Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

The “Legal Question of the Week” is a regular feature of the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. Readers are invited to submit short, law-related questions of practical concern to school administrators. Each week, CAS will select a question and publish an answer. While these answers cannot be considered formal legal advice, they may be of help to you and your colleagues. CAS may edit your questions, and will not identify the authors.legal_mailbag_transparent

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I don’t get all the fuss over SBAC testing, both here in Connecticut and nationwide. But it is what it is. My question is whether it is legal for a school district to make SBAC testing a graduation requirement? As long as the cut-off for success is set reasonably, that makes sense to me. But the complicating factor for me is whether we can ever rehabilitate SBAC testing in the public’s eye. We can’t keep a bunch of students from graduating simply because their parents do not want them to take the test. Let me know. Please!

SBAC Supporter

Dear Supporter:

It must be lonely for you these days. In any event, the statute is clear that mastery testing (now using the SBAC test from the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium) can be used as a graduation requirement. However, it may not be used as the sole requirement. Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 10-14n(e) provides:

(e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

Moreover, Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 10-223a(b) provides:

(b) On or before September 1, 2002, each local and regional board of education shall specify the basic skills necessary for graduation for classes graduating in 2006, and for each graduating class thereafter, and include a process to assess a student’s level of competency in such skills. The assessment criteria shall include, but not be exclusively based on, the results of the mastery examination, pursuant to section 10-14n, for students in grade ten or eleven. Each local and regional board of education shall identify a course of study for those students who have not successfully completed the assessment criteria to assist such students to reach a satisfactory level of competency prior to graduation. (Emphasis added).

I feel bad throwing all this statutory language at you but, in plain English, districts can use mastery testing to assess whether a student has the skills that the school board has specified are necessary for students to graduate. However, it may not rely exclusively on mastery testing to determine whether a student has demonstrated the necessary skills to graduate. Thus, if and when students do not participate in the SBAC testing, school officials must arrange for them to demonstrate their competency in the specified skills through some alternative means. As if you didn’t already have enough to do . . . .

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