Cost of SBAC testing in Connecticut is unconscionable, unnecessary (by John Bestor)

Connecticut educator and education advocate, John Bestor, has written another powerful commentary piece, this time dealing with the utter waste of scarce taxpayer funds on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme that is designed to fail a vast number of our state’s children.

With Governor Malloy implementing unprecedented cuts to vital state services, including public education, Malloy and the legislature should have started out by eliminating the funding for the SBAC testing scheme…long before the attacked the programs that are really helping Connecticut’s children, parents, teachers and public schools.

Published in the CTMirror and entitled, Cost of SBAC testing in Connecticut is unconscionable, unnecessary, Bestor writes;

Education activists have been speaking out and pushing back against the misguided Common Core State Standards and the flawed Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) statewide test protocol for several years now, as they have become more aware of the billionaire-driven, media-complicit, and politically-entrenched “corporate education reform” agenda.

Although the computer-adaptive Smarter Balanced Assessment remains unproven and developmentally-inappropriate, proponents of the controversial test have been unable to demonstrate that SBAC is a psychometrically valid or reliable measure of student academic progress, let alone college- and career-readiness.  Nor have they convincingly countered claims that SBAC is unfair and discriminatory to students who are required to suffer through hours of supposedly “rigorous” and often incomprehensible test questions.

Despite a charge from the Connecticut Legislature’s Education Committee to evaluate the efficacy of SBAC, the Mastery Examination Task Force has failed to address the fundamental psychometric criticisms associated with SBAC which have been convincingly presented by Dr. Mary Byrne in her testimony in the Missouri lawsuit against SBAC.

The Task Force has also failed to consider the findings of over 100 California researchers who called “for a moratorium on high-stakes testing broadly, and in particular, on the use of scientifically discredited assessment instruments (like the current SBAC, PARCC, and Pearson instruments).”   Is there any chance that the Task Force would review the College Board executive’s whistle-blower commentary on the unprofessional and fraudulent development of the newly-redesigned SAT?

Although these findings resonate with education activists and an increasing number of parents across the nation, they have fallen on deaf ears with leadership in our state, even while many other states have dropped their membership with the consortium or removed tying results to high stakes until such findings are substantiated.  Perhaps, an understanding of the exorbitant costs associated with the controversial SBAC and Statewide SAT will gain the public’s attention.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Education Commissioner
Stefan Pryor signed the NCLB waiver agreement that coerced and committed the CSDE to (at the time) unidentified costs associated with the “next generation” SBAC assessment in order to escape unrealistic NCLB expectations.  The SBAC membership contract is renewed annually for $2.7 million a year (now estimated $2.3 million with 11th-graders out assuming CSDE was able to recover the costs for not testing juniors).

In addition, $13.5 million is paid to AIR (American Institutes of Research) to administer the SBAC test.  Another $15.3 million has been allocated to AIR (over 4 years, including this year’s pilot) to cover CMT/CAPT Science Test administration.  An adjustment was necessary to the original SBAC agreement when the CSDE switched to the unproven, newly-redesigned Statewide SAT for 11th graders which resulted in a $4.4 million three-year contract with the College Board.  Under the current state testing protocol, these expenditures will be recurring and likely to increase in future contract renewals.  These estimates do not include the untold expense associated with the substantial costs to districts for implementation, teacher time for test preparation, and student time lost to meaningful instruction.

During the recent government budget crisis and with future budgets likely to be just-as or even-more difficult, this CSDE/CSBE cost is both unconscionable and unaffordable.

Bottom line: this is an unnecessary expense as the Mastery Examination Task Force can re-design the course of statewide assessments.

Task Force members need to look afresh at the federal testing mandate required by the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act.  This re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in late 2015 empowers each state to determine its own assessment practice as long as the state meets its federal obligation by measuring Reading and Math student achievement annually in grades 3 – 8, 11 and Science achievement three times during that same grade span.

No longer are we required to give one extensive summative test each year, when the requirement can be met by using interim assessments that are already given in schools and combining those with more authentic forms of assessment that are far more meaningful to students.

Rather than expend millions of dollars in massive giveaways to the greedy test industry and their lobbying business partners in the charter-school movement, there is no doubt that this assessment expectation could be accomplished more simply and more cost effectively.

Education activists and the parents who have courageously opted their children out of the unproven SBAC understand the tangled web of deceit with which the proponents of “corporate education reform” are remaking, some say destroying, American public education.

You can read and comment on his piece at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/06/29/cost-of-sbac-testing-in-connecticut-is-unconscionable-unnecessary/

 

NEWS FLASH – Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

Despite the rhetoric, promises and hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds, a stunning assessment of the data reveals that the Common Core PARCC test DOES NOT successful predict college success.

