More about the extremely disappointing CCJEF v. Rell ruling by Wendy Lecker

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The mass media was quick to fixate on the one “positive” element of the recent CCJEF v. Rell school funding lawsuit ruling, missing the many series problems associated with decision.

In her first piece, Problems with the CCJEF Decision – Will equity without adequacy be enough to help Connecticut’s neediest children?, education advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker looked at the school finance portion of the judge’s action.  Here, in Demanding more in elementary schools, she looks at some of the education policy elements of the ruling.

This piece first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on the original at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Demanding-more-in-elementary-schools-9242568.php

More about the extremely disappointing CCJEF v. Rell ruling by Wendy Lecker

As noted in my previous column, CCJEF trial judge Thomas Moukawsher refused to order the state to ensure adequate resources in schools, though determining constitutional adequacy was his responsibility. By contrast, the judge freely issued sweeping directives regarding educational policy.

The judge issued far-reaching orders involving elementary and high school education and teacher evaluations. He also aired abhorrent views toward children with disabilities, which several commentators already addressed.

This column addresses his orders regarding elementary education. I will address the others in subsequent columns.

Moukawsher observed that the educational disparities in secondary school begin in elementary school. (He actually acknowledged that they begin before elementary school, but declined to rule that preschool is essential.)

Moukawsher’s “fix” for elementary school was to order the state to define elementary education as being “primarily related to developing basic literacy and numeracy skills needed for secondary school.”

Most of us understand that to thrive in secondary school, children must develop skills beyond basic numeracy and literacy. From an early age, children must develop the ability to think critically, creatively and independently.

There is no real division among brain functions — cognitive, social and motor — so they all must be developed in concert. As neuroscientist Adele Diamond observed, “a human being is not just an intellect or just a body … we ignore any of those dimensions at our peril in … educating children.”

However, Moukawsher ruled that elementary school should concern itself with basic literacy and numeracy skills. Moreover, he demanded that this definition have “force,” “substantial consequences” and be “verifiable” — code for high-stakes statewide standardized elementary school exit exams.

The judge’s myopic focus was emphasized by his suggestion for giving the required definition “force.” He declared that the state definition “might gain some heft, for example, if the rest of school stopped for students who leave third grade without basic literacy skills. School for them might be focused solely on acquiring those skills. Eighth-grade testing would have to show they have acquired those skills before they move on to secondary school. This would give the schools four school years to fix the problem for most children.”

Many children who do not score well on standardized tests are poor and experience stress in their lives that inhibits learning. Others are just learning English. Others have disabilities. Any lag in reading does not mean a child cannot think at grade level or beyond. Moreover, many low-income children have limited exposure to the wide variety of experiences their more affluent peers enjoy. Yet Moukawsher’s prescription for “fixing” them is to limit their education to reading instruction. No art, music, physical education, social studies, science, drama, or field trips. This “solution” will leave our neediest children further behind developmentally.

Moukawsher’s proposal not only threatens to hinder development for our neediest children. It is not even an effective way to teach reading.

As Wheelock College’s Diane Levin explains, children cannot learn to read in a vacuum. The more children can make associations between words and their experiences, the better readers they become. Exposure to wide-ranging subjects and activities is part of learning to read. It is especially crucial for disadvantaged children, who may have limited life experiences outside school.

Moreover, learning to read requires engagement. Children must see the value of reading and writing in helping them get better at something that they like to do.

The Kansas Supreme Court understood this concept when it ordered that Kansas must ensure a host of programs as part of a constitutionally adequate education. The court recognized that “modern schools … have sought to aid students whose individual circumstances … diminish their ability to learn. Some examples … are programs providing breakfast or lunch, pre-school or after school programs, all day kindergarten, field trips, or even theater, band, or athletic endeavors, all which broaden one’s base of association such that it may spark inquiry, acceptance, or, otherwise, give purpose to the pursuit of an education.”

What type of education is necessary for Connecticut’s children? Should we merely try pouring words into their heads? Or should we heed what modern science reveals about how children learn and ensure that every child, not matter what her circumstance, has the opportunity to learn basic and complex skills, so that she can develop into a responsible citizen?

Judge Moukawsher opted for the former, constricted view — one that experts know fails to accomplish even his meager goals.

Connecticut must demand better than that if we want to achieve the equal educational opportunities our constitution demands.

 

Surprise!  CT Legislature decides to function in the dark

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As the former House Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigation Committee, I’ve waited with baited breath as Connecticut’s legislative leaders’ contemplated ways to trim their generous legislative branch budget.

