Christine Stuart photo
CEA President Sheila Cohen and Executive Director Mark Waxenberg (Christine Stuart photo)

The results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exam won’t be released until the middle of the month, but Connecticut’s largest teacher union already is cautioning the public about the information it will provide.

“The results are likely not a valid indicator of student knowledge,” Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen said Thursday at a press conference.

Cohen said they had Wesleyan Prof. Steven Stemler survey 1,666 classroom teachers about their experience administering the test this year to their students.

Overall, 20 percent of teachers noted that their students lacked the computer skills to succeed on the test. That number increases in lower grades and school districts with higher rates of poverty.

The survey concluded that “the medium of test administration may be interfering with students’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge of content of the test.” The second major theme culled from the survey results was that the testing caused “extraordinary levels of emotional distress in students.”

Overall, 86 percent of teachers reported that the SBAC had a negative effect on the social and emotional well-being of children in their classroom. The survey also found that 43 percent of the 1,666 teachers reported that “significant portions of the test covered content that is not taught at my students’ grade level.” And 85 percent agreed that the SBAC was “an obstacle for my students to overcome.”

Cohen said the results of the survey can not be ignored because they come from teachers with first-hand knowledge of the kinds of programs that help children succeed or hurt their chances.

Cohen said lawmakers took a giant step in the right direction this year by eliminating the SBAC for 11th graders and replacing it with the SAT.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday afternoon in New Haven that the federal government approved Connecticut’s waiver requesting a reduction in the amount of standardized tests required for public high school students. That means the SAT will replace the SBAC test for 11th graders next year.

While the move was praised by the union representing the teachers, it’s not enough.

The union wants to eliminate the SBAC tests for lower grades as well and thinks that idea will have a lot more public support after the test results are released to parents later this month.

Mark Waxenberg, CEA’s executive director, said parents expect the test to be fair and they expect to be given reliable results.

“Unfortunately, that expectation is not being met, according to the classroom teachers across Connecticut,” he said.

He said there’s been no decision made about whether to replace the SBAC test for students in grades 3-8, and he wants the task force to look at the validity of the SBAC results.

The first report of the new Mastery Examination Committee is due in six months, but the committee has not yet convened.

“While there is not a set date at the moment, it is very much our intention to convene the workgroup in September when individuals have returned from summer break,” Kelly Donnelly, chief of staff for Education Commissioner Dianne Wentzell, said Thursday.

The Education Department has been focused on reducing standardized testing and awarded $428,253 to 48 districts in February to reduce the number of student assessments.

“Since the Governor directed us to examine the issue of test burden last year, we have been engaged in a thoughtful conversation with educational partners around what is best for Connecticut students,” Wentzell said. “This approval allows us to expand opportunity for students as it strengthens accountability to ensure that we deliver on our promise to prepare all students for success in college and careers.”

Under federal law, Connecticut must administer end-of-year tests to all students in Grades 3 to 8 and once in high school.

The results of the SBAC test will be made publicly available sometime in mid-August. They were released late last week to school districts.

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.