The utter failure of the PARCC test reiterates that the same may be true for those states that have adopted the Common Coe SBAC testing scheme.

Here is the news;

The Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure (By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto)

The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”

In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.

William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “

This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the variance in first year college GPA.  SIXTEEN PERCENT!  And that was the most highly correlated aspect of PARCC.  PARCC’s ELA tests have a correlation coefficient of 0.17, which squared is .02. This number means that the variance in PARCC ELA scores can predict only 2% of the variance in freshman GPA!

Dr. Mathis notes that the PARCC test-takers in this study were college freshman, not high school students. As he observes, the correlations for high school students taking the test would no doubt be even lower. (Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)

Dr. Mathis is not an anti-testing advocate. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the state of New Jersey, Director of its Educational Assessment program, a design consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for six states.   As managing director for NEPC, Dr. Mathis produces and reviews research on a wide variety of educational policy issues. Previously, he was Vermont Superintendent of the Year and a National Superintendent of the Year finalist before being appointed to the state board of education. He brings expertise to the topic.

As Mathis points out, these invalid tests have human costs:

“With such low predictability, you have huge numbers of false positives and false negatives. When connected to consequences, these misses have a human price. This goes further than being a validity question. It misleads young adults, wastes resources and misjudges schools.  It’s not just a technical issue, it is a moral question. Until proven to be valid for the intended purpose, using these tests in a high stakes context should not be done.”

PARCC is used in  New Jersey, Maryland and other states, not Connecticut. So why write about this here, where we use the SBAC?

The SBAC has yet to be subjected to a similar validity study.  This raises several questions.  First and most important, why has the SBAC not be subjected to a similar study? Why are our children being told to take an unvalidated test?

Second, do we have any doubt that the correlations between SBAC and freshman college GPA will be similarly low?  No- it is more than likely that the SBAC is also a poor predictor of college readiness.

How do we know this? The authors of the PARCC study shrugged off the almost non-existent correlation between PARCC and college GPA by saying the literature shows that most standardized tests have low predictive validity.

This also bears repeating: it is common knowledge that most standardized tests cannot predict academic performance in college.  Why , then, is our nation spending billions developing and administering new tests, replacing curricula, buying technology, text books and test materials, retraining teachers and administrators, and misleading the public by claiming that these changes will assure us that we are preparing our children for college?

And where is the accountability of these test makers, who have been raking in billions, knowing all the while that their “product” would never deliver what they promised, because they knew ahead of time that the tests would not be able to predict college-readiness?

When then-Secretary Arne Duncan was pushing the Common Core State Standards and their tests on the American public, he maligned our public schools by declaring: “For far too long,” our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” He proclaimed that with Common Core and the accompanying standardized tests, “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable to giving our children a true college and career-ready education.”

Mr. Duncan made this accusation even though there was a mountain of evidence proving that the best predictor of college success, before the Common Core, was an American high school GPA.  In other words, high schools were already preparing kids for college quite well.

With the revelations in this PARCC study and the admissions of its authors, we know now that it was Mr. Duncan and his administration who were lying to parents, educators, children and taxpayers. Politicians shoved the Common Core down the throat of public schools with the false claim that this regime would improve education.  They forced teachers and schools to be judged and punished based on these tests.  They told millions of children they were academically unfit based on these tests. And now we have proof positive that these standardized tests are just as weak as their predecessors, and cannot in any way measure whether our children are “college-ready.”

The time is now for policymakers to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of school hours, on a useless standardized testing scheme;   and to instead invest our scarce public dollars in programs that actually ensure that public schools are have the capacity to support and prepare students to have more fulfilling and successful lives.

BREAKING NEWS – Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure

Stunning assessment of the data reveals Common Core test not a successful predictor of college success.

What does this mean for Connecticut and other SBAC states?

Common Core PARCC tests gets an “F” for Failure – By Wendy Lecker and Jonathan Pelto

The entire premise behind the Common Core and the related Common Core PARCC and SBAC testing programs was that it would provide a clear cut assessment of whether children were “college and career ready.”

In the most significant academic study to date, the answer appears to be that the PARCC version the massive and expensive test is that it is an utter failure.

William Mathis, Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and member of the Vermont State Board of Education, has just published an astonishing piece in the Washington Post. (Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid? In it, Mathis demonstrates that the PARCC test, one of two national common core tests (the other being the SBAC), cannot predict college readiness; and that a study commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Education demonstrated the PARCC’s lack of validity.

This revelation is huge and needs to be repeated. PARCC, the common core standardized test sold as predicting college-readiness, cannot predict college readiness. The foundation upon which the Common Core and its standardized tests were imposed on this nation has just been revealed to be an artifice.

