Connecticut Charter Schools are promoting greater racial segregation using taxpayer funds

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As Robert Cotto Jr. writes about the way in which Connecticut charter school companies are pocketing public funds in his latest CTNewjunkie commentary piece entitled, Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr. let’s not forgot that the problems with charter schools goes far beyond greed, waste and fraud.

The REAL TRUTH about Connecticut Charter schools and racial segregation;

Forget the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education that ruled that segregation in schools violated the United States Constitution.

Forget the 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Sheff v. O’Neill that ruled that segregation in Connecticut schools violated Connecticut’s Constitution.

Forget that as a result of the Sheff v. O’Neill case, Connecticut taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in public schools.

The REAL TRUTH is that more than $100 million a year in scarce Connecticut funds are being handed over to charter school companies and that according to the most recent reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education (2012-2013), every single major charter school in Connecticut is more racially segregated than the school district they are supposed to serve.

The REAL TRUTH is that while Connecticut spends massive amount of money to fulfill its federal and state constitutional mandate of REDUCING segregation, Connecticut charter schools are using public money to actually INCREASE racial segregation in Connecticut!

Just look at the data about the charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and Stamford.

Using public funds, Connecticut charter schools are creating greater racial isolation – something that is nothing short of illegal and unconstitutional.

HARTFORD % of public school students who are non-white
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 100%
Achievement First Inc. Hartford Charter School 100%

 

Bridgeport % of public school students who are non-white
Bridgeport School District 91%
Achievement First Inc. Bridgeport Charter School 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 99%
New Beginnings Academy Charter School 99%

 

New Haven % of public school students who are non-white
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Charter School 98%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City Charter School 99%
Highville Charter School 99%

 

 

 

Stamford % of public school students who are non-white
Stamford School District 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trail Blazers Charter School 96%

 

And now Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut’s charter school industry want to divert even more public money away from Connecticut’s public schools so that they can open up two more charter schools – one in Bridgeport and one in Stamford.

Stunning Charter School take down by Robert Cotto Jr.

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Show Me The (Charter Management Fee) Money!

Robert Cotto Jr. is one of Connecticut’s leading educate advocates, an elected member of the Hartford Board of Education and part of the Educational Studies program at Trinity College.

In his recent CT Newsjunkie commentary piece entitled, Show Me The (Charter Management Fee) Money! Cotto lays bare the truth about the charter school industry is taking Connecticut’s taxpayers for a ride while diverting scarce public funds from Connecticut’s real public education system.

Robert Cotto writes;

When traditional schools pay their bills to educate kids, they usually don’t have much money, if any, remaining. When charter schools pay their bills, they often have money left over to spend. How much? It depends on the school. For a number of charter schools, roughly 10 percent of all of public dollars meant for educating children in these schools go to pay fees for private companies called “charter management organizations.” That’s a problem.

Connecticut law states that a charter management organization (CMO), “means any entity that a charter school contracts with for educational design, implementation or whole school management services.” These CMOs claim that they are private corporations, not public agencies. Organizations that claim to be CMOs in Connecticut include Achievement First; Capital Preparatory Schools; DOMUS, and Jumoke/FUSE, which is now defunct. It’s often hard to tell the difference between the CMO and the charter schools they manage.

[…]

Roughly 10 percent of a charter school’s budget can go toward management fees. For example, the New Haven-based CMO called Achievement First charged Achievement First-Hartford Charter School a $1.14 million management fee in 2013-14. The state provided Achievement First-Hartford charter schools more than $11 million to operate. So about 10 percent of that state funding went to Achievement First the CMO, not the charter school in Hartford, which ended the year with a surplus.

For every $100 dollars the public spends on this charter school, the CMO called Achievement First gets $10 off the top.

Multiply this fee by the four Achievement First charter schools in Connecticut, and Achievement First Inc., the CMO, walks away with about $4.45 million in fees.

[…]

Instead of operating schools as public responsibilities, CMOs operate charter schools as moneymaking arrangements, almost like fast-food franchises. Companies like Subway Inc. charge local franchises a fee for services ranging from start-up, food supplies, to signage. This is how Subway makes a profit.

The CMOs could be spending this money on millions of dollars in No. 2 pencils, helping to buy foot-long Subway sandwiches at lobbying events, or paying for student field trips to rally for more charter school money. It’s just unclear.