One option facing the Democratic-controlled Legislative Management Committee was to reduce the number of partisan, political staff that serve as the part-time legislator’s year-around aides.

Alternatively, legislative leaders announced that would have to consider taking the unprecedented and illogical step of eliminating the professional staff who work for the critically important Program Review and Investigation Committee, the primary entity that allows the legislature to investigate and oversee Executive Branch programs.

What, oh what, would legislative leaders do faced with such a “difficult” decision?

Should they take a small step that might reduce their power of incumbency or decide it is better to simply fly blind when it comes to the Legislative Branch’s oversight function.

With the stark headline, CT legislature’s chief investigative panel to lose all staff, the CT Mirror is now reporting the recent decision made by the legislative leaders.

CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf explains,

State legislative leaders have eliminated the General Assembly’s chief investigative arm, reassigning most of the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s 11-member staff to other duties in coming months.

The committee was established 44 years ago over the veto of then-Gov. Thomas Meskill.

The moves cap months of negotiations over the program review office between leaders of the Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate.

The $19.76 billion state budget enacted in May for the 2016-17 fiscal year includes a vague directive that the Legislative Branch achieve $750,000 in savings. Democratic leaders initially announced it would be achieved by eliminating six of the 12 program review staff posts.

[The] alternative, ultimately, was to eliminate the committee’s staff but let most of them remain in state employment.

[…]

During the last recession, program review staff recommended changes involving prescription drug purchasing and transitioning more nursing home patients into home care that saved just over $200 million in 2010 and 2011 combined, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

But legislative leaders have said tough fiscal decisions had to be made.

[…]

Sharkey and Looney said they value the program review office’s work but they also felt the legislative branch’s portion of the budget — albeit a small one — should sacrifice in the same way as the rest of state government.

The Republican minorities in the House and Senate had recommended cutting the entire program review operation in an alternative budget plan.

By eliminating the Program Review and Investigations Committee’s professional staff, Connecticut’s elected state senators and state representatives have taken another giant step in giving up their constitutional duty to review and investigate the actions taken by Governor Dannel Malloy and Connecticut’s Executive Branch of government.

Hooray – CT Taxpayers to cough up $220 million for Lockheed Martin Corporation

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With annual sales in excess of $50 billion a year, the gigantic Lockheed Martin Corporation purchased Sikorsky Aircraft from United Technologies Corporation last year.  Then, just last month, the mega-defense contractor announced that it would be laying off at least 150 workers at the Sikorsky Aircraft plant in order to ensure that it would, “remain competitive in the marketplace.”

Now comes word that Governor Dannel Malloy and the corporate behemoth have reached a reached a “tentative deal” in which Connecticut taxpayers will give Lockheed Martin more than $220 million dollars in return for the defense contractor’s commitment to keep Sikorsky headquartered in Connecticut and create up to 550 jobs over the next 16 years.  The company is also promising to increase total payments to Connecticut-based subcontractors between now and 2032.

While Malloy has been a huge fan of using corporate welfare to buy the loyalty of successful corporations, this particular deal will be one of the largest in Malloy’s career.

While details are a bit scarce, it appears that of the $220 million being given to Lockheed Martin, Connecticut will borrow about two-thirds of the money and reduce the company’s tax liabilities by the remainder.

Considering taxpayers will then be liable for the principal and interest associated with the borrowing scheme, the total cost to taxpayers will exceed a quarter of a billion dollars meaning the subsidy from Connecticut taxpayers to Lockheed Martin will be in the range of $500,000 to $600,000 per promised job.

The CT Mirror is reporting that the Connecticut deal includes the following elements;

  • The company would earn grants of up to $8.57 million annually over the term of the agreement by meeting benchmarks such in jobs, payroll spending, use of in-state suppliers and spending on machinery, equipment, and other long term investments.
  • Sales and use taxes would be exempted up to $5.7 million per year over the term of the agreement.
  • If Lockheed Martin exceeds the target-level employment by 100 to 550 jobs in any given year of the agreement, it will be eligible for a performance incentive grant of up to $1.9 million, for a total of up to $20 million.

