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

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In an effort to win market share, the College Board, along with the  standardized testing industry and the corporate education reform advocates are pushing states are mandate that high school juniors MUST take the SAT.  Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan and New Hampshire are among the states throwing their students under the bus.

In Connecticut, thanks to a new “state mandate,” approximately 40,000 Connecticut high school juniors will not be attending their classes on March, 2, 2016.  Instead they will be taking another “Common Core aligned” standardized test – this time the NEW SAT.

The attempt to force the state’s 11th graders to take the NEW SAT is not about helping students, improving graduating rates or expanding the number of people who go to college.

This new “mandate” is part of the broader corporate education reform agenda that is crippling public education in Connecticut and across the nation.

In this case, it is about trying to force children to take a test that will then be used to label those students and provide the state with faulty information to evaluate Connecticut’s teachers.

Parents should be aware of what is taking place and step up to ensure that our children are not being used as pawns in this massive testing farce.

Here is the background;

Thanks to a contract signed by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Dianna R. Wentzell and approved by Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education, Connecticut taxpayers will be shelling out in excess of $4.3 million in scarce public funds, over the next three years, to the College Board, the company that owns the SAT.  In return, the College Board will allow students to take their NEW SAT — a test that has yet to be validated and has come under increasing criticism because, despite their claims, the SAT fails to adequately predict how students will do in college.

This latest debacle started last spring when, in the face of growing opposition to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme, the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Malloy decided to replace the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory 11th grade SBAC test with a new mandate that all high school juniors take what is likely to be an equally unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory NEW SAT.

However, neither Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education nor the legislators had ever seen the NEW SAT that they are now trying to force 11th grader to take.  They hadn’t seen it because the new version of the SAT isn’t even being released until March 2016.

As the College Board website proclaims, students across the United States can take the NEW SAT for the first time on March 5, 2016 which means that Connecticut’s 40,000 juniors are truly little more than an initial round of guinea pigs for a testing company whose revenue is already in excess of $841 million a year.

What is known about the NEW SAT is worrying many experts who are knowledgeable about the standardized testing system and the process that students must go through when applying to college.

Take note;

Last March, Business Insider’s headline read, America’s top SAT tutor explains why no one should take the SAT in 2016, with internationally renowned SAT tutor Anthony Greene writing;

“I’m recommending that none of my students take the first three rounds of the new SAT (March, May, and June of 2016)… “Why let students be guinea pigs for the College Board’s marketing machine?”

In an April 2015 article in Forbes Magazine, 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take the New SAT, Dan Edmonds, the Senior Director of Research and Development at Noodle.com wrote,

The simple fact is that there are numerous good reasons that students shouldn’t take the new SAT next spring — they should opt for the ACT instead. (The primary alternative college entrance example)

And this past fall, Adam Ingersoll of the Compass Group, another SAT tutoring company, warned students not to be guinea pigs for the College Board adding that the best option for most juniors will be the ACT.

There are many reasons to avoid the NEW SAT;

Reason #1 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Now that the NEW SAT is supposedly aligned to the Common Core students will face many of the same problems that they faced with the Common Core SBAC test.  In particular is the reality that there will be a significant amount of content on the NEW SAT that most high school students have not even been taught.

This situation will be most evident when it comes to the math portion of the test.

The NEW SAT merges the reading and writing portion of the old SAT into one section meaning that the Math Section of the NEW SAT will make up a larger portion of a student’s overall score (Half instead of one-third.)

Of even greater concern, the NEW SAT intentionally punishes students who haven’t completed Algebra II and gone on to take some trigonometry, statistics and precalculus.

As fellow education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker recently explained in The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus.

Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

Reason #2 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education and state legislators said Connecticut’s new SAT testing program would ensure that all 11th graders had an entrance exam score to use when applying to college.  That is a bold-faced lie.

Again, as Wendy Lecker also explained:

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

The truth is that there will be thousands of Connecticut public school students taking the NEW SAT who will discover that their test score CAN NOT be used with any college application and will only be used to “evaluate” them and their teachers. 

Reason #3 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

As high school juniors and their parents’ ramp up their college application activities, they should be aware that an SAT score is no longer needed when applying to many colleges and universities.   More and more institutions of higher education are moving away from using the SAT and standardized test scores to determine who to accept.

As FairTest, an organization that monitors to use and overuse of standardized testing has reported, more than 850 colleges and universities in the United State “DO NOT USE the SAT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students.”

FairTest goes on to explain that schools are moving away from the use of standardized tests because academic studies have consistently shown that “Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit and are not appropriate or correct indicators of how students will actually do in college.

In my daughter’s case, of the dozen or so colleges that she is considering applying to, the majority DO NOT require an SAT test.

For those schools that do require a standardized test score, my daughter will be taking the old version of the SAT on February 20, 2015.  The last date for taking the old version of the SAT was supposed to be last week (January 23, 2016) but due to the snow storm on Saturday, the testing was postponed until the end of February.

My daughter will also be taking the ACT, a college examination exam that isn’t in the middle of a tumultuous and controversial restructuring.

While she won’t be participating in the SAT test being “mandated” by the state of Connecticut, on March 2, 2016, if we determine that she should take the NEW SAT, then there are plenty of options to take the test in the spring, summer and fall, after the initial problems with the NEW SAT have been identified and resolved.

What we won’t do is serve as pawns for the state of Connecticut’s attempt to collect standardized tests results so that they can unfairly evaluate teachers.  Governor Malloy’s “education reform initiative” requires local school district to base 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on the standardized test results of their students.

