Achieve Hartford, the corporate funded education reform group blames extraneous factors

The Hartford Courant article is entitled “Achieve Hartford:  A Rough Year For CMT scores.”  It reports that Achieve Hartford has released their assessment of this year’s Connecticut Mastery Test results.

Their observation is so absurd that we can virtually forego any introduction, conclusion or commentary.

Achieve Hartford writes, “One look at the summary data tells the story of 2013 test scores in Hartford. It was a rough year. The only interesting fact is that it seems to have been a rough year for almost all Districts in CT, as statewide, Grades 3-8 showed a significant decrease on average, showing potentially some extraneous factor related to this year’s test influencing the performance of students. This is little consolation for students, families, teachers, administrators and central office staff who are all working so hard to show gains in student performance.”

So let’s just get this right…

When it comes to Hartford’s public education system, these education reform proponents fail to support any policies aimed at reducing poverty, expanding services for non-English speaking students or enhancing assistance for students who need special education services.

They support a testing frenzy that includes standardized tests that aren’t aligned to what students are actually learning.

And then they have the audacity to say the “poor” test results of “extraneous factors” and are “little consolation for the students, families, teachers, administrators and central office staff who are all working so hard to show gains in student performance?”

A result of extraneous factors?

Are of little consolation?

Is it possible that these education reformers are simply too stupid to grasp that the test results don’t actually measure student performance?

  • Bill Morrison

    Who gives a [email protected]#N about test scores!!!??? They actually mean nothing! Let’s look at real achievement . . . in my academy in Hartford, we had another successful year with our national-award-winning Robotics Team. We had a successful first year with our Moon-Rover Team. Our students are excited to be participating in UCONN’s Early College Experience program this upcoming year, with many even volunteering to take an extra class on Saturday mornings.
    Certainly there are student failures in all schools in all districts in all states. But there are student successes as well. Let’s start looking at these.
    Let’s call BS when we see BS; standardized test scores are statistically nonsense when contrasted across student cohorts, and the reformers know it.

  • Matt Poland

    What’s your definition of student performance and how would you measure it, Jonathan?

    • Linda174

      Not test scores….ask real teachers.

      They’re all flailing now…they haven’t a clue what to do…ConnCon, CCER, AH, the entire alphabet soup.

      They’re running out of recycled reformy verbiage. The talking points are stale. Their solutions are crumbling.

      Please read Finnish Lessons and you will learn all about real school reform not based on test scores, shaming and profiteering.

      And watch this video:

      And then Mr. Poland, ask yourself, “What is student performance?”

      Educate yourself. We do.

    • Linda174

      I wonder why wonks are baffled when only a few years ago Adamoswki was the hero who “reformed” Hartford.

      What happened?

      Shell games have a tendency to not be sustainable…funny that.

    • Terry Winters

      Why don’t you comment on the substance of the post rather than deflecting?

      What is your definition Mr. Poland and how do you measure it?

      You should have an idea as the board chair, no?

    • Lee Barrios

      Matt – here is just one of thousands of good articles on measuring student performance.

      If you Google “how to measure student performance,” one paper you will NEVER see is “a single high stakes standardized test.” If it seems simple stupid – it is! Think about it, are lawyers, doctors, engineers. . . Acknowledged as the top in their fields by the score on their professional exam?

    • Apartheid First

      Actually, I reject the idea that students “perform.” Of course I want them to read and write–two very highly specialized cognitive skills that cannot be delegated to machines; I want them to be able to do math, to think critically, to know the history of their country and the world… An education encompasses many skills, abilities, talents, and more–it is the “reformers”–like the fraud who used to run Hartford schools and is now destroying Windham’s–Adamowski, and Bridgeport’s Vallas, Connecticut’s Pryor, and America’s Duncan who have dismissed higher cognitive functions in favor of some quantifiable nonsense that a machine can evaluate.
      Many of Hartford’s schools are and have been failing, but we don’t really need a test to tell us that. Come on now, Mr. Poland.

    • Apartheid First

      By the way, Mr. Poland, I suggest you take a long look at the conditions under which some teachers in Hartford are teaching, not to mention those in which children are living. Then go look at Darien’s High School–you won’t see any bogus “academies”, charter schools run by businessmen, magnets that can only cover one subject area–no, you will see well-funded schools, handsomely paid teachers, and respectfully supported families and children. See for yourself what the horrific NWEA/MAP “pilot” was like for young children–something the Hartford BoE eagerly seized because of all the tainted Gates money attached. More recess and fresh air would benefit the children more, along with actual literature, rather than scripts from the testing companies.
      And how about trying on the “no excuses” humiliations of Hartford’s lauded charter schools, Achievement First and Jumoke? Don’t enter Capital prep with the wrong color belt on.
      YOU are in a position to make a difference.

