Op-Ed: Many questions remain unanswered about Connecticut’s SBAC test

The SBAC tests will soon be given to all our students.  And these are some of the questions teachers and educational leaders should be asking:

Since there is much nationwide controversy surrounding both the PARCC and SBAC tests, how can we, as teachers, be assured that the psychometric properties of these tests actually measure what the test companies claim they measure?  Have their psychometric properties been reliably evaluated by independent experts that are not associated with Pearson, any foundation or university beholding to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, or others with vested interests in corporate education reform?

Op-ed submit bugSince the State Department of Education requires that all public school districts administer standardized tests to their students in order to comply with NCLB, has anyone in the district studied and analyzed the normative data distribution associated with the standardization sample to ensure that the SBAC test does, indeed, meet State criteria of a standardized measure of student mastery?

Of course not, that test data has not been made available because — for the most part — the test is unproven and untested; there is no track record, so let’s impose it on all our students without any evidence of its effectiveness.  Why not establish a limited controlled study, a series of trials over several years in order to determine whether the standardized test truly measures what the developer claims it measures?  What is the rush?

How do we, as teachers and educational leaders, condone putting our students through an assessment process that has been designed to ensure that 70 percent of the students taking the test will not meet the predetermined cut-score that has been set by the test company in consultation with political leaders and educational bureaucrats who are predominantly out-of-touch with both classroom instructional practice and how children learn?  What is our justification for causing undue anxiety and stress in young children who are unable to speak up for themselves? Some call it “child abuse.”

Since we are already required to assess our K-5 students on universal screening measures three times a year in pre-reading, reading fluency and comprehension, math computation and mathematical concepts, why do we have to lose more valuable instruction time by putting our students through these redundant assessments?

Since teacher evaluations will be partially determined by student performance on this test, how come our district educational leaders are not asking probing and rigorous questions related to the SBAC test’s measurement characteristics and demographics?  Why are they not protecting the integrity of their instructional workforce?

How will the writing components of the test be scored?  By computer-generated algorithms?  By certified grade-level classroom teachers?  Or, by minimum wage employees adhering to a rubric developed by the test company?

Since there is a great deal of secrecy surrounding the content of these tests and the past practice of not releasing the test questions or answers, how can students, parents, and teachers accept the accuracy of the test results?

Since all school districts and public schools in Connecticut have already failed to meet the 2014 NCLB requirement of 100 percent proficiency of their students, why are we moving forward with an unproven, untested, and experimental test protocol for our students?  These tests are purposefully designed to perpetuate the myth that our schools are failing and that our teachers are ineffective. Why, then, are we continuing to support that misguided and deceitful messaging?

These represent a few of the many questions that teachers and educational leaders should be asking before moving forward with a flawed and potentially destructive educational practice that fails to inform instruction of our students and takes away from true learning.

John R. Bestor, a longtime school psychologist, is a Sandy Hook resident.

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