As Mathis wrote, the Massachusetts study found the following: the correlations between PARCC ELA tests and freshman GPA ranges from 0.13-0.26, and for PARCC Math tests, the range is between 0.37 and 0.40. Mathis explains that the correlation coefficients “run from zero (no relationship) to 1.0 (perfect relationship). How much one measure predicts another is the square of the correlation coefficient. For instance, taking the highest coefficient (0.40), and squaring it gives us .16. “

This means the variance in PARCC test scores, at their best, predicts only 16% of the variance in first year college GPA.  SIXTEEN PERCENT!  And that was the most highly correlated aspect of PARCC.  PARCC’s ELA tests have a correlation coefficient of 0.17, which squared is .02. This number means that the variance in PARCC ELA scores can predict only 2% of the variance in freshman GPA!

Dr. Mathis notes that the PARCC test-takers in this study were college freshman, not high school students. As he observes, the correlations for high school students taking the test would no doubt be even lower. (Dr. Mathis’ entire piece is a must-read. Alice in PARCCland: Does ‘validity study’ really prove the Common Core test is valid?)

Dr. Mathis is not an anti-testing advocate. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the state of New Jersey, Director of its Educational Assessment program, a design consultant for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for six states.   As managing director for NEPC, Dr. Mathis produces and reviews research on a wide variety of educational policy issues. Previously, he was Vermont Superintendent of the Year and a National Superintendent of the Year finalist before being appointed to the state board of education. He brings expertise to the topic.

As Mathis points out, these invalid tests have human costs:

“With such low predictability, you have huge numbers of false positives and false negatives. When connected to consequences, these misses have a human price. This goes further than being a validity question. It misleads young adults, wastes resources and misjudges schools.  It’s not just a technical issue, it is a moral question. Until proven to be valid for the intended purpose, using these tests in a high stakes context should not be done.”

PARCC is used in  New Jersey, Maryland and other states, not Connecticut. So why write about this here, where we use the SBAC?

The SBAC has yet to be subjected to a similar validity study.  This raises several questions.  First and most important, why has the SBAC not be subjected to a similar study? Why are our children being told to take an unvalidated test?

Second, do we have any doubt that the correlations between SBAC and freshman college GPA will be similarly low?  No- it is more than likely that the SBAC is also a poor predictor of college readiness.

How do we know this? The authors of the PARCC study shrugged off the almost non-existent correlation between PARCC and college GPA by saying the literature shows that most standardized tests have low predictive validity.

This also bears repeating: it is common knowledge that most standardized tests cannot predict academic performance in college.  Why , then, is our nation spending billions developing and administering new tests, replacing curricula, buying technology, text books and test materials, retraining teachers and administrators, and misleading the public by claiming that these changes will assure us that we are preparing our children for college?

And where is the accountability of these test makers, who have been raking in billions, knowing all the while that their “product” would never deliver what they promised, because they knew ahead of time that the tests would not be able to predict college-readiness?

When then-Secretary Arne Duncan was pushing the Common Core State Standards and their tests on the American public, he maligned our public schools by declaring: “For far too long,” our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” He proclaimed that with Common Core and the accompanying standardized tests, “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable to giving our children a true college and career-ready education.”

Mr. Duncan made this accusation even though there was a mountain of evidence proving that the best predictor of college success, before the Common Core, was an American high school GPA.  In other words, high schools were already preparing kids for college quite well.

With the revelations in this PARCC study and the admissions of its authors, we know now that it was Mr. Duncan and his administration who were lying to parents, educators, children and taxpayers. Politicians shoved the Common Core down the throat of public schools with the false claim that this regime would improve education.  They forced teachers and schools to be judged and punished based on these tests.  They told millions of children they were academically unfit based on these tests. And now we have proof positive that these standardized tests are just as weak as their predecessors, and cannot in any way measure whether our children are “college-ready.”

The time is now for policymakers to stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of school hours, on a useless standardized testing scheme;   and to instead invest our scarce public dollars in programs that actually ensure that public schools are have the capacity to support and prepare students to have more fulfilling and successful lives.

State and Local officials abusing students and parents on SBAC test will be held accountable

When it comes to the Common Core SBAC testing mania, a number of parents from across the state – along with students and teachers – have identified a significant number of school districts that are engaged in immoral, unethical and quite likely illegal efforts to undermine parental rights and bully and abuse children who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme.