      • Linda174

        I’m sure he has been alerted at BOE meetings, during public comment, by an HPS employee….about the extent of the battery of tests and the amount of time lost to test prep and testing.

        He is NOT unaware.

    • Apartheid First

      Emerson stated that the “great object of Education should be commensurate with the object of life.” How can that be measured? Emerson knew the value of both factual learning that trained the memory, and more speculative forms of thinking. But “Reformers” and those who would “race to the top” have no use for Emerson. Even in his day, there were prototypes to our reformers; Emerson noted “A rule is so easy that it does not need a man to apply it; an automaton, a machine, can be made to keep a school so [meaning regimented, standardized]”–or a TFA drone who knows nothing of the art of teaching (your district has too many TFA, too many under- or un-certified people in classrooms, Mr. Poland). Emerson again–“Our modes of Education aim to expedite, to save labor, to do for masses what cannot be done for masses, what must be done reverently, one by one: say rather, the whole world is needed for the tuition of each pupil.” Education is not something even Bill Gate’s billions can provide, and it is offensive that it must always come down to talk of money, rather than–what kind of world do we want to inhabit? One that becomes more and more segregated and inequitable?
      Read Emerson–you don’t need a book on school reform, or a press release from Achieve Hartford or, worse, ConnCAN.

    • Fredda Friend

      Mr. Poland,
      Have you ever advocated for the children of Hartford who are impacted by violent crime to be excused from CMT or CAPT? Why not?

    • realsaramerica

      Mr. Poland, a year ago, one of my friends who happens to be a total pack rat and never throws anything out, went through the tests we took in school back in Stamford in the 70’s. We took a mere fraction of the tests that you are subjecting kids to now, especially in the K-8 grades. Instead, we focused on learning. We had art, music, recess. We were allowed to develop as whole children. You, unfortunately, decided to trade the lives of Hartford’s children for Gates’ money and distorted vision. And now, when the cheating scandals start blowing up in your face just like they did in Atlanta and DC, I hope you, Mr. Segarra et al, begin to realize the magnitude of what you have done.

  • jonshore

    No not stupid, these ed reform poverty pimps are caught with their “rhetorical pants down” and are trying to elicit empathy from the unsuspecting public so they can keep rolling in the bucks!

  • Poetic Justice

    Student performance is genuinely measured by the teachers delivering instruction and creating authentic and relevant assessments. That’s how it’s been done for centuries.

    • Castles Burning

      An excellent answer. In the classroom, the focus is on learning what is considered valuable and worthwhile and then students demonstrate or express what they have gained. All of this is done within the context of a particular classroom community with the necessary communication to ensure that as many needs are met as possible.

  • Tom Burns

    Keep it coming Jon–best article to date and the commenters as always are right on—the tide is turning–T

  • Castles Burning

    If you take the glass is half full approach, the fact that they are able to recognize that these standardized test results show actually very little is a significant plus and a valid reason for reconsidering all of the time, effort, money, etc. wasted on them. I wonder how many other “test believers” are pondering this conclusion.

    I am intrigued with the wording: “as statewide, Grades 3-8 showed a significant decrease on average, especially when students showing potentially some extraneous factor related to this year’s test influencing the performance of students.” Not the clearest statement but within seems to be a confession that many “extraneous factors” (and of course many readers of this blog would include many relevant socio-economic ones) impact the results, thereby calling into question what is actually being tested and the very TEST themselves.

    I might have titled the article “Another Rough Year for CMT Test Takers” for obvious reasons but also because scores cannot have a rough year.

    • Linda174

      Good point…maybe the poor test battered kids and weary teachers have experienced a rough year not the scores.

      But hey that tells you what they value more…numbers over people. Kids are data and props. Teachers are robots and scores rule the day.

      P A T H E T I C !

    • TMS

      I don’t see how the administration can now tie the teacher’s evaluation on their performance to the test if they admit “extraneous factors”, which implies circumstances beyond their control, are making a difference in the scores.

    • Sue

      Bridgeport teachers were extensively trained on how to create Common Formative Assessments. They meet as grade level partners (and periodically with teachers 1/2 grades below or above), examine curriculum, past test data, student performance and then write their own tests. These might include multiple choice questions, essays, etc. Then instruction would then be based on the results until the next chapter.

      Unfortunately, when Paul Vallas entered the picture, and what a loss this kind of personalized testing was for both teachers and students.