My daughter won’t be relegated to being  a test subject for the College Board’s attempt to reclaim market share.

Instead, we will do what is best for my daughter’s college aspirations – the state and its testing obsession be damned.

Reason #4 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Another key issue for students and parents to understand is that for students whose college “wish list” includes schools that DO REQUIRE an SAT score, a significant number of schools require or recommend that students complete the “optional” essay that will now be part of the SAT going forward.

But students taking the “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 will find that there is no “optional” essay to take.  The Malloy administration’s contract with the College Board does not even provide Connecticut students with the opportunity to take the “optional” essay – an “option” that is anything but optional at a number of schools that actually require students to submit standardized test results.

In an October 2015 published report of the colleges and universities that do require that standardized tests scores accompany applications, approximately 34 percent recommend or require that students take the essay portion of the tests.

Furthermore, the executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep suggested that,

“One thing to consider is that an optional but more challenging section provides an opportunity for students who are good writers and analysts to distinguish themselves. Schools appreciate applicants who challenge themselves, so earning a high score on an optional section can factor favorably on an application.”

Students who want or need to take the “optional essay” portion of the NEW SAT are simply out of luck when it comes to the state mandated March SAT.

By rushing to “mandate” that high school juniors take the NEW SAT, the state of Connecticut has created a situation in which thousands of students that require special education services or are not proficient in the English language will find out that their mandated NEW SAT score can’t even be used in a college application.

And, at the same time, many Connecticut high school juniors who do want to take the “optional” SAT essay will learn that they will have to take the SAT yet again, this time paying for both the cost of the NEW SAT and the cost of the “Optional” SAT essay.

As an FYI, the list of schools requiring the “optional” SAT essay includes:

Stanford University, University of California, California Institute of Technology, Howard University, University of South Florida, Emory University, Purdue University, Amherst College, Harvard College, Merrimack College, Nichols College,  Macalester College, Duke University, Dartmouth College, Rutgers University, Princeton University,  Iona College, SUNY University at Stony Brook, University of Cincinnati, Arcadia University, Vanderbilt University, Baylor University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, Saint Michael’s College (VT), University of Oregon, University of Washington and Yale University. 

Reason #5 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Finally, as to the critically important issue of whether high school juniors MUST participate in the absurd March 2nd NEW SAT testing frenzy;

The Malloy administration continues to claim that students cannot be opted out of the NEW SAT testing program.  Some school administrators are going even further threatening students that they will not be able to graduate if they don’t take the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

These threats are not only unethical and immoral but they are false.

First, as has been posted here at Wait, What? over and over again;

There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even the chairman of the State Board of Education, a lawyer, has admitted that Connecticut parents have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the state’s testing program.

If the Malloy administration believes it has the legal authority to override parental rights then they need to publish that claim so that parents can take legal action and obtain an injunction against Governor Malloy and his Department of Education.

Second, Connecticut state law specifically prohibits school districts from preventing students from graduating or being promoted to the next grade because the fail to take the state’s “Mastery Test.”

Connecticut State Statute Sec. 10-14n Connecticut State Statute reads:

As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.

[…]

(e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

While Malloy and his administration continue to mislead and lie to parents about the new Common Core testing programs, the NEW SAT is simply not a Mastery Test under the law.

No one has seen the NEW SAT but we can be sure it is not aligned to Connecticut’s curriculum and does not measure “essential and grade-appropriate skills.”

As reported above, the NEW SAT includes content that is not even required under Connecticut’s graduation requirements.  (I.E. students do not need to take Algebra II, Trigonometry and precalculus in order to graduate from a Connecticut high school).

In addition, the Commissioner of Education has not set the “cut scores” that identify if a student has or has not achieve a proficient score.  The Commissioner has added that the “cut scores” will not be set until after the testing has been completed.

The state of Connecticut cannot claim that the NEW SAT is the state’s Mastery Test when the state can’t even identify what is or what is not “mastery.”

Also, school districts cannot require that a student take the NEW SAT in order to graduate.

Requiring that a student take the test to graduate or be promoted to the next grade makes taking the test a mandatory criteria, something state law forbids.

The statute reads;

“No public school may require…such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.”

By refusing to allow a student to graduate unless they take the NEW SAT makes taking the NEW SAT a “SOLE CRITERION” for graduation and is therefore illegal.

The “mandate” that high school juniors take the NEW SAT is not to benefit our students or our schools.  It is truly a part of the broader agenda that is undermining public education in Connecticut.

These initiatives actually hurt our students, parents, teachers and public schools.

The threats from Governor Malloy, his administration and local school districts have to stop.

Parents, not the Governor, not the Commissioner of Education and not local school officials have the sole authority and discretion to decide if a student is or is not going to take the NEW SAT.

In my case, my daughter WILL NOT be taking the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 and I would recommend that other parents of high school juniors consider taking the same step.

The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his State Department of Education are engaged in an unethical effort to spin their new “mandate” that every Connecticut High School Junior (11th grader) MUST take the NEW SAT test on March 2, 2016.

Driven by their support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and their desire to use the test scores to rate students and evaluate teachers, the state is on a mission.

However, parents, students, teachers and the public should be aware that their effort is a disgrace and that their lies will not go unchallenged.

To repeat a common refrain here at Wait, What? – There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman has admitted to parents that they have the right to opt their children out of the test, although she remains silent in public about this fundamental issue.

