Christine Stuart photo

Hundreds of teachers rallied Tuesday at the state Capitol to call upon state lawmakers to let them teach their students without having to worry about high-stakes tests.

Leaders from the Connecticut Education Association said excessive testing has overtaken public schools and overwhelmed children. They want lawmakers to ban the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test that was administered for the first time in March.

SBAC is one of two multi-state consortia with assessments based on the Common Core State Standards, which were developed under the leadership of the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

“Tests do not prepare young people for the future and help them discover their passions. We do,” CEA President Sheila Cohen told the crowd. “I’ll tell you something else tests don’t do. They do not address the socio-economic problems of society. They do not fix the inequality of a poorly funded education system.”

Cohen told a crowd of about 500, according to a Capitol police estimate, that tests also won’t close the achievement gap or language barriers.

“We know what works. We know what doesn’t work and we have a plan,” Cohen said.

She said they are looking to get lawmakers to amend SB 1095 to add language to get rid of the SBAC test and replace it with shorter, periodic progress tests.

“We want legislators to allow us to do what we do best,” Cohen said. “Let us teach.”

Christine Stuart photo

The crowd chanted “let us teach” and “put the test to rest.”

Three teachers from East Windsor Middle School said the entire month of March was dedicated to taking the SBAC test, which is administered to students on computers.

“We don’t have enough computers,” Tamara Hoang, a teacher at East Windsor Middle School explained. That made scheduling very difficult for the entire month of March.

East Windsor teacher Kristen Wesche said there are some teachers who spend 50 hours just planning and administering the test. She said this year her students took both the SBAC and the Connecticut Mastery Test, which is being phased out in favor of the SBAC test.

AFT Connecticut First Vice President Steve McKeever said all of this testing is making students less creative and turning them into “parrots” who are just “spittin’ back what we need them to know.”

He pointed out that parents can’t continue to opt their students out of the test.

There’s been a movement of parents who are telling school districts they don’t want their children taking the federally mandated tests.

Anne Jellison, chairperson for the Connecticut Association of School Administrators, said there is a myth perpetuated by the creators of the SBAC test that it will identify students who are college and career ready. “Not so,” she said, adding that there is no data to support the SBAC creators’ claim.

A small group of parents and urban leaders from a handful of organizations with boards composed of charter school advocates and corporate education reformers held a press conference before the rally to advocate in favor of taking tests. They argue that data collected from the tests is invaluable, especially for highlighting racial disparities in the education system.

“For urban communities, accountability is the bottom line, to ensure all schools are safe and every Connecticut student is receiving equitable access to high standards and expectations for learning,” a press release from Youth Unleashed and three other organizations said.

But the two teacher unions aren’t buying that.

“We want legislators to hear from the experts. Not from the corporate deformers who spend their days in the board room, not in the classroom,” Cohen told the crowd Tuesday afternoon.

She said the “corporate deformers” have a lot of opinions “about how they think we should be teaching” and they have the money to get their message across.

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