A heart wrenching story from a teacher in Tennessee.  Could have been Connecticut or anywhere…


Read the story posted by a Tennessee teacher yesterday.  Then convert what will undoubtedly be your sadness and anger into action.

Election Day 2016 is just over 11 months away.

This time, use your vote to slap back the testing mania and the unprecedented attack on our students, their teachers, the teaching profession and our public schools.

Before you vote, demand that every incumbent explain what they have done to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the destructive agenda.

Before you vote, demand that every candidate outline what they will do to put the concept of “public” back into public education.

No votes until they reduce the use of inappropriate standardized testing, no votes until they ensure that teacher evaluation program don’t rely on the use of those unfair standardized test results and no votes for those who have become lackeys for the effort to privatize public education.

Voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

The Tennessee teacher’s powerful expose was re-posted by Connecticut educator and fellow bloggerPoetic Justice who is “A poetry teacher defending ALL students and their families.” You can find and comment on the original post at: A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

Yesterday, I quit.  In the middle of the school year, I quit.  After fourteen years in education, I quit.  I.  Quit.  Quitting isn’t something I do, particularly when children are involved, so this is still quite difficult to think or talk about.  It might seem an abrupt decision to some, but for those that know me well, you know this is something I have flirted with for a few years now.  I think it started about five years ago…

I was teaching in an inner-city school in Memphis.  I loved my principal.  I loved my kids.  I loved teaching.  Now, of course, there were issues.  Too much paperwork.  Not enough hours in the day.  Uninvolved parents.  Disobedient children.  District mandates that made no sense.  Still, overall, I was happy being a teacher.  I knew that I would either drop dead teaching or they would have to roll me out in a wheelchair.  It was what I wanted to do forever.  Then, the evaluation process for teachers dramatically changed.  Now, our students’ standardized test scores would become part of our evaluation. As I saw this change coming, I decided that I could help this process along by taking more of a teacher leader role.  So, I applied and became the instructional facilitator for the school where I had taught for the past 6 years.  In this role, I hoped to coach, mentor, and support teachers.  After all, that was a large part of that job description.  In reality, very little of my time was able to be spent doing that.  What did take up a large amount of my time was being my school’s test administrator.  I had experience with testing and the strict guidelines that go along with them, as all teachers do.  However, as test administrator, I was now responsible for reporting my teachers if they did not follow those guidelines.  The stress and worry of that prospect was just too much for me.  I had become an enforcer of a practice I didn’t even believe in.  I couldn’t do this to my teachers, so I left the position after two years and went back to the classroom.

I decided to try a different setting.  Middle school math.  My first year back in the classroom was blissful.  I loved my co-workers.  I loved the diversity of the school.  I loved teaching one subject all day.  Then, we started testing.  And the testing was even more frequent last year.  And now, three months into the school year, I’m certain we have tested more so far than we did all last year combined.

So, I quit.  I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test.  I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.  They can get someone else to do that.  It will kill my teaching soul to do it even one more time.  Like all teachers, I have kids that read below grade level.  I can’t help them though.  I also have students that have only been in the country a few months.  I can’t help them though.  I even have students who don’t know our alphabet because their language is different than ours.  I can’t help them though.  And bless their hearts, they do it because I ask them to.  Most of them would do absolutely anything I asked.  They trust me and believe that what I am asking them to do is what is best for them.  I mean that’s why I spent weeks building connections with them at the beginning of the year.  I want them to trust me.  I rarely have discipline issues.  We are too busy and engaged in the lesson to get off task.  However, after testing kids for two weeks straight, they were done.  You cannot expect struggling students to engage in an activity that is so above their instructional level for an extended amount of time without eventually seeing their behavior change.  It is too frustrating for them!  I could tell that those two weeks broke the bond that I had built with some of my most challenging students.  They just didn’t trust me anymore.  That goes against every single thing inside me that led me to become a teacher in the first place.  And to be quite honest, it broke my heart.  I recently saw a post where someone described teaching as an abusive relationship.  You love it, but it makes you so unhappy.  I get that.  It does feel that way.

So, I quit.  I wrote a resignation letter giving my 30-day notice and gave it to my principal on a Monday morning.  I told him, both of my assistant principals, and my instructional facilitator that day.  With each time I told my story, I cried.  They didn’t try to stop me.  They didn’t make me feel guilty.  They were kind and understanding.  They know.  I’m sure they feel like quitting sometimes, too.  They aren’t the problem.  I slowly told my co-workers, friends, and family.  Everyone that knows me well said to do it.  Every single educator said they understood and would do it too if they could.  Every.  Single.  One.  I’m not married.  I don’t have kids.  I don’t have a mortgage.  I don’t have a car note.  I have more freedom to do this than most.  Because of that, I can’t be quiet about this.  I need to speak for those that don’t have the option to bow out.

My first step was sending the following letter home to all my students’ parents:

November 24, 2015

Dear Parents,

I regret to inform you that today is my last day as your child’s math teacher at #####.

I want you to know that this decision was not easy for me.  I will fill you in on why I am leaving, but first I will tell you what absolutely did not have anything to do with me leaving.  First, your children are not why I’m leaving education.  They are, in fact, the only reason I have any apprehension about this decision.  This, of course, will be most difficult for them.  I have talked to them about this and they handled it like rock stars, but please talk to them about it when they get home.  Adult decisions are often hard for anyone to understand, especially children.

Secondly, the administration at ##### is not why I am leaving.  I have felt nothing but supported by my administrative staff this school year.  I believe they have the best interest of your children in mind.  If I was going to teach anywhere, it would absolutely be at #####.

Finally, the teachers at ##### are not why I am leaving.  I have worked with many teachers over the past 15 years.  The teachers at ##### are some of the best I have ever seen.  In a profession where you are often blamed more than revered, I admire their willingness to keep waking up each day and choosing to keep going for their students.  Please continue to support the teachers at #####.  They need it, but more importantly, they deserve it.

Now…here is why I am leaving.

For the past five years, I have seen the testing of our students become more frequent and more frustrating for all those involved.  I absolutely hate having to stand before my kids and tell them they have to take another test.  It kills a little bit of my teaching soul each time I have to do it.

