State looks to shorten standardized tests in public schools

Gov. Dannel Malloy and State Department of Education Commissioner Diana Wentzell announced the elimination of the performance tasks in the SBAC, which are often duplicative with in-class work, a change that could increase learning time by up to an hour and 45 minutes for every student, said to the press release. (Flickr/biologycorner)

Connecticut public schools will reduce the length of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as part of an effort to help districts spend less time testing students and more time teaching, according to a press release from Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Malloy and State Department of Education Commissioner Diana Wentzell announced the elimination of the performance tasks in the SBAC, which are often duplicative with in-class work. This change could increase learning time by up to an hour and 45 minutes for every student, according to the press release.

“We are working as hard as possible to be smart about testing, limit anxiety and boost learning time,” Malloy said in the statement. “Tests are important – they help us measure ourselves and pinpoint how to improve.  But where we find duplication, we should act. We’re going to do just that with this new step,” Malloy said.  

This change will affect more than 200,000 Connecticut children in grades three through eight across over 800 public schools, according to the press release.

Morgaen Donaldson, associate professor of educational leadership and director of center for education policy analysis at the Neag School of Education, agrees that cutting back on standardized testing is the practical thing to do.

“I’m glad the governor and commissioner are choosing to do this; I think it’s sensible,” Donaldson said. “Teachers test students all the time in a more informal way; I don’t think we need quite as much formal standardized testing as we’ve had lately.”

Donaldson said she believes the government is moving in the right direction regarding standardized testing and alleviating student anxiety over testing.

“SBAC tests are many hours of testing, so it’s always a balance between testing enough so that the results are reliable, and testing too much so that it actually takes away from students’ learning time,” Donaldson said. “The writing portion has been very difficult to score reliably, so if it’s difficult to score reliably, it shouldn’t be on a standardized test.”

Donaldson said that cutting back on standardized testing will protect time for students to learn and commends the Common Core curriculum that has been imposed in public schools.

“The Common Core changes to the curriculum are very well thought out and will make learning deeper and more rigorous for students,” Donaldson said. “That’s a really good reform; I think the backlash to the reform is in large part because of SBAC testing, so it’s good to ease back on testing and preserve the Common Core curriculum.”

SDE has studied testing extensively and found that the computer adaptive test – “the portion of the assessment done electronically with adaptive questions based on student responses” – remains reliable without the performance task portion of the grade three through eight English Language Arts exam, the press release said.

It’s our goal to be smart about how we test and ensure we find the right balance. This decision is a step in that direction.
— Gov. Dannel Malloy

“By right-sizing the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Connecticut’s needs, we are not only saving time and money, but we are improving the teaching and learning process,” Wentzell said.  “Assessments are important tools that help us deliver on our promise to our kids and ensure that we are holding all of our students to high standards.”

Last year, “the state agency awarded $428,253 to 48 districts as part of the Assessment Reduction grant program… to gather and share innovative strategies for reducing assessment time,” according to the press release.

The grants aimed to “help districts comprehensively analyze their tests to ensure that they reflect district priorities, remain aligned to new state standards, provide maximum value, and are not redundant with other assessments, with the ultimate aim of reducing testing time wherever possible,” according to the statement.

“When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers and families,” Malloy said.  “It’s our goal to be smart about how we test and ensure we find the right balance.  This decision is a step in that direction.”


Megan Krementowski is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at megan.krementowski@uconn.edu