Thursday, February 25, 2016
New Step to Limit Smarter Balanced Exam Builds on Effort to Help Districts Spend Less Time Testing and More Time Teaching
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy and State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell today announced the implementation of a new step that will reduce testing time and expand learning time for more than 200,000 Connecticut children across over 800 schools. Changes to the application of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), impacting every student in grades three through eight, is as part of a broader effort to help districts spend less time testing students and more time teaching.
Currently in grades three through eight, there are two components of the SBAC exam. The first is a computer adaptive test - the portion of the assessment done electronically with adaptive questions based on student responses - and the second is a performance task, such as essays. As part of the new steps to reduce state testing, the performance tasks, which are often duplicative with in-class work, will be eliminated. The change could increase learning time by up to an hour and forty-five minutes for every grade three through eight student.
The change is intended to increase student learning time, decrease student anxiety, assuage family concerns about testing, and limit over testing.
"We are working as hard as possible to be smart about testing, limit anxiety, and boost learning time. 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," Governor Malloy said. "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. 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."
"By rightsizing 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," Commissioner 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."
SDE has studied the issue extensively and found that the computer only tests remain very reliable without the performance task portion of the grade three through eight English Language Arts exam.
The decision to reduce the length of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the latest move in SDE's ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of standardized testing for public school students. Other initiatives include the decision announced in the summer to eliminate duplicative testing at the high school level by replacing the Smarter Balanced exam with the SAT for eleventh graders. This particular change is expected to save Connecticut as much as $1 million dollars in test implementation costs.
Additionally, SDE is working with school districts to gather and share innovative strategies for reducing assessment time. Last year, the state agency awarded $428,253 to 48 districts as part of the Assessment Reduction grant program. Districts received awards up to $10,000 each. 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.
Governor Malloy and Commissioner Wentzell made today's announcement during a visit to Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, where they highlighted the district's effective use of its grant. In Cromwell, utilizing state grants, the district assembled a team to analyze assessments in grades kindergarten through five and were able to reduce duplicative testing by 13 percent. More importantly, they also strengthened their assessment system for those grades by better aligning assessments to standards.
Under federal law, Connecticut must administer end-of-year tests to all students in grades three to eight and once in high school. This change does not require Board of Education or legislative approval.