I spend so much time having to test them that I have little time to teach them, much less listen and talk to them.  So far this year, I have given my students the following tests: iStation Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), iReady Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), MAP Test (given in ELA, Math and Science), and the MIST test (given in ELA, Math, and SS).

These are just the tests that are mandated by the district or state.  We also give pre- and post-Common Formative Assessments at the school level.  Why all the testing these days?  The following is a post I saw online that explains it perfectly.  I’m not sure who posted it originally, so I am unable to give credit.  “The feds require annual testing for accountability. This translates into the BIG test that every state has (In Tennessee this is what we refer to as TCAP, now TNReady…more about that later).  However, the stakes are so high for that test, that states require additional “practice” tests.  But, the results of the state tests are used to threaten districts that are “failing”.

So the districts require “benchmark” tests, to make sure the students are ready for practice tests.  Individual schools and administrators are held accountable for their scores on the benchmarks, so they also impose building-level tests.  The result is non-stop testing.”

Back to TNReady.  This is the new state test that students will be taking this year in place of TCAP.  TNReady is a computer-based test and will be given in February and April.  Because it is taken on the computer, testing schedules will disrupt our regular schedule more than just a week like we were accustomed to under TCAP.  If that isn’t bad enough, the test is just down-right confusing.  You can read a blog post about it and take some practice questions here:http://www.mommabears.org/blog/alarming-info-about-tnready-testing-bomb.  Additionally, the blog post by State Representative Andy Holt shows you exactly how this is being handled by those in power in Tennessee: http://www.andyholt4tn.com/holt-what-tn-teachers-parents-should-know-about-standardized-tests/.

I urge you to become familiar with what is going on in education and make your voice heard about what is best for your child.  You can do this by contacting your school board members, representatives and senator.  And vote every single time.  It does make a difference.

So, back to my leaving.  I have to try to fight this somehow.  I’m not sure how I will go about that yet.  I guess this is my first step.  I do know that I can no longer be the messenger of something that I believe is harmful to my students.  That is exactly the opposite of why I became a teacher in the first place.  I am meant to help, support, empower, and praise children.  Under this current testing culture, I am simply helping to hurt them and that just isn’t who I am.

In closing, I am going to miss my kids so much.  I can barely think of it without crying.  However, I hope they eventually look back at this time and realize that I stood up for something I believed in even though it was a very, very difficult choice.  When they are faced with standing up for something they believe is wrong, I hope they are strong enough to do so.  It isn’t easy, but I think we all need a little more of that in our world.

My next step?  Not sure yet.  I do know that it is a disgrace that we are allowing companies from the testing industry to make millions of dollars off the abuse of our public education system.  Not only are we killing the spirits of students who want to learn, but we are also killing the spirits of teachers that want to make a life-long career of this.  I’m not the first one to give up and I certainly won’t be the last.  In 10-20 years, we are going to look back at this time in education and be very ashamed of what we have allowed to happen.

Finally, please hope and pray that my kids get a qualified teacher quickly. One that isn’t jaded by the system, that loves them in spite of their challenges, and has the strength to withstand the foolishness that educators endure.  I couldn’t be that for them anymore and the grief that causes me is suffocating at times.  I will miss them every day.  This quote helps when the feelings become overwhelming, “Be OK with not knowing for sure what might come next, but know that whatever it is…you will be OK”.

Remember, voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

Public Good or Private Gain – the story behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s Data Mining Effort


[A long but extremely important read]

While most of the attention surrounding the Corporate Education Reform Industry has been on the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme, the inappropriate teacher evaluation systems and the privatization of public education via charter schools, one of the most disturbing elements of the effort to “transform” public education has been an associated program to create a massive database and corresponding data mining activities.

For additional background read the April 2015 Wait, What? Post –  They have your child’s data and they aren’t afraid to use it.  Connecticut parents who want to know more about this issue should follow the FB Page Student Data Privacy: A Voice for the Connecticut Children of P20 WIN 

Called the P20 WIN (Preschool through Twenty and Workforce Information Network) in Connecticut and housed under the Board of Regents, the publicly funded program seems simple enough;

To improve education and employment opportunities for students, Connecticut needs a system that links data between agencies as students progress from early childhood into jobs and careers.

Connecticut’s Preschool through Twenty and Workforce Information Network (P20 WIN) provides a way for agencies to share and match data securely while protecting student, worker and employer privacy. Education and workforce leaders can then have information to make decisions for improving our students and the state.

However, the issues associated with control and use of the data makes the program much more complex.

In a recent article on the subject, the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss wrote;

Parental concerns about student privacy have been rising in recent years amid the growing use by schools, school districts and states use technology to collect mountains of detailed information on students. Last year, a controversial $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates Foundation and operated by a specially created nonprofit organization called inBloom was forced to shut down because of these concerns, an episode that served as a warning to parents about just how much information about their children is being shared without their knowledge.

Valerie Strauss then posted a detailed explanation of the issue written by fellow education blogger Leonie Haimson and Cheri Kiesecker, the co-founder of Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

Leonie Haimson and Cheri Kiesecker explain the story behind the story;

Remember that ominous threat from your childhood, This will go down on your permanent record?” Well, your children’s permanent record is a whole lot bigger today and it may be permanent. Information about your children’s behavior and nearly everything else that a school or state agency knows about them is being tracked, profiled and potentially shared.

During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more.

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

Many parents first became aware of how widely their children’s personal data is being shared with third parties of all sorts when the controversy erupted over inBloom in 2012, the $100 million corporation funded by the Gates Foundation. Because of intense parent opposition, inBloom closed its doors in 2014, but in the process, parents discovered that inBloom was only the tip of the iceberg, and that the federal government and the Gates Foundation have been assisting the goal of amassing and disclosing personal student data in many other ways.

Ten organizations joined together, funded by the Gates Foundation, to create the Data Quality Campaign in 2005, with the following objectives:

  • Fully develop high-quality longitudinal data systems in every state by 2009;
  • Increase understanding and promote the valuable uses of longitudinal and financial data to improve student achievement; and
  • Promote, develop, and use common data standards and efficient data transfer and exchange.

