By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas | CTMirror
Dianna Wentzell takes over as Connecticut’s new education commissioner as educators face major obstacles to improving schools throughout the state.
During her first month on the job, Wentzell toured several schools and laid out her vision for Connecticut’s education system to state legislators.
Here’s her take on the state of education in Connecticut and how she hopes to improve public schools.
Testing serves a purpose
Wentzell, who was a teacher for 12 years before becoming a district administrator, said testing students is important, but only when done appropriately. The state has faced considerable pushback from some teachers and parents who worry that too much classroom time is being consumed by testing and test preparation.
“Testing and assessment are a necessary part of instruction, but that’s just it: they’re a part of instruction. So assessment’s purpose is to inform instruction. An assessment helps us know what our students need so that our teachers can meet the needs. The most useful assessments are the ones that are small enough and quick enough that they can help inform instruction,” Wentzell told legislators during her confirmation hearing in May.
And the state’s battery of annual tests also helps ensure accountability, she said.
“The core purpose of a state assessment program really is to see whether we are making good on our promises to kids and families,” Wentzell said. “So I think in the case of student assessment, the critical conversations are around how do we rightsize this experience so it doesn’t take over the educational experience for kids and the teachers? How do we make sure the test is long enough and comprehensive enough to really give us good data, but no longer than that so that we’re not intruding on the educational experience to the degree possible?” she asked.
“We need to stand together and really convince all educational stakeholders that test preparation has no place in our schools. You know, these tests are not to be prepared for. They’re like taking your temperature to see if you are well.”