Common Core costs up, instruction time down, Opt Out movement takes hold

When it comes to the implementation of the Common Core and its related Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) testing frenzy, the tide is beginning to turn. 

As a result of the policies being pushed by Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, massive amounts of school instruction time will give way to even more standardized test prep and standardized testing.

No country in the world conducts more standardized testing of its students and rather than cut back, the corporate education reform industry is dramatically increasing the amount standardized testing that is forced upon students in the United States.

Here in Connecticut, the new Common Core testing scheme will not only impact students from Kindergarten through 11th grade, but will cost state and local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for new software, textbooks, computers, training and consultants to oversee it all.

As a result of this onslaught, a growing opt out of standardized testing movement is taking place across the country.

The effort to save our children and our taxpayers from this incredible waste of time and resources has arrived in Connecticut.

Here is a re-cap of some of the recent blog posts and commentary pieces about the movement to stop the standardized testing frenzy;

Don’t let them fool you: You can and should consider opting your child out of standardized testing frenzy (A powerful commentary piece by Wendy Lecker on the rights of parents when it comes to the Connecticut Mastery Test and the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test).

Sarah Darer Littman: Back with more news about the Malloy’s administration’s Common Core Spending (Sarah Darer Littman highlights the massive costs associated with the Common Core Smarter Balanced Test and how state funds will leave the primary burden for paying for these costs on the backs of local property taxpayers).

Jonathan Kantrowitz: A FACT based assessment of the Common Core (Jonathan Kantrowitz, a fellow blogger and expert on school curricula reminds readers that Connecticut already has extensive school standards already in place and that while standards can and should be improved, the Common Core standards aren’t the end all and be all they claim to be).

Those aren’t guinea pigs; those are our children! (A Wait, What? blog post about how many local school districts decided to go along with Commissioner Pryor’s decision to use our children as guinea pigs in this year’s Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) Field Test.  While states had the choice of having only 10% of the students be used in this expensive experiment, the Malloy administration decided to go to the other extreme and force as many students as possible to take the Common Core test – despite the fact that this year’s test is nothing more than a test of test on curriculum that students haven’t even been taught.  Only Ashford, Chaplin, Danbury, Madison, Preston, Rocky Hill, Scotland, Thomaston, Westport, Windsor and Regional District #11 rejected Commissioner Pryor’s directive and decided to stick with the Connecticut Mastery Test this year.   If you town isn’t on the list it means that your child is being used as a “lab rat” without your permission.

Opt Out Letters:

Finally, for those parents who are considering opting out their children from the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT/CAPT) or the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAC) here are some draft opt out letters you may want to use.

Go to: http://www.scribd.com/doc/202349382/UPDATED-Draft-Opt-Out-Letters-for-Connecticut-CMT-and-Common-Core-Smarter-Balanced-Assessment-Field-Test-1-26-14.

  • George

    One of the ironies of all this is the fact that the states that pushed this BS from the beginning, such as Texas and Florida, are now backing off on the testing while Connecticut is going backwards. It’s all about the money, folks.

  • David Hochheiser

    I have no issue with people making whatever choices they want, but I do suggest 1) Holding politicians accountable for Race to the Top, which is actually what you seem upset with and 2) Understanding that there might be a minimum percentage of students that have to take the tests to keep your district from being “punished.” While your children would have days to do things other than being tested, I wonder if opting out is going to get you the political results for which you’re looking.

    • Kathy CT

      I can’t see any way a district would be punished. In the past districts needed a 95% participation rate to qualify for certain ratings (school of distinction, excelling school, etc.) This year there is no way to compare districts because results won’t be reported except for the few districts taking the CMT so there will be no SPI.

      • jonpelto

        Excellent point…
        It is a test of a test – According to the smarter balanced test assessment consortium states had the opportunity to have only 10% of their students serve as human test subjects. Pryor et. al. said all or nothing – even the entity creating the Common Core didn’t demand that all students participate.