Since that time, the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and data from many state agencies such as the criminal justice system, child services, and health departments.

A state’s SLDS, or sometimes called a P20 database (pre-K to 20 years of age), P12, or B-20 (data tracking from birth), have been paid for partly through federal grants awarded in five rounds of funding from 2005-2012. Forty-seven of 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have received at least one SLDS grant.

Although Alabama, Wyoming and New Mexico are not included on the site linked to above, Alabama’s governor recently declared by executive order that “Alabama P-20W Longitudinal Data System is hereby created to match information about students from early learning through postsecondary education and into employment.” Wyoming uses a data dictionary, Fusion, that includes information from birth. New Mexico’s technology plan shows that they moved their P-20 SLDS to production status in 2014 and will expand in 2015. This site run by the Data Quality Campaign tracks each state’s SLDS.

Every SLDS has a data dictionary filled with hundreds of common data elements, so that students can be tracked from birth or pre-school through college and beyond, and their data more easily shared with vendors, other governmental agencies, across states, and with organizations or individuals engaged in education-related “research” or evaluation — all without parental knowledge or consent,.

Every SLDS uses the same code to define the data, aligned with the federal CEDS, or Common Education Data Standards, a collaborative effort run by the US Department of Education, “to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.”

Every few months, more data elements are “defined” and added to the CEDS, so that more information about a child’s life can be easily collected, stored, shared across agencies, and disclosed to third parties. You can check out the CEDS database yourself, including data points recently added, or enter the various terms like “disability,” “homeless” or “income” in the search bar.

In relation to discipline, for example, CEDS includes information concerning student detentions, letters of apology, demerits, warnings, counseling, suspension and expulsion records, whether the student was involved in an incident that involved weapons, whether he or she was arrested, whether there was a court hearing and what the judicial outcome and punishment was, including incarceration.

This type of information is obviously very sensitive and prejudicial, and often in juvenile court, records are kept sealed or destroyed after a certain period of time, especially if the child is found innocent or there is no additional offense; yet all this information can now be entered into his or her longitudinal record with no particular restriction on access and no time certain when the data would be destroyed.

Expanding and Linking Data across States

Nearly every state recently applied for a new federal grant to expand its existing student longitudinal data system, including collection, linking and sharing abilities. You can see the federal request for proposals. Pay special attention to Section V, the Data Use section of the grant proposal, requiring states to collect and share early childhood data, match students and teachers for the purpose of teacher evaluation, and promote inter-operability across institutions, agencies, and states.

The 15 states and one territory, American Samoa, that won the grants were announced Sept. 17, 2015, and are posted here. President Obama’s 2016 budget request has a number of additional data­ related provisions, including a near tripling in funding for State Longitudinal Data Systems ($70 million) and Department of Labor Workforce Data Quality Initiative ($37 million) aimed at attaching adult workforce personal data with his or her student records.

Though the federal government is barred by law from creating a national student database, the U.S. Department of Education has evaded this restriction by means of several strategies, including funding multi-state databases, which would have been illegal before FERPA’s regulations and guidance were rewritten by the Department in 2012.

The federal grants encourage participation in these multi-state data exchanges. One existing multi-state database is WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which includes the 15 Western states that recently received an additional $3 million from the federal government. This WICHE document explains that the project was originally funded by the Gates Foundation, and that the foundation’s goal of sharing personal student data across state lines and across state agencies without parental consent was impermissible under FERPA until it was weakened in 2012:

Upon approval of WICHE’s proposal by the Gates Foundation, the pilot MLDE (Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange) project began in earnest in June, 2010, and the initial meeting to begin constructing the MLDE was held in Portland, Oregon, in October, 2010. It is worth placing the launch of the MLDE pilot within an historical timeline of events bearing on the development and use of longitudinal data. As the project got underway, the federal government’s guidance on the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was still fairly restrictive. Indeed, based on a subsequent conversation with a member of the Washington State Attorney General’s office, our plans to actually exchange personally identifiable data among the states would be impermissible under the FERPA guidance in effect at that time. Though we were told we would have been able to assemble and use a de-identified dataset, which would have shown much of the value of combining data across states, not being able to give enhanced data back to participating states would have been a serious setback. Changes in the federal government’s guidance on FERPA that went into effect in January, 2012 resolved this problem.

The new guidance permitted the participating states to designate WICHE as an authorized representative for the purposes of assembling the combined data, while also allowing the disclosure of data across state lines and between state agencies.

Since 2010, the Gates Foundation has funded WICHE with more than $13 million. Just to underscore how powerful this organization has become, Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia just stepped down from his post to head WICHE. Here is a helpful chart showing how student personal data is to be shared, among state agencies and across state lines.

Existing multi-state databases include not just WICHE, but also SEED, formerly Southeastern Education Data Exchange, now called the State Exchange of Education Data, including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

This North Carolina PowerPoint from 2013 describes what detailed information is to be shared among the states participating in SEED: data aligned with CEDS, including demographic information, academic and test score data, and disciplinary records. Here is a Georgia document, explaining how SEED will be “CEDs compliant” and describes in even more detail the sort of information that will be exchanged.

In addition, the two Common Core testing multi-state consortia funded by the federal government, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, are accumulating a huge amount of personal student data across state lines, and potentially sharing that information with other third parties. Under pressure, PARCC released avery porous privacy policy last year; Smarter Balanced has so far refused to provide any privacy policy, even after requests from parents in many of the participating states.

What Parents Can Do

Ask your State Education Department if they applied for this new grant to expand their SLDS, and if so, ask to see the grant proposal. You can also make a Freedom of Information request to the U.S. Department of Education to see the grant application. Ask what methods your state is using to protect the data that the SLDS already holds, and if the data is kept encrypted, at rest and in transit. Ask what categories of children’s data they are collecting, which agencies are contributing to it, and what third parties, including vendors and other states, may have gained access to it. Ask to see any inter-agency agreements or MOUs allowing the sharing education data with other state agencies. Ask if any governance or advisory body made up of citizen stakeholders exists to oversee its policies.

You should also demand to see the specific data the SLDS holds for your own child, and to challenge it if it’s incorrect – and the state cannot legally deny you this right nor charge you for this information under FERPA.