Due to the size of the deal, a special session of the Connecticut General Assembly will be needed to approve the project, a session that has apparently been set for September 28, 2016,

You can read more about this developing story at:

Connecticut Offers Stratford-Based Sikorsky Incentives To Stay  (CT Newsjunkie)

Sikorsky, Malloy cut tentative deal to produce new helicopter in Connecticut (CT Mirror)

Malloy, Lockheed Martin Reach Deal to Keep Sikorsky HQ in Connecticut (Courant)

Please Read this Penetrating Indictment of the Every Student Succeeds Act by Jan Resseger

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Fellow public education advocate and education blogger Jan Resseger posted an important article today about the problems associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act.  ESSA, as it is called, replaced the ill-fated No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top federal initiatives. Both NCLB and RttT institutionalized the destructive corporate education reform policies that are turning our public schools into little more than Common Core testing factories dedicated to “test prep” around a narrow curriculum, rather than a broad-based, comprehensive education the ensures every child is provided with the knowledge and skills they will need to live more fulfilling lives,

As we are now learning, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues these failed policies and, in some ways, is even worse than its predecessors.

Jan Resseger is absolutely right, please do read this Penetrating Indictment of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Participating earlier this week in one of the Ohio Department of Education’s stakeholder meetings about the plan Ohio will be developing to submit to the U.S. Department of Education to comply with the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I watched as many people tried valiantly to frame their objections to the test-and-punish policies that have dominated federal and state education policy for more than a generation. Most people have a clear sense that something is very wrong, but framing their objections in specific policy terms is much harder. On Monday, Valerie Strauss published among the most lucid explanations I have read of what’s wrong, how the new law reproduces much of the same policy as the old No Child Left Behind, and what those of us who value our nation’s system of public education ought to be saying as we respond to these policies.

In Monday’s column, Bill Mathis and Tina Trujillo are promoting the new book they have editedLearning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act. (This blog has covered that book here and here.) The book was published by the National Education Policy Center, where Mathis is the managing director. Please read Mathis and Trujillo’s column carefully and then plan to consult the academic research collected in this important book.

In this week’s column, Mathis and Trujillo set the context for the new Every Student Succeeds Act: “Washington was euphoric. In a barren time for bi-partisan cooperation late in 2015, both Democrats and Republicans were happy to get rid of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The K-12 education law was almost universally excoriated as being a failure—particularly in that most important goal of closing the achievement gap. Looking at long-term trends from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, gains were seen in some areas but the achievement gap was stuck. NCLB provided no upward blips on the charts. Thus, it is stunning that the successor law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed by Congress last December, is basically an extension of NCLB. Fundamentally, ESSA maintains the same philosophy and direction. It is still a standardized test-driven system that is punitive in nature. The main difference is that states are now responsible for designing the enforcement systems—which must be approved by the federal government. But states will not likely make many fundamental changes. They have invested heavily in their systems, as have local schools and districts. Test-based accountability has been the law of the land for the past 30 years—which means that it is the only system that many educators have experienced. Furthermore, vendors, textbook manufacturers, testing companies, consultants and the like have a strong bias toward protecting their investment—even while acknowledging that it didn’t work.”

What are the specific problems with No Child Left Behind-style school policy?  “First, children who are hungry, suffering from malnutrition and live in substandard conditions are highly unlikely to score well on tests. We will never close the achievement gap until we close the opportunity gap… While giving considerable lip service to the plight of poor children and children of color, we have not backed-up our rhetoric with our actions… The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (of which NCLB and ESSA are the latest versions) has always been intended to address these disparities, but it has never been adequately funded.”

“Second, test-based accountability does not improve learning.  Psychologist B.F. Skinner taught us more than 60 years ago that negative reinforcement has unpredictable and undesirable consequences. Yet, we embarked on a path of test and punishment whose inevitable outcome was sadly predictable.” Mathis and Trujillo add that third, the various punishments including the prescribed school turnarounds failed. These included firing teachers, closing schools, and changing public schools into charter schools. Fourth, “The invisible hand of the market was to be the solution primarily through charters and privatizing schools… A growing body of literature shows that charter schools do not perform better than traditional public schools and they segregate schools by race and by socio-economic status.”

What about the underlying assumption of the whole scheme—that we have the capacity accurately to measure school quality?  There is a big debate going on right now about whether states should provide a single summative “grade” for the state’s schools and school districts. Here is Mathis and Trujillo’s analysis: “The problem is in defining what should be measured, how it should be tallied, and how multiple scores can be combined into one… The challenge is that schools have many purposes and each would lend itself to a different way of measuring and weighing… The companion difficulty is trying to validly represent an important feature with an imperfect measure….  What is a valid combination and weighting of… measures?  Or does one exist?  Should the math scores be double the ELA (English Language Arts) scores?  Should they be divided by the attendance rate?  Such decisions are central but are not empirical. They are based on our underlying values.” And, “We learned that evaluating teacher and preparation programs creates a false scientism by placing too much trust in too weak a measure.”

Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms is a collection of peer-reviewed academic studies and is organized conceptually into sections. In this week’s column, Mathis and Trujillo summarize the conclusions of the academic research in each section of the new book.  I believe the first is the most important: “The Opportunity Gap—The primary finding was that students must have opportunities, funding, and resources sufficient to meet what the state requires of them. There have been some 70 or so state adequacy studies and with very few exceptions, they have indicated we are not meeting the needs of students.”

Mathis and Trujillo’s conclusions are sobering, and they reflect much of what I heard earlier this week at my round-table discussion at the Ohio ESSA stakeholder meeting I attended.  I wonder if the people collecting the comments from all the table-by-table conversations will tease out this message, even though I heard it reinforced in dozens of ways throughout the evening:

“The greatest conceptual and most damaging mistake of test-based accountability systems has been the pretense that poorly supported schools could systemically overcome the effects of concentrated poverty and racial segregation by rigorous instruction and testing. This system has inadequately supported teachers and students, has imposed astronomically high goals, and has inflicted punishment on those for whom it has demanded impossible achievements.” “This diverse nation and our common good require all students to be well educated. Yet, we have embarked on economic and educational paths that systematically privilege only a small percentage of the population. In education, we invest less on children of color and poor families. At the same time, we support a testing regime that measures wealth rather than providing a rich kaleidoscope of experience and knowledge to all. And we do not hold ourselves responsible for the basic denial of equal opportunities.”

I urge you to read and then re-read Mathis and Trujillo’s commentary published on Monday by Valerie Strauss.  It is a discerning indictment of the public school policy that now pervades our society.

You can read Jan Resseger’s outstanding blog at – https://janresseger.wordpress.com

Breaking News – State Supreme Court says it will review school funding case

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From the CT Mirror:

The state Supreme Court will hear an expedited appeal of a lower court’s conclusion that the way the state distributes education aid and oversees local schools is unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers accepted petitions by Attorney General George Jepsen and the lawyers for the plaintiffs for a direct review by the Supreme Court of different aspects of the decision by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher.

For more see:

CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/2016/09/20/state-supreme-court-says-it-will-review-school-funding-case/

Courant: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ccjef-supreme-court-appeal-0920-20160920-story.html

Dan Klau: https://appealinglybrief.com/2016/09/20/supreme-court-grants-petition-to-review-education-ruling/

Special Ed. Irony: CT Gov. Malloy and Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher by Nancy Bailey

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Nancy Bailey is an educator, author, expert on children with emotional and behavioral disabilities and autism and a fellow education blogger.  In her latest commentary piece, Special Ed. Irony: CT Gov. Malloy and Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher, she explores the recent controversial school funding decision in Connecticut.

Nancy Bailey writes;

In every state we see an erasing of services for students with disabilities. Consider how Texas managed to omit an appropriate education for students with special needs My guess is that in whatever state you live, special education is in trouble.

How many children will not get the schooling they need to realize their dreams? How many parents will not get the support required to assist their children the best way possible?

In Connecticut, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher has ruled in a decades old school funding case, and while he recognized problems that exist when it comes to school funding and poverty, he slammed public schools badly. The expected changes to schooling and for teachers is worrisome.

But the Judge’s statement about instruction of the profoundly disabled was especially egregious. His statement calling the funding of special education “irrational,” should raise concerns for everyone.

In discussing Connecticut, not long after I started tweeting (Twitter is still a bit of a mystery to me), CT Gov. Dannel P. Malloy started following me on Twitter. He is seen as a school reformer. He supports charter schools and other troubling reforms in that state. Here, Judge Moukawsher’s decision is discussed with Gov. Malloy’s input.

I am sorry the Governor is not a bigger proponent of public schools and professional teachers. And I still don’t know why he followed me on Twitter–maybe because I write about special ed. issues–maybe it was a mistake. But I did learn some interesting things about the Governor.

Gov. Malloy has spoken and written poignantly about the difficulties he faced as a child and how he overcame dyslexia. He still uses all kinds of adaptations to adjust in his work. It is inspirational to read about the challenges he overcame to be successful.

Also, while Gov. Malloy may support a lot of troubling school reforms, the State of Connecticut seems to have looked out for its special needs school population and early childhood education. He has attempted to fairly fund special education in that state. For this he should receive credit. Although, some argue more funding is required.

But I wonder how, in such a state with such a governor, can Judge Moukawsher say what he did about special education. One would think because of Gov. Malloy, all of Connecticut’s citizens would stand in unanimous support and champion the needs of its special needs population.