To fully appreciate how Connecticut’s taxpayers are being ripped off by charter school companies, read Robert Cotto’s entire article at:

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_show_me_the_charter_management_fee_money/

An Open Letter To Every Teacher in the State of Connecticut (By Matthew Valenti)

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Connecticut educator Matthew Valenti sent in this “An Open Letter To Every Teacher in the State of Connecticut”

May 16th was a dark day for every one of the 43,000 public school teachers in Connecticut. 

For on that day, 1 percent of that number of teachers at the CEA-RA chose for a second term Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake as president and vice president of the Connecticut Education Association.

In the words of Jonathan Pelto:  WAIT, WHAT?

What were the majority of these educators thinking when they cast their vote?  Obviously they were not.  I felt that the decisions the past three years made by these two leaders could not possibly have earned them a second term.  In my mind their biggest blunder in their first term was the decision to endorse the bully governor Dannel Malloy.  Even legislators in his own party are beginning to call Malloy a bully.  That has to tell you something.

Now some may argue that the endorsement was not Cohen and Leake’s decision alone, that the CEA Board of Directors were involved in it as well.  But I am sure that if Cohen and Leake were against the endorsement, the Board of Directors would never have over-ridden their wishes.

So, a governor was endorsed by CEA who:  Slapped every public school teacher in the face by proposing the most punishing evaluation model for teachers in the nation, slapped every public school teacher in the face by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools, slapped every public school teacher in the face by giving a 25 percent increase to charter schools, slapped every public school teacher in the face by mandating and promoting Smarter Balanced Testing, and slapped every retired public school teacher in the face by trying to eliminate the state’s contribution to the retired teacher’s health fund.

The most egregious thing to me was that Malloy in February of 2012 said all a teacher had to do was show up and they received tenure, and then he was in Newtown 10 months later to honor teachers who paid the ultimate price, one of them a non-tenured teacher who “showed up” to work.   How does one answer for that absurdity?

And despite all the above, this is the governor CEA endorsed for a second term!  And then during their own first term, these two leaders resisted supporting the op-out movement that other unions backed.  And virtually at the end of testing this year, they scheduled a rally against testing!  TOO LATE!  They didn’t even defend themselves against points I made against them in my letter to Wait, What? on April 29th as to why they should not be re-elected.  If they wouldn’t or couldn’t  do that, how were they going to go toe to toe with Dannel?

I mailed to each representative that same letter that appeared in Wait, What? to each of their homes.  And yet, with all that information at their fingertips, 1 percent of 43,000 teachers who were slapped around for 4 years voted to re-elect these two neutralized individuals. So was it stupidity or loyalty by these RA members to re-elect Cohen/Leake?   That I can’t answer because it’s impossible to say.  Could have been both, but I actually would be more comfortable with just pure stupidity.  When something affects my pocketbook like the Malloy and CEA decisions have, loyalty should fly out the window.  Stupidity isn’t easily fixed. I just didn’t expect stupidity from teachers who were representatives.  But in this case, perhaps loyalty equaled stupidity.

So, how do we fix this?  First, we need to change the way the CEA officers are elected.  The current election rules highly favor the incumbents. We need to have EVERY member vote.  43,000 teachers should not have 435 teachers representing them.   Second, the County Councils are a joke at election time. Candidates have a few minutes to make their case, and if you go one second over, you’re stopped.  Teachers need to hear the truth about what’s happening in their profession.  Currently, there is more time put on golf tournaments, teddy bears, socializing and food at County Councils than there are about teacher’s futures in public school.

I know how it works because I ran for president against Rosemary Coyle in 2003.  She was running unopposed on a ridiculous platform of “indoor air quality” when I felt she should  have been running on “secure teacher retirement” because it certainly wasn’t secure.  So I entered the race.  I made my platform “retirement” and she changed hers right after I made my speech at the first county council, a speech which I was rudely cut off from after 5 minutes.  I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I ran to achieve a greater good.  For during that election, teachers were pushed by Coyle to call legislators about the injustice, and that’s the year the contractual right of retirement was voted in by the legislators.  I believe it was done because she perceived me as a real threat.  I still took 1/3 of the vote with a campaign committee of me!