This was conclusively decided when a father named John Eppolito requested that the Nevada Department of Education provide him with a copy of his children’s SLDS records, and the state demanded $10,000 in exchange. He then filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, which responded with a letter on July 28, 2014, stating that the state must provide him with the data it holds for his child, as well as a record of every third party who has received it; and that they cannot charge a fee for this service.

Parents also have the right to correct their child’s data if it is in error. Apparently Mr. Eppolito found many errors in his children’s data. Even if it is accurate, the data that follows your child through life and across states could diminish his or her future prospects. As this Department of Education studypoints out,

“…imagine a student transferring from another district into a middle school that offers three levels of mathematics classes. If school staff associate irrelevant personal features with mathematics difficulties, the representativeness bias could influence the student’s placement… educators have been found to have a tendency to pay more attention to data and evidence that conform to what they expect to find.”

Schools could use this data to reject students, push them out, or relegate them to remedial classes or vocational tracks.

There is also abundant research that shows that a teacher’s expectations play a significant role in how a student performs – especially for marginalized groups. This is called the Pygmalion effect in the case of a teacher’s positive expectations, and the Golem effect in the case of negative expectations. These studies reveal that if teachers are provided with positive or negative information about their students before having a chance to form their own opinions based upon actual experience, this prior information often tends to bias their judgments and perceptions of that student, creating self-fulfilling prophecies.   Parents should be legitimately fearful that positive or negative data may be used to profile their children, and potentially damage their chance of success.

What Else Can You Do?

If you send your children to a public school, under current federal law you have no way of opting out of the P20 profile that has been created by your state and potentially shared with others. You also have no right to refuse to have your child’s data disclosed to testing companies and other corporations in the name of evaluation and research. Researchers have legitimate interests in being able to analyze and evaluate educational programs, but any sensitive personal data should be properly de-identified and there must be strict security provisions to safeguard its access and restrict further disclosures, as well as a time certain when it will be destroyed. You do have the right to see that data, and challenge it if it is inaccurate.

You should also advocate for stronger state and federal laws to protect your child’s data and laws that give parents and students the right of ownership, including the ability to decide with whom it will be shared. You should urge your state Education Department to create advisory or governance boards that include stakeholder members, to provide input on restrictions on access and security requirements.

Any federal and state student privacy legislation should embrace five basic principles of student privacy, transparency and security, developed by the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy. Ask your elected officials to support TRUE data privacy and transparency legislation, to protect children. Parents deserve to know the data collected and shared about their children, and they should be guaranteed that their children’s data is safe from breaches and misuse.

NOTE;  A leader in the battle to ensure appropriate student privacy in Connecticut is Jennifer Jacobsen, a long time educator, mother of three, a founding member of Connecticut Unites for Student Privacy and a member of the Connecticut Parental Rights Coalition.  You can read one of her commentary pieces at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/04/27/connecticut-schools-need-comprehensive-protection-of-student-data-privacy/  

For more check out: http://connecticutunites.weebly.com/references-and-resources.html


New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results


Labeling children on the basis of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized tests is bad public policy.  Evaluating teachers on the scores their students get on those tests is equally wrong, yet that is exactly what the policy is in the State of Connecticut.

Last spring, more than 500,000 students across the country were opted out of the standardized testing craze.

This unprecedented development was the direct result of a growing awareness by parents, students, teachers and public education advocates that the standardized testing scheme isn’t useful and that the Corporate Education Reform Industry is turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

While school superintendents and administrators have been a major part of the anti-standardized testing coalitions in New York, far fewer Connecticut school administrators have been willingly to step forward and speak up on behalf of the students, parents, teachers and public schools they are sworn to serve.

In contrast, in the Constitution State Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has consistently been one of the school leaders who has been willing to provide his students, parents, teachers and community with the appropriate information about the extraordinary problems that come with a public education system that is overly reliant on standardized testing.

(See for example, Superintendent Scarice addresses the powerful and ugly truth about SBAC testing charade and Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again. and Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”)

With parents increasingly recognizing the inherent negative consequences that stems from the Common Core testing program, attention is now turning to the second major problem with the pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing initiatives that have been sponsored by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the other political allies of the “Education Reformers” — and that is  — the inappropriateness of evaluation of teachers, based, at least in part, on their student’s standardized test results.

Late last week, superintendents in Nassau Country, New York sent a powerful letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for an end to the use of standardized test results as part of that state’s teacher evaluation process.

The superintendents wrote;

It is because of our residents’ deep commitment that we feel a responsibility to protect our education system from misguided policy decisions, however well intended they may be. We understand that building an accountability system to ensure highly effective instruction for all students is a natural extension of the effort to raise expectations for all students. However, the exaggerated use of student test data in that system unfortunately undermined the initial goals.


We believe our parents understand the value of assessment but stand firmly against the continued distortion of curriculum driven by this flawed accountability system. The well-thought out decision of a significant percentage of our parents to opt their children out of State testing is a reflection of this concern.

Salvaging higher standards will require the State to accomplish three important objectives:

  • Declare a moratorium on the use of student achievement data for educator evaluations
  • Begin work in earnest toward developing a computer adaptive testing system, which will require far less time devoted to testing, ensure questions more appropriate to academic functioning rather than chronological age, and return actionable data in a timely fashion
  • Complete the review of the standards and make adjustments where appropriate.

Connecticut’s superintendents should follow the lead of their New York colleagues and demand that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly repeal the law they developed mandating that student achievement data from standardized tests be used as part of the educator evaluation process.

Numerous models have been developed to evaluate teachers (and administrators) without relying on flawed standardized test results.

In fact, Superintendent Scarice and the Madison Board of Education have adopted exactly such a model.

Education Reformers and their obsession with Standardized Testing – Even the NY Times can’t get the story right!

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Fellow education blogger Diane Ravitch, the nation’s premier public education advocate, opened the New York Times this morning and noted that even the New York Times has been “snowed” by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their false narrative that the solution to the challenges facing public education in the United States is to have more standardized testing.

Diane Ravitch writes;

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

It is more than an embarrassment that the “mass media” takes corporate education reform industry propaganda for truth.  In fact, it is a dangerous confirmation that without the truth citizens cannot keep their government and leaders in check.

