Bridgeport · New Haven · Students

Sorry, Not Sorry: Recent Events In New Haven Prove “High-Stakes Testing” Is A Complete And Utter Myth

Editor’s note: The following rant is not for the eyes of children. You have been warned.



What does the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and high-stakes testing in Connecticut all have in common?

Stumped? Well, I hate to break it to you, but none of those things exist.  

Have I destroyed your childhood yet? Good. This has to be said.

The term “high-stakes testing” is a farce. It’s a red-herring. A unicorn. Bigfoot. The Lockness Monster. It’s the boogeyman that comes around every year to strike fear into the hearts of unsuspecting parents and teachers alike — and, like all those things, it’s nonsense!

In Connecticut, no teacher has ever been fired, hired, promoted, demoted or rewarded because of a single test. No student has ever been denied graduation or forced to repeat a grade because of low scores. No district has ever lost money because students had done poorly on tests. In fact, there are no state-level consequences linked to student achievement data from assessments. Yet, the term “high-stakes testing” is repeated ad nauseam by state teacher’s unions.

As far as I can see, the term “high-stakes testing” is smoke and mirrors.

As Superior Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher aptly pointed out in his groundbreaking CCJEF v. Rell decision, our current educator evaluation system is “uselessly perfect.” In Connecticut, more than 98 percent of teachers were deemed “proficient or exemplary” last year, and yet a third of the state’s low-income students are below grade level in reading.

The Connecticut Education Association spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign and lobbying last year promoting its favorite talking point, but there still hasn’t been an explanation as to what the supposed “stakes” are.

That’s because they don’t exist!

Certainly not for the adults in the room who have thus far been sheltered from consequences by the union’s rhetoric. Even worse, while “high-stakes” don’t exist for schools that fail to educate students, in the bizarro-world that is Connecticut’s education landscape, success on state assessments has the opposite effect.

Look at what has happened in New Haven — a school system that gained national recognition for reform efforts, including a teacher evaluation system linked to student performance. New Haven was an example of what can be accomplished when unions and reform advocates work toward a common goal.

That might be at an end because of politics. (Sound familiar Bridgeport?)

On Monday, Superintendent Garth Harries resigned early, with nearly two years left on his contract. He is being pushed out by a hostile school board, despite the fact that under his leadership New Haven Public Schools has seen a 5 percent gain on annual assessments, an increasing graduation rate, and decreased chronic absenteeism.

New Haven is one of the poorest districts in the country, yet the district’s gains on state assessments actually outpaced the state as a whole. That’s impressive considering the barriers students have to overcome. Of course, none of this mattered to the people leading the push against Harries.

In the face of progress, they want New Haven to go backward.

The truth is, the students most in need are bearing the brunt of an entire education system that not only doesn’t care if they’re actually being educated, but as recent events show, punish those who try to make their learning a priority.

I guess, when it comes to making sure that students in the state’s poor, urban districts are being educated, the union tells us, to trust them, “The check’s in the mail.



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