While it is true that the AFT leadership endorsed the bully two months before CEA did, at least AFT members elected someone who appears ready to fight Malloy instead of placating him.  According to Wait, What? (May 15th) Jan Hochadel is a fighter, unlike her predecessor, and is scheduled to take AFT over as president.  Maybe with a new president AFT can cross over and fix the teacher problems in this state, because if the past three years are any indication as to how CEA will function the next three, there will be little advocating for the membership.  As long as CEA continues to be an apologist organization for Malloy, the 43,000 members of CEA should probably start to look for other careers.  And it’s only going to get worse my fellow colleagues.  We had two real fighters that would have changed the face of public school teaching…but Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick lost, despite a tremendous effort on their part.  We all had a definitive chance with them.  And you can all thank the 1 percent that stopped that effort on Saturday.

I’m retired….the majority of you are not.  All I have to worry about now is having my measly 210 dollars a month for health insurance from the state getting cut completely, which I predict will happen this budget season with no one equipped to fight for us. And, I’m sure future teacher pensions will be in jeopardy soon with the passivity of the current leadership.  Remember all of this when you decide you can’t take it any more and want to leave the profession.  Look around you, because I’ve never heard so much discontent in our noble profession as I’ve heard the last four years.

Best;

Matthew P. Valenti
40.5 years public school teacher, Retired
12 year STRONG union president, Torrington

Connecticut Education Association (CEA) starts TV advertising campaign to promote their legislation

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Following this past weekend’s CEA election, Connecticut’s largest union has begun a new television advertising campaign to push the “less testing, more learning message.”

While the TV ad urges the public to call state legislators in support of the CEA’s bill to phase out the SBAC test, the ad unfortunately fails to support the opt-out movement or even mention that Connecticut parents have a fundamental right to refuse to have their children take the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

During the recent CEA convention, the delegates did adopt a resolution in support of opt-out, but the message didn’t make it to their TV ad.

According to the CEA blog today,

“A new CEA TV commercial featuring Connecticut students, teachers, and parents is now on the air urging lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring less testing and more learning in our public schools. The commercial asks members of the public to call their legislators and ask them to amend Senate Bill 1095.

Watch the commercial below and then call your legislators and share how SBAC testing is affecting your students.”

You can see the TV ad by clicking the following link;  https://youtu.be/B3K2z5kob7k

Meanwhile, around the nation, parents, students, teachers, teacher unions and elected officials continue the push back against the Common Core testing scheme.  Here are just an example of the hundreds of recent newspaper articles on the opt out movement.

In California, Standardized Testing Sparks Backlash

In Delaware, House Overwhelmingly Supports Opt-Out Rights

In Florida, Citrus County School Board Calls on Governor to Suspend Testing Consequences

In Illinois, Illinois Legislature Still Considering Opt-Out Bill

In Louisiana, Test Overkill Fatigue

In Maine, Maine Testing Opt Out, Assessment Reform Movement Hits Legislature and Maine Moves to End Smarter Balanced Testing

In Minnesota, Minnesota Teachers Want Scores Thrown Out After Repeated Computer Test SNAFUs

In Missouri, Testing Misuses Students to Evaluate Teachers and Schools

In Montana, State Testing Will Not Come Close to 95% Participation

In New Hampshire, Legislature Sends Governor Bill Allowing Test Opt Outs

In New York, English Language Arts Test Opt Outs Topped 205,000 Statewide

In New Jersey, Bill to Restrict Use of Standardized Exams Continues to Advance

In North Dakota, New Smarter Balanced Computerized Testing Has Many Problems

In Ohio, House Overwhelmingly Votes to Reduce State Testing

In Oregon, One in Seven Portland Juniors Skipped Common Core Exams

In Pennsylvania, Students Opt Out of State Keystone Exams

In Texas, Study Finds College Readiness Declines When Public Schools Focus on Test Scores

In Vermont, Testing is Profitable But Not for Students

In Virginia, Virginia Parents Say “”No” to Standardized Tests and Parents Learn How to Keep Their Kids Out of Standardized Tests

In Washington, Students Protest Common Core Exams and Maryville, Washington, Teachers Hold One-Day Strike Over Funding, Testing

In Wisconsin, Assembly Passes Bill to Skip Test-Based School Report Cards

CEA Convention passes Opt-Out Resolution, re-elects incumbents

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Congratulations to Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake on their re-election and a big thank you to Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick for running for and helping to push the CEA forward on the critical opt out issue.

As reported by the CEA Blog,

“Teacher leaders from across the state took decisive action today to strengthen the organization’s position on the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests and re-elect CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake overwhelmingly.