Of course, here in Connecticut we have a governor who not only dramatically increased the amount of standardized testing, claiming it was necessary in order to determine whether schools are making children “college and career ready” but explained,

“I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores” – Governor Dannel Malloy

[See Wait, What? Post, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test, if it means raising scores” Dan Malloy 4/9/12.]

So to the New York Times and all the other media entities that have become puppets for the “Education Reformers” remember this…

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right. . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, and indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams (1735–1826)

Madison Superintendent provides Parents with the truth about the Common Core SBAC Test


As George Orwell wrote in his initially classified book of fiction,

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

To which it is well to remember the words of Winston Churchill who observed,

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

If you had a child in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you’d have a superintendent, school administrators and Board of Education that was committed to telling the truth about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing System and dedicated to putting children, parents, teachers and their public schools above the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s ongoing attempt to undermine public education in the United States.

If you had a children in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you would have received the following a letter from Superintendent Thomas Scarice and Assistant Superintendent Gail Dahling-Hench, a letter that honestly and truthfully explains why the Common Core SBAC test is not an appropriate tool or mechanism to judge our children, their teachers or our public schools.

The letter to Madison Parents states;

Individual Student Reports for the 2015 Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test were mailed this week. This specific report format is provided to the district by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and is a product of the national Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, consisting of 18 states.

Tests are designed with a purpose. The SBAC test was designed to measure the college and career readiness level of students through their achievement on the Connecticut Core educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-8 and 11. In addition, as in prior years, the science CMT/CAPT test was administered in Grades 5, 8, and 10.

One singular test provides an extraordinarily limited view of individual student performance. This particular test is based on an incomplete view of “college and career readiness”. In fact, this test endeavors to provide parents and educators with a predictive measure of an individual student’s college and career readiness by mere achievement of educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The reliability of these predictions is imprecise and suspect at best.

Resources provided by the CSDE clearly state that characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories (levels) is an oversimplification, and that the specific achievement levels should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.

Perhaps most concerning in the student reports is the definitive nature of the claims made about an individual student based on one test. This can be found in the language that declares whether or not your child has “met the achievement level” expected for a specific grade, and whether or not your child will need “substantial support to get back on track for success in the next grade”. These claims are particularly alarming given the inadequacies, imperfections, and lack of reliable evidence on one singular test to make such assertions. A balance of assessment tools at the school level provides a more complete picture of individual student performance, as well as timely and actionable data. We encourage parents to look at student performance over various measures when understanding the academic performance of their child.

You are also invited to review the March 2015 report commissioned by the SBAC entitled, Making Good Use of New Assessments. This report conveys numerous cautions about the use, and most importantly, the misuse of these scores.

When examining your student report, we ask that you refer to the online parent interpretive guide provided by the CSDE.

We hope you find this summary helpful when examining the enclosed results for your student. If you have questions about this report….

You can read the letter at:   http://www.madison.k12.ct.us/page.cfm?p=2723&newsid=1201

When every superintendent, school administrator and Board of Education are willing to speak the truth about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scam we will have taken a gigantic step forward in our battle to put the world “public” back into our nation’s system of public education.

Another Charter School Front Group in Connecticut? Naw…Same people just different name


As Connecticut faces yet another massive state budget crisis, even more Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry money is flowing into Connecticut to help grease the charter school operators’ efforts to grab additional public funds courtesy of charter school aficionado and “education reform” groupie Governor Dannel Malloy.

This time the corporate funded charter school lobbyists are calling themselves “Fight for Fairness CT” and are rallying in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford.

Charter school organizers are using www.fightforfairnessct.org, a website that was created by a New York City advertising company on October 23 2015.

Although they are calling themselves by a different name, the group is actually the same controversial New York based charter school lobby group known as “Families for Excellent Schools” http://www.familiesforexcellentschools.org/ except when they call themselves “Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy.”

While their primary purpose has been to support Eva Moskowitz and the other New York Charter School operators, Families for Excellent Schools arrived in Connecticut from New York last year and registered both Families for Excellent Schools AND Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy as lobbying entities with Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics.

However, Families for Excellent Schools immediately created a new front group called Coalition for Every Child, setting up a website named http://www.foreverychildct.org/

When slapped for failing to register Coalition for Every Child with the Connecticut’s ethics office, the New Yorkers quickly changed their name to Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child.

This year Families for Excellent Schools has spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying in favor of Governor Malloy’s charter school and education reform initiatives.

A quick glimpse at the newly formed www.fightforfairnessct.org will reveal the same logo as the old http://www.foreverychildct.org/, although they did change the color from Yellow to Blue to go along with the new t-shirts that Families for Excellent Schools are handing out to charter school parents and students in New York and Connecticut.

If the name changes seem confusing, no worries because even the highly paid consultants who work for the charter school industry appear to be confused.

According to www.fightforfairnessct.org,

“For all Press and Media inquiries, please contact Andrew Doba at [email protected].”

However, the actual press releases themselves go out from Andrew Doba at [email protected]

Doba was also listed as the media contact for Families for Excellent Schools, Coalition for Every Child and Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child.

Just last year, Doba was working as Governor Dannel Malloy’s spokesperson but left that post this past January to join Stu Loeser and Company, a New York City public relations firm owned by the former press secretary of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Stu Loeser and Company are paid to run the Families for Excellent Schools’ public relations campaigns in New York and Connecticut.

Since leaving the state payroll and joining Stu Loeser and Company, Doda has also been serving as the spokesperson for Greenwich native Luke Bronin’s campaign for Mayor of Hartford.

And to bring the whole thing full circle, as previously reported in the Wait, What? article Billionaires for Bronin, one of Luke Bronin’s most noteworthy campaign contributors is Paul Tudor Jones II, the Greenwich Billionaire who is also one of the biggest donors to Families for Excellent Schools and was a charter school owner.

Although Families for Excellent Schools, now known as Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child, was using www.fightforfairnessct.org last year as their online organizing website and have now shifted to http://www.foreverychildct.org/, they charter school advocacy group is sticking with the Twitter handle @FIGHTForFairnessCT.

