Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

Thanks to Governor Malloy, his out-going Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry, well over 300,000 Connecticut public school students will be taking the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test in just a couple of months.

Not only will it cost Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and mean thousands of hours of lost instructional time, but the Common Core SBAC test is literally designed to ensure than almost seven out of ten students are told that they have failed.

Yes….the Common Core SBAC test is designed in such a way as make sure that nearly 70 percent of public school students are told they are failures.

As part of the ongoing effort to inform students, parents, teacher and Connecticut citizens about the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core testing scheme, the Wait, What? blog post of January 2, 2015 is being re-posted below.

The fact is that while Stefan Pryor will be gone by the end of the week, Malloy and his political appointees on the State Board of Education are charging forward with their Common Core Testing strategy and, to further that effort, have decided to appoint Dianna Roberge-Wentzell as Connecticut’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

Dianna Roberge-Wentzell has been serving as the Department of Education’s chief academic officer for about two years.  When appointed to that position, it was explained that her role would be to “lead the Common Core curriculum development work at the state level.”

And Roberge-Wentzell has proven to be a stellar cheerleader for the Common Core and its related Standardized Testing Program.

In a Connecticut Association of Boards of Education meeting last year, Roberge-Wentzell proclaimed, “There is some anxiety about content readiness, like, ‘Will our kids really be ready?’ ‘Have we fully made that transition in our curriculum and instruction?’ And I think that people need to recognize that this is a multi-year transition.”

But for Connecticut’s public school students and teachers, there is no “multi-year” transition.

The guaranteed failing test rates are a part of THIS YEAR’S Common Core Test!

And those corrupt results will then be used to “evaluate” and punish Connecticut’s public school teachers.

While many of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and neither Connecticut’s public school teachers nor our public school students have been given the appropriate time and materials to “transition” to these new standards, the punishing Common Core test will occur starting in March unless the Connecticut General Assembly moves quickly to dismantle the massive testing apparatus or parents take matters into their own hands and opt their children out of taking the inappropriate tests.

But as if to reiterate her fidelity to the corporate education reform industry and their Common Core testing scheme, Roberge-Wentzell told the audience at that CABE meeting that everything was moving forward nicely and there was no need to even worry about the technological problems that have plagued the Common Core testing program in Connecticut and around the nation.

The person who will now take over management of the Connecticut State Department of Education told the group at CABE last year that it was full steam ahead, that the State Department had been using the “technology readiness tool” that has been provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and that “Our districts input all of their data and then we are able to constantly monitor kind of a dashboard of tech readiness for the state…And we are very close to 100 percent tech readiness in Connecticut—we are lucky. But some communities still have some investments that need to be made and this will help us support them in bridging that gap.”

The truth is Connecticut’s public school students have become guinea pigs for the Corporate Education Reform Industry and implementing a test that is designed to ensure failure for the vast majority of our children is nothing short of child abuse.

For more of the background about the Common Core testing, read the following;

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

This 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.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Come on Jon………new hot tubs and home reapair cost a lot of money and Danny with his grifters have mucho paybacks due to their friends. It is a sin what he has wrought upon the devoted public school teachers, and it is a crime what he is about to do to our children.

  • Bill Morrison

    I have printed both this story and Wendy’s letter and will post them on my classroom “Wall of Civil Disobedience” when we return to school tomorrow.

  • paulbogush

    I think you need to take a different look at why the cut off numbers were picked for the test scores. I would bet that the numbers picked kill certain urban schools SPI scores and put them in line for take over. It is not 7 out of ten that will fail in each school system….it’s across the state, and concentrated in certain cities and towns. I would bet that folks looked at what score certain schools would need in order to require intervention before the numbers got locked in–if they did not, that would have been stupid whether their intention is to take over or not. Like it or not, test scores can be predicted by zip code. You can predict right now what the scores will be, and where those 7 out of ten kids are attending school today. Therefore, we can predict what schools teh state will intervene in before the test is even given.

    • Linda174

      So the only point of the tests is to produce more failures for takeover. Opt out, refuse, throw it away!

    • cindy

      Yes. We know that the inner-cities will most likely have 95% failing if not more; even “high performing” districts can expect more failures. And we still don’t know if the state will mandate academic interventions (aka spend more $$ for remediation) to pass the silly test.

      Not only that, based on the fact that year 2 in New York State was not much better than year 1, teachers could easily predict their own demise, by factoring in 1) a loss of 45% “credit” on their evaluation and 2) a certain 3 out of 4 on the 40% observation since teachers were told, “You may visit ‘4’ but you don’t live there, so don’t expect a 4.” Those two, when evaluated on the teacher “matrix” will equal a “progressing” rating. And 2 years of a “progressing” score will not be promising for a teacher’s career.