Local school superintendents and school administrators also know the truth.  If they are telling students and parents that children must take the SBAC or SAT in order to graduate or move on to the next grade they are lying!

The SBAC test is designed to fail students, in part because it includes content that the majority of students have not be taught.  Proponents of the NEW SAT claim that it too is aligned to the Common Core, but it isn’t even being released until March 2016 so those Connecticut students who do take it on March 2, 2016 are nothing short of guinea pigs for the corporate testing industry.

It is parents – not the state – that have the inalienable right to decide whether their child should take a test that is designed to label tens of thousands of students as failures when they are not failing by any honest definition of that word.

My next Wait, What? column here will be entitled;

 “Why my daughter will not be taking the NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

As a prerequisite to that piece and to better understand the under-handed action that is being taken by the Malloy administration, please take the time to read fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s expose entitled, The lies in the new SAT.

This article was first published in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut’s political and educational leaders have sold us a bill of goods with the new SAT. Last spring the legislature and the State Board of Education hastily decided to replace the 11th-grade SBAC with the newly designed SAT. The move was in response to outcry about the invalidity of the SBAC and about the addition of another standardized test for juniors.

As I wrote previously (http://bit.ly/1Kv8TXk), our leaders did not wait for the SAT to be validated, nor did they validate any accommodations that English Language Learners (ELL) or students with disabilities would need.

Instead, they misrepresented the facts to parents and students.

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

In other words, for thousands of students, the state-mandated SAT will not count for college applications and they will have to take another test — either the SAT or ACT without accommodations.

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus. Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

The SAT is designed to be a test with winners and losers. It is a comparative, scaled test. As one top SAT tutor recently wrote to the Business Insider, “(i) f everyone got a 1,600, there would be no point to this test at all. This test is designed to show colleges who is better and who is worse — not who is good.” A test with this goal should not be used as an accountability test, which is supposed to confirm who has met state academic goals for high school — i.e. who is “good.”

The final lie our state leaders are selling is that the new SAT will tell us who is ready for college success. As I have written before, the evidence — something our leaders rarely examine — shows that the best predictor of college cumulative GPA and graduation, i.e. college success, is the high school GPA. This is true over time, across the entire nation, in all types of colleges and universities. By contrast neither the SAT nor the ACT is a good predictor of college success.

The same top SAT tutor notes that the College Board’s claim that the new SAT will accurately reflect the demands of the American high school curriculum has a major flaw, namely “this is exactly what they said about the last version that they launched”— the one the College Board has now abandoned. He declared that anyone who takes the new SAT is merely “a guinea pig for the College Board’s marketing machine.” He recommends that none of his students take the new SAT until other guinea pigs prove its validity.

Those other guinea pigs? Connecticut’s students, thanks to our political leaders, who served them up merely to satisfy College Board’s data needs. It is time that parents demand that leaders make education policy that is in the best interests of students, not testing companies.  

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-lies-in-the-new-SAT-6777613.php

Wendy Lecker is absolutely right!

 Parents and students;

 Do not be bullied by the Malloy administration or your local school administrators.

 If our other elected officials, state legislators and board of education members, were really committed to the well-being of the parents, students, teachers and residents of their communities they would be taking action – now – to stop this abuse of power.

For more about the NEW SAT read;

Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT

Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016

PSAT score delay spells more bad news for Connecticut SAT mandate

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

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A growing number of parents (and educators) understand that the Common Core standardized testing frenzy is bad for students, teachers and public schools.

Recognizing that they have a fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests, hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have been opting their child out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State last year, nearly a quarter of a million parents opted their children out of that state’s Common Core testing farce.

While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration misleads, lies and threatens parents, teachers and school administrators in an unethical attempt to derail the opt out movement in the Constitution State; public officials in other states actually take action to respect the will of their constituents.

For example, in Montclair, New Jersey the Board of Education approved, on a vote of 6 to 0, a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the testing program and directing the “Montclair School District to provide an alternative learning plan for children whose parents have refused for them to take the [Common Core] PARCC tests.

In response to that plan, parents in Montclair received the following letter yesterday, January 14, 2016;

Dear Parents/Guardians/Caregivers:

As you know, the New Jersey Department of Education requires all students to take state assessments. There is no provision for a student to opt-out of statewide assessments. However, last year the Montclair Board of Education passed a resolution allowing the district to create a plan for students not taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) according to their parents’ request.

The district procedures for parental refusal of standardized testing are as follows:

All parents/caregivers must notify the school principal by March 1 using the attached form or this link that his/her child will not be participating in the scheduled statewide assessment. A separate form is required for each child. The electronic PARCC Opt-Out form will automatically be submitted to the district and your school principal(s).

We are also including a form for your use in opting out if you do not have access electronically.

Please fill out a separate form for each child and return to your respective school principals by March 1.

Sincerely,

Ron Bolandi

Interim Superintendent

In Montclair, New Jersey parents can opt their children out of the Common Core testing by simply providing their child’s name, school, grade and signing a statement which reads

“I attest that I am the parent of this student and by typing my initials in this box I consent to my student opting out of all PARCC assessments during the 2015-2016 school year.”

Connecticut parents can see what they are missing by clicking on Montclair, NJ Parental Opt-out form;

Imagine, public officials who actually respect and stand up for the rights of their constituents.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and their State Department of Education are not only misleading, lying and bullying Connecticut parents, but they are engaged in an orchestrated effort to punish the school districts and local taxpayers in communities in which parents refuse to allow their children to participate in the Common Core SBAC scam.

