Connecticut union wants test replaced for all grades

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut's largest teachers union called on state lawmakers and the governor Thursday to replace a controversial standardized test administered to students in grades three through eight, arguing students are suffering under the current system.

The Connecticut Education Association wants the state to develop its own test or find a replacement for the Smarter Balanced, or SBAC, test. The call comes as the General Assembly prepares to reconvene in February.

"It is time to put a stop to Connecticut's singular focus on this unfair, high stakes, snapshot assessment as the basis for all critical decisions affecting our students," said CEA President Sheila Cohen.

Donald Williams, CEA's director of policy, research and reform and formerly the president of the Connecticut Senate, said the legislature already showed a willingness to make changes in the state's educational testing procedures when it recently passed legislation replacing the SBAC test for 11th graders with the SAT.

According to Connecticut's Department of Education, the federal government requires that a common mastery-based assessment be administered statewide to all students in grades three through eight. Connecticut is among 42 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted so-called Common Core State Standards, and the SBAC test measures mastery of those education standards.

Some teachers, however, contend test-taking and preparation takes away time from instruction, puts unfair pressure on special education students and students whose first language is not English and ultimately discourages children.

"We have students who are disengaging from learning," said Juanita Harris, a Danbury High School guidance counselor.

Connecticut Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said her agency will review CEA's proposal. She said the state and union both want children to succeed and reach their full potential, noting that testing can play an important role.

"Just as classroom tests are important tools to help inform educators' practice in the classroom, statewide assessments are essential to ensuring that we are delivering on our promise to all our children," she said in a written statement. "We appreciate the work of all those on the front lines each and every day — our teachers — and will review the proposal."

The state education department noted that the majority of states that administered the Smarter Balanced test in 2014 are sticking with the assessment this year.

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