CT Governor Appeals to Feds For Reduction of Standardized Tests

Connecticut’s governor is appealing to the US Secretary of Education for assistance in reducing the amount of time Connecticut’s students are spending on standardized testing.

Last week, Governor Dannel Malloy wrote a letter to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stating that some of the state’s students are experiencing an “overcrowded testing schedule” that is not in the best interest of the young people. Heather Brandon of WNPR News shares that the governor believes 11th graders were probably the most over-tested students as they are required to take the SAT or ACT, SAT Subject Tests, Advanced Placement exams, and the new Smarter Balanced assessment tests previously taken in the 10th grade.

Basically, Malloy is asking Duncan to allow Connecticut 11th graders to take the SAT as the only required exam and eliminate the taking of the Smarter Balanced exam.

Duncan had written a blog commentary recently in which he stated that standardized testing “takes up too much time,” which Malloy cited in his letter.  Duncan also commented in the blog that:

“No test will ever measure what a student is, or can be. It’s simply one measure of one kind of progress. Yet in too many places, testing itself has become a distraction from the work it is meant to support.”

Parents across the country are taking exception to their lower school children being tested so often.  In Stamford, CT, 56 students’ parents did not allow their children to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Since 1985, Connecticut has given standardized tests to fourth, sixth, and eighth grades.  Later they were extended to other grades . Then, the tests were used to gauge the performance of districts as part of the No Child Left Behind Act, and now, under the Common Core standards, the test results are being used to measure teacher effectiveness.

The gubernatorial  election is coming up in Connecticut and Malloy had not yet scored many points with teachers.  His act of overhauling teacher tenure and tying teacher evaluations to student performance made it possible that he would get few votes from teachers or teachers unions.  The Connecticut Mirror published an editorial noting just that and quoting a statement made during a debate between Malloy and his opponent Foley.

Malloy, who seldom publicly acknowledges regret or mistakes, apologized to teachers, whom he insulted three years ago by saying tenure could be won simply by showing up.

“I should admit that was bad language,” said Malloy, who was greeted before the debate by rallying unions members, including the president of AFT-Connecticut. “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

Malloy and Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor jointly alerted districts of grants which will be available for applications next month to reduce the amount of time students spend on testing at all grade levels, says Jon Lender writing for The Courant.  Up to $500,000 in grants will “support local efforts to eliminate tests that are outdated and do not contribute to student learning — thereby increasing classroom time for teaching — and to improve the quality of student assessments already in use, including the tailoring and personalization of assessments to student needs,” according to the announcement. Pryor said that the goal is to help districts reduce time spent on testing and to allow more time for classroom instruction.

Shelia Cohen, the president of the Connecticut Education Association, which represents more than 43,000 teachers in the state, is now a fan of the governor’s effort to stop the “continuing corporate push for more standardized testing of our students”,

“Gov. Malloy has recognized that student learning and instruction should be at the heart of our public school education system, and not test results,” Cohen said.

Meanwhile, back at the campaign, both Republican Tom Foley and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had groups throwing money at their separate campaigns last Friday, allowing both campaign groups to continue to exchange attack ads on the airwaves, according to Mark Pazniokas reporting for The Connecticut Mirror.

On that same day Malloy campaigned with the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Connecticut, Melodie Peters, and announced a program to reduce the time spent on standardized testing in the 11th grade.

“We applaud the Malloy-Wyman Administration for beginning what we hope is a process to carefully look at the over-reliance on standardized testing in our state’s public schools. We have long argued that ‘teaching to the test’ risks killing the love of learning for students and stifling the joy of the profession for educators,” Peters said in a statement.