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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WARNING!

Now that the 2016 Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing season has begun for school districts across Connecticut, there has been a significant and disturbing increase in the number of reports that local school districts – driven by Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education – are engaged in the unethical abuse of children whose parents have refused to allow their children to participate in the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing program.

In addition to misleading and lying to parents about their right to opt their children out of the testing madness, parents in a series of communities are now reporting that school children who have been opted out of the testing are being forced to remain in the testing rooms, despite the fact that this bullying tactic violates the SBAC testing protocol, testing regulations that were approved and distributed by the State Department of Education.

In addition, parents in at least three more Connecticut school districts have reported that their local schools are requiring that students who have been opted out must first “log-in” to the SBAC test before they can be excused from taking the test.

This immoral and abusive directive is being used to make it appear that the school is achieving a higher participation rate, even though it leaves the child with an SBAC test score of “0” – a label of failure that could haunt them in the years to come.

According to the SBAC testing protocol and the State of Connecticut’s earlier pronouncement, children who are not taking the test are to be marked absent and MAY  NOT be in the testing room while the SBAC tests are given to students who have not been opted out.  There is absolutely nothing in the SBAC rules that allows school districts to require students to “log-in” before “opting out.”

The unbelievable requirement that children must log in, even though it could have devastating consequences for the child, is a direct result of the Malloy administration threat that it will withhold federal funds from any school district whose participation rate falls below 95 percent.  The funds that Malloy intends to withhold are federal dollars distributed to communities to help provide extra programming for poor children.

Meanwhile, unlike what is happening in Connecticut, the Governor of New York and his administration have made it clear that parents do have the right to opt their children out of the testing and that New York will not take any action to punish students, parents, teachers or school districts where parents have utilized that right.  New York’s chancellor-elect of the State Board of Regents is actually supporting that opt-out effort. See:  Hey Malloy, Wyman, Education Commissioner Wentzell – NY Chancellor-elect Rosa speaks in favor of test opt out.

Perhaps the most troubling development of all is that despite repeated attempts to get Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell to address these attacks on students and parents and to set the record straight about the rules concerning forcing children to remain in the testing rooms or requiring children to log-in before they can opt-out, the Commissioner and her staff have refused to make any statement whatsoever.

Requests for a statement on the issue from Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman have also gone unanswered.

It is a stunning commentary that Connecticut children, some as young as ten years old, and Connecticut parents are being abused and bullied by Connecticut public officials and yet Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and the Malloy administration refuse to even address these outrageous anti-student, anti-parent, anti-teacher and anti-public education tactics.

Hey Malloy, Wyman, Education Commissioner Wentzell – NY Chancellor-elect Rosa speaks in favor of test opt out

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New York Chancellor-elect Betty Rosa speaks in favor of test opt out

This is what a pro-public education leader does!

A real public servant respects students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Instead of doing the right thing, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Education Commissioner Wentzell bring shame on themselves and their offices by misleading and lying to parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

And real Public Servants don’t bully and abuse children when their parents have opted them out of the testing.

We will not rest until Connecticut has leaders who will join us in the fight to properly fund public schools and support our children and their future rather than the present lot who seek to undermine and destroy our schools and our parental rights.

Hey Malloy, Wyman and Wentzell – READ THIS;

Chancellor-elect Rosa speaks in favor of test opt out (From Politico – New York)

ALBANY — State Board of Regents Chancellor-Elect Betty Rosa, who is less than two weeks away from leading the education policy-making board, already has made it clear — hers will be a different Regents board.

The Bronx Regent, during a news conference following the leadership vote Monday, answered questions surrounding a Wall Street Journal article published in the morning in which she said if she had an eligible student in the school system right now, she would opt her child out of the state standardized, Common Core-aligned exams.

She again stated the position Monday, saying parents in the state have the right under the law to have their students refuse the tests.

Rosa then added that as a member of the Board of Regents, she plays a “different role.”

“If I was not on the Board of Regents and I had a child, I said I would probably, just like former [Chancellor Merryl Tisch] said, if she had a special needs child, she would opt out, so I that’s exactly what I said,” Rosa told reporters, later clarifying that she would do so even if her student did not have special needs. “If I was a parent and I was not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time.”

