opportunities for improvement, according to Don Romoser, the president of the Connecticut PTA. Romoser noted another merit of the SBAC: test results would be available in late spring or early summer so that incoming teachers could understand their students’ weaknesses and strengths.
Romoser added that some parents believe their students’ privacy may be in jeopardy because the SBAC will be administered on a computer and scored by a party separate from the Connecticut Board of Education. But, Romoser noted, Connecticut standardized tests have always been scored by a third-party organization.
Proponents of SBAC also highlighted the importance of student participation in the exam, as federal funding for Connecticut schools requires that the state benchmarks its students’ performances. Failure to do so for over 95 percent of students would jeopardize valuable resources, Romoser said.
“The vast majority of federal funding is in support of special needs children and those in needy populations,” Romoser said.
But Pelto said that despite the many years in which such a threshold has been in effect, federal funding has never been taken away.
This year, Connecticut is far from going below the threshold, as few parents in Connecticut have been opting out, Pelto said. While, in the wealthier areas, the numbers are two or three times higher, he added, the overall movement has yet to gain significant traction.
Judy Puglisi, president of the Metropolitan Business Academy in New Haven, said that no parents at her school have approached her about opting their children out of the SBAC testing.
“The testing has not started yet and it won’t start until late May,” Puglisi said. “And I really haven’t heard any conversation about opting out; students haven’t approached me and neither have parents.”