Standardized Testing Gone Nuts – An Update from Bridgeport, Connecticut

It was only a month ago that, fresh off the 2012 state-wide Connecticut Mastery Tests, Bridgeport’s $229,000 part-time superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, announced that Bridgeport’s students would be given yet another battery of standardized tests at the beginning of June.

Despite a massive school budget deficit, in which Vallas was forced to lay-off  teachers and other school personnel, it was announced that Bridgeport was able to come up with the money needed to pay for another round of expensive standardized testing.  Word out of the Central Office was that Vallas had gotten “a good deal” on the tests.

According to a memo sent to teachers in the last week of April, Vallas and his traveling entourage of education reformers, said that they had determined that, “traditionally, instruction wanes after the administration of the state tests.  Unfortunately, this “lull” in teaching and learning deprives our students of much-needed academic support.”

The purported purpose of more standardized tests, therefore, was to keep teachers on their toes and prevent them from “lulling-off” for the rest of the school year.

Meanwhile, Vallas wrote to students and parents informing them that “since the State tests are given in March, there is almost three (3) months of learning and hard work that is not measured in the test results.  As a result, you, your teachers and principals do not always get credit for the real progress you have made and your teachers and principals often do not have the information needed to make decisions about who needs additional help over the summer and where to start things off when schools re‐open at the end of August.”

So to parents, the tests weren’t so much to keep teachers focused, but to help the school system service the students by giving them “credit” for the extra 90 days of learning, while determining “who need additional help over the summer.”  [It makes one wonder how on Earth school officials have been able to determine who needed summer school over the past hundred years or so].

Although Vallas promised the students and parents that the Bridgeport School System would “continue to post any updates and answer questions about the new round of testing on Bridgeport’s “Youth on the Move” website, nothing more was ever posted.

Now, the latest news is that Bridgeport’s system-wide standardized testing will be given the week before the end-of-the-year final exams, a period normally reserved for reviewing the materials that have been covered throughout the school year.

So rather than give Bridgeport’s students the opportunity to review and prepare for the tests that actually matter (the exams that translate into grades), Bridgeport’s corporate school leadership will be eliminating that critical instructional time so that students can take a standardized test similar to the one they took only ninety days ago.

Then, and only then, can students in Bridgeport take the exams that produce the year-end grades.

If the content of these standardized tests are the same as they were 90 days ago, then the process is a complete waste of time and money since fundamental scores aren’t likely to change much in such a short period of time.

If, on the other hand, these new tests cover different information, then they are a complete waste of time and money because the Vallas administration never told teachers what was on the tests so that they, in turn, have never had the opportunity to help students prepare for them.

One thing that is certain though, this entire duplicate testing program has taken away from teaching the actual curriculum and the ones who will suffer the most are Bridgeport’s school children. (And we wonder why parents and students feel disengaged from their schools).

Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to pick up the financial tab for this gross absurdity.

The one thing we do know is that if Bridgeport’s standardized tests scores go down or student grades suffer, it has nothing to do with the teachers, the fault will lie directly with the outside administrators who have come in and screwed things up even more.

  • Ndipiro

    To date, neither our school nor the district has had the decency to send a letter to parents to prepare them for these tests!! Again, where’s the ACCOUNTABILITY?  All on the teachers!  And while Pearson rakes in the millions, our students will be suffering through these ridiculous tests… I wish at least ONE decision made throughout this madness had the actual STUDENTS in mind!! 

  • Jon Kantrowitz

    1. How can they be similar? No one else has the same standards as Connecticut or tests in the same way (Cloze Reading, Editing and Revising)

    2. How can they possibly score these test in time to see “who needs help over the summer” and why would that list of children who need help be any different from a list compiled from the tests given 90 days ago?

    3. The sole purpose of this test is to tyrannize teachers because of their alleged “lull” in instructing their students and is therefore sheer idiocy and completely repugnant.

    • jonpelto

      Your honor, may the record reflect the fact that I wish to associate my remarks with those of Mr. Kantrowitz.

    • Msavage51

       “The sole purpose of this test is to tyrannize teachers”

      I disagree. There is another purpose, pointed out by Luv2Teach:

      “while Pearson is raking in millions”

      You see, the reformers ARE efficient. They’re killing two birds with one stone. Actually three, because they are also further degrading the educational experience of some of the state’s most vulnerable (poorest) students at the same time. No WONDER these guys get paid so much!