@FightforFairnessCT got its start last year when Families for Excellent Schools bused in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston to rally at the Connecticut State Capitol in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s ill-conceived proposal to divert scarce public funds away from public schools so that two new companies could open up charter schools in Connecticut.

A cursory review of @FightForFairnessCT will lead the casual observer to ConnCAN, Connecticut’s primary and original charter schools advocacy group which was founded by Greenwich millionaire Jonathan Sackler.  Sackler, whose company makes OxyContin, was a pivotal player in the creation of Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school chain with schools in New York Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Sackler and his wife are among Luke Bronin’s biggest campaign contributors having donated the maximum allowable amount to the Bronin mayoral campaign not once, but twice, in the last few months.

The Twitter Account @FightForFairnessCT’s first Tweet was actually a Re-Tweet of Jennifer Alexander’s excitement about being at last year’s Families for Excellent School’s Capitol rally.

Alexander is the CEO of ConnCAN, although the name of their lobbying and advocacy organization is actually the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc. except when they call themselves the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc.

Two years ago, ConnCAN added yet another front group to the mix forming A Better Connecticut, Inc. but have since dropped that name and the use of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., sticking instead with Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. corporate name.

Over the last three years, ConnCAN and its related entities have spent in excess of $3.5 million lobbying in favor of Malloy’s anti-public school and pro-charter school agenda.

Of course, none of those organizations should be confused with Connecticut’s other Pro-Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry lobby groups which include Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) or their new front-group called the Connecticut School Finance Project.  The New England Charter Schools Network (NECSN) is yet another advocacy group, although like ConnCAN, NECSN is closely aligned to Achievement First, Inc.

CCER and NECSN have spent well in excess of $800,000 promoting Malloy’s charter school and reform agenda.

None of those groups are directly connected to the “other” charter school and Corporate Education Reform Industry groups that have spent money lobbying in Connecticut, including StudentsFirst and Students for Education Reform, which together dropped in over $1 million on behalf of Malloy’s proposals.

Meanwhile, according to ​Andrew Doba’s latest press release from Fight for Fairness CT (but sent out from [email protected]),

“Parents, Teachers and Students Call For Fair Funding of Public Schools Announce “Fight for Fairness” March to Take Place Tuesday, November 10th in Bridgeport.”

Doba’s media statement goes on to explain that “Coalition members supporting” today’s march include ConnCAN, the New England Charter Schools Network (NECSN), Achievement First, and Families for Excellent Schools….

PS:  There will be a standardized test on this material and your teachers will be evaluated on how well you score.

Selling the Common Core – Bill and Melinda Gates’ Audacious Plan to Control Public Education  


“If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none…Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy…” – Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

February 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Association of State Boards of Education – “to build the capacity of State Boards of Education to better position them to achieve full implementation of the Common Core standards.”

April 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – “to assist teachers in understanding and implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the Council of Chief State School Officers – “to support the Common Core State Standards work.”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) – “to promote education policy reform at the state and federal level…”

June 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the National Urban League Inc. – “to promote national and state advocacy, engagement and education reform efforts throughout the National Urban League affiliate movement…”

November 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the Military Child Education Coalition – “to develop and execute an advocacy campaign in support of the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in multiple states by leveraging the voices and actions of its network of military families and uniform leadership.”

November 2011:  A Gates Foundation grant to the New Venture Fund – “to support efforts to better engage and mobilize public support for educational policy and advocacy goals, especially around common core standards and effective teaching reforms within and among the faith community and faith leaders .”

The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people. – Tom Clancy

Enter Bill and Melinda Gates et.al.

Led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation (Owners of Wal-Mart) and the Eli Broad Foundation, along with the “Irrational Exuberance” of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the Common Core and Common Core testing system have rocketed from an untested conceptual notion of education reform to the untested national standards and systems that are rapidly undermining public education in the United States.

In a June 2014 article entitled, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution,” The Washington Post examined what it called, “the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.”

Today, while much of the discussion about “Education Reform” revolves around the diversion of scarce public funds to privately owned and practically unaccountable charter schools and the debate about whether the Common Core Standards are useful or appropriate and whether the unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing scam can be derailed, there is a growing realization that the rise of the Common Core is one of the biggest public relations snow jobs in American history.

And like the Common Core itself, much of the credit for the “Selling of the Common Core” goes to Bill and Melinda Gates and their Gates Foundation which has successfully bought up key constituencies and advocacy groups across the political spectrum.

Earlier this year (May 2015), the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss reported that, “Gates Foundation pours millions more into Common Core.”   Strauss wrote;

Bill Gates famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, implement and promote the now controversial Common Core State Standards. He hasn’t stopped giving.

In the last seven months, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has poured more than $10 million into implementation and parent support for the Core… [Including] $3.7 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support the Core at a time when it has come under increasing attack across the country, for both educational and political reasons.


Opposition to the Core has grown stronger this year with the rise of the opt-out movement, in which hundreds of thousands of parents around the country are opting their children out of Core-aligned standardized testing.  The attacks on the Core — which include moves by some states to repeal them and create new standards — have alarmed supporters, some of whom have been pushing back against the criticism. That explains a letter that a nonprofit group called Children Now just released, disseminated via e-mail that had a subject line that says, “At critical juncture 500 California organizations affirm support for Common Core.” Not so incidentally, Children Now has received at least $2 million from the Gates Foundation since 2011.

Money to assist the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Children Now, the Pro-Common Core advocacy group, promote Gates’ Education Reform and Common Core agenda is just the tip of a much bigger effort by Gates and the Corporate Education Reform Industry to control the debate about public education in the United States and dismiss, trivialize and silence opponents of the Common Core and the public school privatization mania that is sweeping the country.

