The initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.
The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.
Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.
The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote. New Hampshire abstained as well.
But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.
Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.
The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.
Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.
This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.
While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What? The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”
While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014. SBAC wrote,
OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.
But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,
A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.
So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”
Wendy Lecker added,
Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.
Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.
Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.
High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.
Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures. The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,
“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”
So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”
Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.
The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.
Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”
Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.
The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,
“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”
If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.
But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.
In the real world, it is called child abuse.
So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?
No, let’s amend that phrase. When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.
It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.