- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Thousands of Connecticut high school juniors could soon be relieved from having to take an unpopular standardized test, following complaints from teachers and parents that 11th graders are being overwhelmed with testing.

The Senate on Thursday voted 33-3 to stop requiring 11th graders to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC test. Instead, they would have to take a nationally recognized college readiness exam, such as the SAT. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, the parent of an 11th grader, said she and other lawmakers have received numerous complaints from students, parents and teachers about the amount of standardized testing being conducted in Connecticut, especially for high school juniors.

“We know that those students take an incredible amount of tests,” she said. “The list seems to go on and on.”

Connecticut has about 40,000 high school juniors. Lawmakers said they’ve learned of a growing number of parents who’ve opted not to have their children take the SBAC test, which they said does not provide the students with any real benefits, unlike the college readiness exams.

Currently, about 85 percent of students in Connecticut take the SAT. Lawmakers said they hope by having all juniors take the SAT or other college readiness exams, the legislation might inspire the other 15 percent to pursue college.

“It may change their path of life,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk.

The bill comes about two weeks after hundreds of unionized Connecticut teachers rallied at the state Capitol, urging lawmakers to eliminate the SBAC test.

“This reduction in testing at the high school level makes us optimistic that further improvements to provide less testing and more learning in our public schools are in the future,” said Sheila Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.

The legislation also allows a committee that has been reviewing state education testing to continue its work. Slossberg said the committee will look at the effect of state tests on teaching, students and student learning time, among other issues.

The group must present a final report to the General Assembly’s Education Committee in 2017.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, voiced concern with the makeup of the committee, which has more members appointed by the state education commissioner than other stakeholders, including the teacher unions and parents. He said the bill turns the review of state testing “over to the same people who gave us the system we don’t like.”

Slossberg said it makes sense to stick with the same group, which she said agreed changes should be made to the 11th grade test.

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