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

Malloy and Wyman’s failure to act means that the responsibility now rests with Connecticut’s legislators and local boards of education.

It is time for Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials to do the right thing and stop undermining Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and public schools.

The first step is ensuring Connecticut’s parents have the same rights as parents in Montclair, New Jersey.

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

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REMEMBER:  There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits Connecticut parents from opting their children out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

However, according to a series of letters and memos signed by Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell, on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s administration, local school districts that failed to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) testing scam will be receiving a letter by (tomorrow) January 15, 2016 informing them that their local school system will lose grant funds if they don’t force at least 90% of the children to take this year’s Common Core tests.

Education Commissioner Wentzell has informed Connecticut superintendents that there will be severe consequences for any school district that fails to stop parents from standing up to protect their children from the testing madness.

The Malloy/Wyman administration’s memo to superintendents included the following:

District Participation Rate Consequences 2014-15

For School Districts that had a participation rate “Below 80%” in any category, “funds will be withheld if, at a minimum, participation in 2015-16 fails to meet Level 2 criteria (which the state is now setting as  greater than 90%.)

The State Department of Education memo adds that any school district that failed to reach the 95% participation threshold this year must (1) attend a meeting with the State Department of Education and (2) submit a detailed corrective action plan that will be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Education.

The mandatory meetings will be held by February 5, 2016, corrective action plans must be submitted to the State Department of Education by February 16, 2016 and those plans will be “reviewed, revised as necessary, and approved by CSDE” by February 29, 2106.

The Malloy administration’s memo fails to identify what authority the State Department of Education has to force local force school districts to submit “corrective action plans,” to review and approve such plans or to withhold taxpayer funds from any district that does not achieve a 90% participation rate.  (Where the decision to mandate a 90% participation rate rather than 95% level is a complete mystery.)

Of even greater concern is the fact that the State Department of Education fails to provide local school districts with any guidance, instruction, or legal advice about how they are supposed to lie, mislead or stop parents from utilizing their fundamental right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core testing program.

The state also fails to explain why they consider it good public policy to withhold taxpayer funds from schools in which parents have gotten involved and opted their children out of that excessive testing system.

And yes, this attack on students, parents, teachers, public schools and our fundamental legal rights is taking place right here in Connecticut.

No word from legislators about what they are doing to protect their constituents from this incredible assault.

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

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Yesterday, lawyers for Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen spent the day in a Connecticut courtroom arguing to a judge in the CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit why the state should not be held accountable for failing to provide Connecticut’s children with their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

We can be sure of one thing.  If a Republican governor was engaged in such an unethical and immoral approach to Connecticut’s school funding system, Democratic officials would be leading the demonstrations demanding that the state of Connecticut settle the lawsuit and fulfill their obligation to our state’s children.

But Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen claim the “Democratic Party” label and thus there was nothing but silence yesterday from Democratic Party officials.

Meanwhile, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is not only preparing to take the stand against Connecticut’s children in the critically important CCJEF School Funding Lawsuit, but she is leading the Malloy/Wyman administration’s inappropriate attack on students, parents and the public school administrators who were honest and truthful, last spring, about a parent’s right to opt their child out of the disastrous Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents a Connecticut parent from refusing to have their child participate in the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Testing Program, that truth isn’t stopping the Malloy administration from reaching out to punish the school districts that didn’t “prevent” parents from utilizing their inalienable right to opt out of the testing.

The attack on Connecticut school districts that “allowed” children to be opted out is nothing short of reprehensible and the Malloy administration’s tactics are becoming a national disgrace.

Dr. Daniel Katz is a New Jersey-based educator, university professor, expert on preparing special education teachers for the classroom and a fellow education blogger.  From his vantage point, Daniel Katz has been watching Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration’s attack on students, parents, teachers and public education with disgust.

In his latest column entitled, Connecticut Recommends Thumbscrews, Daniel Katz writes;

Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy does not always grab attention in the annals of corporate education reform.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made battles with public unions more central to his image.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plainly relishes getting to act “tough” and yell at teachers questioning his agenda. Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel shuttered 50 public schools, mostly serving ethnic minority children, in one go, without caring to listen at all to the residents of the impacted neighborhoods.  Neighboring governor and fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York staked a huge portion of his agenda for 2015 on ramming through controversial education reforms, and his approval rating both overall and especially on education have tanked in a highly visible manner.  Compared to headline grabbers like these, Governor Malloy does not seem to get much attention.

Which is a shame because when it comes to the Holy Trinity of education reform – common standards, standardized testing tied to punitive consequences, and preference for charter schools over district schools, Governor Malloy is the complete package. In 2012, he called for major changes to teacher tenure in Connecticut, earning praise from ConnCAN, an education reform group promoting charter schools.  Facing push back from teachers and parents about the pace and nature of education reforms, Governor Malloy was forced to call for a “slow down” in the pace of reforms, especially tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.  $91,000 in campaign donations flowed to Connecticut Democrats from a single wealthy businessman and charter school advocate, Jonathan Sackler, and three members of his family; those donations and others from Wall Street were rewarded with proposals for over $21 million in new charter school funding while public school spending remains flat.

It is pretty clear that Governor Malloy stands shoulder to shoulder with New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel even if he prefers to draw less national attention to himself.  So it is perhaps not surprising that his education department is contemplating thumbscrews for the Opt Out movement in Connecticut.

