PA 15-238—sSB 1095

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT ASSESSMENTS

SUMMARY: By law, public school students in certain grades must take mastery examinations designed to measure grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, math, and science. Under prior law, high school students were required to take the examinations in 10th or 11th grade. The act eliminates the student's option to take the (1) reading, writing, and math examinations in 10th grade and (2) science examination in 11th grade. Instead it specifies the reading, writing, and math examinations must be in 11th grade and the science examination in 10th grade. Also, students must take all of these examinations during the regular school day.

In addition, the act requires the 11th grade reading, writing, and math examinations to be (1) nationally recognized college-readiness assessments, (2) paid for by the State Board of Education (SBE), and (3) administered by the examination provider under an agreement with SBE (see below). By law, all mastery examinations must be approved and provided by SBE and measure grade-appropriate skills. (The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (P. L. 107-110) allows the high school examinations to be given between grades 10 and 12, inclusive. )

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

The act establishes the Mastery Examination Committee in 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 report to the Education Committee by February 15, 2016 and January 15, 2017.

EFFECTIVE DATE: (1) Upon passage for creation of the examination committee; (2) upon passage and applicable on and after the effective date of an agreement between SBE and a nationally recognized college-readiness 11th grade assessment provider for the mastery examination 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 examination.

MASTERY EXAMINATIONS

Under prior law, a student meeting or exceeding the goal level on any 10th or 11th grade mastery examination would have a certificate of mastery made part of his or her permanent record and transcript. The act narrows this to apply only to 11th grade examinations. The act also deletes a provision that allowed each 10th or 11th grade student who fails to meet the mastery goal level on any mastery examination to annually take or retake it 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 COLLEGE-READINESS ASSESSMENT PROVIDER AGREEMENT

The act 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 examination in Connecticut if the following criteria are met:

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

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

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

MASTERY EXAMINATION COMMITTEE AND REPORTS

The act establishes the Mastery Examination Committee in SDE. Its members include:

1. the education commissioner and 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. people the education commissioner selects, including teachers, performance evaluation process and systems experts, and others the commissioner deems appropriate.

The act does not specify (1) how many people the commissioner can appoint and (2) how 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 findings and recommendations by January 15, 2017. The committee terminates when it submits its final report or on January 15, 2017, whichever is later.

Areas of Study

Under the act, the committee must study:

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

2. administering the examination on computers and other devices;

3. whether the examinations are an appropriate student assessment;

4. the extent to which the mastery examinations (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 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 from 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 applying for a three-year waiver extension.

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