Where the hell are CT’s union leaders as AFT National President Randi Weingarten supports parents who opt out


According to a breaking story posted by the nation’s leading public education advocate Diane Ravitch,   Randi Weingarten – the national president of the American Federation of Teachers – has announced her strong support for parents who are opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing.

Diane Ravitch reports that Weingarten announced yesterday that, “if she were a parent of children in the public schools… she would opt out too.”

As Diane Ravitch goes on to explain opting out is,

“A clear, unambiguous message to governors and legislators, to Congress and the Obama administration that testing is out of control.

Testing is not teaching.

Since the passage of NCLB in 2001-02, billions of dollars have been spent on test prep and testing. In the case of the Common Core tests, the results are not reported for 4-6 months, the teacher is not allowed to see what students got right or wrong.

The tests have no diagnostic value. None. They are used solely to rank and rate students, teachers, principals, and schools.

Furthermore, they are designed to fail the majority of students because of the absurd “cut scores” (passing mark)… Most children will “fail” …

We are the most over tested nation in the world.”

Ravitch is absolutely right and the list of teacher unions and teacher union leaders who are supporting parents’ right to opt out of the disastrous Common Core testing scheme continues to grow.

But here in Connecticut the silence from the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter remains deafening…

Is kowtowing to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Corporate Education Reform Industry worth so much that these some union leaders will refuse to step forward and defend Connecticut’s parents, students and teachers who understand just how bad the Common Core SBAC test is for our children and our schools?

Malloy’s thin skin and vengeance is legendary but there is simply no excuse for the lack of action on the part of the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions.

Last fall, the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter endorsed Dannel Malloy without even allowing other candidates to fill out a questionnaire, meet with their political endorsing committee or address their executive committee.

The leadership of the Connecticut Education Association went so far as to overrule their own political endorsing committee who had voted that the teachers’ union should make “no endorsement” in the race for governor because Malloy’s policies and actions during his first term were so anti-teacher and anti-public schools.

Yet despite that support, Malloy has continued his anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-charter initiatives.

But it is not too late for Connecticut’s teachers’ unions to make a difference.

All across the country, teacher unions are standing up for their teachers and for the students and parents who make up their communities by supporting the opt-out movement.

In nearby New York the following list of teacher unions have endorsed resolutions supporting the right of parents to opt out of the Common Core testing.

Amityville Teachers’ Association
Associated Teachers of Huntington
Babylon Teachers’ Association
Baldwin Teachers Association
Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association
Bellmore-Merrick United Secondary Teachers
Bellport Teachers Association
Bethpage Congress of Teachers
Brentwood Teachers Association
Brockport Teachers Association
Camden Teachers Association
Carmel Teachers’ Association
Center Moriches Teachers’ Association
Central Islip Teachers Association
Clarkstown Teachers Association
Commack Teachers Association
Connetquot Teachers Association
Cortland United Teachers
Deer Park Teachers’ Association
East Williston Teachers’ Association
Elwood Teachers Alliance
Farmingdale Federation of Teachers
Freeport Teachers Association
Fulton Teachers Association
Garden City Teachers’ Association
Glen Cove Teachers’ Association
Half Hollow Hills Teachers’ Association
Hamburg Teachers Association
Hauppauge Teachers Association
Hastings Teachers Association
Hewlett-Woodmere Faculty Association
Hicksville Congress of Teachers
Ichabod Crane Teachers Association
Islip Teachers Association
Kingston Teachers Federation
Lancaster Central Teachers Association
Lake Shore Central Teachers’ Association
Lakeland Federation of Teachers
Lawrence Teachers’ Association
Levittown Teachers Union
Lindenhurst Teachers Association
Little Flower Teachers Association
Locust Valley School Employees Association
Lynbrook Teachers Association
Merrick Faculty Association
Middle Country Teachers Association
Middle Island Teachers Association
Miller Place Teachers Association
MORE Caucus (NYC)
New Hartford Teachers Association
New Paltz United Teachers
New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees
New York Mills Teachers’ Association
North Babylon Teachers’ Organization
North Bellmore Teachers Association
North Merrick Faculty Association
North Rockland Teachers Association
North Shore Schools Federated Employees
North Syracuse Education Association
Oceanside Federation of Teachers
Oneonta Teachers’ Association
Orchard Park Teachers Association
Patchogue-Medford Congress of Teachers
Plainedge Federation of Teachers
Plainview-Old Beth Page Congress of Teachers
Port Jefferson Teachers Association
Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association
Ramapo Teachers Association
Rocky Point Teachers Association
Rockville Centre Teachers’ Association
Rome Teachers Association
Sauquoit Valley Teachers Association
Sherburne-Earlville Teachers’ Association
Smithtown Teachers Association
Spencerport Teachers Association
Springville Faculty Association
Shoreham Wading River Teachers Association
Three Village Teachers Association
Troy Teachers Association
United Teachers of Harborfields
United Teachers of Northport
United Teachers of Seaford
Valley Stream Teachers Association
Waterville Teachers Association
West Babylon Teachers Association
West Canada Valley Teachers Association
West Genesee Teachers’ Association
West Hempstead Education Association
West Islip Teachers’ Association
West Seneca Teachers Association

Add the New York State United Teachers Association and now the president of the entire AFT union.