  • Some districts have implemented campaigns to lie and mislead parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to refuse to have their children participate in the SBAC tests.
  • Some districts are bullying children who have been opted out by forcing them to stay in the testing rooms despite the fact that the SBAC testing regulations prohibit students who are not taking the test from being in the room where students are taking the SBAC test.
  • Some districts have taken the despicable step of telling children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by their parents that they must first sign-in to the test program before the school will honor their parent’s directive that they are not to take the SBAC test.  In an attempt to meet the demands of the Malloy administration, this tactic is being used by some school districts to artificially inflate their SBAC participation rates, although it leaves the unsuspecting child with a score of zero on the SBAC test, a label of failure that could haunt them for years to come.
  • And finally, some school districts are using more than one of this incredibly outrageous strategies.

In various venues, including here at Wait, What?, requests have been made to Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell and members of the Connecticut General Assembly to step up and put an end to the unconscionable abuse of children and parents that is taking place in some Connecticut school districts.

However, these so-called “public servants” have refused to take any action to protect Connecticut’s public school children and their families.

Their utter failure to do what is right has left parents and public school advocates with no choice but to take steps to hold state and local school officials accountable for their abusive strategies and tactics.

Starting next week, school districts that are engaged in these immoral and unethical activities will be publicly identified and complaints will be filed with the appropriate federal, state and local authorities.

Parental concerns about how the SBAC tests are being implemented has been raised over and over again.  For example, the following articles, all published here at Wait, What? since the beginning of the year, clearly lay out the issues.

More reports of state sponsored abuse of children and parents in relation to Common Core SBAC testing

Malloy and Wyman turn their backs on Connecticut students, parents and teachers – What will legislators do?

More shocking and disturbing reports of Connecticut school officials misleading parents and bullying children on Common Core SBAC testing!

Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

STOP Malloy/Wyman from punishing students, parents, teachers and taxpayers on testing opt out!

As Malloy claims ELA Performance Task not useful his lies and deception about the Common Core SBAC test catch up to him

Malloy’s Strategy on Common Core SBAC Test – Look busy and make sh*t up

Malloy proposes plan to punish your neighbors if you opt your child out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco

Malloy-Wyman Administration ramp-up attack on parents who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco

Some CT superintendents continue to violate parents’ civil rights and their own Code of Responsibility

LOOK OUT!  If parents opt their children out, the Malloy administration will cut funding for poor children

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

IMPORTANT ALERT – Students, Parents, Teachers are being bullied about opting out of testing madness

My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

Parents, students and teachers who have violations to report are asked to send the information to [email protected] as soon as possible.

Malloy and Wyman turn their backs on Connecticut students, parents and teachers – What will legislators do?

Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman, Commissioner of Education Wentzell – you bring shame to your office and yourselves by denying parents’ fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests.

Legislators who support your lies, bullying and illegal tactics should lose in November 2016.

It’s not too late for state senators and state representatives to do the right thing….

Legislators should;

  • Demand that Malloy and Wyman and their administration stop lying and misleading parents about their right to opt their children out of Connecticut’s Common Core SBAC testing program.  As Malloy, Wyman and their top appointees know, there is absolutely NO federal or state law that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the SBAC testing scheme and NO federal or state law that allows the government or local school districts to punish students or parents for opting out.
  • Demand that when it comes to the opt out issue, local school officials must treat their students, parents and teachers with respect and that the ongoing bullying and abuse will not be tolerated.  School administrators who abuse students and parents have violated their duties as educators and public servants and should be removed from their jobs.
  • Stop the Malloy administration’s immoral effort to punish school districts if more than five percent of the students are opted out by their parents.  Withholding federal funds designated for helping poor children and punishing students, teachers, schools and local taxpayers when parents have stood up for their children is beyond unethical – such policies have no place in a civilized, democratic society.
  • Ensure that state law is changed in a way that not only decouples SBAC testing participation rates from the Malloy administration’s absurd school accountability and ranking system, but prohibits the use of the test results in Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system.  Connecticut deserves a teacher evaluation system that provides accurate and relevant information about how public school teachers are doing, not a system that is meaningless because it relies on factors beyond a teacher’s control.
  • And finally, the Connecticut General Assembly should adopt legislation that will protect the privacy rights of students, parents and teachers.  Big data and data mining have no place in our public schools.  The ongoing effort to turn our children into profit centers for private companies must stop.

When it comes to education issues, politicians who align themselves with Malloy, Wyman, so-called “education reformers” and the charter school industry are turning their backs on the students, parents, teachers, public schools and citizens of Connecticut.

These politicians should not be allowed to hold public office.

For more about these issues read:

More shocking and disturbing reports of Connecticut school officials misleading parents and bullying children on Common Core SBAC testing!

What parents don’t know about the massive data collection that is taking place in public schools

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

Yes, CT State Department of Education Officials’ behavior was rude and appalling!