  • just-in-awe

    Thanks for the letters!! I will start sharing them with all my PS friends! I REALLY hope this Opt-out movement takes off here in CT! I wish I could let my students’ parents know, but, since there is no movement right now in Bridgeport to opt-out, I’m afraid to speak up alone 🙁 But as a Parent, you bet your ass I’ll speak up! No school Board or state will have more control over my child than we do as parents!! I’m also wondering, is the state at all accountable for NOT providing us parents with some kind of mastery this year? Like, umm, what they actually learned this year? Or was there no time for that…. Not that I need anything… I see how they’re doing every day by their grades and work;)

    • Bill Morrison

      Please see the above notice of an opt-out meeting in Hartford this coming Saturday. Please join us!

  • CTParent

    Recently had a phone conversation with CT DOE. When I asked what test will be used to test the students this year, the response was SBAC. I then proceeded to ask her again, and she said SBAC. I had to inform her that the SBAC is a field test this year and its own website calls this year “a test of the test.” She then tried to tell me that wasn’t true. Then I asked if this test is so important why are parents not receiving results. She told me we are. I again had to refer her to the SBAC website that says very clearly this year is a field test and parents will not be receiving results. She was not aware of this. The conversation moved to how easy the SBAC practice test is to navigate. She said she found very easy. This is when I realized she must have never worked with children. When I asked if she thought is would be easy for a student she said well that is why there is an online practice test. So now I had to ask if she felt using class time to practice how to take a test was good use of instructional time. She has no response. So I pushed it and asked do you feel students should spend school time learning what is on the test or practicing how to take the test. She then tried to change the subject and explain to me the reasons for CCSS.
    I don’t think I have all the answers and I have seen many things written about CCSS that are not to blame on the CCSS (which will hinder the fight against CCSS). But when it comes to having a discussion with the CT DOE I would expect them to be the most informed. I would hope they would be able to go off script and have a real discussion. Until those making the decisions at the state and federal level come clean about the real impact this will have and real origins I don’t see how it will ever be successful.

    • Linda174

      They are clueless about many issues related to education because many are not educators.

  • Bill Morrison

    I am having an opt-out meeting of parents and teachers throughout CT in my classroom (Room 272) at Hartford Public High School on Saturday, Feb 1, at 12:00. Please feel free to join us as we sort out how to get parents involved in this important movement. Thank you in advance!

  • SJFBass

    Having taught secondary English language arts since 1988, and been an ELA department chair since 2001 I completely understand the instinct to dismiss the CCSS and the SBAC test. Implementing new standards, testing and teacher evaluation systems feels like some kind of dystopian nightmare for most teachers. But the new standards are very appropriate in English Language Arts (I can’t speak for my mathematics colleagues). They ask students to demonstrate the kind of critical thinking, reading, writing and language skills we want educated adults to possess. I have no argument with the standards.

    The question critics and parents are asking now is are our students being used unfairly as guinea pigs in order to implement the new testing? The answer is both yes and no. Because the test promises to be computer adaptive the idea of each child taking a test appropriate to his or her abilities is very appealing. The information we could obtain from a truly adaptive test will be valuable. On the other side, we are looking at an 7-8.5 hour testing window which is roughly two hours greater than the previous CMT/CAPT. Also, we have very limited technology with which to conduct these tests. Our middle school possesses roughly 100 computers which must process nearly 900 test takers over the testing period. This is untenable. On top of all that, our students and we have had very limited experience with the new test (a one-hour State practice last spring along with an SBAC on-line practice test made available late in the 12-13 school year which our 3-8 and 11th graders will try out in February). I understand that SBAC needs to field test their questions, but why must every child take every test? I wonder if less might be more? Couldn’t we reduce the testing window to four hours and give every child one math and one ELA experience?

    • jonpelto

      great question

    • I<3Math

      This is one of the most rational responses that I’ve read in a long time. The math standards are equally as sensible forming a coherent picture of the subject compared to the former standards that started some content too early (probability in kindergarten and transformational geometry in later elementary school), and kept some around for too many years without closure (bar graphs, symmetry). Also, in terms of the sample of students from across states that Smarter Balanced needs for analysis, it is quite small, and publicly available as part of the consortium commitment to full public transparency http://www.smarterbalanced.org/field-test/.

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