Connecticut’s parents and students deserve no less!

CEA and AFT-CT  – Now is the time to stand up and speak out.

Parents – If you opt your child out of the SBAC Test, DO NOT ALLOW them to be left in the testing room

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When it comes to parents opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Testing Program, one of the most incredible and disturbing issues is that Governor Malloy’s administration continues to allow some school superintendents to force children who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test to remain in the testing rooms.

Forcing children who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test to remain in the testing room – for the eight plus hours of SBAC testing – is an immoral and unethical form of bullying.  No superintendent should allow, let alone condone this type of bullying and abuse and yet superintendents in Fairfield, West Haven, Enfield, Hamden and a handful of other towns are doing just that.

If they won’t be guided by appropriate ethical behavior at least these superintendents should recognize that the SBAC Testing Protocol clearly forbids children who have been opted out to remain in the testing classrooms.

Some superintendents have claimed that staff at the State Department of Education have told them that the SBAC test protocol requiring that children who are not being tested be re-located to another room is “discretionary.”

However, there is absolutely no evidence that such has been approved by the SBAC organization and the written SBAC protocol is hardly discretionary.  The requirement that children who are not taking the test be relocated to another room during the testing period is specifically addressed in a number of SBAC official documents including the Test Administration Manual (TAM) and the Test Coordinator Manual (TCM.)

According to the Test Coordinator Manual;

“This manual provides Test Coordinators with information needed to complete specific tasks before, during, and after the administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments…”

As with the SBAC Test Administration Manual, the SBAC protocol requires that,

“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.” Test Coordinators Manual (TCM) Page 25.”

Superintendents should be very aware of the repercussions from failing to follow the SBAC protocol because it is listed right in the manuals themselves.

The requirement on removing non-testing children is part of the section on “Security of the Test Environment” and the section adds that failure to follow the rules,

“[M]ay lead to the invalidation of an entire school district’s student test scores, disruption of the test system state-wide, and legal action against the individual(s) committing the breach. A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation. The Connecticut State Department of Education will investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education, and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law.  See Section 10-145b(j) (1) of the Connecticut General Statutes which reads in relevant part as follows: The State Board of Education shall revoke any certificate, authorization or permit issued pursuant to said sections if the holder is found to have intentionally disclosed specific questions or answers to students or otherwise improperly breached the security of any administration of a statewide examination pursuant to Section 10-14n.”

Superintendents who leave children in the testing room are intentionally breaching the security of the test as mandated by the SBAC Test Administration Manual and Test Coordinators Manual.

A request for an investigation and appropriate disciplinary action has already been filed with appropriate officials but if any parents are aware of specific instances where children were required to remain in the testing room or have been told that their child will be forced to stay in the testing room, they are asked to send statement that includes when the violation took place, where it took place and any information about which school officials were involved in the breach of the SBAC test protocol.

Information should be sent to [email protected] and any and all specific examples will be provided to investigators.

The following is a list of school districts in which superintendents have allegedly forced students to remain in SBAC testing rooms or have said that students who are opted out of the SBAC test will not be relocated to an alternative location where they can read and do homework.

Fairfield Superintendent David Title 203-255-8277

Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500

West Haven Superintendent Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300

Hamden Superintendent Jody Ian Goeler (203) 407-2090

Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110

Woodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453


Again, readers who have information about additions or deletions to this list are asked to send news to [email protected] along with any specific information about school districts that are bullying children or parents or violating the SBAC test protocol in any way.

A special opportunity to hear the truth about “Education Reform”

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In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act. – George Orwell

Hosted by Robert Hannafin, Dean of Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions comes a unique opportunity to hear from Wendy Lecker, Jonathan Pelto, Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice and nationally renowned Education expert and advocate Yohuru Williams.

In their one and only joint appearance


March 31, 2015

6:30 p.m. -8:00 p.m.