The motion on opting out was unanimously adopted by teachers who were delegates to the CEA Representative Assembly (CEA RA), the highest policymaking body of the Association.

[…]

CEA has long supported the right of parents to make critical decisions about their children’s education. Today’s vote goes a step further by putting the full weight the CEA RA behind that position and providing great detail about teachers’ objectives in ensuring less testing and more learning in Connecticut public schools.

[…]

Essential components of the motion include:

  • Call on state policymakers and local school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to discuss standardized tests with parents and inform them of their ability to exclude children from state and/or district standardized tests.
  • Call on state lawmakers and school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to provide parents with their opinions on whether students would benefit from exclusion from a state/and or district standardized test and that no adverse action or discipline would be taken against employees who engage in such discussion.
  • Provide that a school and its employees would not be negatively impacted due to a student not taking a state and/or district-level standardized test, such as by ensuring that students who are opted out of standardized tests by a parent or guardian are excluded from performance calculations for state and local accountability measures and from employee evaluations.
  • Reexamine public school accountability systems throughout the state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment that do not require extensive standardized testing, that more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.

Also at the Convention,

The 2015 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Cara Quinn, said that poverty is a problem that cannot be ignored. “Collectively we have the power to advocate for real and tangible things that will make a difference for our poorest students and families. First, we can insist that the state’s educational cost sharing grant is completely funded. We can push for universal, free, pre-K programs for all of our children living in priority school districts.”

She continued that teachers should work to protect funding for wrap-around services that meet the social, emotional, and medical needs of our students. She emphasized, “We can make phone calls, send emails, and meet with our legislators and tell them that we demand action on these issues. These are simple things that will make a profound difference for our kids.”

She concluded, “As teachers, we are the champions of equity and justice. As teachers, as citizens who vote, we can make these things a reality.

When an Education Reformer says “Turnaround” — Don’t!

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Education Advocate Wendy Lecker has another column out and it is once again in the “MUST READ” category.

Her latest piece is part one of a multi-series takedown of those who use fiction rather than facts to fancifully present the term “school turnaround” as if it was a magic bullet.

This particular chapter begins with the Can Can Team from ConnCAN who recently performed a dog and pony show for Connecticut state legislators where they crowed about the “success” of various “school turnaround” projects.

Using their traditional corporate education reform rhetoric, rather than facts, the charter school front group performed magic that would have made a “three card Monte” aficionado proud. [Three card Monte being a card trick in which the mark can’t win because trick cards are used.]

The well-documented corporate education reform failures of New Orleans and Philadelphia were incredibly heralded as successes and that was before they got out their shovels and really started throwing IT around.

Here is Wendy Lecker’s latest MUST READ commentary piece, which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.   

Failure as a model for Connecticut (By Wendy Lecker)

A recent large-scale federal study revealed that most states lack expertise to turn around struggling schools and are rarely successful. It’s no wonder. Legislators who write turnaround laws never turn to the experts: educators. Connecticut is no exception. Last month, the General Assembly’s Education Committee held a day-long session on school turnarounds. Instead of relying on education experts, it turned to ConnCan, the charter lobby known for its evidence-free reports that push one agenda: Taking power away from school districts to pave the way for privatization.

ConnCan brought in three examples of turnaround to push the idea that the key to success is handing schools or entire districts over to outside operators.

The most startling choice for a presentation was Hartford’s Milner school. Recall that Milner was one of the first commissioner’s network schools. Milner suffered through a failed turnaround in 2008 under then-Superintendent Steven Adamowski. It also had a persistent and severe lack of resources. Rather than providing Milner the necessary resources, the State Board of Education decided to turn it around again in 2012, handing it over to Michael Sharpe’s FUSE/Jumoke charter chain. FUSE/Jumoke had no experience educating ELL students, which made up a large part of Milner’s population. After the revelations of Sharpe’s criminal record and falsified academic credentials, it came to light that FUSE/Jumoke ran Milner school into the ground, hiring ex-convicts, relatives and “winging” the takeover, as Sharpe admitted — all while supposedly under heightened scrutiny by state officials.

Milner’s principal under this takeover, Karen Lott, told Milner’s story. She admitted that this fall, only 13 percent of Milner’s students scored proficient in ELA and an even more shocking 7 percent were proficient in math. She said although they are in the fourth year of the Commissioner’s Network, she is treating this as the first year. Amazing! No public school would be allowed to fail for three years, then magically erase its poor track record.