Opt Out was not the force in Connecticut that it was in neighboring New York with only 11,200 students not taking the state exams while the state says 267,000 did.  However, a number of individual districts did not meet the 95% testing requirement of No Child Left Behind which was continued in the new Every Child Succeeds Acts, and in some districts those numbers were significant. Roughly 7 out of 10 high school juniors opted out in Stonington, and participation fell below 95% in over 30 communities.

This Fall, roughly a dozen states got a letter from Ann Whalen at the US Department of Education, an adviser who is acting as the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, reminding them that their districts need to test no less than 95 percent of all students and that the state needs an action plan to deal with those who do not.  The letter opens by reminding state chief education officers of the legal requirements to test all children in grades 3-8 and once in high schools, that the examinations must be same for all students, and no student may be excluded from the examinations.  Ms. Whalen asserts that the sections of the law she cites “set out the rule that all students must be assessed.” The letter continues to remind the state officers that both their state and local authorities who receive Title I, Part A money assured that they would test all students in accordance with the law.  Ms. Whalen also offers “suggestions” for actions state education authorities can take to address participation in the assessments:

  • Lowering an LEA’s or school’s rating in the State’s accountability system or amending the system flag an LEA or school with a low participation rate.
  • Counting non-participants as non-proficient in accountability determinations.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to develop an improvement plan, or take corrective actions to ensure that all students participate in the statewide assessments in the future, and providing the SEA’s process to review and monitor such plans.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to implement additional interventions aligned with the reason for low student participation, or even if the state’s accountability system does not officially designate schools for such interventions.
  • Designating an LEA or school as “high risk,” or a comparable status under the State’s laws and regulations, with a clear explanation for the implications of such a designation.
  • Withholding or directing use of State aid and/or funding flexibility.

Ms. Whalen also reminds the states that they have “a range of other enforcement actions” including placing conditions on Title I, Part A grants or even withholding them.  For a real kicker, she goes on to say that if states with less than 95% participation in the 2014-2015 school year do not assess 95% of students this year, then the federal education department “will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administration funds; (2) place the State’s Title I, Part A grant on high-risk and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.”

Short version: States with Opt Out numbers that put them or local districts below 95% test participation must bargain, cajole, plead, or threaten districts and schools into making that target.  The Federal Education Department has put in writing that not only failure to take action to address low assessment rates, but also failure to meet the 95% target this year, WILL result in some form of punitive action from Washington.  Presumably, the degree of the punishment will depend upon how vigorous the state actions are.  It is also safe to assume that the Education Department offices in Washington have a new logo:

Connecticut got its own version of this letter from Dr. Monique Chism in the office of state support, and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna Wentzell quietly sent the state’s reply on December 4th, waiting until December 28th to release it to the public. In the letter, Dr. Wentzell assures Washington that although Connecticut met the 95% participation rate statewide, they are “not pleased” that a number of districts did not do so, and the state has devised a tiered intervention system to “ensure that districts meeting the standard are commended, those failing marginally are gently alerted, and those falling behind are strongly reminded of the potential consequences and provided support to remedy the situation in 2015-2016.”  In the next school year, Connecticut’s accountability system will “lower a school by one category for low participation rates in the 2015-2016 year.”  The system is explained in a graphic:

Districts in Connecticut are now warned: if your test participation rates were below 80% in any category, funds WILL be withheld if this year’s participation rate is not at least 90%.

SDE consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This remains as problematic as it has been every time the federal government or a state entity has raised it.  Yes, it is true that federal law requires that at least 95 percent of all students in all subcategories are tested in the participating grades.  Yes, it is true that state and local officials have to do what they can to test the students in the participating grades and have almost no legal authority to exempt any of those students.  However, the statute was written to prevent states and local school authorities from hiding low performing student populations from accountability systems.  I challenge Dr. Wentzell, Dr. Chism, or Ms. Whalen to find a single line of statutory authority to compel parents to submit their children for examination or to find any legislative intent in the original NCLB legislation or its successor to punish schools and districts for not exerting 95% control of the parents in their district.  There have been schools since 2001 who have not managed to test 95% of their students, but there is not a single example of a school being punished for that.

In the end, Connecticut, at the prodding of the Federal Education Department, is setting itself up for an unpleasant confrontation with parents, often parents that elected officials find difficult to ignore, with very shaky legal footing.  North Haven High School, for example, had extremely low participation rates on the 11th grade exams.  The community also has a median home value $22,000 above the state median and median household income $16,000 above the state median.  With only 4% of its residents below the poverty line compared to the state average of over 10% it is unlikely that North Haven’s schools rely significantly upon Title I funds, so it is unclear exactly what money Dr. Wentzell would withhold.  However, the loss of any money intended to help children who are in poverty based upon actions of parents rather than upon actions of school authorities is unprecedented, contrary to the intention of any federal and state accountability laws – and far more likely to increase the parental backlash than to bottle it up.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen don’t face the votes this year, Connecticut’s legislators do.  In this battle between the Malloy administration and Connecticut’s public schools, state senators and state representatives would do well to be clear about whose side they are on… Are they going to stand with Malloy or with Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers?

Hey Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen – Connecticut children have a Constitutional Right to a quality education!

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Six years ago the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in the case of CCJEF v. Rell that Connecticut’s State Constitution REQUIRES that all public school students have the fundamental right to “an effective and meaningful (quality, adequate) education, the standard for which is “dynamic” and dependent on the “demands of an evolving world.”