Oak Room

Barone Campus Center

Fairfield University

Open to the public and free [Very much the corporate education reform industry]


NY Teacher Union President Karen Magee calls for mass opt out but still silence from CT’s Teacher Unions


Karen Magee, president of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has called for a mass opt out from New York’s Common Core Testing Scheme.  In a powerful and courageous move the New York State United Teachers is launching a public relations effort to support parents who are opting their children out of the Common Core PARCC Testing program, the Connecticut equivalent of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

Karen Magee announced today that the New York Teachers Union was engaging in a campaign to help and support parents who are opting their children out of the Common Core Testing.  The union also posted information on its website instructing parents on how to opt out.  Magee said,

 “I’m a parent… [If my son was] a third to eighth grader, he would not be taking the test. The tests are not valid indicators. The American Statistical Association has said there is no direct link to tie these tests to student performance or teacher evaluation. Let’s look at tests that are diagnostic in nature, that actually inform practice in the classroom, that actually work to serve students who are directly sitting in front of the teacher for the year as opposed to what we have in place right now.”

By publicly endorsing and support the opt out effort, the New York State United Teachers join dozens of other teacher union locals who have already voiced their support for parents who are refusing to have their children take the Common Core Testing.

Martin Walsh, who is the challenge candidate for president of the CEA in this spring’s CEA election, and his running mate Scott Minnick, who is running for vice president, have both been extremely public in their support of parents who are opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test.  Minnick, who is a teacher and a member of his local board of education, has actually opted his children out of the Common Core SBAC Testing.

You can read more about their positions here:

Martin Walsh – A CT teacher stands up for CT parents and their right to opt-out

Scott Minnick – Parent, Teacher and Board of Ed member says opt out!

As New ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Delivered, Some Students Say No – Hartford Courant

CT Teacher Martin Walsh Slams Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme

But from Connecticut’s two major teacher unions…. Nothing.

For the past three years Governor Dannel Malloy and the Corporate Education Reform Industry have been engaged in an unending attack on Connecticut’s teachers, the teaching profession and the state’s public education system

Just as parents in the State of Connecticut need to step forward and do more to support teachers against this unethical assault, teachers and their unions need to be far more aggressive in speaking out in defense of parents who are opting their children out of the disastrous Common Core SBAC Tests.

Connecticut’s two teacher unions – the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – have said that they want to phase out the SBAC Test, but it is disappointing that neither of the two teacher unions have taken a strong and proactive stance in support of parents and their fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

The time is now for Connecticut’s teacher unions to listen to their colleagues from around the country.  Like the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter should announce their unwavering support for the right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

CT Charter Schools are a vehicle for segregation


The numbers tell the true story. 

According to reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education, Connecticut’s Charter Schools are more racially segregated than the communities in which they are located.

While the State of Connecticut spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to reduce racial isolation in our urban school districts, as required by Connecticut’s Constitution and Courts, Governor Dannel Malloy is pumping more than $100 million a year into Connecticut Charter Schools despite the fact that they have become a primary vehicle for the segregation of our public school system.

Here is the data:

School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Hartford School District 89%
Jumoke Charter School 100%
Achievement First – Hartford 100%


School District/Charter School Percent Minority
New Haven School District 85%
Achievement First – Amistad 98%
Achievement First – Elm City 99%
Highville Charter School 99%
Common Ground Charter School 99%


School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Stamford School System 66%
Stamford Academy Charter School 96%
Trailblazers Charter School 96%


School District/Charter School Percent Minority
Bridgeport School System 91%
Achievement First – Bridgeport 99%
Bridge Academy Charter School 98%
New Beginnings Charter School 99%


Sixty years ago,  the historic Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education determined that when it comes to public schools, separating out child on the basis of race, violated the most fundamental tenets of the United States Constitution and was therefore illegal.

The United State Supreme Court held segregation was segregation, whether mandated by law or allowed to exist because of a lack of laws and policies that ended up producing segregation.

Today, as the United States finds itself drowning in rising racism and segregation, Connecticut’s charter schools serve as a stark reminder that de facto segregation not only remains intact but that elected officials lack the courage, the conviction or both to stand up against the segregation that is undermining our nation…in this case privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter schools.

Late last week, as CTNewsJunkie reported in an article entitled, Ed Committee Jettisons Charter School Moratorium, the General Assembly’s Education Committee ducked their responsibility to adopt a moratorium preventing any additional charter schools in Connecticut until proper oversight was developed and the charter schools dropped their practices that lead to greater segregation and the discrimination against children that need special education services or aren’t fluent in the English Language.

Upon news of the bill’s defeat, Achievement First’s Co-CEO, Dacia Toll cheered on the legislators’ decision to look the other way on real charter school accountability saying, “The moratorium on public charter schools would have been a huge step backward.”