She blamed the school’s poor performance on several things. First, there was high staff turnover at the school: 85 percent of teachers now have 0-3 years’ experience teaching. This is mind-boggling, as staff turnover was not only the result of the state takeover but one of its goals. Lott spoke of the need now to “aggressively recruit” veteran teachers. Like the ones Jumoke-Milner pushed out in the first place? She also stated that now she is relying on teacher training and mentoring from Hartford Public Schools.

Lott further explained that under Jumoke there was no curriculum. She is now using the Hartford Public Schools curriculum and assessments.

Lott also emphasized that community supports are necessary for children to achieve. She said families need stable housing and mental health services, parents need job training and the neighborhood needs to be safe and clean. Imagine that — poverty affects learning. If this were a public school educator saying these things, ConnCan would condemn her for using poverty as an excuse.

Lott detailed the steps she was now taking beyond the Hartford curriculum, assessments, training and mentoring. She acknowledged that a centerpiece of her efforts is a large increase in resources. Milner now has a full-time therapeutic clinician and after-school programs. Hartford Public Schools re-opened its budget to provide the school will more computers. Central office also allowed Milner to have two half-days a month, so teachers get additional professional development. Lott also said she now implements Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, a system used by many public schools.

To her credit, Lott seems to be focusing on proven methods of helping students: extra academic and social support for at-risk children, training, mentoring and support for teachers, and adequate school resources. What must be stressed is that none of these ideas are innovative. Nor do any of these resources require takeover by an outside operator. They are tools schools either already use or have been pleading for. The lack of these resources is a basis for Connecticut’s school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell.

Lott contended that what she needed is more time, more resources and more autonomy. Schools need time and resources to improve. The claim for autonomy, however, is puzzling, given she is relying on central office for curriculum, assessments, training, mentoring and special treatment so she can get resources other schools do not have.

Lott’s message is — perhaps unintentionally — the opposite of the one ConnCan is pushing. Schools do not need takeover or turnaround. Just give struggling schools time, support and resources to do what everyone already knows helps kids learn.

You can read and comment on Wendy’s original piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failure-as-a-model-for-Connecticut-6267220.php

A new president for AFT-CT? 

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Connecticut’s two major teacher unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter are meeting tomorrow to elect officers.

Word is spreading that the American Federation of Teachers will finally get a president who is actually an educator and will speak up and fight for the interests of the teachers who are members of the AFT-CT, in addition to the union’s health care affiliated members.

Multiple sources confirm that Jan Hochadel, who presently serves as the President of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, appears poised to become the AFT-CT next president at tomorrow – May 15, 2015 – AFT-CT convention which will be taking place in Southington, Connecticut.

The selection of an educator to lead the AFT-CT would be a major leadership shift for the AFT-CT, a union that has been one of the loudest apologists for Governor Dannel Malloy, despite Malloy’s unprecedented and ongoing assault on teachers, the teaching profession and Connecticut’s public schools.

In particular, the news means former state senator and Malloy ally Melodie Peters would be out of the job.

Jan Hochadel’s career has been dedicated to the Connecticut Technical High School System, its teachers and 11,000 students who annually attend Vo-Tech high schools in the state.  The State Vocation Federation of Teachers is the union that represents teachers as these state run high schools.

The change in leadership would certainly send a strong message to government officials, not only about the importance of teachers and teaching, but the value of Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools which have been reeling as a result of budget cuts and abusive initiatives implemented by recent Republican and Democratic governors.

In his first term, Governor Malloy actually proposed disbanding Connecticut’s historic Vo-Tech system and farming the individuals schools out to local school districts.

In her present capacity as president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, Jan Hochadel is known as a leading advocate for vo-tech education at both the state and federal level.

In addition to fighting for better state funding and support for Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools, she recently served as a featured speaker at a major Washington D.C. Capitol Hill briefing last month about strategies to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the United States.

The change in leadership would come as especially good news to the students at Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools who have been particularly hard hit by the negative aspects of the rapid move to the Common Core and the implementation of the unfair Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Not only have the Vo-Tech schools been required to implement the new Common Core standards without the appropriate resources to make it happen, but the system’s state administrators have been among the worst offenders when it comes to misleading students and parents about the Common Core SBAC testing requirement.

