As the 2015 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly came careening to a close last spring, legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill that replaced the mandate that 11th graders take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test (SBAC) with a new requirement that all high school juniors take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory College Board SAT test.
Without remotely understanding the ramifications of their action, legislators and Governor Dannel Malloy congratulated themselves for a job well done.
The Connecticut Education Association heaped praise on the very elected officials who had undermined public education in Connecticut, taking credit for the move to the SAT and complementing elected officials for a move that was as wrong as adopting the Common Core SBAC testing scheme in the first place.
But once again, politics being politics, the narrow world view held by those on the inside drove the policy making process at the expense of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.
The extremely serious problems with requiring that all 11th graders take the SAT test is becoming increasingly apparent.
In her latest column in the Stamford Advocate, fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker takes on the ignorant claims of those who support using the SAT as a definitive measure of educational success.
The problem is that Connecticut’s policymakers seem completely unwilling or unable to listen to the facts and do the right thing when it comes to the absurd standardized testing craze.
Parents and students beware…
A new large-scale, longitudinal study should make Connecticut policy makers think twice before continuing with their ill-advised policy imposing the SAT as the new “mastery test” for 11th graders.
Last spring, after opt-outs and outcry from parents and students, Connecticut lawmakers decided to quickly abandon the unvalidated SBAC test — but only for 11thgraders. In its place they decided to adopt the newly redesigned SAT.
Jettisoning the SBAC was a step in the right direction, but adopting the SAT presents a host of new problems.
First, the SAT is supposedly a test to predict college “aptitude,” not to assess what Connecticut high school students have learned.
Yet Connecticut plans to use the SAT to judge and rank schools and, of course, sanction them when they perform poorly. The State Department of Education confirmed that after it receives the 2016 results, cut scores will be set to determine “mastery.”
I asked SDE who will set the cut scores and how they can possibly have proof that these scores are valid representations of “mastery” when the test is new, as they will only have one year of results and it isn’t designed to test mastery. SDE refused to answer.
And even though the College Board itself opposes the use of the SAT for teacher evaluations because there is not enough evidence of its validity or reliability for this use, Hartford public schools is already planning to use the SAT in teacher evaluations this year. The district intends to compare spring 2016 SAT scores against students’ fall 2015 PSAT scores.
Second, while the SAT provides accommodations for certain students with disabilities, it does not provide any for English Language Learners (ELL). SDE plans to simply use the accommodations previously used for the CMT and CAPT for the new SAT.
However, experts in this field confirmed to me that one cannot simply transfer accommodations from one test to another. When I asked SDE for any proof of the validity and reliability of using CMT/CAPT ELL accommodations for the SAT, again, they refused to answer.
Proof that there are significant problems using the SAT for accountability purposes in Connecticut comes from a study just published by the University of California.
The study examined 1.1 million students from 1994-2011. It found that one-third of the variance of SAT scores could be explained by parental education, socio-economic status or status as a member of an underrepresented minority. By contrast, socio-economic factors accounted for only 7 percent of the variance in high school GPAs.
Even more stunning is that while in 1994, parental education was the strongest predictor of SAT scores, in the last four years of the study, status as a member of an underrepresented minority overtook both parental education and socio-economic status as the strongest predictor of SAT scores.
And while there is a racial gap in high school GPAs, that gap is not nearly as huge as the racial SAT gap. The study found, in ranking University of California applicants, Latinos and African-Americans comprised 60 percent of the lowest decile in SATs, but they comprised only 39 percent of the lowest decile in GPA. And while they comprised 12 percent of the top decile in GPA, they comprised only 5 percent of the top in SAT. Ranking by SAT score produces more severe racial/ethnic stratification than GPA.
The study also confirmed what three other large scale studies found: that the SAT is a poor predictor of college success. The evidence showed that high school GPA is an accurate predictor of college completion, while the SAT is very weak.
This finding was especially true for students of color. When controlling for parental education and socio-economic status, the predictive power of the GPA increased — while the SAT’s predictive power got even weaker.
The SAT cannot determine whether a student is ready for college success. The SAT never professed to determine whether someone is “career-ready,” whatever that means.
But, as the study shows, the SAT has an adverse effect on racial minorities.
So, while the SAT may be able to identify the demographic makeup of a school — and there are easier and cheaper ways to find that out — it cannot tell us a thing about the quality of the education that school provides.
If all the SAT will do is rank schools by race, why is Connecticut using it?
Connecticut’s students deserve far better and we should demand that Connecticut’s “leaders” abandon their blind, failed adherence to standardized testing.
Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.
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