Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell announced Thursday that they are eliminating one component of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test for students in grades three through eight.
The change will reduce the time 200,000 grade school students are spending on tests.
Students in grades three through eight will still be required to take the computer adaptive portion of the test, but won’t have to take the performance assessment for the Language Arts portion of the test. The performance assessment in English Language Arts often would consist of an essay.
Malloy said the performance assessment wasn’t giving teachers and administrators a different result than the computer adaptive portion of the test, which is why they decided to eliminate it.
“The Education Department has studied the issue extensively and found that the computer-only test remains very reliable without the performance test,” Malloy said.
Malloy and Wentzell made the announcement at Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, where teachers and administrators used a state grant to decrease standardized testing by 13 percent. The Education Department awarded $428,253 to 48 school districts last year to help districts reduce testing time.
But eliminating nearly two hours of a “bad test” doesn’t make it better, Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said.
He said getting rid of a portion of an “unfair test” doesn’t address the underlying issue.
However, Waxenberg said it was a recognition by the administration that the test is “not everything it’s cracked up to be.”
Waxenberg’s organization has called for an end to the SBAC tests.
Wentzell said they studied the psychometrics of the test with the University of Connecticut over the past year before reaching the conclusion about the performance assessment.
“It’s a very deep study that brought us to the point where we can make this recommendation,” Wentzell said.
Last year, the state decided to get rid of the SBAC test for high school sophomores and replaced it with the SAT. Some have speculated that was a first step in a state move away from the SBAC exam, but Malloy said he fully supports the controversial test.
“We’re not getting rid of the Smarter Balanced test,” Malloy said Thursday.
Waxenberg said that’s like the “captain of the Titanic saying we’re going to stay the course.”
AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said any step toward reducing time spent on testing and testing prep is more time for students to spend on learning.
“That’s why we continue to support the work of the the mastery exam committee established last year by the legislature and which includes all public education stakeholders,” Hochadel said. “Its charge is to ensure that standardized testing is appropriate, informs instruction and student learning at all levels, and takes into account the mission of the school.”
Connecticut students will be asked again starting on March 15 to take the SBAC test.
Results from the 2015 test showed that 55.4 percent of students are meeting or exceeding the “achievement level” in English, and 39.1 percent are meeting or exceeding the achievement level in math.
The low scores were not unexpected, according to education officials.
Wentzell said she anticipates the elimination of a portion of the test will save money, but exactly how much was unknown.