In recent weeks numerous Vo-Tech high school students or their parents have reported that they have been misled, harassed and told that they must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate, a requirement that clearly violates state law.

A new leader for AFT-CT would provide the nationally renowned union with a unique opportunity to return to a leadership position on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

More on this breaking story as it develops.

The CEA convention starts this evening with an election for officers tomorrow.  Challengers Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick are challenging the incumbent slate of Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake for the position of President and Vice President.  Walsh and  Minnick have been especially vocal on behalf of the Common Core SBAC opt-out movement and have been pushing the CEA to join the opt-out effort here in Connecticut.

Do you know a high school junior who is being told they MUST take the SBAC Test to graduate?

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This is an EMERGENCY request for information;

Connecticut law specifically prohibits school districts from requiring students to take the state “Mastery Test” in order to graduate.

However, in unethical, immoral and unprofessional attempt to stop students from opting out or being opted out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme, a number of Connecticut schools are telling students that the SBAC test is a graduation requirement.

A number of parents, students and community members have already forwarded evidence about the bullying and harassment that is taking place in particular schools and districts.

Your assistance in determining the extent of the abusive tactic is critically important.

If you know of a high school or school district that is misinforming students that must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate or are otherwise misleading or lying to students or parents about the SBAC test, please send the details immediately to [email protected]

Please provide as many details as possible, including, any emails, documents or other evidence of the abuse.

The name of the principal, assistant principal or other school official engaged in this unethical action is also requested.

The source of any information will be kept strictly confidential.  The actual documents can be kept confidential, if requested, but please do send along the information so that a master list can be put together of schools, school districts and school administrators who are failing to perform their duties in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Rich do better, poor do worse – Step right up and try your luck at the SBAC Test….

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Guess what?  When it comes to the Common Core SBAC test and other unfair and discriminatory standardized tests, students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse.    

The following assessment of what influences standardized test scores comes from education researcher Christopher Tienken via education blogger Peter Greene.

Peter Greene is a fellow education advocate, an educator and one of the country’s leading education bloggers. His blog is called Curmudgucation.   Christopher Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University, a former school administrator and teacher and an expert on the factors that influence standardized test scores. His work can be found at http://christienken.com/

Being that the information presented below is academic, fact-based and intellectual, some elected officials won’t take the time to read it or perhaps understand it, but the information confirms what has been understood and discussed by opponents of the Common Core SBAC testing and other inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

The information proves – yet again – that standardized test scores are driven primarily by factors far beyond the control of the classroom teacher.  Poverty, English Language proficiency and unmet special education needs are all key factors in producing lower test scores.

As Green and Tienken explain –  Standardized Test Scores ARE NOT related to grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style or curriculum evaluation….  They are a product of the socio-economic characteristics of the students taking the test.

Thanks to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing scam, while raising taxes and cutting education programs, Connecticut will spend approximately $100 million on the SBAC testing this year to tell us that the rich do well and the poor do poorly on the fraud of a test.

Just take a look at the following;

Good News! We Can Cancel The Tests Now! (By Peter Greene)

Christopher Tienken is a name you should know. Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, & Policy. Tienken started out his career as an elementary school teacher; he now edits American Association of School Administrators Journal of Scholarship and Practice and the Kappa Delta Pi Record.He and his colleagues have done some of the most devastating research out there on the Big Standardized Tests.

Tienken’s research hasn’t just shown the Big Standardized Tests to be frauds; he’s shown that they are unnecessary.

In “Predictable Results,” one of his most recent posts, he lays out again what his team has managed to do over the past few years. Using US Census data linked to social capital and demographics, Tienken has been able to predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or better on the tests.

Let me repeat that. Using data that has nothing to do with grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style, curriculum evaluation— in short, data that has nothing to do with what goes on inside the school building– Tiemken has been able to predict the proficiency rate for a school.

“For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.”

Tiemken’s work is one more powerful indicator that the BS Tests do not measure the educational effectiveness of a school– not even sort of. That wonderful data that supposedly tells us how students are doing and provides the measurements that give us actionable information– it’s not telling us a damn thing. Or more specifically, it’s not telling us a damn thing that we didn’t already know (Look! Lower Poorperson High School serves mostly low-income students!!)

In fact, Tiemken’s work is great news– states can cut out the middle man and simply give schools scores based on the demographic and social data. We don’t need the tests at all.