 

sbac graphic

Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?

The Connecticut State Department of Education has decreed that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests will be given between March 15, 2016 and June 10, 2106, for public school students in grades 3-8.

In New York State last year, a massive protest against the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme resulted in approximately 200,000 students (about 1 in 5 students in New York) being opted out of that state’s Common Core testing program.  New York State’s opt out numbers are expected to be very high again this year.

Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo supports the Common Core and the testing frenzy that goes with it, he has publicly recognized that parents have a fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the testing program and his administration has announced that they will NOT be taking any action to punish students, parents or school districts due to the low participation rates in the Common Core tests.

As Wait, What? readers know, however, the story in Connecticut has been the exact opposite.

Under incredible pressure from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration, many Connecticut school districts continue to mislead and lie to parents about their right to opt their children out of the SBAC testing.  Furthermore, in response to large opt out rates in some schools, the Malloy administration has announce that they will begin to punish districts by withholding federal funding that is intended to help poor children and will be taking additional action if school districts fail to stop parents from opting their children out of the SBAC tests.

As a result of the pressure, one school district outside of New Haven, the local superintendent recently sent an email to all the teachers and staff in the district saying,

“Once again, I want to be extremely clear that there will be no opting out of state testing for any student…”

The superintendent is taking this stance despite the fact that there is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent from opting their child out of the test.

As if the state and local effort to undermine parental rights wasn’t outrageous enough, parents are reporting that some school districts are actually going after the children themselves.

In an unbelievable abuse of authority, a school district near Hartford is telling parents and students that any child who is opted out of the unfair SBAC test must remain in the testing room with their classmates for the 7 hours or so of SBAC testing that will be taking place in the coming weeks.

To refuse to relocate a child, some as young as 10 years old, to the library or an alternative location and forcing them to sit silently for seven hours with nothing to do is nothing short of child abuse.

In addition, to leave the child who is not taking the test in the testing room is in direct violation of the SBAC testing regulations.  See:  ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

The SBAC Test Administrators Manual could not be clearer;

 “Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

The requirements in the SBAC Test Administration Manual are not optional.  See Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4)

So Students, Parents and Teachers:

With the Common Core SBAC testing scam about to begin in Connecticut schools,  please take a moment to report on how you school is handling opt out requests and how the school is dealing with students who have been opted out?

Please send information to [email protected]

All communication will be kept confidential unless permission is given to use some of the information.

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

Yes, CT State Department of Education Officials’ behavior was rude and appalling!

Last Friday’s Wait, What? article, Incredulous: Watching CT Department of Education officials lecture school administrators on how to mislead parents, reported on the incredible meeting in which public officials from Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education lectured a group of school administrators about how to STOP  parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme and then quickly shut down the meeting when a parent stood up to explain why many people feel so strongly about the significant problems associated with the SBAC testing craze,

As the post explained:

“Just when I thought I had truly seen everything when it comes to the arrogance, elitism, audacity and contemptuousness of those associated with the corporate funded “Education Reform” effort, I witnessed something even more breathtakingly incredible this past Monday at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

It has taken the week to even begin to be able to put into words what I and a handful of other parents and public school advocates witnessed.  In fact, I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.”

Highlighting the utter absurdity of the entire event was the presentation of a 27 slide PowerPoint presentation that these public servants used to “educate” local school officials about how to communicate with students, parents, teachers and their communities.

On one slide, the State Department returned what appears to be their favorite graphic, an upside down Maslow’s Triangle.

However, rather than use the triangle to explain the quintessential hierarchy of needs, the PR oriented State Department of Education officials used it to instruct superintendents how to “tailor your communication to the needs of families regarding annual assessment.”

At the lowest tip of the triangle were, “Families who are strongly opposed to annual assessment and refuse participation.”

The Deputy Commission compared this group to people who don’t want their children to learn about evolution. (A pretty hostile and ignorant statement if I ever head one)

The State Department of Education’s instructions were;

Provide year round factual information

Be respectful of the family’s stance on assessment

Offer large, small or 1:1 group learning opportunities

Be open to ongoing discussion

But then, at end of the meeting, when a parent actually rose to discuss her concerns, it turned out that the last thing these public officials intended was to actually be respectful or open to discussion.

You can watch a clip of the Deputy Commissioner’s response to the parent at: https://youtu.be/XA3cX3Z8Qnk

In a MUST READ commentary piece published in today’s CT Mirror, lawyer and parent advocate Deborah G. Stevenson describes the scene in greater detail,

Parents’ rights group: Education officials’ behavior rude and appalling (By Deborah Stevenson)

As part of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell’s “leadership strategies,” designed to urge superintendents to “encourage” parents to have their children take the SBAC test rather than to opt out, the commissioner called in superintendents from public school districts across the state to the department’s Hartford headquarters for a “training session” on how effectively to communicate with parents.