When asked if she wanted the number of opt outs in the state to be reduced, Rosa said “I want us to get to a place where we come to the table and examine the current test and move forward in a way that parents have a sense of full trust.”

Rosa has garnered support from the state’s teachers unions as well as test refusal leaders, but Common Core advocates are fearful that Rosa will undo the work of her predecessor, Tisch, who championed the Common Core and the use of student test scores in evaluating teachers.

Rosa also has been backed by Albany Democrats, including Assemblyman Marcos Crespo and Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

But her stance on Common Core could factor into Rosa’s relationship with state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who has supported the move toward higher standards, as well as the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.

Elia Monday reiterated that parents have a right by law to opt their children out, but stressed the importance of giving them all the information possible to make an informed decision.

Elia has been working to reduce the opt-out numbers. The state education department put together a toolkit for superintendents, parents and teachers with resources including presentations and social media cues to help stem the tide.

“In this state, the parents have a right to opt out,” Rosa said. “Part of the conversation we haven’t had here is that we have to rebuild that trust. We have to rebuild a sense of confidence. We have to rebuild a sense of that we’re in this together. …I want them to be part of the solution.”

[…]

Last spring, more than 20 percent of the state’s eligible students opted out of the state standardized, Common Core-aligned exams. The movement was aided by New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of parent groups who endorsed Rosa for chancellor.

It’s unclear if the movement will grow this spring, though NYSAPE and opt-out leaders have said they are not backing down.

Rosa on Monday stressed the “tremendous support” she’s received from parents overall.

She recognized that the board and Elia are still working to review the standards, the testing and the teacher evaluation system — work that is far from over. She also pledged support for getting a federal waiver for English language learners and special education students that would exempt them from the exams.

“[The board is looking at] making sure that every single school, every single classroom has a teacher that not only has the credentials, but more importantly has the skills to reach our children,” Rosa said of the need for teacher evaluations. She said the board is looking into revising the evaluation system, which should include demonstrations of teachers’ work and would be focused at the local level.

The teachers unions, who had at times been at odds with Tisch, praised the appointments of Rosa and Brown.

“There is a lot of hard work ahead. Yet we are optimistic that students, parents and educators will have a more meaningful voice in fixing New York standards; reducing the burden of standardized testing; and creating a fair and objective evaluation system,” New York State United Teachers president Karen Magee said in a statement.

Stephen Sigmund, executive director of the pro-Common Core group High Achievement New York — a nonprofit coalition of mostly business groups — said he was concerned about Rosa’s remarks.

“We don’t think that’s the right direction for her to be going on day one of being the chancellor of the Board of Regents. She was clear that she was talking about herself and not about policy,” Sigmund said. “We’re hopeful in the end that she’ll come around to supporting the test as improvements are made to the tests, she did say that she was open to that.”

Sigmund said he hopes Rosa helps guide the process of changing the standards and improving the tests.

Rosa will officially step into the role April 1. In the interim, and has one overarching message — she’s focused on leading the board into a new era.

“We as a board must move from what was the so-called, as people like to label it, ‘reform,'” she said in the Regents meeting. “I say welcome the transformers. We are agents of transformation.”

For the full article go to: http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/03/8594402/chancellor-elect-rosa-speaks-favor-test-opt-out

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Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids (By Wendy Lecker)

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Background:  Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country, as measured by per capita income.  If it was its own country, it would be one of the ten wealthiest countries in the world.

Connecticut’s most important natural resource is its people and their educational attainment.  According to US Census data, Connecticut is ranked 4th in the percentage of college graduates, 3rd in the percentage of citizens with advanced degrees and nearly 9 in 10 have a high school education, although faced with the impact of growing poverty, the number of high school graduates is dropping and without adequate funding for public schools and a well educated population, Connecticut’s economic future will be grim.

Meanwhile, as a result of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s irresponsible fiscal policies, Connecticut State Government has been plunged into fiscal chaos.  Today, Connecticut’s wealthiest pay about 5 percent of their income in state and local taxes, middle class and working families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the poor pay about 12 percent.