Of course, that would be bad business for test suppliers, and it would require leaders to focus on what’s going on in the world outside the school building, so the folks who don’t want to deal with the issues of poverty and race will probably not back the idea. And the test manufacturers would lose a huge revenue steam, so they’d lobby hard against it. But we could still do it– we could stop testing tomorrow and still generate pretty much the same data. Let’s see our government embrace this more efficient approach!!
And for the original source of information read – Predictable Results (by Christopher Tiemken)

Colleagues and I used US Census data to predict state test results in mathematics and language arts as part of various research projects we have been conducting over the last three years. Specifically, we predicted the percentage of students at the district and school levels who score proficient or above on their state’s mandated standardized tests, without using any school-specific information such as length of school day, teacher mobility, computer-to-student ratio, etc.

We use basic multiple linear regression models along with factors in the US Census data that relate to community social capital and family human capital to create predictive algorithms. For example, the percentage of lone parent households in a community and percentage of people in a community with a high school diploma are two examples of community social capital indicators that seem to be strong predictors of the percentage of students in a district or school that will score proficient or above. The percentage of families in a community with incomes under $25,000 a year is an example of a family human capital indicator that has a lot of predictive power.

In all, our regression models begin with about 18-21 different indicators. We clean the models and usually end up with 2-4 indicators that demonstrate the greatest predictive power. Then we enter those indicators into an algorithm that most fourth-graders, with an understanding of order or operations, could construct and calculate. Not complicated stuff.

Our initial work at the 3rd-8th and 11th grade levels in NJ, and grades 3-8 in CT and Iowa have proven fairly accurate. Our prediction accuracy ranges from 62% to over 80% of districts in a state, depending on the grade level and subject tested.

In one study soon to be published in an education policy textbook co-edited with Carol Mullen, Education Policy Perils: Tackling the Tough Issues, I report on a study in which I predicted the percentage of students in grade 5, at the district level, who scored proficient or above on New Jersey’s former standardized tests, NJASK, in mathematics language arts for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 school years for the almost 400 school districts that met the sampling criteria to be included in the study.

For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.

Colleagues and I predicted the percentages of students scoring proficient or above for grades 6,7,8 during the 2009-2012 school years as well. For example, we predicted accurately for approximately 70% of the districts on the 2009 NJ mathematics and language arts tests. Recently, another colleague and I predicted the grade 8 NJ mathematics and language percentages proficient or above for over 85% of the almost 400 districts in our 2012 sample.

The results from Connecticut and Iowa are similar, with accurate predictions in CT on all tests grades 3-8 ranging from approximately 70% to over 80%. The Iowa predictions were accurate in approximately 70% of the districts.

Being a “rich” district or a “poor” district had no bearing on the results. We accurately predicted scores for “rich” and “poor” alike. The details will be published in upcoming books and journals so stay tuned.

The findings from these and other studies raise some serious questions about using results from state standardized tests to rank schools or compare them to other schools in terms of standardized test performance. Our forthcoming results from a series of school level studies at the middle school level produced similar results and raise questions about the appropriateness of using state test results to rank or evaluate teachers or make any potentially life-impacting decisions about educators or children.

So Connecticut parents and taxpayers;

When you are being abused or hearing about children and parents being abused and harassed for opting out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test or when you are paying more in taxes and watching important school programs and services cut, now that thanks to our elected and appointed  officials we are pissing away $100,000,000.00 a year forcing children to take a test that will tell us that students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse on standardized tests.

 

John Bestor on CEA Election – Just look to Massachusetts to see what new Teacher Union leadership can bring

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In July 2014, the Massachusetts Teachers Association elected a new union President and Vice-President.  The benefits were realized immediately.  Dr. Barbara Madeloni and her V.P. Janet Anderson breathed new life into an educational organization that had been failing to meet the needs of its membership.

According to an article by Michael Levinson in the Boston Globe (6.6.14), Barbara Madeloni “won her race by openly criticizing the current union president…for his record of negotiating with – rather than fighting – officials on the development of teacher assessments and the Common Core…”  He went on to say:  “Her agenda forcefully rejects those policies, which have gained increasing support from Republicans and Democrats over the last 20 years. She supports a three-year moratorium on standardized testing and teacher assessments and denounces charter schools.  Though these initiatives have never been popular with teacher unions, the MTA, under [the previous President] Toney, took a softer line, seeing compromise rather than confrontation.”  Sound familiar?