  • Charlie Puffers

    Matt, Matt, Matt,

    You really ought to get your head out of that library and stop pretending that your “reform” is helping any of the test takers you claim to be concerned about. If as chair of the HBOE you don’t know what is really happening in the schools, if you don’t know the issues facing your teachers and students, if you really believe that Betances
    is the only place there is cheating, then you should just go bury your head in a book and let someone else run the schools

    • Apartheid First

      Really, there is something odd about the Betances “investigation”. Only one grade is tested in that school! 3rd grade. For heaven’s sake, the children who supposedly did so well were in 2nd grade last year, and maybe the scores reflect their abilities (much as I hate the scores). I can’t see how anyone can compare last year to this year, when it was one class last year, who have since moved on, and one class this year.
      Go check on the other schools, and on Adamowski’s “spectacular” (according to Dannel Malloy) reforms–how to improve high school graduation rates with the 55 minimum grade; no attendance policy; online credit recovery (the answers are just a click away; in 2 weeks you can make up 10 months of tests, I mean, school)–and how about all the classes that are never really offered in Hartford? It is the district that is cheating the students–and the state that is cheating the families and children of Hartford and other cities and poor communities with inadequate local property tax revenues.

      • concerned

        They almost certainly have some evidence of test tampering if they are conducting an investigation. The usual issue is much higher than normal amounts of incorrect answers erased and changed to correct answers. Could also be possible that someone documented the cheating and ratted them out.

  • Charlie Puffers

    Achieve Hartford is an extraneous factor.

  • Paul Diego Holzer

    As someone who grew up
    wanting to be an educator, went to college to become an educator, became one,
    and who now runs an organization committed to education, I don’t feel one bit
    like I perpetuate a “corporate reform” agenda, whatever that means. And if I ever perpetuate an agenda that is
    not 100% pro-Hartford, I know the two Hartford parents I have on my six-person staff
    would have something to say about it. Yet, here I am being select-quoted and labeled based on someone else’s ideology. We overtly support and celebrate school triumphs at all levels, from
    principals and classroom teachers to parents and students. We advocate
    publicly for better services for ELL and SPED students, and call explicitly for
    more support for teachers and students – which you can read
    about in our Courant OpEd this past Saturday, that I’m guessing you haven’t read since you probably would have select-quoted from it to push your agenda. Here’s a link if anyone wants to read our perspective from our own words:,0,2813867.story.

    • Apartheid First

      Achieve Hartford is a vehicle for corporate reform.
      We hear your perspective in your own words all the time. “Select-quoted”–how naughty of us to do that. It’s time for you to sit in some Achievement First, Jumoke, and Capital Prep charter classes, preferably those taught by TFA in their first month–while not wearing your cheerleader hat. I doubt anyone would mistake you for an actual parent of a child at one of these schools, though.
      Next, get over to one of the crumbling schools or leaking ones, like the one whose falling ceiling tiles sent a student and aide to the hospital. Spend some time and celebrate the successes, including the lunch service–sorry about the dust and debris, though–maintenance staff has been woefully cut. Maybe Achieve Hartford can pitch in, so bring a mop and bucket. And then see how it is in Glastonbury public schools, and ask how this is truly possible in our free and equal democracy. By the way, why should anyone listen to you ask for better services, support for teachers, etc, rather than parents and families themselves?

    • Linda174

      Mr. Holzer,

      I must say I agree with AF, why would citizens, taxpayers, etc listen to you and your advice over the parents, students, families and their teachers?

      Could you post your teaching experience here? Grades, setting, subjects, cities/towns, number of years, certification areas, etc..

      Thank you

    • Lee Barrios

      I love the way you reformists pile the BS rhetoric on. As an educator retired and now activist in Louisiana I know firsthand the destruction that Paul Vallas and his kind cast on New Orleans, now being continued by now Superintendent John White – non-educator and TFA cheerleader -riding on the political coattails of Jeb Bush with his Chiefs for Change. Charters in Louisiana are a disaster with some faux successes through selective enrollment, grade manipulation and extraordinary outside funding.

  • Sue

    Entire unionized teaching staff at Dunbar, a Bridgeport school leaves when Pryor’s charter takes over. Positions to be filled by TFA teachers.

    “The district has hired Family Urban Schools of Excellence, a Hartford-based company that runs four charter schools and one traditional public school in Hartford, to manage Dunbar.

    “The transformation will be extraordinary, because this group has done it in the past,” Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas told a large crowd of students, parents, community members, who were treated to a hot dog barbecue, free backpacks and a chance to meet teachers and other staff members.

    Before the event was over, state Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor also put in an appearance.”

    • Linda174

      They couldn’t give out hot dogs and free backpacks before?

      No one had any good ideas before?

      I guess they need less adminstrators at central office if another management company is taking this school over.

      Reduce the adminstrative staff to put more teachers in the classrooms of the non charter management schools.