Here is what Judge Moukawsher said about special education. It comes from Jonathan Pelto’s blog (more can be found elsewhere too–see below). Jonathan is a champion for students in Connecticut (and the country) and is running as a Green Party candidate for Congress. He also notes that Connecticut has done pretty well when it comes to special ed.

Here are the words of Judge Moukawsher.

Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately pro-forma efforts..

That statement is appalling!

At this point in time, no one should have to argue that schooling is important for all children. Americans should realize that, after years of legislation and special education advocacy, every child no matter the disability, can learn and deserves the right to a free public education!

I’d like to sit down with the Judge and describe the two years I spent teaching students with profound disabilities. It was there I learned the power of public schooling for everyone.

It doesn’t matter what level a child might be at when a teacher meets them. With appropriate understanding, every child can learn new skills which will help them lead a quality life. Schooling is critical for a child with profound disabilities.

I’d like to remind the Judge that by teaching children with profound disabilities they can usually live at home with their families, where they are not only treated like first class citizens—which they are—but where they are thoroughly enjoyed and loved as family members.

The Judge might visit these families who treasure their children for the beauty found within. Parents and siblings often adapt to different life, but they can find greater meaning than most people will ever know.

The Judge should ask how living could be made easier for these children and their families through great public schooling. Anything less is un-American.

Judge Moukawsher’s words are especially dangerous, because when you start judging who is and who is not fit to receive education services, sooner or later other disability groups will be pushed out too. Before you know it, students with dyslexia and reading problems will be denied schooling. And you never know what futures will be obliterated—maybe someone who could have one day become a Governor.

_______________________

Here are additional links concerning this important decision. I may add more.

Altimari, Daniela. “Superior Court Judge Raises Profile With Divisive Education Reform Ruling.” Hartford Courant. Sept. 19,2016. HERE.

Reid, Macklin. “Superior Court Judge Raises Profile With Divisive Education Reform Ruling.” Hartford Courant. Sept. 19, 2016. HERE.

To read and comment on Nancy Bailey’s complete article go to: http://nancyebailey.com/2016/09/20/special-ed-irony-ct-gov-malloy-and-judge-thomas-g-moukawsher/

Here are some additional links to media coverage of the case;

CCJEF V. RELL MEDIA COVERAGE

CT Mirror

9/7/16 – Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’

9/7/16 – Ruling may end ‘hold harmless’ principle in CT budget politics

9/12/16 – For David Rosen, 11 years in court just a beginning in school case (New Haven Independent)

9/13/16 – Malloy, a plaintiff and then a defendant, hedges on school appeal

9/15/16 Jepsen files appeal, says Moukawsher school ruling ‘legally unsupported’

Hartford Courant

9/7/16 – Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools and   CCJEF Ruling Press Conference

9/8/16 – Legislature Must Draft A New Deal For CT Education

9/9/16 – Lawmakers Scramble To Craft Response To Judge’s Education Ruling

9/15/16 State Appeals Controversial Education Overhaul Decision

CT Newsjunkie

9/7/16 Judge Orders State To Make Sweeping Changes To Education Funding, Policies

9/15/16 State Appeals Education Ruling to Supreme Court

Stamford Advocate

9/11/16 – Wendy Lecker: Will equity without adequacy be enough to help Connecticut’s neediest children?

Connecticut Post

9/7/16 Judge says state’s school funding formula is irrational

9/9/16 –After ruling on school finding, officials ponder next step

9/15/16 – State to appeal decision on school funding

New York Times

9/7/16 Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to Overhaul Its School System

9/11/16 – In Connecticut, a Wealth Gap Divides Neighboring Schools

9/12/16 – A Holistic Ruling on Broken Schools

Links to the actual decision

Hartford Courant – http://www.courant.com/education/hc-read-ccjef-v-rell-20160907-htmlstory.html

CT Mirror – https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html

Judicial Department – http://jud.ct.gov/CCJEFvRell.pdf

 

Related Statements:

CEA CEA Leaders Respond to CCJEF v. Rell Decision

AFT – Comments on Court Decision in Historic State Education Funding Case

CCM – CCM INITIAL STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO SUPERIOR COURT DECISION IN CCJEF V. RELL SCHOOL-FUNDING DECISION

Educators 4 Excellence – Educators 4 Excellence-Connecticut reacts to ruling of CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit

ConnCAN – CONNCAN ISSUES STATEMENT IN CCJEF COURT CASE

 

Commentary pieces:

Education Ruling: OK To Shut Out Disabled Kids?