Connecticut’s Supreme Court then sent the case to a trial judge to determine what the State of Connecticut must do to meet that standard.

However, for the past six years Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen and the Malloy administration have fought to derail, destroy or dismiss this incredibly important lawsuit.

Instead of stepping up to fulfill their legal duty to the children of Connecticut, these “Democratic” politicians have devoted a massive amount of taxpayer resources in an immoral attempt to prevent Connecticut’s children (and Connecticut’s local property taxpayers) from having their “day in court.”

Despite Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen’s best efforts, the CCJEF V. RELL trial begins today.  (See CT Newsjunkie Trial on Landmark Education Funding Lawsuit Begins)

As CCJEF explained in a recent press release;

(Hartford, CT)—The landmark CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity case goes to trial before the Hartford Superior Court beginning Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

At issue in the case is whether the State’s public education finance system meets the adequacy and equity standards required by the Connecticut Constitution (PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law, January 5. 2016).

“The journey on this long and winding judicial road has taken nearly 11 years, but now Connecticut’s schoolchildren will have their day in court,” said Herbert C. Rosenthal, CCJEF President.  “The outcome of this historic case will have profound impacts on how public education services are delivered and funded for generations to come.  It is time to acknowledge that the education finance system in our state is broken and needs to be fixed.” said Rosenthal.

CCJEF (www.ccjef.org) is dedicating our trial efforts to the memory of Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries, CCJEF founder and long-time project director, who passed away on October 11, 2015.

CCJEF, established in 2004, is a broad-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to achieve an adequately and equitably funded PreK-12 public education system that is based on the learning needs of students and the real costs of delivering high-quality education in every community.

In 2005, CCJEF and several named school children and their parents filed suit against the State of Connecticut (CCJEF v. Rell) for its failure to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund the public schools. In a 2010 pretrial ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the State’s constitutional obligation and remanded the case back to the trial court for full trial on the merits of Plaintiffs’ adequacy and equity claims.

As noted, additional details about CCJEF’s position can be found in the PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, while Malloy/Wyman/Jepsen’s warped version of the education funding issue can be found via State of Connecticut Position.

As the recent CCJEF press release explains, Dianne Kaplan deVries served as The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding’s Project Director until her recent death. 

Diane Kaplain deVries was a tireless advocate for Connecticut’s public school children and wrote multiple commentary pieces about the school funding issue which were published at CT Newsjunkie.

In a March 11, 2013 CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Fighting Children in the Courtroom, Diane Kaplan deVries framed the growing frustration with the way Malloy and his people sought to undermine public education in Connecticut.

A 2010 Connecticut Supreme Court pretrial ruling says that public school children have a constitutional right to a quality (adequate) education and the state must pay for it. That’s surely inconvenient for a state with a budget in the red. No wonder lawyers for both sides are bumping heads as the case inches forward to trial, currently scheduled for July 2014.

It appears from the motions filed in late January by the state in the Connecticut Coalition of Justice In Education Funding v. Rell lawsuit that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, would prefer to fight schoolchildren in the courtroom than to sit down with plaintiffs and realistically consider the state’s options.

The state filed two motions with the trial court. One seeks to dismiss the case because it is either moot or not yet ripe for trial, and for a second time since the case was filed, also seeks to remove the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding as a plaintiff.  This newest challenge to the coalition’s associational standing hinges primarily on the large number of school districts and municipalities that are members—creations of the state which are not ordinarily able to bring suit against it. The second motion asks the court to modify the scheduling order that sets deadlines for steps leading to trial.

In support of its motion to dismiss, the state appended some 410 pages of documents. These primarily consist of copies of the 2012 legislation, various State Department of Education compilations, and affidavits from state Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Brian MahoneyEducation Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and a consultant from Hawaii, Richard Seder.

Arguments raised by the state relating to mootness are that the CCJEF complaint describes education deficiencies that some children may have experienced in 2005. However, thanks to the education reform legislation enacted by last year’s legislature it has “dramatically and comprehensively altered the public education system the plaintiffs ask this court to declare unconstitutional” (p. 2, Motion to Modify Scheduling) The state also claims that the funding that accompanied those reforms, laid out in the Mahoney affidavit, was substantial.

Perhaps hedging bets on which argument may resonate more with the court, the state simultaneously argues against the ripeness of plaintiffs’ claims, maintaining that it is too soon for this case to come to trial because there needs to be sufficient time for those 2012 education reforms to produce a measurable effect.

Undaunted by the state’s positions, CCJEF counsel fired back a reply brief with 329 pages of exhibits. Countering the affidavits attached to the state’s brief is the affidavit of Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, one of the nation’s leading school finance experts. (For those with less reading time available, his recent blog posting on SchoolFinance101 makes use of some key scattergrams from his CCJEF reply brief affidavit.)