What an incredible statement – Stopping the expansion of charter schools until they join the effort to reduce racial isolation and end their blatant de facto discrimination against children who need help with the English Language or need special education services would be a “huge step backward?”

It is a disturbing yet telling commentary that the House Chair of the Education Committee, State Representative Andrew Fleischmann of West Hartford, and his colleagues buckled to the pressure from Governor Dannel Malloy and the charter school industry.

By failing to put a charter school moratorium in place, these public officials are effectively adding their seal of approve to the Charter School Industry’s ongoing violation of the most fundamental laws and values of the United States and the State of Connecticut.

As evident from the millions they are spending on television ads and lobbing, by wrapping themselves in the mantle of “civil rights,” the corporate-funded charter schools claim some kinship or association of the civil rights movement in the United States.

But in truth, Connecticut’s charter schools are nothing short of a vehicle for injustice.

One need only read the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and other true civil rights champions to understand the fraudulent claims being made by the charter schools.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his 1963 Great March in Detroit;

“For we have come to see that segregation is not only sociologically untenable, it is not only politically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Segregation is a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity.


No community in this country can boast of clean hands in the area of brotherhood. Now in the North it’s different in that it doesn’t have the legal sanction that it has in the South. But it has its subtle and hidden forms and it exists in three areas: in the area of employment discrimination, in the area of housing discrimination, and in the area of de facto segregation in the public schools. And we must come to see that de facto segregation in the North is just as injurious as the actual segregation in the South. And so if you want to help us in Alabama and Mississippi and over the South, do all that you can to get rid of the problem here.”

Despite their affinity for Connecticut’s charter school industry, Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials have an obligation to stop the expansion of charter schools in Connecticut and require that these publicly-funded, but privately-owned education entities start abiding by our laws or close them down.

A look back on the Wait, What? Blogs this week

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Please read and re-read, pass on the ones you think deserve more attention

No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

Sound Familiar?  The Opt-Out Battle in New York makes Washington Post

Pelto calls for investigation and disciplinary action into violations of the SBAC Testing Protocol and the related bullying of children

Teachers Matter

No really… Students who aren’t taking SBAC Test MUST be removed from testing rooms

Martin Walsh – A CT teacher stands up for CT parents and their right to opt-out

Not my daughter: How one dad opted out his kindergartner from standardized testing

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

Look-Out – He’s got our credit card and he is going nuts!

CT Capitol Report Headline Reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

Hello Superintendents – Common Core SBAC Test “Mandate” is not like Connecticut’s truancy laws.

Common Core SBAC Test – Connecticut wrong, Vermont right!

No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.


The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is designed to ensure that the vast majority of Connecticut public school students are deemed failures after taking this year’s Common Core SBAC tests.

Here are the projected results for this year’s SBAC test for 6th graders.  [The information comes from the SBAC organization’s own report.]

Projected Common Core SBAC Results for 6th Graders

English/ Language Arts  6th Grade Percent failing to reach goal
All 6th Graders 60% Fail Rate
African American 6th Graders 75% Fail Rate
Latino 6th Graders 74% Fail Rate
6th Graders (Special Education) 90% Fail Rate
6th Graders (English Language Learners 95% Fail Rate


The Common Core SBAC test is designed to ensure failure because it is testing children at 2-3 grade levels above their present curriculum and because it requires significant computer skills just to get through the test.

The Common Core SBAC test is also extraordinarily expensive, in part because all children must take the test on updated computers, using updated software and utilizing expanded internet bandwidth.

In California, another state that is using the Common Core SBAC test, cost data that is part of a major lawsuit being brought by local school districts reveal that the total cost of the Common Core SBAC Testing farce could be $250 – $500 dollars per child, per year.

Here in Connecticut, the Malloy administration is providing significantly less than 20 percent of the cost of implementing the SBAC testing program, meaning local property taxpayers are literally shelling out tens of millions of dollars for a test that is designed to fail their children.

But rather than tell the truth about the Common Core SBAC testing scam, the corporate education reform industry and their allies are engaged in an unprecedented effort to mislead student, parents, teachers and the public about the SBAC test.

Equally offensive, these corporate funded lobbyists have joined with the Malloy administration and some school superintendents to try and stop parents from opting their children out of these tests and punishing children whose parents have opted them out.

In what may well be the  most incredible and absurd defense of the Common Core SBAC test written to date, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded front group for the Common Core and Charter Schools recently published an article entitled, “For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity.”

Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, is a registered lobbyist whose compensation package is in excess of $150,000 a year.  His job is to promote the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.