Based on fiscal and education policies that coddle the rich while diverting more than $100 million a year to privately owned and operated charter schools, Malloy and Wyman have now proposed the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Extraordinary budget deficits already exist in Hartford, Bridgeport and other communities.

Thanks to Malloy, Wyman and the General Assembly, most school districts will now be forced to raise local taxes and make deep cuts to existing education programs in local public schools.

As the state’s leading politicians attempt to hide the truth, public education advocate and fellow columnist Wendy Lecker has written another “MUST READ” column.

Her commentary piece, entitled, Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids first appeared in the Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media papers this past weekend

Wealthy state is failing our poorest kids (By Wendy Lecker)

Hartford parents, teachers and students came out in full force to last week’s Board of Education meeting to protest devastating school cuts. Owing to budget shortfalls, the district is cutting guidance counselors, intervention specialists, and other critical staff, art, sports, enrichment, SAT prep, textbooks, summer school, tutors and more. Many of Hartford high schools will be left with one counselor for 350-400 students. As one parent said, they are cutting the support Hartford students need; and the subjects that motivate them to come to school.

Hartford schools already suffer severe resource deficiencies. One high school has no library or computer lab. Another has no copier in the library, and no curricular material for certain classes. The culinary academy has no money to buy food for cooking class. The nursing academy cannot offer physics, though physics is a prerequisite for any nursing school. One high school is so overrun with rodents a teacher came in one morning to find five mice in traps she laid the night before. Teachers are forced to find vendors themselves and fill out orders in vain attempts to obtain supplies that never arrive. So they buy them out of their own pockets.

The conditions in which these students have to learn, and these teachers have to teach, is shameful — especially in Connecticut, a state consistently in the top five on the list of wealthiest states in America.

Hartford is not the only Connecticut school district suffering. According to a supplement to this year’s “Is School Funding Fair: A National Report Card,” issued by the Education Law Center (my employer) and Rutgers, Connecticut is the only state consistently among the five wealthiest states to have districts on the list of America’s “most financially disadvantaged school districts.” This year, two districts are featured on this list: Bridgeport and Danbury.

Since this list has been compiled, starting in 2012, Connecticut districts have been featured every year. Connecticut also has the dishonorable distinction of being the only wealthy state featured on the list of states whose funding system disadvantages the highest share of low income students; as measured by the percent of statewide enrollment concentrated in those most disadvantaged districts.

The National Report Card revealed some other disturbing facts about Connecticut’s lack of commitment to its public schools, especially those serving our neediest children.

As one of the wealthiest states, Connecticut does a poor job of maintaining competitive wages for teachers — a key ingredient to recruiting and retaining a strong teaching force. Connecticut teachers starting out earn 79 percent of the average salary of similar non-teaching professions. The report compares teachers with other professionals in the same labor market of similar age, degree level and hours worked. At age 45, that average drops to 73 percent of similar non-teaching professions.

An important measure of school funding fairness is the student-teacher ratio. High-poverty schools require more staff to address the challenges faced by their students. Small classes, reading and math specialists and support services are particularly necessary, for example. However, Connecticut is one of the few states with higher student-teacher ratios in poorer districts as compared to their wealthy districts. In fact, Connecticut is 46th out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., in student-teacher ratio fairness.

High-quality pre-K is a vital component of education; reducing placement in special education and improving academic and life outcomes. Sixty-two percent of Connecticut’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K, but only 48 percent of Connecticut’s poor children are. That disparity lands Connecticut in 45th place out of 51.

The deprivation of essential resources in Connecticut’s poorest districts is the crux of the CCJEF case, now on trial in Hartford. The plaintiffs seek adequate funding for basic educational necessities.

They are on solid ground. A new longitudinal study out of Berkeley demonstrates that school finance reform makes a real difference for students. The study, based on nationwide data, found that school finance reforms lead to substantial increases in revenues in low-income school districts, and to increases in student achievement. This study confirms a 2014 national study from Northwestern showing improvement in achievement, especially for poor students, when school funding increases. Earlier state-specific studies found similar results.

The evidence is clear. Connecticut schools need more resources, and school finance reform is the answer.

However, this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the deepest cuts to education in Connecticut history, while diverting more than $100 million dollars to privately run charter schools.

