With only 35 out of more than 400 juniors participating in testing, administration of the new SBAC tests — the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s trial batch of standardized tests replacing the CAPT — is off to a rocky start this year.
Last week, Ridgefield High School Principal Stacey Gross emailed parents to say the testing schedule would be modified “in light of the low number of Juniors participating in the SBAC testing.” Juniors were not required to take the test but could “opt out” with parental permission. Tests will continue “for a maximum of six more sessions,” said Dr. Gross.
These changes mean that, rather than shifting around the schedule for the entire high school, students will “return to the regular rotating schedule for all school days,” said Dr. Gross. “Juniors participating in the SBAC will be excused from class to take the test.”
But whether or not students are taking tests, their impact will be felt.
Dr. Gross also wrote in her email to parents: “As before, NO NEW LEARNING can occur in a class where a Junior is absent for testing.” This includes classes in which even one Junior is present.
“Teachers can review topics, they could have students work on research or individual projects, etc.,” she said. “It is very important to us to maintain a quality testing environment for participating students.”
Sara Donnelly, an RHS junior, agreed with Dr. Gross’s decision. “I wish the schedule continued so I could keep sleeping in,” she said. “But they rightfully canceled [the previous schedule] because of lack of involvement.”
“Really,” she added, “the state should not administer another test during junior year. It worsens an already stressful environment.”
Jocelyn Curran, another junior, also emphasized the strain of testing.
“I didn’t take [the SBACs] because I’m sick of standardized testing,” she said. “Junior year is undoubtedly the most stressful and trying year of high school. The last thing we need is the added pressure of yet another test trying to prove to the government that we’re performing satisfactorily.”
She added, “Junior year needs to be about college and SATs—not another year of … teaching to the test like we do with the CAPTs and the CMTs.”
Michelle Goodman, who pulled her daughter out of SBAC testing, said she feels that “juniors, in particular, do not need the extra added pressure as we head into the end of the school year.”
She said the administration’s demand of no new learning is “absolutely ludicrous.”
“Where are the priorities here, with the students who want to succeed or the school system who is forcing their policies to the detriment of our children’s education?” she said. “This is supposed to be a stellar town when it comes to education. It’s not going to stay that way if we can’t let our teachers teach.”
Ms. Donnelly, who chose not to take the SBAC so she could study for classes and prepare for her ACTs, said testing has impacted her courses.
“My English class missed three days of class, causing us to be confused about assignments and behind in the curriculum. Some days I only had two classes. For classes that did meet, no new curriculum was allowed to be administered; instead they met to review for two hours.”
Ms. Curran feels that forcing students to not learn during class is unfair.“A minority of students are taking [the SBACs], and a majority are being penalized for it through lost class time when we desperately need to be reviewing for finals.”
Not all students are against the test, though. Avesh Krishna, another RHS junior, commented, “The SBAC is not a bad test, nor is it unnecessary.”
“However,” he added, “one must question the wisdom of administering the test in junior year right after AP exams.”
While Dr. Gross said RHS was given until June 6 to administer the SBAC, the test arrived just a week after the end of Advanced Placement exams.
“After receiving feedback from department leaders, students and parents, it was evident the general consensus was to request a testing window following AP exams,” she said.
But Kristen Li, an RHS junior who opted out of taking the tests, disagrees. “I find this time of the year to be just as stressful as before APs,” she said. “Now that APs are over, I’ve simply shifted my focus to SATs and ACTs. On top of that, I’m studying for my national registry exams to become a certified EMT, I’m becoming increasingly involved in my school clubs, and I dance four to five days a week. I can’t speak for everyone, but my life is just as busy as it was earlier in the year.”
She said the tests have been “undeniably disruptive” to RHS.
Despite the confusion surrounding the SBACs, Dr. Gross said that “it is important to assess students’ proficiency and the school’s performance. Being that this was the first year of SBAC, all high schools struggled with providing a secure, quality testing environment while still meeting the educational needs of other students.”
Dr. Gross added, “I’m thankful for the flexibility and patience that our students, faculty and parent community have shown.”