The following are just some of the grants that the Gates Foundation has handed out in recent years to help ensure that a “positive” Common Core message is fed to the nation’s parents, children, teachers, policymakers and taxpayers;  


National Association of State Boards of Education  2009 $450,000
Alliance for Excellent Education Inc.                         2009 $551,000
  2010 $3,200,000
  2013 $425,000
Council of State Governments 2010 $400,000
  1011 $370,000
Education Commission of the States  2010 $799,000
New Visions for Public Schools, Inc.  2010 $8,150,000
  2013 $80,000
National Governors Association  2010 $1,294,000
  2013 $750,000
National Association of State Boards of Education  2011 $1,078,000
  2013 $80,000
American Federation of Teachers  2011 $1,000,000
  2012 $4,400,000
Military Child Education Coalition 2011 $150,000
  2013 $564,000
NAACP 2011 $1,006,000
National Urban League Inc. 2011 $2,899,000
Council of Chief State School Officers  2011 $9,389,000
  2012 $1,100,000
  2013 $800,000
  2013 $4,000,000
  2013 $1,959,000
Council of Great City Schools  2011 $5,511,000
  2013 $2,000,000
Americas Promise-The Alliance For Youth  2011 $500,000
  2013 $100,000
New Venture Fund  2011 $378,000
  2013 $1,150,000
  2014 $12,750,000
Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy  2011 $501,000
  2012 $45,000
  2013 $100,000
  2013 $500,000
  2013 $1,749,000
Children Now 2011 $900,000
  2014 $475,000
  2015 $700,000
  2015 $150,000
Student Achievement Partners Inc.  2012 $4,043,000
National Education Association  2012 $100,000
  2013 $3,883,000
  2013 $502,000
  2014 $100,000
PTA (National Congress of Parents and Teachers) 2013 $660,000
Council for a Strong America 2013 $2,200,000
National Catholic Educational Association 2013 $100,000
Foundation for Excellence in Education Inc. 2013 $2,000,000
Center for American Progress 2013 $550,000
National Conference of State Legislatures 2013 $557,000
U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2013 $1,911,000
  2015 $3,701,000
Partnership for Learning 2013 $750,000
United Way 2014 $1,213,000
Ed Week – Editorial Projects in Education Inc. 2014 $750,000
Children Now 2011 $900,000
  2014 $475,000
  2015 $700,000
  2015 $150,000
Leadership Educational Achievement Inc. 2014 $225,000
Silicon Valley Education Foundation 2014 $750,000
Stand for Children  2014 $2,551,000
The Match Foundation, Inc. 2014 $341,000
Learning First Alliance 2014 $366,000
Consortium for Educational Change 2014 $7,500,000
George W. Bush Institute 2014 $120,000
The Get Schooled Foundation 2015 $1,576,000
Parent Institute for Quality Education, Inc. 2015 $307,000
GreatSchools, Inc. 2015 $800,000
WestEd 2015 $4,095,000

And the list goes on and on…

For as Doors lead singer Jim Morrison said,

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” 

Where have all the teachers gone? By Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme


Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme are both educators, Teacher of the Year awardees in Ridgefield and both won Connecticut Celebration of Excellence Awards. Their recent commentary piece entitled, “Where have all the teachers gone?” was first published in the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Times.

Where have all the teachers gone?”

Common Core claimed its vision was to close the achievement gap and bring test scores up, guaranteeing every high school graduate to be “college ready.” None of that has been attained. Common Core was really designed to assume government control of the public education system. That goal has been achieved. Autonomy has been taken away from local boards of education, administrators, and most importantly, the classroom teacher.

Common Core was mandated for all states ignoring where individual school systems were testing. For those school systems which already ranked high, this changed the teaching of their curricula, and focused instruction on test preparation, upsetting students, parents, and teachers. It is clear that for those schools in high-risk districts, more than just common standards and tests are needed to bring students up to parity. Common Core has not delivered.

By buying into the veil of Common Core and not challenging its underpinning mandates from the beginning, education communities have lost their way, while education spirals down. They have misplaced their ethical and moral obligation to our children. Educators were supposed to “teach the children well.” If classroom teachers, administrators, teaching institutions, and state and local boards of education are not in control of public education, the bedrock of our foundation breaks down.

Common Core has caused the depersonalization of the teaching profession, resulting in less effective time on teaching, slower productivity, and a rigid classroom environment which cannot be sustained. It has taken the joy of teaching and learning away because of mandated computerized lessons, assessments, excessive data recording, and inflexible block-scheduling. Instead of a mentor/collaborative relationship with administration, the binding teacher evaluation system is confrontational, preventing teachers from speaking out. Collaboration is not encouraged among colleagues because of the dictates of this national curriculum. Those in managerial positions remain controlled by the Common Core. So do our public schools, teachers and students.

Common Core has disrupted the learning process. It has replaced inspirational and innovative instruction with a curriculum that is not educationally and developmentally appropriate, disregarding the research which documents how children learn in concert with their development. Starting in kindergarten, it is pushing curriculum to levels for which students are not developmentally ready. The recent SBAC tests failed with disastrous results. Of greater concern is a new SAT test aligned with the Common Core for all students. At least Connecticut’s CAPT tests were fair and measurable, and represented what was taught in Connecticut schools. The SAT test is designed for the college-motivated student. But not every student is heading for college. What about meeting all students’ needs and America’s needs for jobs? We cannot ignore the students who want to explore diverse career paths and entrepreneurial opportunities via community colleges, tech education, manufacturing programs, and business initiatives and apprenticeships.

The underpinnings of effective teaching and learning exist inside an outstanding classroom where student needs are being met and instruction is dynamic and inspirational. Many gifted and distinguished teachers are leaving the profession, or biding their time to retirement. Experienced and creative teachers are still trying within their classrooms to do what is right for their students, but soon they will be lost to us as mentors. Districts will find it more difficult to hire well-qualified teachers. National trends show there will be a teacher shortage because fewer college students are choosing education as their career path. New teachers will be trained to follow the Common Core program as designed and not encouraged to innovate and employ multiple effective teaching methods.

The thread that is running through our schools from elementary to high school with Common Core, doesn’t align with an educator designed curriculum, and conflicts with educational pedagogy. From K-12, we have a top down, one-size-fits-all, set in stone, system with mandated teacher evaluations which include Common Core tests results. This Common Core system is undermining public education and disrupting the learning process for students, while wasting millions of tax-payer dollars. Connecticut is diverting public funds to promote the myth of charter schools that do not really address socio-economic inequality and the achievement gap. Everything is upside-down in education. It is time for the educational community to come together, take a stand, and speak out to decentralize public education and have local districts run local schools. It is time to fund more public magnet schools, set up inter-district partnerships and make use of our distinguished classroom teachers and retirees to facilitate school, community, and parent mentorships.