Tell state officials: Don’t appeal CCJEF ruling

Did one Connecticut judge just change the conversation about education inequality?

The Aftermath Of The CCJEF Ruling: What Is Next For Public Education In Connecticut?

Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul

In Perplexing Decision, Connecticut Judge Fails to Raise the Bar for Adequate School Funding

 

Will the SAT become Rhode Island’s high school “exit exam”?

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Check out the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) website and you’ll see that they proudly declare that;

Rhode Island has implemented a statewide diploma system to ensure access for all middle and high school students to rigorous, high quality, personalized learning opportunities and pathways.

An announcement about the details surrounding the “new diploma system” is expected later this fall, now that the public comment process on the proposed regulations has concluded (Rhode Islanders had until September 15, 2016 to weigh in on the propose changes).

Earlier this month, pro-education reform governor Gina Raimondo, whose husband is part of the education reform and charter school industry, announced that she was “open” to using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SAT testing scheme as a graduate requirement in Rhode Island.

As numerous academic studies have revealed, grade point averages, not standardized test scores are the best predictors of college success.

In fact, these studies show that the SAT correlates with the income of the student’s parents and does not predict how a student will do in College.

Over the last few years, more than 850 colleges and universities have decided not to require applicants to even provide SAT scores and this list includes well over 180 “top-tier” universities and colleges.

But defending her indefensible position, Governor Raimondo claimed that the NEW SAT was better because it was aligned to the Common Core, a statement that indicates how little the governor understands about the shortcomings associated with the Common Core and its Common Core testing scheme.

Rhode Island state officials had already announced plans to drop the requirement that students pass the Common Core PARCC tests in order to graduate, a decision they reached based on the evidence that the PARCC test is not an appropriate indicator of what the child has been taught or whether they are college ready.

Why Governor Raimondo is “open” to the use of the SAT is a sad reminder about the level of ignorance on the part of some elected officials in this country.  It is also an indicator that far too many officials see students are little more than profit centers for the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

It’s a Sunday Evening Donation Request…

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Wait, What? readers,

I’m writing to ask for your help and support. 

As many of you know, I am running as the Green Party candidate for Congress in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District.  My goal is to use this campaign to send a clear and powerful message to elected officials that politics as usual is not acceptable.

For example, our system of public education is under assault.  The charter school industry and its corporate education reform allies are seeking to privatize public education and turn our schools into little more than Common Core testing factories and profit centers.

Our children, parents, teachers and public schools deserve far better from our elected officials.  Rather than laws like the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and other terrible education reform initiatives, public education deserves adequate resources and more support at the federal and state level.

With Election Day just seven weeks away, we’re gearing up the voter outreach efforts.  However, we still need additional funds to pay for some of the key mailings and other elements of the program. 

Please consider making a donation to Pelto 2016.

It is simple and easy, just go to:  Pelto for Congress 2016 or

https://pelto2016-ectgreens.nationbuilder.com/donate and donate what you can.

Your contributions would be extremely appreciated and very helpful.

Thank you so much,

Jonathan

Paid for by Pelto 2016

Closing Connecticut’s Real Achievement Gap (By Ann Cronin)

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So what is the answer to closing Connecticut’s Achievement Gap?  Educator, education advocate and fellow education blogger Ann Cronin lays out the real solutions for Connecticut’s schools in her latest article. You can read and comment on Ann Cronin’s article at: https://reallearningct.com/2016/09/15/closing-connecticuts-real-achievement-gap/

Ann Cronin writes;

There‘s a lot of talk in Connecticut about closing the achievement gap between affluent students who are predominately white and poor students who are predominately black or brown, but there have been no effective actions taken and none are on the horizon. Instead, Connecticut gave up its own well-founded state standards and adopted the narrow and inadequate Common Core Standards, called them rigorous which they are not, and gave students standardized tests to measure their achievement of those quite limited standards. Then Connecticut waited for the test scores to see if the impoverished would catch up to the affluent. They haven’t and they won’t.

The poorer the students, the lower the test scores. Standardized test scores, always and ever, are correlated with the family income of the test takers so it makes no sense to address the achievement gap by analyzing standardized test scores. The achievement gap that makes sense to address is the gap between those who succeed in their academic goals and those who do not, between those who graduate from college and those who do not.

That gap is a staggering one. For students who attended Connecticut public high schools and began college, the graduation rate is: 24.4% for black, 21.4% for Hispanic and 53.8% for white college students. Similarly, only 19% of Connecticut’s economically disadvantaged students who attend college earn a college degree as compared to 54.2% of their more advantaged peers.

