In Connecticut, where the state attorney general is suing the U.S. Department of Education over new federal testing requirements, at least one change in the student-assessment system isn’t sparking a backlash.
State testing there has been moved from the fall to the spring, meaning that for the first time in two decades, students aren’t returning from summer break knowing that they’ll have to sit for state exams in a matter of weeks.
“Now, the students come back to school and you have the opportunity to focus on them adjusting to school, engaging them in learning, and reviewing what they did before, but you don’t have to drill for the test,” said Rosemary Coyle, the president of the Connecticut Education Association.
The initial idea behind fall testing was to get results back by the middle of the school year so educators could use them to adjust their instruction. But many teachers complained that the effect was to tie up the first weeks of school with prepping for and administering the tests.
State officials moved the annual rite now because so many other changes were being made to their assessments as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Those other changes include requirements to test in more grades than Connecticut traditionally has done—the crux of the state’s dispute with the federal government.
The state filed its lawsuit last month. (“Connecticut Files Court Challenge to NCLB,” Aug. 31, 2005)
Now, students will be tested in March rather than at the end of September and the beginning of October.
Roberta Kurlantzick, the principal at West Woods Upper Elementary School in Farmington, Conn., said that rather than feeling pressed to review for the test in September, teachers will be able to cover the required material over the coming months.
“It gives us a chance to kind of imbed it in instruction and just make it a part of what we do,” she said.
But Connecticut Commissioner of Education Betty J. Sternberg cautions that the school year will be at an end by the time test results come back.
And those results may not fully reflect students’ abilities when they return to school the following fall, she said.
“The test score is only as meaningful as kids have retained that learning over the summer, and disadvantaged kids are less likely to have retained it,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2005 edition of Education Week