By TAYLOR HARTZ
On March 2, Southington High School (SHS) juniors completed the first mandatory SAT examination.
The SAT has replaced the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) as the annual examination for students across the state.
The U.S. Department of Education approved a waiver request in Aug. 2015, allowing the SAT, a common requirement for college applications, to be free for all students.
Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) announced in September that the switch from the SBAC to the SAT was part of a state-wide plan to reduce standardized testing, minimize duplicate testing, and provide equal opportunities for college readiness while minimizing student stress.
“All children deserve a chance to pursue their dreams, go to college, and compete for the best jobs in a global economy,” said Malloy.
The “School Day” SAT is mandatory for all the state’s juniors, and will be a graduation requirement as adopted by the Connecticut State Board of Education. The test will follow the “new” SAT format, which includes 65 minutes of reading, 35 minutes of writing and language, 25 minutes of math without a calculator, and 55 minutes of math with a calculator.
Any student who is unable to take the March 2 test will be administered the test on April 27.
Students applying to college will still have the opportunity to choose which SAT scores are sent to their intended schools via College Board, but according to Assistant Superintendent Steve Madancy, only the scores earned on March 2 or April 27 will be used to evaluate academic performance and instruction in the school.
While the Southington Board of Education (BOE) agreed that the mandate is a positive opportunity for grade 11 students, Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan said he thinks the board should maintain their focus on rigor in the classroom and curriculum.
“I’m not worried about what the scores are going to look like, I’m worried about what we do every day in the classroom,” said Connellan.
BOE Chairman Brian Goralski said “we’re happy that the students are taking the test,” saying that it is a key ingredient for college applications. However, Goralski and several BOE members expressed concern that students in grades 9, 10, and 12 would have their education disrupted by the in-school testing.
Students in these grades will have their school day shortened by four hours.
In a letter sent home on Jan. 21 from Michael Halloran, Assistant Principal and SHS Assessment Coordinator, families were informed of both the altered school and bus schedules.
Goralski said that the additional costs for the changes in transportation effectively creates an unfunded state mandate with a cost that burdened local taxpayers.
Additionally, Madancy explained on Dec. 10 that there was no exception for English Second Language (ESL) students, and that they hadn’t yet heard of any accommodations for special education students.
Although Goralski said the testing offers a “a level playing field for all students,” he and several members of the board expressed concerns that English Second Language (ESL) and special education students were included in the mandatory test.
“To make special education and ESL learners take the test is abuse,” said Goralski, who feared the exam would cause these students unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Despite these concerns, the state mandate required all juniors to complete the exam, regardless of fluency or disabilities.
“Our job is to make sure all of our students in Connecticut have access to a top-quality education that prepares them for success in college and career,” said Commissioner of Education Diana Wentzell after the announcement of the exam change.
Grade 11 students reported to school at the normal time on March 2, and buses ran as scheduled. Testing began for juniors at 8:20a.m and lasted four hours.
For students in grades 9, 10, and 12, the school ran a second bus run for arrival at school by 11:35a.m., with classes running from 11:49a.m. to 2:15p.m.
Grade 11 students can expect to receive their SAT scores this May.