Students’ Backlash Against Compulsion (SBAC)

Alison Kuznitz ’15
EE Senior Opinions Editor

On the first day of SBAC, April 3, 2014, Principal Marc Guarino called for an emergency meeting with members of student council, the NHS, and class representatives. On that day only approximately 46 students had shown up for the test, less than 10% of the Class of 2015. The goal of the meeting was to find a solution to the low participation rates, which could lead to consequences as mandated by the state.

However, ultimately, it was decided that the SBAC testing would be postponed until further notice.

SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) testing has sparked quite a controversy amongst juniors, parents, and teachers across Connecticut. If one even mentions SBAC in the hallways of THS nowadays, it is practically a guarantee that a passionate debate will ensue.

Juniors are being told to take this series of tests in the upcoming weeks. While its overall structure is similar to the CAPT testing they took as sophomores, the prompts and questions are far more rigorous. For example, as opposed to the Writing Across the Disciplines test on CAPT in which students wrote an essay by synthesizing only two documents, SBAC will require students to look at numerous sources.These may include videos, audio clips, and complex readings.

Juniors are infuriated about SBAC considering the fact that they already fulfilled a mandatory graduation requirement by completing CAPT. Not to mention, SBAC is merely a field test this year, thereby making the scores purely experimental. The fact that these scores will not affect a student whatsoever has only added fuel to the growing fire.

“Most of my own contempt with regards to the SBAC stems from the fact that it is kept in the dark,” said junior Emma Thornton. “All I’ve heard of the SBAC is by underground rumors from students and teachers. Last year, the school clearly knew about SBAC. However, we as students were neglected the right to know about it ourselves…It’s not fair that the students (and even the teachers) have not received information.”

The dispute is also based on the idea that junior year is arguably the most important year of high school. What with the SAT’s, ACT’s, college searching, AP exams and more, these students simply cannot handle unnecessary stress induced by more testing.

“I understand that parents are upset because students have a lot of things they are trying to balance,” stated Principal Guarino. “Those are all very legitimate concerns that cannot be discredited. I definitely understand those.”
In the midst of this chaos, juniors have explored the options of not taking SBAC altogether. Some juniors have submitted opt-out letters to Curriculum Director Linda Paslov.Meanwhile, other students expressed refused to come to school during the testing periods.

According to Principal Guarino, there are only two worst-case scenarios possible for an individual who do not take the tests: “A student is marked absent or the student left the test blank. Those are the only two options we have, so depending on what happens on those days, this school will document student performance accordingly.”

Essentially, the attendance policy is not applicable to absences incurred during SBAC testing periods. Students may be relieved to hear that Principal Guarino does not intend to use disciplinary action due to a lack of participation.
“I do not want to make SBAC or anything that happens here punitive,” he went on to say. “I think that sets a very negative tone.”

Although some of these rumors have finally been set straight, this does not mean the negative sentiments from juniors will subside.

“Why rush us to take a test when no student is prepared and the teachers don’t know anything about it?” questioned junior Kalisse Eldridge.

Additionally, concerns have been raised about how SBAC will impact the overall learning environment. On a normal school day, THS begins bright and early at 7:25 a.m. On SBAC days, though, the first period bell rang at 10:30. This means the school day was drastically shortened, and teachers had to cram to fit their lessons into one class period.

Simply put, “The SBAC test detracts from our learning,” commented junior Julia Provenzano.


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