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BARTH KECK

Mark your calendars! The most wondrous of school-year events is returning: Connecticut SAT School Day is now set for March 24 and April 13. (Your specific school district has scheduled the celebration for just one of those days. Check local listings.)

But wait – there’s more! While high school juniors get to enjoy a three-hour standardized test on SAT School Day, students from grades 3-8 will be experiencing the Connecticut Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) tests sometime between March 29 and June 4. Plus, students in grades 5, 8 and 11 will double their fun with the addition of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) test on any number of designated school days between now and the end of the school year.

What better way to assess the past year’s “learning loss?” Clearly, an exhaustive standardized test will provide precisely the data required to demonstrate just how poorly schools have performed over the past year during a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of a half-million Americans.

Not surprisingly, national education leaders like The Education Trust are applauding the return of standardized tests: 

“We are pleased to see that the U.S. Department of Education will not consider blanket waivers of the critical civil rights component of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that requires high quality, statewide assessments. Data on multiple measures, including school climate, student access to resources and opportunities, and student learning outcomes, are essential tools to address systemic inequities in our education system, as well as to gauge the quality of instruction and support offered under COVID-19 restrictions.”

Joe Biden feels the same way, although he would allow for some flexibility. The new U.S. Secretary of Education, Meriden’s own Miguel Cardona, said, “I don’t think we need to be bringing students in just to test them on a standardized test.”

But the secretary added, “If we don’t assess where our students are – and their level of performance – it’s going to be difficult for us to provide some targeted support and a resource allocation in a manner that can best support the closing of the gaps that have been exacerbated due to the pandemic.”

Looks like Connecticut will indeed be celebrating – um, I mean conducting – standardized testing this year.

Of course, not everyone is pleased. Some polls show that “parents are about evenly divided on whether tests should happen this spring. Other polls show that most parents want to scrap testing this year.”

In addition, research conducted by the National Academy of Education has found that standardized testing in schools right now could be counterproductive: “If used improperly, assessments may waste precious instructional time and resources, worsen inequities, reinforce misperceptions as to sources of inequity, and impede sound education policy.” 

And then there are the social-emotional needs of children living through challenging times. 

“Beyond getting sick, many young children’s social, emotional, or mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic,” reports the CDC. “Trauma faced at this developmental stage may have long-term consequences across their lifespan.” 

“As anxiety increases, empathy wanes,” adds Dr. Michele Borba, author of the bestseller, “Unselfie.” “It’s hard to feel for others when you’re in ‘survival mode’,” which can lead to more bullying, school violence and suicide.

“These issues will come to a head when students return to physical classrooms,” explains Lauren Schrero Levy, founder of the Nora Project. “Unfortunately, educators – exhausted and overwhelmed themselves – have struggled to make room for the social and emotional (SEL) programs that can assess students’ psychological well-being and combat narcissism.”

For many teachers and students in Connecticut, the return to school will happen at roughly the same time they’ll be experiencing the SAT, SBAC, and NGSS. You can just hear the response: “OMG” and “WTF!” 

Quite honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing all of my students in my classroom after working in a hybrid schedule since September – especially now that I’ve received my initial vaccination as an “educator.” I’m even willing to serve as a proctor for the SAT – that is, if I’m lucky enough to be so assigned. But there’s something that seems off, out of sync, about conducting standardized tests during school right now. It just doesn’t seem like a priority. 

Nevertheless, I urge parents to contact their local school districts to ascertain the dates for their local “Standardized Testing Celebrations.” At the very least, they’ll know when to get their kids jazzed up about them.

Barth Keck is in his 30th year as an English teacher and in his 15th year as assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School in Higganum where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language and Composition. Email Barth here.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Barth Keck

Barth Keck is in his 30th year as an English teacher and 15th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition.