Malloy would spare students a standardized test double-whammy

Hartford - The governor is working to prevent students from having to take two standardized tests next year and to stop students' test scores from being included in teachers' evaluations next school year.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced on Wednesday his intention to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to allow districts to test students using only one standardized test in the 2013-2014 school year, instead of both the new national standardized test based on Common Core principles and the older statewide tests, Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test.

Malloy said he also would request authorization from the federal government to allow school districts not to include standardized tests in teachers' annual evaluations for school year 2013-2014. Supporters Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor accompanied Malloy as he made the announcement before the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which comprises teachers' unions and educators.

Several education stakeholders said they were in support of the waivers because teachers, administrators and students need more time to catch up with all of the components of the education reform bill that was passed last year.

"The change we are announcing today is simply a matter of fairness," Malloy said in a press release on Wednesday. "Providing a level of flexibility to districts will give them the chance to adapt to the many changes that are coming without backing away from the reforms we fought so hard to achieve."

Connecticut was one of 45 states plus the District of Columbia to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which includes teaching students multi-step problem solving and essay writing from multiple sources, as opposed to rote memorization.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers designed the Common Core curriculum, which is considered more rigorous than many states' curricula.

Twenty-five states, including Connecticut, also have joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a state-led group designing a test to assess students after the Common Core curriculum is implemented.

In the 2013-2014 school year, there will be a field test, in which roughly 20 percent of the state's schools will use the Smarter Balanced assessments. Grades three through eight and grade 11 will be tested, according to the consortium's website. The Smarter Balanced assessment system will be ready for full implementation in 2014-2015, according to the website.

Karissa Niehoff, member of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, said she was concerned about "double testing" students. Without the waiver, some students would have to take both the nationally-designed and the state-designed tests, she said.

"We want to do it right, we want more time to align the curriculum with Common Core standards," she said.

Under the new teacher evaluation program, 22.5 percent of a teacher's evaluation is based on a standardized test. Another 22.5 percent is based on other student learning indicators; 40 percent on observing the teacher; 10 percent on parent surveys; and 5 percent on student feedback.

In response to varying degrees of school readiness, lawmakers passed an education reform bill last month that would allow school districts to phase in the new teacher evaluations over the next two school years as opposed to one year.

"A bigger, more urban district with a lot of schools might not be as far (along) as a smaller one with one or two schools," Niehoff said.

Jerome R. Belair, superintendent of Waterford Public Schools, said the waiver requests were great news because it gives schools the chance to align student goals with the new Common Core curriculum and the new assessments.

j.somers@theday.com

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