In a truly bizarre defense of the unfair and discriminatory SBAC test, the front man for the Common Core and Charter School front group writes,

For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity

I have my annual physical this week. It’s not something I look forward to, and I particularly dislike the associated blood test. Nonetheless, the test provides my doctor and me with important information about my health, and we use that data to make decisions that help me live a healthier life. It makes me think: there are some interesting parallels to the standardized assessment that my own children, and all Connecticut children in grades 3-8 and 11, take annually.


I appreciate the value of the SBAC test because I know firsthand that grades don’t provide parents with enough information. In my experience within the public education system, grading practices from teacher to teacher and school to school vary enormously. That’s why I rely upon standardized assessments to accurately understand where my own children stand. If any of my children are behind in school, knowing that early is an opportunity; it gives me time to prepare them before they graduate high school, rather than finding out they’re behind once they’re enrolled in expensive remedial classes in college.


The comparability of the data among students, schools, and districts is also important. Since I am divorced, my children attend schools in two different towns, and I want to be sure that both school systems are preparing them equally for the future. Absent a comparable measure such as the SBAC, it would be hard for me to know.

Despite these benefits, many parents are still concerned about over-testing. Some expend an incredible amount of energy trying to opt their children out of the SBAC. I want to alert these parents to the important benefits of having access to standardized assessment data. Also, my unsolicited advice to concerned parents is this: consider speaking with a principal about your district’s high school graduation requirements. In your earnest efforts to do what is right for your children, you may be inadvertently creating problems; under Connecticut law, districts are generally required to incorporate test results into graduation requirements. There are some exceptions, but you should confirm that your children can still graduate if they miss the test.


Some parents have inadvertently pushed their children into more testing by choosing to enroll them in the Advanced Placement (AP) courses that impress the most prestigious colleges and universities. It’s hard to argue against demonstrating mastery in these advanced courses. However, when stacked on top of SAT and ACT tests in high school, these additional exams may contribute to the notion that there’s too much testing these days.

And Villar concludes,

It’s also possible that when parents talk about schools over-testing their kids, they’re referring to their districts “prepping” kids for the state test. This ill-fated attempt to quickly improve testing results simply doesn’t work, and it does not come from a faulty state-testing system.

Seasoned educators know that the best ways to prepare children to succeed on tests are to engage them in a curriculum that is challenging, to give teachers enough time and resources, and to encourage students to do their best. Somewhat similarly, there is little that I can do to prepare for the blood test at my annual physical in the short term. Only long-term efforts at exercising regularly and eating well will help me pass the test.

Villar’s incredible statements are so misleading that they cross the line into outright lies.

What is worse is that as a former superintendent of schools, Villar knows that he is not providing his readers with the truth.

For starters, here is one important bit of information for Connecticut parents.

It is against state law for a Connecticut school district to require a student to take or pass the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test in order to graduate.  The district cannot make passing the SBAC test a required element for graduation, in fact, a school district can’t even require a student take the SBAC test in order to graduate.

Furthermore, there is no federal or state law that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Even the Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, told a legislative hearing that neither the state nor a school district could punish a child who is opted out of the test.

But like others spokesmen for the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Mr. Villar apparently believes he is not bounded by any moral or ethical duty to tell the truth.

It is a shockingly sad statement, and a powerful commentary on our times, that a leading proponent of the Common Core and the Common Core SBAC testing would engage in blatant lying in order to try and mislead students, parents, teachers and the public.

I have challenged Mr. Villar to debate these issues three times over the past few weeks and each time he has failed to respond.

Rather than spew indefensible statements, the corporate education reform industry should release their talking heads to come out here into the real word and debate their positions in a public forum that would allow the media and citizens to finally learn the truth.

Oh, and if the actions being taken by Mr. Villar and Connecticut Council on Education Reform aren’t offensive enough, check back with Wait, What? this coming week to find out just who is funding these anti-teacher, anti-parent, anti-student, and anti-public school tactics.

Sound Familiar?  The Opt-Out Battle in New York makes Washington Post

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Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss covers education and runs Washington Post’s, “The Answer Sheet blog.”

Today the Washington Post focused on the opt out movement in New York.  The unethical and abusive techniques being used by the New York State Department of Education and some local New York school officials sound eerily similar to the problems Connecticut parents are facing in some local school districts here.

The Washington post explains,

New York state has been at the forefront of the opt-out movement, with some 60,000 parents last year deciding not to allow their children to take these tests. Activists say they expect more this year, and as activity around this issue grows, so too does pushback from some school officials. This post, by Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis, explains what is going on right now in New York.

By Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis

New York is on the leading edge of a growing national Opt Out movement—a movement that galvanizes the energy of parents, teachers and administrators who are pushing back against the Common Core tests and standardized test-based reforms. Support for such practices has plummeted, with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education reforms dragging his approval ratings down to their lowest level ever. By more than a 2 to 1 margin, New Yorkers trust the teachers union more than the governor, and less than 30 percent want test scores to determine teacher pay and tenure.

Last year the parents of approximately 60,000 New York students in Grades 3-8 refused to have their children take the English Language Arts and mathematics exams. This year, the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of pro-public school, anti-testing advocates, are sponsoring more than 40 forums across the state, and parents are coming out in droves to express their dislike of Common Core test-based reform. One forum on Long Island, featuring Diane Ravitch, had nearly 1,500 attendees.  Other forums have drawn hundreds of parents and teachers who applaud Opt Out as the strategy to stop the attacks on public schools and teachers.

Opt Out has captured the attention of New York legislators as well. Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is infuriated by what he considers to be obfuscation on the part of the New York State Education Department, as well as some school districts, in order to discourage test refusals. During a recent interview with ABC affiliate, News 10, he said, “They [NYSED and districts] should be providing parents with the truths and the facts and their rights. And their rights are yes, they can opt out of something they haven’t opted into. They can refuse something for their kids they’ve never opted into.”

Tedisco, a former teacher, recently introduced a bill that would not only make it easier for parents to opt students out, but would also make any repercussions on students or teachers illegal. He describes the purpose of his bill as means “to starve the beast of testing.” Democratic Assemblywoman and chair of the Education Committee, Cathy Nolan, publicly announced that she would probably opt her son out if he were subjected to these tests. She describes testing as “a mania” and announced that she is working on her own bill to reaffirm a parent’s right to refuse.

Teacher associations are becoming more vocal in their opposition to Common Core testing. Over 70 local teacher associations have signed the “I Refuse” resolution, which not only decries high-stakes testing, but encourages teachers to opt their own children out of the tests. Teachers have spoken in opposition to the Common Core tests at board meetings as well.

The Ken-Ton School Board is threatening to not give the tests, and to not use test scores in teacher evaluations. The school board of Fairport, New York is considering doing the same.

Meanwhile, the reactions of New York school districts to Opt Out have ranged from tacit approval, to discouragement and outright threats. Reactions are a result, in part, of the mixed, unclear messages sent by the State Education Department, which has insisted that Opt Out doesn’t exist because the tests are required by federal law. Although Deputy Commissioner Wagner told the press that parents do not have the right to refuse, he admitted, when pressed, that there is nothing that forbids parent refusal.

The Patchogue Medford School District firmly believes that parents should be the decision makers when it comes to Grades 3-8 state tests. The district website affirms a parent’s right to refuse and makes it clear that there will be no consequences for the student if they opt out. Southold Schools, like the majority of districts around the state, including New York City, will allow opt outers to read during the test. The Southold PTA has posted information on how parents can refuse the test on its Facebook page. Even the Williamsville School District, which took a “hardline” approach last year and required opt outers to “sit and stare” during the test, will now allow students to sit at their desks and quietly read.

Still others are attempting to stop Opt Out, using a combination of shaming, threats and misinformation. Some superintendents suggested that schools will lose state funding if they fall below 95 percent participation even though the New York State Education Department has stated that test refusal will have no effect on state aid. The Dobbs Ferry School District, while objecting to testing, claims that opt outers “diminish the excellent work of teachers” and unfairly penalize teacher evaluations, a claim that is blatantly untrue. There is no evidence that the much maligned “growth scores” are adversely affected by the exclusion of some scores, and if the number of test takers drops enough, the teacher does not receive a growth score at all.

In order to discourage Opt Outs, the superintendent of the Otselic Valley Schools made the claim that if fewer than 95 percent of students take the test, “the state comes in, runs the day to day activities of a school, and sends the district a bill for doing it.” However not only would it take three years before a school in good standing could be labeled a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) School, that designation would not result in a takeover by the state. Rather the school would be required to craft a plan to encourage greater test participation and there would be no loss in funding.

Otselic went even further in its quest to prevent Opt Outs. According to Charlene Smith, a parent in that district, when she sent an email to school staff politely informing them that her children would not take the Common Core tests, she received an email from the superintendent threatening to block her email address and informing her that he will not allow staff to respond to her email without his inspection and approval.

The Phoenix School District is using a “we’ll fix your wagon” strategy to discourage parents’ from opting out. Parents are told that if they refuse to have their children take the Common Core tests, the school will give their kids a “rigorous” alternative test during the state testing time and the test make-up time.

