Appealing to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Governor Dannel Malloy is taking action to try to reduce the amount of time students in Connecticut spend taking standardized tests.
In a letter dated Friday to Secretary Arne Duncan, Malloy wrote that some students in the state will now experience an "overcrowded testing schedule" that won't be in their best interests. Eleventh graders in particular face the usual rigors of testing -- including the SAT or ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and Advanced Placement exams -- along with the new Smarter Balanced assessment tests, which were traditionally a tenth-grade exam.
Malloy is asking to start a dialogue between Connecticut and the U.S. Department of Education. "My request," he wrote, "is that we explore ways within federal law to allow our 11th graders -- who may be our most over-tested -- to take one fewer high-stakes test." Malloy would like the SAT to be the lone required exam for high school juniors, eliminating the Smarter Balanced exam for that grade level.
Duncan wrote a recent blog commentary saying that standardized testing "takes up too much time," which Malloy cited in his letter. From Duncan's post:
[T]he larger issue is, testing should never be the main focus of our schools. Educators work all day to inspire, to intrigue, to know their students – not just in a few subjects, and not just in “academic” areas. There’s a whole world of skills that tests can never touch that are vital to students’ success. 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.
I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools – oxygen that is needed for a healthy transition to higher standards, improved systems for data, better aligned assessments, teacher professional development, evaluation and support, and more. This is one of the biggest changes education in this country has ever seen, and teachers who’ve worked through it have told me it’s allowed them to become the best teachers they’ve ever been. That change needs educators’ full attention.
Malloy is seeking support from teachers in the upcoming gubernatorial election after his overhaul of teacher tenure and evaluations, tying them to student performance. During his first debate of the season with Republican Tom Foley, Malloy apologized to teachers. From The Connecticut Mirror:
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.”
Last spring, a state advisory council considered ways to amend the guidelines implemented in 2012. Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, noted how a student's progress from a teacher's point of view can still be scored strictly as failure.
Teachers have also said they want more time to adjust to the changes brought by Common Core, including how to implement the Smarter Balanced exam.