It is time for our elected officials in this, one of America’s wealthiest states, to start doing right by our poorest children.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Wealthy-state-failing-poorest-our-6924830.php

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

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

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

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

Legislators should;

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

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

These politicians should not be allowed to hold public office.

For more about these issues read:

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

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

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

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

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

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

 

sbac graphic

10 courageous Democrats almost stop ethically challenged Erik Clemons from serving on State Board of Education…but small group of Republican legislators save Malloy’s nominee

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Thanks to ten courageous Democratic members of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Dannel Malloy’s ethically challenged nominee for the State Board of Education, Erik Clemons, was on the verge of being rejected by the General Assembly earlier this afternoon.

It would have been a huge victory for honesty and ethics in government, as well as for those who believe in public education.

However, Governor Malloy won this stunning battle – an issue that received no media coverage except here at Wait, What? – thanks to ten Republican legislators who crossed over to vote with the majority of Democrats and in favor of Malloy’s choice to serve on the state board that sets education policy in Connecticut.

As has been repeated reported on this blog, Erik Clemons is the charter school advocate whose company is benefiting from a lucrative, no-bid contract that is funded through, and monitored by, the very government entity that Malloy has appointed him to serve on.

As reported yesterday, the House vote on Erik Clemons’ and the ethical issues that should have prevented him from serving on the State Board of Education were scheduled for a vote today.  (See How will CT legislators vote on Malloy’s ethically challenged State Board of Education appointee?)

When the vote was taken, ten Democratic Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives put ethics, honesty and Connecticut’s children, students, parents and public schools above Malloy’s political agenda.  The Democratic legislators voting no were;

Representative Baker

Representative Conroy

Representative Gonzalez

Representative Hampton

Representative Morin

Representative Nicastro

Representative Rose

Representative Sanchez

Representative Tarcyak

And Representative and Deputy Speaker of the House Godfrey

 

However, Malloy’s victory came thanks to the following Republicans who voted to disregard the serious ethics issues and in favor of Malloy’s nominee and their anti-public education agenda.  Republican legislators voting to put Erik Clemons on the State Board of Education were;

Representative Hoydick

Representative Kokuruda

Representative Legeyt

Representative Noujaim

Representative O’Neill

Representative Pavalock

Representative Perillo

Representative Piscopo

Representative Wood

Representative Yaccarino.

Had the Republicans stood together on this critically important issue of principle and refused to allow an individual to sit on the State Board of Education when that person and their company benefits from funding that is overseen and approved by the State Board of Education, Clemons nomination would have lost by a vote of 68 in favor of Malloy’s choice and 72 opposed.

More on this breaking story as it becomes available.

For the full vote go to:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/VOTE/h/2016HV-00014-R00HJ00027-HV.htm

 

NOTE:

Fellow public education advocate Wendy Lecker and I have written extensively about Clemons’ conflict of interest and Malloy’s attempt to, once again, throw ethics aside.  Here are links to those articles:

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 3-5-16)

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-18-16)

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education (Wait, What? 2-17-16)

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-16-16)

New State Board of Education member collects multi-million dollar contract via State Board of Education (Wait, What? 1-5-16)

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 12-23-15)

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

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This week’s request by Wait, What? for information about how public school districts in Connecticut are handling parents who want to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests has generated numerous reports that school administrators in a number of districts continue to mislead parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the testing madness. (See:  Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?)

Even more shocking are the new reports that additional school districts are actually bulling and abusing children whose parents have opted them out of the SBAC testing scheme.

Immediate action is needed to stop the abuse, along with an independent investigation to determine who has been involved in these practices.

A number of schools are informing students and parents that any child who has been opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests by their parent will be forced to remain in the testing room throughout the test periods, despite the fact that such a tactic violates the Mandatory SBAC testing regulations and protocol. (See:  ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing.)

Requiring students to stay in the testing room is unfair to both the children who have been opted out and the children who are still taking the test.

In addition, there are apparently a growing number of districts that are telling students who have been opted out of the SBAC testing that they MUST SIGN-IN to the SBAC test on testing days before they will be released from having to complete the rest of the SBAC test.