Whether superintendents tell their communities that they are just following orders, punish children with “sit and stare,” or promulgate false information about state takeovers and loss of funding, it is clear that the Opt Out movement is here to stay. The tactics of pressure, threats and obfuscation are infuriating legislators who are receiving parent complaints. Corporate reformers have overplayed their hand.   Parents and teachers have had enough and they are saying it loudly and clearly through Opt Out.

You can read the full blog at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/27/as-testing-opt-out-movement-grows-so-does-pushback-from-schools/

Pelto calls for investigation and disciplinary action into violations of the SBAC Testing Protocol and the related bullying of children


Education advocate Jonathan Pelto is calling on Attorney General George Jepsen, the Connecticut State Auditors and the General Assembly’s Education Committee to investigate the inappropriate and potentially illegal actions being taken by Governor Malloy’s administration and a group of public school superintendents in violation of prescribed testing protocols for the Common Core SBAC testing.  Pelto is also asking the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the State’s Child Advocate to step in and stop the abusive bullying and punishment that is being perpetrated by some school superintendents and local school officials against children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing.

“For weeks the Malloy administration, led by Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and a group of school superintendents including Fairfield Superintendent David Title have been engaged in an unethical and immoral effort to prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and punishing children whose parents have opted them out of the testing.”  Pelto said

“In direct violation of the SBAC Testing Protocol and their own professional code of conduct, school superintendents in Fairfield, Enfield, West Haven, Hamden, Shelton, Woodstock and a handful of other towns are punishing, or have said they will be punishing, children including third graders, who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by requiring those children to sit and stay in the SBAC testing rooms. These parents have specifically requested providing them with an alternative location in which to read a book or do homework during the eight plus hours of SBAC testing which would ensure that schools are not violating SBAC Testing Protocols which clearly state that only students taking the SBAC tests should be in the rooms where the test is being administered.”

Pelto explained that forcing children who have been opted out of the testing to remain in the testing room is nothing short of bullying and abuse because it creates unnecessary anxiety, embarrassment and a potential sense of humiliation, while fostering an environment of resentment as remaining students are forced to take the unfair tests while the students who have been opted out are forced to sit in the testing room for more than 8 hours.

“As if engaging in bullying and abuse wasn’t bad enough, these superintendents and school administrators know, or should know, that the SBAC Testing protocol prohibits children who have opted out of the test from remaining in the testing room,” Pelto said.

Pelto pointed out that the requirement that children who are not taking the test must be removed from the testing room is unequivocal.  According Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, in section 3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10) and section 3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)

Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered

The SBAC Test Administration Manual clearly states only students who log-in to the SBAC Test are participantsTherefore, if a child has been opted out of the test and is not signing in to the test is not participating and cannot remain in the testing room.

Pelto urged appropriate officials to intervene and investigate these violations noting, “As long as the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Connecticut remain intact, parents have the fundamental and inalienable right to refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.  Furthermore there is no federal or state law that allows the state or local school districts to punish a child (or parent) who has opted their child out of these destructive tests. The unwarranted and outrageous attack on parental rights by Governor Malloy’s administration and some school superintendents must be stopped”

An example of a local school district’s bullying behavior can be seen in the recent letter from Fairfield Superintendent David Title who wrote the following to parents seeking to opt their children out of the SBAC tests;

“Students who chose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate”

In Enfield, Superintendent Schumann informed parents seeking to opt their children out that their children would be required to stay in the classroom with their fellow students during the testing periods and that, “His hands are tied and that their rules come from the state.”

In West Haven teachers were instructed to tell parents that children opted out would be required to sit quietly in their testing room during the eight plus hours of testing.

School officials in at least three towns reported that when they called the State Department of Education for guidance about the sit and stay policy they were told that the mandatory SBAC Test Administration Manual was a set of guidelines and it was up to the town to decide whether to require children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to sit and stay in the classroom or whether to relocate students to the library or some other safe location where they could read or do homework.

Superintendents allegedly violating the SBAC Testing Protocol and engaging in bullying include:

Fairfield Superintendent David Title 203-255-8277

Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500

West Haven Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300

Hamden Jody Ian Goeler (203) 407-2090

Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110

Wooodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453

Teachers Matter


True, teachers don’t matter to the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the people who are pushing the Common Core and the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Testing Scheme.

And teachers don’t seem to matter to people like Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who is not only an adherent to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing fiasco but remains the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose eliminating tenure for all public school teachers and rescinding collective bargaining rights for teachers working in the state’s poorest school districts. [Although it is valuable to note that New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly a top contender for being the most anti-teacher governor in the country.]

But people out here in the real world know that teachers matter.