      • Castles Burning

        I agree that the numbers are adding up–and multiplying–to confirm the efficiency of the “reformers.”  Numbers one (tryannize) and three (degrade) are of course intertwined so that I truly fear for the ultimate damage done.

    • Castles Burning

       Excellent questions and the only one that I can provide an answer to is 2a–the scores, which are of no use to teachers who may only see the test while the students are taking it if there is an “extra” copy, have been promised in three days.  Administration wants the scores now while at least CAPT scores are not available until July, I believe.  I do not know about CMTs.

  • Patellanmea

    That is interesting to read, but did Vallas forget that in April students have a vacation, then an abundance of in-school concerts, field day, field trips, and let’snot forget excessive heat in the classrooms.

  • Luv2Teach

    To date, neither our school nor the district has had the decency to send a letter home to parents about these tests!  Where is the ACCOUNTABILITY? Again, all on the teachers!  And while Pearson is raking in millions, our students are suffering over these ridiculous tests.  I wish at least ONE decision made during this madness had our STUDENTS in mind!

  • Pingback: Test, Test, Test, Test: Another Day in Bridgeport « Diane Ravitch's blog()

  • Former Teacher

    If district level curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices are aligned with state standards and assessments, there’s no reason to assess student progress on measures other than the district’s own final exams.  Presumably, district-level and building-level supervision ensures that final exams reflect the curriculum and that the curriculum is aligned and that teachers score their students’ work accurately and reliably.  If administrators at all levels have done their jobs, then the final exams should yield all information the district needs for accurate placement and appropriate support of students.  

  • savage

    I know I am not the only one here struggling with what to do in November. I wanted to share an article that has pretty much confirmed my belief that neither major party candidate is a viable choice. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it’s NOT either major party candidate. Just to put the article in perspective–the author has penned plenty of pieces condemning the murderous, unconstitutional regime of Bush et al as well. Take a look at the comments by readers as well.

    • TMS

      Msavage51, thanks for the links.
      No you are not the only one struggle with the choices, but from all of the information I’ve read on Romney, it seems like our best bet is to try and communicate how devastating this reform movement is to our communities and children to Obama. I sincerely feel like our rights are being eroded away and no one wants to see the future results of these refomr actions. Five, even ten years from now will be much to late to undo the damage.

  • guest

    Don’t Bridgeport schools have School Governance Councils?  Shouldn’t they be informed?  Aren’t these matters supposed to be published on school or district websites, and through other means, so that parents and teachers can offer meaningful imput?
    The State has mandated these School Governance Councils, and even without a “special master” to tell everyone that consultants and “coaches” are necessary to guide SGCs, the district is required to offer parents, teachers, and students a forum.
    Be a Hero, Take a Zero!  Bridgeport students–Refuse to take the tests!  Refuse to pay Pearson!  Let it come out of Vallas’s pocket.
    Funny how the city that didn’t have enough ballots for the last gubernatorial election has enough bubble sheets for tests.  A righteous bit of intervention would be if, when Pearson opens the locked crates of tests to be graded, a bunch of election ballots fell out instead!  (With Malloy’s name crossed out!)

    • guest

      addendum:  All together now:  instead of filling in the test bubbles, from now on students in low performing districts and their allies should write all over the tests:  Dump Pryor!  Dump Vallas!  Dump Malloy!  I can see it now, in mock pixelated form–these messages created by filling in the bubbles to spell out the message!  (My next protest poster will look like this.)

    • Castles Burning

       Yes, Bridgeport does have School Governance Councils.  And the question of to what extent they are informed is a good one.  Vallas’ team likes to create positive press.  (I need to find out about his press conference earlier to day.) As a teacher, I would be afraid to publically

      comment for fear of losing my job.  It was this website that led me to see his response to questions in the infamous video in New Orleans (I believe it was) where he is being asked questions about his policy, especially about busing (which seems to be in the cards for his plans for Bridgeport if the schools will be offering different specialization).

  • savage

    Just to prove my point that Scheer (the author of the Hope Burning article) isn’t a GOP-supporter:

  • Castles Burning

    I’d just like to say Amen or Ditto or Right on to Jon’s last sentence.

  • francessmith

    even the Catholics schools is not a good school1