In an article in Boston Magazine (September 2014), entitled “How tests are failing our schools”, author Zachary Jason reported that “rank-and-file teachers across the state hail Madeloni as a savior.  She’s the first MTA leader willing to listen to their agony, and to tell the truth about how teaching in an age of accountability can be, as Holyoke teacher Cheryl Cluff puts it, ‘like waiting tables in a busy restaurant; you’re running and running and running, and you’ve lost your head’.  Whereas past presidents and her opponent…were willing to compromise with state administrators, Madeloni is combative, unapologetic, and, as Augustin Morales, another Holyoke teacher, says ‘unafraid to make her life uncomfortable’.   (bostonmagazine.org)

Wow! that resonates!!

For further evidence reflecting how new blood and inspired leadership can bring change to a staid status quo, read Barbara Madeloni’s interview, called “Standing Up to Superman” in the 7.7.14 issue of Jacobin Magazine.   Just last week, the MTA made national news when delegates at its annual meeting voted their support for the opt-out movement…and so much more.

Click on http://massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/annual_meeting_coverage.aspx and consider the possibilities!!!  I especially liked the post-convention press releases…read on and dream. That is leadership!!

There comes a time in any organization when it becomes necessary to make a change.  In the CEA, that time has come; it is NOW!!

There is no doubt that CEA leadership feels that it has done an effective job pushing back against the onslaught brought on by the politically-driven Common Core State Standards initiative, the unproven and rushed change in standardized testing requirements, the systematic yet false narrative of failing schools and ineffective teachers, and the questionable storing and sharing of private, personal, and confidential information on students and their families.  However, many teachers disagree as they see their freedom to deliver instruction as they determine they should based on their understanding of each student’s learning needs erode.  Teachers find themselves testing student progress on standardized measures continuously and then spending hours of planning time entering student results into data storage systems.  And then, to add to their frustration, teachers are threatened with having their expertise measured by student test results on unproven standardized assessments.  Teachers feel overwhelmed by rapid changes in curricula practices in multiple academic areas with little or no professional input as to developmental readiness and continuity of instruction.  Teacher satisfaction with their chosen vocation ranges from apathy to frustration and anger; many seek to retire early and others will simply leave teaching for more personally satisfying circumstances.

That said, CEA leadership has repeatedly lost opportunities to protect the integrity, love, and commitment that teachers have historically had for their profession.

– Slow to respond as the Common Core was forced top-down by the federal department of education onto state departments and subsequently onto locally-elected school boards.

– Slow to educate its members of the continuous threats to the delivery of instruction that teachers work hard to present to their students every day across the state.

– Slow to recognize that the old paradigm of political gamesmanship is no longer effective in defending teachers and enhancing student learning.

– Failure to mobilize teacher energy and commitment when hundreds of teachers articulately spoke out during 2014 Regional Winter Meetings across CT.

– Failure to take the opportunity to deliver a Minority Opinion or Report at the conclusion of the Governor’s Common Core Implementation Task Force which was prevented by design from asking the right questions.

– Failure to publicize its own member-supported positions that were passed overwhelmingly by delegates at the 2014 CEA Representative Assembly.

– Failure to respect the opinions and recommendations of membership and its own Political Action Committee in overriding their gubernatorial choice for “no endorsement” in order to give approval to Governor Malloy and his failed education agenda.

Despite their combative rhetoric at in-house meetings and their better-late-than-never rally against egregious and unproven standardized testing, CEA leadership continues to negotiate and accept minor revisions to reformist policies and promote these as victories with membership.  CEA leadership is shortsighted, has failed its membership, and continues to allow the destruction of public education across the state.  Although change is hard, the time for change is NOW.

As veteran Glastonbury teachers with a range of recent classroom experience, local union leadership activism, and political experience in their local school districts,

The WALSH/MINNICK Team offers

NEW INSIGHTS … NEW ENERGY … TRANSPARENCY … RESOLVE.

Like our neighboring state to the north, Connecticut’s teachers are ready to move on and push-back against the failed educational policies of the last few years.  As educators, we represent a consistently strong record of performance results with our students.  It’s time to change the narrative and it will require a change in leadership to do so.

John R. Bestor

2015 CEA RA delegate

Westport Education Association

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