Teachers matter a lot…

We all remember teachers that mattered to us when we were young, and for those of us with children, we treasure and appreciate the teachers that matter and have made a difference in our own children’s lives.

Teachers matter when they make international headlines, like the incredible individuals who gave their lives trying to protect their students over in Newtown, Connecticut.

But the amazing thing about teachers is that they matter when their deeds are deemed truly heroic and they matter when they are simply “doing their jobs.”

Sadly, disturbingly, shockingly, the United States is witnessing the greatest assault on public education in our lifetimes. Greed, stupidity, ignorance, and even more greed are behind the historic effort to denigrate teachers, turn our schools into little more than Common Core Testing factories, and destroy the concept of a true and comprehensive public education system.

In the name of preparing children to be “college and career” ready the forces behind the corporate education reform industry are undermining the very essence of the teaching profession and public education in the United States.

And the root of their ignorance (or stupidity) is their failure to truly understand that teachers matter.

As the founder, along with leading public education advocate Diane Ravitch, of what is called the Education Bloggers Network, I’ve had the tremendous honor of working with, getting to know and regularly reading the writing of more than 230 education bloggers who are collectively and individually fighting for public education and against the destructive tactics of the so-called “education reformers.”

Many of these bloggers and commentators have used their voices to help remind their readers that teachers matter.

One such article was posted earlier this week by an educator and teacher from Washington State who goes by the name of Teacher Tom.  And while he was simply telling about a moment in his day, this post, like many that Teacher Tom writes, served as a an extraordinary reminder that teachers matter…

Please take a moment and read Teacher Tom’s blog post entitled, You Want Mommy To Come Back.”  I am confident that it will remind you, like it reminded me, that teachers matter.

Sometimes mommy has to leave and you don’t want her to leave.

When I started teaching, I was a distractor. In fact, I considered myself a master distractor. I had every confidence that I could calm any kid down in less than five minutes through a combination of goofing, enthusiasm, and “Look what those kids are doing over there!” Today, I’m more inclined to simply sit with a crying child, to listen to any words they might be trying to say, to show warmth and empathy, to assure them that mommy always comes back, and to allow them the full arc of their strong emotion. Most kids still stop crying in less than five minutes, but that’s no longer the goal now that my priority is their feelings rather than my discomfort with their feelings.

So when mommy left last Friday, when he reached out to mommy as she walked away, when he screamed and cried and pulled himself from my arms, when he dropped to the floor to kick his feet in outrage, I sat there with him, blocking out the whole world but him.

I could hear he was saying words as he screamed, but they weren’t at first discernible, so I said, “You’re mad that mommy left,” and “You’re sad that mommy left.” No one can truly tell another how they feel, but I was pretty sure I was close to the mark in this case. He was still saying the words through his tears, repeating them. Finally, I thought I made out, “I want mommy to come back.”

I wanted him to know that he had been heard, that I understood and empathized, and I wanted it to be something that was true, so I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

He shout-cried at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

I nodded. I worked on keeping my voice gentle. I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

And he said back, “I want mommy to come back!”

We went back and forth like this several times. He seemed to really wanted me to know that he wanted his mommy to come back.

Other children tried to sooth him: one girl brought him a costume, another tried to hand him a construction paper fire truck. He didn’t accept their overtures, although he was by now present enough to shake his head “no” at them rather than simply scream as he was doing at me.

By now he was very clearly saying, “I want mommy to come back!” And I was replying, “I want your mommy to come back too,” to which he always shout-cried back, “I want mommy to come back!”

I continued to attempt to put a name to his feelings, using words like “mad,” “sad,” and “angry,” as well as to state the truth that “mommy always comes back.” But whenever I said, “I want your mommy to come back too,” he shouted at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

Then, finally, I really heard him. He said, “I want mommy to come back!” stressing the pronoun for his tin-eared teacher.

This time I answered, “You want mommy to come back.”

He nodded as if to say, “Finally,” and in one motion picked himself from the floor, stepped up to the art table, still crying, and got to work gluing construction paper shapes to a red fire truck pre-cut, his hands not fully under his own control. As he wadded and creased the paper, it looked almost as if he were wrestling with it, his fingers clenching and curling from the emotion that was still coursing through his whole body.

After a couple minutes, he became silent as he concentrated on manipulating the small pieces of paper, the last of his strong emotion going into this construction project.

I said one more time, “You want mommy to come back.” This time he ignored me.

You can read more of Teacher Tom’s posts at http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/

And you can find out more about the Education Bloggers Network on our emerging website at: http://edubloggers.org/

And remember, no matter how much the anti-public education forces deny it, teachers matter.

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