Baker’s analysis of the 2012 education reform legislation differs vastly from the views presented in the state’s filings. Highlights are as follows:

  • Changes in funding for the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant for 2012-13 are trivial, even for the Alliance Districts, which saw increases mostly less than $200 per pupil and under 2 percent.  Fiscal analyses reinforce rather than negate plaintiffs’ claims of underfunding of the ECS formula and its inequitable distribution of state aid.  Moreover, increased funding to charters that already outspend host districts (after adjusting for student need) and serve lower-need student populations exacerbates rather than moderates disparities in opportunity.
  • Nominal changes to various state policies enacted in 2012 produce no change to the distribution of educational opportunity (equity) and provide no measurable additional resources (adequacy).  Nor is it likely that they could in future years.  Moreover, the funds attached to the policy changes, aside from being trivial, are not guaranteed (as was evidenced in December by the Governor’s rescissions, followed shortly thereafter by the legislature’s deficit mitigation cuts).
  • The 2012 policy changes mainly add structures that label the successes and failures of districts, schools, and teachers — labels that come with an increased threat of state intervention and a reduction of local control that may adversely affect local property values, accelerating the downward spiral of communities already in long-term economic and educational decline.  Absent the provision of equitable and adequate resources, such policy changes may disrupt local governance and involvement in the schools and force upon local districts new costs and spending requirements.
  • The state’s claims of improvements to be gained through mandated changes to teacher evaluation as a policy lever for redistributing (positively) educational opportunities for schoolchildren are without foundation or supporting evidence.  To suggest that changes to teacher evaluation alone would improve the equity and adequacy of the teacher workforce — regardless of resources — ignores the increased job insecurity and absence of increased wages or benefits that counterbalance the risk.  New teacher evaluation schemes also come with substantial up-front costs that are not addressed with additional state aid to school districts.
  • Educational adequacy and equal educational opportunity should not be reserved for a tiny portion of schools (Commissioner’s Network) or districts (Alliance Districts).  Adequate funding should not sunset, nor should it be at the discretion of a single political appointee.

In addition to the expert opinion, legal arguments pertaining to mootness and ripeness, as well as a strong defense of CCJEF’s legitimate standing in the case,the reply brief was offered by counsel for the plaintiffs, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (New York), with assistance from the Yale Law School Education Adequacy Clinic, both of which serve pro bono in this action.

Constitutional challenges on behalf of schoolchildren’s rights are among the most complex cases any court can hear. They are also among the most challenging cases to be brought or defended against. That said, it is difficult to fault the state for doing what defense lawyers do:  they file motions aimed at making the case go away.

However, the state’s motion to dismiss raises concerns, even incredulity, about any perception that at the 11th hour, Malloy successfully pushed through legislation that negates (or soon will) the decades of harmful neglect and deprivation of resources by the state of its public school system. Could anyone truly imagine that those 2012 reforms, together with whatever initiatives and meager funding may come out of the 2013 legislature, are sufficient for affixing the “Mission Accomplished” banner outside the Capitol complex, proclaiming that the state at long last is meeting its constitutional obligation to schoolchildren?

You can read the original piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_fighting_children_in_the_courtroom/

Connecticut’s historic school funding trial finally begins this week

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As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

Connecticut’s historic school funding formula trial finally begins next week

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As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

Wendy Lecker explains – Again – Why the Malloy-Wyman teacher evaluation system is a terrible farce

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In her commentary piece last week, public education advocate Wendy Lecker returned to the issue of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s unfair, inappropriate and fundamentally flawed teacher evaluation system.   Her article, entitled Teacher evaluation system needs overhaul, first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.

While Wendy Lecker has pounded away about the problems associated with Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system for four years, the good news is that it seems that some of the power-elite are finally listening.

Having helped craft and usher in the absurd and destructive teacher evaluation system, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) will be holding a press conference later today, January 7, 2016, in which they will apparently stand up for Connecticut educators and take a strong stand against Malloy and Wyman’s anti-teacher and anti-public school, teacher evaluation program.

The problem with the existing teacher evaluation system could not be any clearer.  As Wendy Lecker explains – Teacher evaluation system needs overhaul;

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.

Connecticut’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (“PEAC”), the body that oversees the teacher and principal evaluation system, will next meet in January. Since PEAC last met, the notion that one can rate teacher’s effectiveness based on student standardized test scores has been thoroughly debunked.

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. They cannot be jury-rigged after the fact to be.

In light of the ESSA, some PEAC members, notably the Connecticut Education Association, now indicate they would advocate decoupling statewide standardized tests from evaluations. Indeed, why continue such a demonstrably invalid practice?

Other members, including Connecticut’s superintendents’ and boards of education associations (CAPSS and CABE), maintain that standardized test scores must still be included because they show “student achievement growth.”

What does that mean?

Learning is a complex process. Even if one focuses only on cognitive skills, different grades teach different content and different skills. Each standardized test measures skills that supposedly correspond to that grade level. Comparing one grade level test to another is comparing apples to oranges.

As I wrote in an earlier column (bit.ly/1sOOxFc), in constructing “growth scales” for standardized tests, statisticians make a fictional assumption that learning in math and reading is linear and can actually be compared from year to year. To make this work, they can only focus on a limited universe of skills that might be subject to such a rough comparison.

Measuring growth through standardized tests is, at best, looking at a tiny fraction of cognitive skills.

When we construct an evaluation system based on that tiny universe of disjointed skills, all the components in that system will be equally narrow. Any observations of and conclusions about teachers will center only on how those teachers are teaching those particular skills.

Why do we want to know so little about a teacher?

I want much more for my son. I want my son’s teachers to help him learn skills, but I also want them to help him apply those skills to other subjects and in life. I want them to help him make sense of the world. I want them to help him ask better questions, so he can become a more critical thinker. I want them to help him be a better member of his school community so he can learn to become a good citizen. I want teachers who can assess my child with tools they developed based on their teaching.

None of these teaching skills can be measured with a test.

However test scores are simple, readily available measures; so policy-makers embrace them, even when they are inappropriate.