Facing reduced participation in the SBAC test, the commissioner deemed it necessary to give the superintendents more “tools” to persuade parents to allow their children to take the test.  Among the “tools,” the Commissioner informed the superintendents that if their school district’s participation rate fell below 95 percent, the district would be subject to dire consequences, including the loss of federal funding and the lowering of the ranking of the district moving it closer to a state takeover.

This despite the fact that the Commissioner of Education recently  acknowledged in testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee that parents do have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse to allow their children to take the test. Yet, that right is not being respected when the Commissioner threatens parents, schools, and school districts  with punishment for exercising that right.

When the commissioner called the superintendents for more “training” to increase the participation rates, naturally parents were curious to find out about what the “training” consisted of and sought to find out.

Some noteworthy things happened both before and after the training session about which the public should be aware:

  • Parents politely notified the State Department of Education, days in advance, that they planned to attend the “training session”.
  • While the Freedom of Information Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-225 and Sec. 1-200) states that “meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public,” and defines public agency as “including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official,” and defines “meeting” as “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency…to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power,” nonetheless, the State Department of Education attempted to keep the “training session” for superintendents closed to the public, stating it “is not a venue for members of the general public to participate.”
  • Instead, the State Department of Education referred parents elsewhere, telling them that they could “utilize the public comment section during the State Board of Education meeting to voice opinions, ideas and concerns.”
  • The State Department of Education eventually changed its mind about keeping the meeting closed, but notified only one parent of that decision, and did so only five hours before the meeting was to take place. Consequently, only a few parents got that message upon such short notice and were able to attend.
  • Upon arrival at the meeting, those parents were told that they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, and that they were expected to sit quietly and simply observe.
  • The meeting commenced uneventfully and continued for an hour and a half.
  • Those parents in attendance, dutifully and politely, did as they were requested and sat quietly and simply observed until the presentation to the superintendents ended and the superintendents had no further questions.
  • As the deputy commissioner was stating her last words ending the meeting, one parent stood up and thanked the department for its presentation. That parent was allowed to speak, and the thanks offered was accepted.
  • During the presentation, the deputy commissioner expressed to the superintendents that they were to ask parents why they were refusing to allow their children to take the SBAC test. When the parent who stood up after the meeting ended to thank the department attempted to explain why parents refuse to allow their children to take the test, the deputy commissioner stood up abruptly and abrasively interrupted the speaker calling an immediate halt to the meeting, commenting, “See, this is why we shouldn’t have let them in” and she threatened to call security. At that point, the superintendents turned their backs on the parent and exited the room.
  • In effect, the parents acted with patience and respect, quietly observed and listened intently throughout the entire meeting until it had concluded.
  • The Deputy Commissioner of Education, and the superintendents, on the other hand, after being instructed for an hour and a half on how to effectively communicate with parents, quietly observed and listened only for a matter of seconds to the parent, interrupted her, turned their backs to her, and promptly walked out of the room.

Clearly the State Department of Education, and the superintendents, need much more work on their communication skills.  Certainly, lessons in civility also wouldn’t hurt.

One wonders why the State Department of Education was so fearful of what the parent had to say that it was necessary to cut her off and threaten to call security.

Apparently, communication with parents is only a one way street.

It would be wise for the State Department of Education to remember that its members work for the public, and that parents, not the government, have a fundamental Constitutional right to the upbringing and education of their children.

One would at least hope that the department offers an explanation, or an apology, for its most egregious behavior. If it does not, one can only hope the legislature will conduct a thorough investigation.

Deborah G. Stevenson is counsel for the Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition.

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

Here we go again…

With the Common Core testing frenzy about to begin in public schools across Connecticut [SBAC testing takes place between March 15 – June 10, 2016], parents are once again reporting that some school districts are informing them that if their child is opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests they will be required to stay in the testing room and “sit and stare” during the entire testing period.

Such a practice is not only an unethical form of bullying but it violates the State of Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) regulations.  Any superintendent, principal or school administrator who requires or allows a “Sit and Star” policy to exist risks losing their certification to work in a Connecticut school  as a result of Connecticut State Statute 10-145b(i)(1).

Students who are opted out of the SBAC testing scheme must be provided an alternative location and are not allowed to stay in the room where testing is taking place.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s “Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual”

“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

The requirements in the SBAC Test Administration Manual are not optional.

