OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1095 (File 639, as amended by Senate “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENTS ASSESSMENTS.

SUMMARY:

By law, public school students in certain grades must take mastery exams designed to measure grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, math, and science. Currently, high school students must take the exams in 10th or 11th grade. The bill eliminates the option of students taking the reading, writing, and math exams in 10th grade and instead requires they be taken in 11th. The State Board of Education (SBE) must approve and pay for the exams which must be nationally-recognized college readiness assessments that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills. The bill eliminates the option that the science exam be given in 11th grade and instead requires students take this exam in 10th grade.

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (P.L. 107-110) allows the high school exams to be given between grades 10 and 12.

The bill also requires SBE, by January 1, 2016, to enter into an agreement with a provider of a nationally recognized college readiness assessment to provide and administer the 11th grade exam in Connecticut if certain conditions are met, including federal approval.

The bill establishes the Mastery Examination Committee within the State Department of Education (SDE) and specifies its membership and mission. The committee must study various aspects of Connecticut's mastery test system and make the following reports to the Education Committee: (1) an interim report by February 15, 2016, and (2) a final report with recommendations by January 15, 2017. It is unclear how the committee's reports will help inform SBE's decision to enter a contract for the college readiness assessment as the bill requires the contract to be entered into before the committee's reports are due.

*Senate Amendment “A” adds the provisions (1) requiring SBE to enter into an agreement with a provider of a nationally recognized college readiness assessment to provide and administer the 11th grade exam if this is permitted under federal law or Connecticut's federal waiver, (2) creating the Mastery Examination Committee and establishing its membership and charge, (3) removing the option of 11th grade students retaking the mastery test if they fail to achieve a goal level score. It also removes the requirement that SDE conduct a study of the mastery test, instead giving that duty to the new committee.

EFFECTIVE DATE: (1) effective upon passage for creation of the exam committee; and (2) effective upon passage and applicable on and after the effective date of an agreement between SBE and a provider of a nationally recognized college readiness 11th grade assessment for the mastery exam statute changes, such as eliminating the option of taking exams in 10th or 11th grade; and (3) July 1, 2015 for the provision requiring SBE to enter into an agreement with a provider for the 11th grade readiness exam.

MASTERY EXAMS

Under current law, high school students must take the mastery exams in 10th or 11th grade. The bill eliminates the option of students taking the (1) reading, writing, and math exams in 10th grade and (2) science exam in 11th grade. Instead it specifies the reading, writing, and math exams must be in 11th grade and the science exam in 10th grade and that all exams be taken during the regular school day.

In addition, the bill requires the 11th grade reading, writing, and math exams to be:

1. nationally-recognized college readiness assessments,

2. paid for by SBE, and

3. administered by the exam provider.

Under the bill and current law all mastery exams must be approved and provided by SBE and measure grade-appropriate skills.

Under current law, a student meeting or exceeding the goal level on any 10th or 11th grade mastery exam will have a certificate of mastery made part of his or her permanent record and transcript. The bill narrows this to apply only to the 11th grade exams. The bill also deletes a provision that allows each 10th or 11th grade student who fails to meet the mastery goal level on any mastery exam to annually take or retake the exam when it is regularly administered until the student scores at or above the state-wide mastery goal level, graduates, or reaches age 21.

FEDERAL PERMISSION AND RELATED REQUIREMENTS

The bill also requires SBE, by January 1, 2016, to enter into an agreement with a provider of a nationally recognized college readiness assessment to provide and administer the 11th grade exam in Connecticut if the following criteria are met:

1. it is permitted under federal NCLB law or permission is granted under the state's NCLB waiver (see BACKGROUND),

2. SBE consults with the Mastery Examination Committee created under the bill, and

3. the assessment offers accommodations for students with disabilities or who are English language learners.

MASTERY EXAM COMMITTEE AND REPORTS

The bill establishes the Mastery Examination Committee within SDE. Its membership consists of:

1. the education commissioner and the president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education president, or their respective designees;

2. one SBE representative;

3. one representative and one practitioner from each of the following associations, designated by the respective association: the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Education Association, the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut; and

4. persons the education commissioner selects who include, but are not limited to, teachers, performance evaluation processand systems experts, and any other person the commissioner deems appropriate.

The bill does not specify (1) a limit to how many people the commissioner can appoint and (2) how or whether a chairperson is selected.

The committee must make the following reports to the Education Committee: (1) an interim report by February 15, 2016, and (2) a final report with recommendations by January 15, 2017.

Mastery Examination Committee Reports

Under the bill, the committee study must address:

1. the impact of the statewide mastery examinations on teaching, student, and student-learning time;

2. administering the exam on computers and other devices;

3. whether the exams are an appropriate student assessment;

4. the extent to which the mastery exams (a) respond to student needs, (b) offer accommodations for students with disabilities or who are English language learners, (c) inform teachers of student progress, (d) align with SBE–adopted curriculum standards (e.g., the Common Core State Standards, adopted in 2010), and (e) comply with the federal law;

5. the feasibility of decreasing the amount of time required to complete the state-wide mastery examination using alternative formats or alternative methods of delivery; and

6. ways to facilitate timely communication between SBE and local and regional boards of education regarding the state-wide mastery examination.

BACKGROUND

NCLB Waiver

In 2012, Connecticut applied for and was granted, as were many other states, a waiver of certain aspects of NCLB (e.g., federal sanctions when a state's students do not improve academic performance at the pace required under NCLB). In order to receive the waiver the state had to agree to take a number of steps including specifying how it would (1) intervene in low performing schools and school districts, (2) tie teacher evaluation to student achievement, and (3) establish college and career ready standards for students. Connecticut is currently in the process of applying for a three-year waiver extension.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

29

Nay

4

(03/27/2015)