Assessment

High-Scoring Connecticut Says Scores Aren’t Everything

By Jeff Archer — October 04, 2000 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

With Connecticut’s students now deep in the midst of their state’s testing season, state education officials are urging school leaders and the public to avoid going overboard in worrying about the results.

Theodore S. Sergi

In its first meeting this school year, the Connecticut board of education approved a statement aimed at putting the student assessments into perspective. The document, titled “Measuring Success,” stresses that while test scores should inform decisions about instruction, they aren’t the only indicators of a school’s performance, nor do they cover all the areas in which educators should be helping students excel.

“There is a danger,” the statement says, “that overemphasizing state test scores to evaluate a student’s, a school’s, or a district’s performance can result in an inappropriate narrowing of the curriculum and inappropriate classroom instructional practices.”

The caution echoes many of the concerns voiced elsewhere recently by commentators, parents, and grassroots groups worried that the push for standards-based school improvement may be yielding unintended consequences. But Connecticut’s warning, some analysts say, is particularly striking given that it comes from the very agency that administers the state exams, and given how well the state performs on such assessments.

“If it were a low-performing state that said this, it might sound like an excuse,” said Emily O. Wurtz, a senior education associate for the National Education Goals Panel, based in Washington. “But there are no excuses here. This state is doing very well.”

No other state currently outranks Connecticut in 4th grade reading and mathematics, and in 8th grade writing, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And while Connecticut also enjoys the nation’s highest per capita income, the gains it has posted on NAEP in recent years suggest that affluence alone cannot fully explain its success.

For the most part, the state has favored a relatively low-stakes accountability system, beginning in the mid-1980s with the introduction of the Connecticut Mastery Tests, given each fall in reading, writing, and math in the 4th, 6th, and 8th grades. The state has not, for example, required students to pass an exam to graduate from high school.

Even still, many educators there say that anxiety over test results has intensified in recent years.

Last year, the state published a list of its 28 lowest- performing schools. It also released an index allowing each district to compare its performance with other systems in the state, based on a single number—an index the state chose not to report again this year.

‘Call for Balance’

State Commissioner of Education Theodore S. Sergi said “Measuring Success” is a “call for balance.” Though the state’s tests were instituted to identify areas for improvement, he said, the climate of competition that surrounds them isn’t always healthy.

“The more you start to use the tests for lists of schools, and for rankings of schools, and to identify students for graduation, you start to stray away from the purpose of the program,” he said. “We do believe that you can have strong accountability and a focus on achievement, without the nastiness and the harm.”

The Connecticut board’s statement also stresses the importance of skills not tested by the state—such as artistic and athletic ability, along with knowledge of science and a foreign language.

But while praising the statement, some school leaders wonder how much effect it will have.

“It’s still a Catch- 22,” said Principal Plato Karafelis, who heads Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford. “The standards movement is what the public wants, because this gives them a number, which forces districts to narrow their curriculum so they can deliver the number. And then the state board has to issue this kind of a statement.”

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Opinion What's the Best Way to Grade Students? Teachers Weigh In
There are many ways to make grading a better, more productive experience for students. Here are a few.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Assessment Spotlight Spotlight on Assessment
This Spotlight will help you evaluate effective ways to offer students feedback, learn how to improve assessments for ELs, and more.
Assessment Opinion To Replace Skill Mastery for Seat Time, There Are 3 Requirements
Time for learning and student support take on a whole new meaning in the mastery-based learning model.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Assessment More States Could Drop Their High School Exit Exams
There's movement afoot in nearly half the states that still mandate high school exit exams to end the requirement.
4 min read
A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 17, 2016. The SAT exam will move from paper and pencil to a digital format, administrators announced Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, saying the shift will boost its relevancy as more colleges make standardized tests optional for admission.
A student looks at questions during a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 17, 2016. More states are looking to abandon high school exit exams as support for standardized testing cools.
Alex Brandon/AP