If your child is forced to “sit and stare” or you know of a child who is forced to stay in the testing room during the SBAC testing, that is a serious “security” violation and should be reported to your school district and to the State Department of Education.  If you need assistance, please contact Wait, What? at [email protected] and we will help you file a complaint with the appropriate officials.

For additional background see:

Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4)

Security of the Test Environment:  Security requirements for the test environment during various stages of testing. The test environment refers to all aspects of the testing situation while students are testing and includes what a student can see, hear, or access (including access via technology). English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences. Breaches of test security include, but are not limited to, copying of test materials, failing to return test materials, coaching students, giving students answers, and/or changing students’ answers. Such acts may lead to the invalidation of an entire school district’s student test scores, disruption of the test system state-wide, and legal action against the individual(s) committing the breach. A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation. The Connecticut State Department of Education will investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education,* and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law. *See Section 10-145b(i) (1) of the Connecticut General Statutes which reads in relevant part as follows:

The State Board of Education shall revoke any certificate, authorization or permit issued pursuant to said sections if the holder is found to have intentionally disclosed specific questions or answers to students or otherwise improperly breached the security of any administration of a state-wide examination pursuant to Section 10-14n.

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

On March 7, 2016 the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 380, An Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance Results on the Mastery Examination from Teacher Evaluations.

Those speaking at the public hearing fell into two camps.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, public education advocates and experts all speaking in favor of the legislation that would drop the use of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests from Governor Dannel Malloy’s teacher evaluation program.

On the other side were the lobbyists and paid spokespeople for the corporate education reform industry and their allies, including a handful of public school superintendents.  As a group, corporate education form front groups have spent in excess of $7 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher initiatives.  As a result of their efforts, in conjunction with the Malloy administration, public schools are being turned into little more than testing factories and more than $100 million a year in scarce taxpayer funds are being diverted away from public education to privately owned charter school companies in Connecticut.

One of the most negative elements of their “education reform” initiatives was a new and warped teacher evaluation program that requires that students Common Core test results be a significant factor in assessing teachers, rather than a system in which teachers are evaluated based on the factors that correctly measure whether they are doing a good job.

Yesterday’s Wait, What? post entitled, Speaking out for decoupling Common Core testing from the teacher evaluation process (Part 1), reported on the testimony of Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice who laid out the reasons standardized test scores SHOULD NOT be part of teacher evaluation process.

Wendy Lecker, a fellow education advocate and education columnist, who works as an attorney specializing in education equity law, used her testimony to the Education Committee to explain why standardized testing, of any kind, has no scientifically sound or appropriate role in the teacher evaluation process;

The weight of evidence demonstrates that the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations is junk science.

As the American Statistical Association maintains, teachers account for only 1-14 percent of the variance in student standardized test scores. Joining the ASA and others, the American Educational Research Association recently declared that it is almost impossible to disentangle this tiny teacher effect on student test scores from other in-school and out-of-school factors.

A New Mexico court recently blocked that state’s test-based teacher evaluation system because there is no scientific evidence proving that such a system is valid. Standardized achievement tests were not designed to be instructionally sensitive, i.e. show what or how well a teacher teaches.

[…]

With the passage of the new federal law replacing the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), Connecticut now has a unique opportunity to rethink its flawed teacher evaluation system. In response first to the federal Race to the Top grant and then the NCLB waiver mandates, Connecticut developed a teacher and principal evaluation system calling for student standardized test scores to be a part of a teacher and principal’s effectiveness rating. Under the federal law replacing NCLB, the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”), the federal government no longer requires states to link student standardized test scores to teacher evaluations.

[…]

Test scores are simple, readily available measures, but they are completely inappropriate for use in teacher evaluations. As the renowned testing expert, W. James Popham, noted, using standardized tests to evaluate teachers is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon. Rather than construct an evaluation process based on what is easiest to measure, shouldn’t we start with an examination of the type of skills we want in teachers?

Determining whether a teacher has those skills will require us to rely on the professional judgment of administrators and other teachers who observe a teacher’s practices, the work she assigns, and her students’ work.

The state can provide guidelines but it is time start trusting professional educators again. Teaching and learning are complex human endeavors that will never be properly reduced to numbers. Connecticut now has the opportunity and moral duty to right the wrong being done to our teachers and students.

Many others were equally persuasive in their testimony.