      Pre-planned destruction.

      And those highly-paid administrators in the high-performing towns that are remaining silent had better start speaking up. One would have to live in a cave to not see what is happening in the nation regarding VAM measures, and the problems with the standards, and the reported issues with the test. Someone is going to have to be held accountable for spending all that money to be “compliant” with mandates that are clearly misaligned with pedagogy, child-development, and are downright flawed.

  • Charlie Puffers

    What exactly does 100% tech ready mean? Computers for each test taker? Internet access for computers for each test taker? Shared computers? Shared access? Thinking about ordering computers? Old computers that will have to do? Crashes are OK as long as they finish during the three week testing window?
    I love how the reports coming out of the mouths of State DOE workers and superintendents don’t match the experience of people in the classrooms. In Hartford, pencils, paper and crayons are hard to come by – but 100% tech ready? You bet.

    • bamboozled teacher

      Spot on.

  • doug day

    OK, I’ll try to keep this short, knowing I’m preaching to the choir, but here goes. So there I was as Artist in Residence making up original musicals with four “inner city” Hartford Schools (Near Charter Oak; Kinsella and Betances) one over on the Caribbean side of town and a 4th one I forget the name of, all teamed up with four suburban schools from within a half hour drive. The program called Images of Cultural Identity was funded from the civil rights days and was kept alive by an angel named Sally Oxman, now working for the UU church. She and I drove around to the partnerships and I wrote and directed with the kids musicals about being recent immigrants from Puerto Rico and Barbuda and not being recent but our grandparents were immigrants from, say, Germany, and we all really worked together and sang together and had a great time performing in each other’s communities. One year we made up a Circus in spanish and English and we were doing a big, essential, multi-school dress rehearsal in preparation for the Big Show the next day in the Charter Oak Cultural Center (first synagogue in Hartford). “Where’s Kinsella?” I asked. “Oh, they had to go to a pep-rally.” “A pep rally, ” I says. “You mean for a football game?” “No, for No Child Left Behind. It’s a new program. The Superintendent himself is speaking to the whole school about how it’s going to change their lives.” And I, arrogant visiting artist, even then, thought: well, this show is really changing lives! And it’s in danger of not happening if he yanks half my cast away from the dress rehearsal!” We pulled it off, but as the program developed and I returned for six years and got to know the teachers I saw two of the best and brightest who were in the Phd/administration program (future principals) both drop out of their grad programs, discouraged by … well, you know what. Two hours in the day stolen for teaching to a test that had no meaning; demoralizing teachers, etc etc. etc. And so, now, years hence, we encounter an even more turgid system being sold by mercenaries claiming to be saviors. Thank goodness for whistleblowers like Jonathan! Doug Day, Artist in Residence, Rockport, Maine.

  • Jenn

    Pick your reason to not partake: The total lack of research behind this assessment so there is no reliability or validity to it what so ever, they are using our kids to norm reference their assessment,for free, the subjectively set cut scores done by vote, not science, that have been set to intentionally fail 60-70% of our students and their teachers which in turn allows for a whole other set of things to happen to schools and communities, the pending lawsuit against SBAC in Missouri where a judge issued a restraining order against the state from making payments, that we now also have to pay to them (where is that MOU?), as SBAC may very well be indeed illegal as it represents an interstate contract that wasn’t approved by Congress in violation of the Compact Clause of the Constitution, or finally that for the state of Connecticut, and all SBAC member states, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has a contract with the United Sates Department of Education that spells out in that contract that SBAC agrees to “provide timely and complete access” to “any and all data” collected to US DOE or it’s designated program monitors, technical assistance providers, research partners and auditors. Who exactly are those people getting our children’s “student-level data that results from the assessment system on an ongoing basis for research” and why would we as a state agree to participate in a contract that agrees to such activity and invasion of our children’s privacy?

    • bamboozled teacher

      All of our main stream news agencies are failing the state of CT when it comes to education. If all parents knew the extant to what’s going on, there would be massive public outrage. However, WFSB, FOXct, NBCct, WTNH, etc. seem to be bought and paid for by the ed deformers. #TrulyTragic

  • Guest

    Conncan is nothing but a terrorist organization and their leader Jennifer Alexander is nothing but Osama bin Laden looking to spread their evil ideology and destroy American Public Schools.

  • Magister

    I just submitted my opt out letter for my 3rd grader yesterday. The corporate reform juggernaut will just have to trundle along without her “data.”