Common Core has taken over our schools impacting teaching and learning. An educated child is a free child, a responsible and independent thinker ready to take his/her place in the community. The goal for our students should be their learning, not the test results. Every child’s educational life matters, and every classroom teacher makes a difference.

You can read the original article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Op-ed-Where-have-all-the-teachers-gone-6615808.php

Time to end standardized testing mania by Joseph A. Ricciotti


Joseph A. Ricciotti is a retired education and fellow public education advocate and commentator.  His latest article, Time to end standardized testing mania first appeared in the CT Post.

Joseph Ricciotti writes;

It took the power of parents in the nation as part of the “opt out” of standardized testing movement to realize that the use of standardized tests in public education is a dismal failure.

Needless to say, to hear the President of the United States shift his views on standardized testing should now prompt other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, to give up the notion that testing can be used to assess students, teachers and schools.

Moreover, the change in the stifling use of standardized tests as a weapon against public school teachers will deal a deadly blow to the corporate education reformers in the country who relied on these tests for denigrating teachers as well as for closing public schools and for the expansion of charter schools.

Hopefully, President Obama’s change of heart concerning testing might also be the catalyst to elevate this issue for the current presidential campaign.

For example, in light of the early endorsement given to Hillary Clinton by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is it too much to ask Hillary Clinton as well as other presidential candidates what their views are on the use of standardized tests in our public schools?

We have had two decades of misguided educational political leadership from Washington, D.C. with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top (RTTT) and now Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which has ushered in a plethora of inappropriate standardized high-stakes testing that has taken its toll on public school teachers and public schools, particularly in urban areas.

What is needed now in our schools across the nation is a return to allowing teachers the freedom and autonomy to be the sole determiners of student progress.

Hence, teachers should be allowed and encouraged to use their expertise and judgment and to base their assessments upon teacher made tests that are diagnostic and individualized to help determine student strengths and weaknesses.

Likewise, these teacher made tests will be used primarily to help to improve and strengthen instruction which should be the sole purpose of testing in the classroom.

No other profession has been more demonized over the past 20 years than teaching.

Reformers such as Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and superintendents who did the all the dirty work for these reformers, like the embattled Paul Vallas from Chicago, who came to Bridgeport, has taken its toll on the teaching profession.

However, despite President Obama’s admission that we are “over-testing,” the real challenge facing the teaching profession is a lack of leadership in Washington, D.C.

Hence, it is now up to potential Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if elected, to make the change of new leadership in the nation a reality by appointing a pro-public education advocate and preferably a former educator as the next Secretary of Education.

The newly appointed cabinet secretary’s first legislative act as Education Secretary should be to diminish the role of high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools and to restore the dignity of the teaching profession.

Needless to say, this can only occur if a Democrat becomes the next president as it is not possible to believe that any change in the testing mania will occur if a Republican should be elected as the next president.

Although all public school educators should rejoice in the admission by the president that we are “over-testing,” the real joy will come when we have new pro-public education leadership in Washington, DC as Secretary of Education.

Until then, it is premature to believe there will be any change until we see a fundamental shift in the values and goals that are supportive of public education in which standardized testing plays a diminished role in our nation’s public schools.

Hence, we need organizations such as the NEA and the UFT to challenge the presidential candidates in order to make the necessary changes that will make a positive difference in the education our nation’s children are receiving.

Education Reform – Testing kids on content they’ve never learned


A primary goal of the Corporate Education Reform Industry is to privatize public education by persuading policymakers that the nation’s system of public education is failing.

A key strategy of choice for the so-called reformers and their political lackeys is to prove that students and teachers are failing by requiring massive amounts of standardized testing that measures students on concepts and content they haven’t learned.

Take for example, the NEW SAT, which Connecticut has now mandated for use in the 11th grade.

[Read Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders (Wait, What? 11-2-15) which includes education advocate Wendy Lecker’s recent commentary piece on the NEW SAT.]

A New York Times article last week entitled, Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT, laid out the facts about the NEW SAT including the news that,

“The addition of more-advanced math, such as trigonometry, means the test will cover materials from a greater number of courses.  That will make it more difficult for students to take the SAT early.  Some questions will require knowledge of statistics, a course relatively few students take in high school.”

Difficult for students to take the SAT early?

Thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrat and Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly, a new state law adopted last spring mandates that high school students now take the SAT in their junior year.

The test results will be used to judge both students and teachers.

However as high schools students (and parents) know, most high school juniors are, at best, tackling Algebra in 11th grade and many are still working to master Geometry.

But that coursework won’t be enough for high school juniors to succeed on the NEW SAT.

Even in academically successful Connecticut, few students will have even taken the courses needed to master the SAT and the majority of juniors may not have been provided with the math content to even survive the NEW Common Core aligned SAT.

According to most recent data published by the United States Government’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 16% of high school graduates in the country had taken a calculus course, 11% a statistics course and only a third had even come in contact with pre-calculus concepts, all of which they will be expected to answer if they want to master the NEW SAT.

And that was graduating seniors, not juniors!

The Corporate Education Reform Industry’s discriminatory tactics come into immediate view when considering that students of color have even less access to the advanced courses that would allow them to do well on the NEW SAT.

The NCES reports that while 18 percent of white high school graduates had taken calculus, only 9 percent of Hispanic graduates and 6 percent of African-American graduates had even completed a calculus course.

The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme is designed to fail the vast majority of public school students and the NEW SAT is equally unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory.

Parents take note:

People who force children to take numerous standardized tests that are designed to ensure those students fail are engaging in practices that are nothing short of child abuse.

Constantly deeming children as failures is mental abuse and child abuse is a crime.

The corporate elite and politicians pushing the outrageous testing scam should be held accountable for their abusive tactics.

More on the NEW SAT can be found via the following Wait, What? posts;

WARNING – Parents of High School Students – Especially Juniors – Beware! (10/1/15)

More on the Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016 (10/2/15)

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT (10/18/15)

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