Rather than construct an evaluation process based on what is easiest to measure, shouldn’t PEAC 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. All eyes will be on the PEAC members to see if they have the courage and wisdom to do so.

For more about Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation policies check out the following Wait, What? posts;

Malloy’s Teacher evaluation system is fundamentally and fatally flawed

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought

Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured

Opt Out growing – Now decouple Common Core test from Teacher Evaluation Program

Will Malloy decouple Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair Common Core SBAC Test?

Teacher Evaluations At The Heart Of Education Reform Are Flawed (By Jonathan Kantrowitz)

Evaluate Teachers based on Standardized Test Scores? Can an “education reformer” please answer the following question?

Teacher Evaluation Program: Malloy, Pryor and General Assembly slam door on a locally developed plans

Test Scores and Teacher Evaluations – But Wait – That’s Like Comparing Apples and Tomatoes

CT Charter Schools collect $100 million+ from taxpayers despite discriminating and abusing children

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Hidden by the holidays, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman trotted out their budget chief, Ben Barnes, last week to quietly announce another $93 million in state budget cuts, many of which were targeted at the most critical services and vulnerable citizens in Connecticut.

As CT Newsjunkie reported in Malloy Administration Identifies Savings, But Not Everyone Is Pleased, the Malloy/Wyman administration’s latest cuts target municipal aid, mental health care, services for the developmentally and intellectually disabled, and healthcare services.

The most despicable cut may very well be Malloy’s expanded effort to refuse group home placements for citizens and their families who are in crisis.

However, while vital programs are cut, the companies that own Connecticut’s twenty-three (23) charter schools will be given more than $100 million in scarce public funds this year even though these privately owned, but publicly funded, schools refuse to educate their fair share of students who require special education services and students who need additional help with the English Language.  Furthermore, the “no-excuses” discipline strategies used by Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools are nothing short of child abuse.

If a Connecticut public school consistently abused children or discriminated against Latinos and other English Language Learners or students with special needs, investigations would be conducted, people would lose their jobs and local boards of education would be sued.  But that simply isn’t the case when it comes to the charter school industry – thanks to their special relationship with the Malloy/Wyman administration.

While Governor Dannel Malloy receives accolades for his “Second Chance” initiative, the truth about his administration’s discriminatory policies speak louder than its rhetoric.

Sarah Darer  Littman, an education advocate and CT Newsjunkie columnist, examined the issue in a recent piece entitled, Second Chance’ Malloy Should Revisit First Term Malloy’s Policies.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote;

“The disconnect with second-term Malloy’s Second Chance Society is that he spent his first term pushing for costly legislation that contradicts the research on keeping young people out of the juvenile justice system in the first place.

study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that one out of every four black K-12 students with disabilities was suspended out of school at least one time in 2009-10. This high risk for suspension is a full 16 percentage points higher than the risk for white students with disabilities.

According to a report by the National Center on Disability, 85 percent of incarcerated youth have learning and/or emotional disabilities, yet only 37 percent of these young people received special education in school. Most were either undiagnosed or didn’t receive adequate support in school.

Tell me about it. Bridgeport has had two complaints filed with the state Department of Education in the last two years alleging failures to provide special education services. Regarding the first complaint, state investigators found that under then-Superintendent Paul Vallas, Bridgeport “systematically violated” its IDEA Child Find mandate.

Meanwhile in Hartford, “no-excuses” Achievement First Hartford Academy settled a lawsuit alleging that it had failed to provide special education services and had punished students for behaviors relating to their disability. They promised to “do better,” yet in November a lawsuit was filed in New York citing similar issues at a Brooklyn AF school. Achievement First also topped the chart for elementary school suspensions in 2013.

At that time co-CEOs Dacia Toll and Doug McCurry wrote they’d received a wakeup call: “We recognize that our suspension numbers are simply too high, and we are committed to significantly reducing the numbers.”

The state Board of Education renewed Achievement First Hartford Academy’s charter for 3 years despite these concerns. On Oct. 4, the Courant reported that “only one student has been suspended so far at the Achievement First Hartford Academy Elementary School.”

Yet according to a recent Connecticut Department of Education Report, Achievement First schools still occupy four out of the five top elementary school slots in elementary school suspensions and expulsions and three of the top five in the middle and high school categories. Hartford Academy Elementary School is number two in the state.

Overall, according to the state Department of Education report:

  • the suspension rate in the elementary grades in the Public Charter Schools (14 percent) is almost twice that in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (7.3 percent), both of which are substantially greater than the state average (3 percent).
  • the suspension rates in the middle grades in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (22.3 percent), the Public Charter Schools (26.3 percent), the Endowed Academies (18.5 percent), and the State School Districts (24.3 percent) are substantially greater than the state average (10.1 percent).
  • the suspension rates in the high secondary grades in the Public Charter Schools (29.9 percent) and in the 10 Ed-Reform districts (25.6 percent) are substantially greater than the state average (12.3 percent).

Given this data, and the fact that AF Hartford Academy’s charter is up for renewal this spring, it’s particularly troubling that Gov. Malloy appointed Erik Clemons, a board member of an Achievement First school in New Haven, to the state Board of Education. We trust he will recuse himself on AF’s charter renewal votes based on his conflict of interest.

Sarah Darer Littman goes on to explain more about Malloy’s “two-faced” approach when it comes to the issue of “education reform” and “social justice reform.”

Read her full piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_second_chance_malloy_should_revisit_first_term_malloys_policies/

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