HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s plan to relieve thousands of high school juniors from having to take an unpopular standardized test received federal approval on Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Education agreed the state can replace the 11th grade Smarter Balance Assessment, or SBAC exam, with the SAT. The change will take effect in the 2015-2016 school year, making the SAT free for all Connecticut students. The test typically costs more than $50.
“While exams that test college readiness are essential to helping us gauge where we are as a state and help guide instruction, we are doing our part to mitigate over-testing — a common concern among parents,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who said his administration last fall sought federal approval for the test swap.
The federal approval also comes after the General Assembly recently passed legislation that would replace the SBAC test with a nationally recognized college readiness exam, such as the SAT.
“The U.S. Department of Education must have recognized what we in Connecticut have been saying for a while now: Enough is enough when it comes to student testing,” said Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Education Committee. She contended there will ultimately be more time for classroom instruction once the SBAC test is scrapped for 11th graders.
Slossberg and other lawmakers said they heard complaints from students, parents and teachers about the large amount of standardized testing being conducted in the state, especially among high school juniors.
About 85 percent of Connecticut students already take the SAT. Malloy said the federal approval ensures that students who might not be able to afford the SAT will not be precluded from taking the exam, which is often required for admission to many colleges and universities.
Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at the College Board, said assessments focus on student readiness and also provide fee waivers, scholarships and free personalized practice that help reinforce skills and knowledge needed for college and careers.
Connecticut was one of seven states on Thursday that received the go-ahead to deviate from some provisions of the federal law known as No Child Left Behind. Such flexibility was first granted in 2012 to help states take unique steps to improve student outcomes.
Also on Thursday, the state’s largest teachers union called on a newly created state committee charged with examining the eight-hour SBAC test for students in grades 3-8, to convene as soon as possible.
“All indications are that this test is not a valid indicator of student knowledge and skills,” said Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association.
In February, the State Department of Education awarded grants of up to $10,000 to 48 school districts to help them analyze their tests and make sure they’re not redundant with other assessments, align with new state standards and reflect the district’s priorities. The goal of the initiative is to reduce testing time when possible.