Colleges and universities across the country have recognized this achievement gap in which the rich are sure to graduate and the poor are not.Nationally, 90% of college freshman born into families in the top income quartile graduate while only 25% of those born into the bottom half of the income distribution graduate. 

Colleges and universities are taking effective steps to solve the achievement gap among their students, but  Connecticut is not taking any effective steps to close the K-12 achievement gap. Colleges and universities are successful because they ask a question much different from the question that Connecticut is asking. The Connecticut question is: How can we reduce the gap in standardized test scores? The question that the colleges and universities are asking is: What can we do to improve student achievement?

As in so many things, asking the right question is the secret to success

Research psychologists at Stanford University headed higher education in the right direction in answering the college and university question. They had for years been exploring the premise that students are often blocked from living up to their potential because of their fears about not belonging in college and their doubts about their ability. They found that lack of achievement is often rooted in students’ feelings of not belonging to what they see as a community of achievers and considering themselves less academically able than others.

In one of the Stanford University studies, researchers provided students at an elite Northeastern college with a message about belonging. They informed them that everyone at their college feels overwhelmed and not smart enough and asked them to react in writing to that idea. This exercise had no apparent effect on the white students who took part in the experiment. But it had a transformative effect on the college careers of the African-American students in the study. The experiment tripled the percentage of black students who earned G.P.A.s in the top quarter of their class and cut in half the black-white achievement gap in G.P.A.

This study was replicated at a private Midwestern university with students who were the first in their family to attend college. The result was that the achievement gap between students who were the first in their family to attend college and the students whose parents had attended college was reduced by 63%.

In another Stanford University study, 288 community-college students enrolled in developmental math were randomly assigned, at the beginning of the semester, to read one of two articles. The control group read a generic article about the brain. The treatment group read an article that laid out scientific evidence against the theory of a fixed intelligence that cannot grow and change. At semester’s end, 20% of the students in the control group had dropped out of developmental math and, therefore, out of college, compared with just 9% of the treatment group. This intervention cut the community-college math dropout rate by more than half.

At the University of Texas at Austin, a chemistry professor, David Laude,worked with the same hypothesis as the Stamford researchers. He identified 50 students who had lower SAT scores, were economically disadvantaged, and the first in their families to attend college. He taught them the exact same curriculum and gave them the exact same tests as the 400 students in his other class. The difference was that he involved the fifty students in a program which gave them both a sense of belonging to a group of achievers and strategies for developing themselves as learners. The result was that this group of disadvantaged students, who were 200 points lower on the SAT than students in Laude’s larger section, had exactly the same grade distribution as the students in the larger section. The impact went beyond that chemistry class. This group  of 50 students who, statistically, were on track to fail, returned for their sophomore year at rates above average for the university as a whole and three years later had graduation rates that were above the university average.

Laude has now been appointed senior vice provost, charged with improving the four-year graduation rate. He instituted a program, based on the same premises as his chemistry program, for 500 students who are low income, first members in their family to attend college, have lower SAT scores, and a graduation rate of 20%. These 500 students are given $5000 a year scholarships for which they are required to be in leadership positions on campus, participate in campus internships, and attend weekly lectures on developing strategies for learning. Through these activities, students gain a sense of themselves as part of the community of achievers and learn how to learn.

Also at the University of Texas at Austin, David Yeager, a psychology professor and former Stanford researcher, has been commissioned to address the dropout rate among poorer students with lower SAT’s and the first in their family to go to college. As part of freshman orientation, he asked students to read articles that address their sense of belonging in an academically challenging environment and that discuss the brain as malleable and able to grow and change its capability with effort. With this simple intervention, the University of Texas cut in half the achievement gap between advantaged freshmen and freshmen who are black, Latino, first-generation, and/or poor.

Many colleges and universities are instituting programs to address the particular learning needs of students who are poor and first in their family to attend college. Brown hosted the first Inter-Ivy First Generation Student Network Conference in 2012, drawing students from across the country. Harvard, Duke, Georgetown, Brown and Yale are involved in a multi-year study in which they interview first generation students from low income families (usually an income under $40,00 year) to ascertain their needs. These programs for first generation college students seek to give students  both a sense of belonging and strategies for learning.

What can we in Connecticut learn from higher education? How can we close the real achievement gap? How can we close the gap between our children who become well-educated and accomplished human beings and our children who become dropouts from the world of education and accomplishment?

