Letter: Test time is better spent in class

To the Editors:

Many of us have questions regarding the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) field testing that is taking place for grades 3-8 and grade 11 starting next week. Those of us who have juniors at Wilton High School, who have already passed the CAPT test required for graduation in 10th grade, have questioned the need for our children’s participation in this field test when they have so many other standardized test requirements this year for college admissions — SAT, ACT, SAT subject tests, and AP exams.

The SBAC field test requires students to take multiple computerized tests — two for English and two for math on alternating days, Tuesday through Friday — during a two-week test period. Students must also complete two in-class activities prior to the test period each Monday during the test weeks. This amounts to approximately 8.5 hours of testing time during math and English classes instead of regular classroom instruction. To what end?

We have been told the results will help “shape the landscape of future standardized tests.” We have been told Wilton High School will get an advance look at the test results to help it better plan for the mandatory implementation of these tests next year. The real question is: Do these benefits outweigh the importance of regular classroom instruction in a year when the students’ GPA and SAT scores will be closely scrutinized by college admissions boards?

The second issue at hand is whether the Wilton School District can mandate that our children participate in the upcoming SBAC field test. The short answer is no! After countless hours reviewing the SBAC materials available to parents and consulting with Gail Lavielle, who is a member of the state education committee, I have come to the conclusion there is an “opt out” procedure available. It is just not publicized. To be fair, there is a state mandate that the Wilton School District administer this field test as a public school of a “governing state” within the SBAC. However, contrary to what we have been told by the Wilton High School administration, there is no evidence that “to comply with state and federal statute, participation in the field test is required.”

An interesting article that discusses this very issue may be found at http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/2014/02/18/opting-out-of-the-sbac-field-test/.

I have made multiple requests for more detail regarding the state statutes for mandatory participation and the opt-out procedures from the WHS administration and the assistant superintendent’s office. As of this writing, my requests have gone unanswered. In the end, as a parent, I will do what I think is in the best interest of my child and her future educational goals.

Julie Aquan

251 Ridgefield Road, March 10