Dr. Linette Branham, a retired school educator wrote;

Research done over the past decade, as well as the perspective of Connecticut’s public school educators on the use of the current teacher evaluation guidelines, has shown time and again how inappropriate it is to base the evaluation of a teacher on standardized test scores. The reasons are clear, simple, and logical, including the following:

  1. Standardized tests are not designed to evaluate teacher performance.

  2. Such tests do not show growth over time; they provide a snapshot of student performance on a given day and hour.

  3. Standardized test results don’t take into account how factors outside of a teacher’s control impact student performance on the day the test is taken; these include factors such as whether or not the student slept and ate well prior to the test, social and emotional occurrences (e.g., student’s parents are going through a divorce, there is a serious illness in the family, student had an argument with a best friend just before the class in which the test is given, student doesn’t feel well that day).

  4. What’s tested on the test may not match the district curriculum in skill and content.

  5. Students show what they know in many other, often more appropriate, ways, such as through oral or visual modes.

  6. The standardized test may not be developmentally appropriate for the students.

Dr. Jacob Werblow, an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University, Harber Fellow of Education at Wesleyan University, and the President of the Connecticut Coalition for Real Learning added;

After 15 years of mandated testing under the No Child Left Behind Law, what do standardized test scores actually tell us about school and teacher quality? The answer: almost nothing. In 2012, one of my graduate students and I explored this question using data of 191 high schools in Connecticut and found that multiple linear regressions revealed that 69% of the difference (variance) in a school’s average student achievement can be explained by the percentage of students living in poverty. In other words, nearly 70% of the difference in the average achievement scores among all Connecticut High Schools is directly attributed to the percentages of poor kids enrolled in each school. Therefore, there is only 30% of the variance left to attribute to any factors related to differences in schools (or teachers).

[…]

…differences in average standardized test score performance has little to do with teacher or school quality. This is something that national experts (i.e., David Berliner, Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, etc.) have been consistently saying for years. This is because nearly all of the variability in test score performance lies in the demographic differences among the student.

Rose Reyes a Bilingual Educator and expert on improving educational achievement for students who are not proficient in English told legislators;

In May 2015, the online article, The Case Against Standardized Testing – Harvard Political (harvardpolitics.com/united-states/case-standardized-testing/)  explained, again, how standardized testing focus negatively impacted curriculum and student learning as well as how it compromised teacher evaluations.

Students are not receiving a well-rounded education and teachers’ value is reduced by a metric.

[…]

In our district we have State, district and common formative assessments. In fact, we have tests for the tests. A third grader can experience as many as seven assessments in a month and all we can show for this duress is what we have shown for decades: (socioeconomic) class follows scores.

An ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) 2013 article, recognizes that standardized tests “favor those who have socioeconomic advantages” (ASCD EDge – 15 Reasons Why Standardized Tests are … edge.ascd.org/…/15-reasons-why-standardized-tests-are-problematic) which is why attaching such a metric to teacher evaluations seemed inappropriate. We are still at an impasse in the understanding that when an Emergent Bilingual student attains a proficiency level in their second language it is still inappropriate to test them for mastery in ELA and language embedded math. What is best for EB students is best practice of experiences and cooperative learning. These elements are not quantifiable yet priceless.

SB 380 can be the stepping stone to re-evaluating our evaluation system. By excluding the use of student scores on statewide mastery examinations in teacher evaluations curriculum emphasis can return to a well-rounded experience instead of the narrow focus of artificial achievement in the form of test preparation.

In addition, the Education Committee heard from many others who articulated why standardized tests scores should not be part of the teacher evaluation process in Connecticut.  You can read some of that testimony via the following links

Christine Ladd: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Christine%20Ladd-TMY.PDF

Sheila Cohen: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Connecticut%20Education%20Association-TMY.PDF

Dan Blanchard: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Dan%20Blanchard%20-TMY.PDF

David Cicarella:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-David%20Cicarella-TMY.PDF

Jason Morris: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Jason%20Morris%20-TMY.PDF

John Bestor: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-John%20Bestor%20-TMY.PDF

Kathleen Koljian:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Kathleen%20Koljian-TMY.PDF

Kim-Nagy Maruschock: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Kim%20Nagy-Maruschock-TMY.PDF

Martin Walsh:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Martin%20H.%20Walsh%20-TMY.PDF

Patti Fusco:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Patti%20Fusco%20-TMY.PDF

Roxanne Amlot:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Patti%20Fusco%20-TMY.PDF

Scott Minnick:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Scott%20A.%20Minnick%20-TMY.PDF

Ed Leavy:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-State%20Vocational%20Federation%20of%20Teachers-TMY.PDF

Tom Kuroski: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/eddata/tmy/2016SB-00380-R000307-Tom%20Kuroski,%20President,%20Newtown%20Federation%20of%20Teachers%20-TMY.PDF

Additional testimony, including that of the pro-Common Core testing forces, can be found at: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CommDocTmyBill.asp?comm_code=ed&bill=SB-00380&doc_year=2016