Here is a plan:

First: End high stakes standardized tests. With standardized tests, test prep becomes the curriculum, and all students – black, brown, white, poor, and affluent –  are deprived of real learning. Standardized tests deprive the poor, the black, and the brown of a fair chance. Standardized tests hurt all children.

Second: Ask educators to design performance assessments which demonstrate what students can do, how they can think, how they learn, and what they can create in each discipline.

Third: Require each school district to create a curriculum which teaches students strategies for learning in a developmental progression from K-12.

Fourth: Hold all of us – teachers, school administrators, school boards, teachers unions, the Connecticut State Department of Education, the Connecticut State Board of Education, legislators, the governor – to the same standard. That standard is: What are you doing to bring all he students for whom you are responsible into the community of achievers?

Then, and only then, will Connecticut close its achievement gap.

A MUST READ – Kevin Rennie: Judge Decides Disabled Kids Not Worth Teaching

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Hartford Courant columnist, blogger, lawyer and former legislator, Kevin Rennie, has a MUST READ commentary piece in the Hartford Courant today about Judge Moukawsher’s outrageous and mean-spirited attack on Connecticut children who require special education services.

Reposted below, you can read and comment on Kevin Rennie’s piece at:   http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-rennie-ct-school-moukawsher-disabled-0918-20160915-column.html

Kevin Rennie writes;

Compassion has been declared unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge. Our leaders refuse to condemn his brutal assault on those with disabilities. Delusions rule as Connecticut enters an age of shame.

Thomas Moukawsher, a judge, Malloy appointee and former Democratic organization foot soldier, read his meandering, sloppy decision on public school funding on Sept. 7. Then, otherwise comprehending people seemed not to understand what they had heard. The plaintiffs, a coalition of municipalities and education organizations, had sued for billions in new state spending but did not get it. They nevertheless declared victory.

Disclosure: I knew Moukawsher well when he was a banking lobbyist, during his one term in the legislature and for several years after that. I have not spoken to him in nearly 20 years.

The organizations in the coalition have maintained an indecent silence on what the decision says about providing an education for 15 percent to 17 percent of public school students with special needs. The reader will struggle to find an island of thought in the decision’s sea of bilge, but there is one on the subject of people with disabilities: It is irrational and unconstitutional, Moukawsher declaimed from the bench, to continue to provide an eduction for many of them.

The 20th century taught us that when societies turn on people with disabilities, they often do not stop there. They inflict misery on others and everlasting shame on themselves. Connecticut must not join them in the darkness.

If you want to know what an attack on freedom under the rule of law looks like, peruse the education funding decision. Special education was not an issue the plaintiffs raised. The attorney general, defending the state, warned Moukawsher off the issue in a trial brief, but to no avail. Children with disabilities were in his sights and he fired away. Children with more than one disability receive particularly cruel attention.

Schools under this misbegotten decision will have no obligation to educate children with disabilities they deem to have “a minimal or no chance for education.” This insidious missile cannot go unanswered in the Constitution State. There are no specifics on how or which children with special needs are to be denied access to our schools. What we do know is that a judge with a dark, Trumpian view of humanity is abusing his authority and inviting broad violation of federal protections.

Harry Truman explained America’s greatness in a sentence: “We believe in the dignity of man.” Not in Connecticut if this social Darwinian decision is allowed to stand. Consider the implications. The law requires us to educate children who arrived here illegally. Most of us have no quarrel with that. Do we want, however, to live in a state where illegal immigrants are welcomed to our schools but the disabled are barred at the door?

The heroic Helen Keller observed, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” That describes the Moukawsher decision. I mention Helen Keller because, when she was 19 months old, she lost her hearing and sight to what was probably meningitis. A teacher, Anne Sullivan, led Miss Keller out of the darkness with their unique system of spelling words with their hands.

Helen Keller with her multiple disabilities went on to graduate from Radcliffe College. Through her writing, advocacy and love of humanity, Miss Keller became one of the world’s most admired people. Our own Mark Twain, one of her most devoted admirers, said, “She is fellow to Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, Homer, Shakespeare and the rest of the immortals.”

There would be no place for Helen Keller in Moukawsher’s Connecticut, other than in the shadows of isolation. The court opinion misses an essential benefit of special education that is bestowed on the other students. Their contact with students with disabilities provides daily lessons in Harry Truman’s dignity of man. Lessons that last a lifetime and lift our society.

It should not be too much to expect a judge to understand that. But Moukawsher’s poisonous elitism reveals him as bent on banishing thousands of disabled from our public education system and consigning them to undisclosed, likely isolated, locations. Is this anyone’s, other than one judge’s, idea of what 21st-century Connecticut should be?

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