While this unethical maneuver will make it appear that the school district has met their “mandated” participation rate of at least 95 percent, students who are forced sign in – in order to opt out – will be left with a zero for an SBAC test score, a label of “failure” that will become part of their academic record.

PARENTS PLEASE TAKE NOTE!   If you have opted your child out of the SBAC test make sure that the school is not forcing your child to sign into the test BEFORE being released from the test!

With the Malloy administration continues to use the State Department of Education to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents and public schools, the lack of outrage on the part of many of Connecticut’s elected officials is truly stunning!

With Connecticut General Assembly in the middle of the 2016 legislative session, legislators have an immediate opportunity to stand up against Malloy’s State Department of Education.

Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepsen is also in a unique position to demand that the State Department of Education and local school districts end their illegal SBAC related activities.

As students, parents, teachers and Connecticut citizens look on, the question remains – will Connecticut’s elected officials take action to protect their constituents and their public schools?

How will CT legislators vote on Malloy’s ethically challenged State Board of Education appointee?

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The Connecticut House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow – Wednesday, March 16, 2016.  On their agenda is a vote to confirm Erik Clemons, Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent nominee for a position on the State Board of Education.

When Governor Malloy appointed Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education he failed to reveal that Clemons was a founding member of a new charter school in New Haven or that he served, up until recently, on the Board of another New Haven charter school, this one owned by Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain that operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  When Clemons left the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors he was replaced by an aide that works for Clemons’ company.

In addition, Malloy appears to have intentionally kept secret the fact that Erik Clemons’ company received a lucrative, no-bid contract that is funded by the State Department of Education, the very board that Malloy has appointed him to serve on. The State Board of Education is required to monitor this contract and could continue to fund it in the years ahead.

As reported in previous Wait, What? articles, this incredible story dates back to May 7, 2014 when Governor Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to adopt a “Turnaround Plan for the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.

The plan REQUIRED that the New Haven School System contract with Erik Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).  Erik Clemmons is the founding executive of ConnCAT and his compensation package is well in excess of $100,000 a year.

The Turnaround Plan read;

“While Boost! Will continue to deliver community resources to students at Lincoln-Bassestt, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) shall serve as the schools’s anchor partner for afterschool programing.”

The Turnaround Plan required that the New Haven Public Schools “initiate a performance-based contract with ConnCAT by May 27, 2014.”

As a result of the State Board of Education’s action, the New Haven Board of Education approved Agreement 649-14 with Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) to “provide after-school programming, family and community engagement programs and school environment transformation at Lincoln-Bassett School from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.  The funds to pay for the $302,197.50 contract came from the State Department of Education’s “School Turnaround Program.”

A second contract (Agreement 478-13) between the New Haven Board of Education and ConnCAT, again using State Turnaround Program funds, authorized an additional $214,930.50 to pay for ConnCAT activities form July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

This annual contract is expected to be extended, yet again, in the summer of 2016.

However the ethical issues challenging Erik Clemons ability to serve on the State Board of Education go well beyond the no-bid contract that remains under the purview of the State Board.

Considering Clemons’ close relationship with the charter school industry, he shouldn’t be voting on any issue related to the oversight and funding of charter schools in Connecticut.

Furthermore, since the “Turnaround School” process was manipulated to grant Clemons a no-bid contract, he certainly shouldn’t be voting on any turnaround plans for any schools in New Haven or any other city.

Considering his company’s contract with the New Haven Public Schools will depend on adequate funding from the State of Connecticut, Clemons shouldn’t be voting on any issue that will provide New Haven schools with funding.

In Malloy’ world of “power politics,” it may be understandable that he wants to reward the charter school industry and its lobbying front group, ConnCAN, but the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Connecticut deserve better.

With the Connecticut General Assembly voting on Mr. Clemons’ appointment as early as tomorrow, the question is whether state legislators will stand with their constituents by supporting proper ethical standards for elected or appointed officials or will they throw ethics aside and vote in favor of Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education?

More about this issue can be found in the following articles, a number of them written or co-written with fellow education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker.

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 3-5-16)

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-18-16)

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education (Wait, What? 2-17-16)

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-16-16)

New State Board of Education member collects multi-million dollar contract via State Board of Education (Wait, What? 1-5-16)

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 12-23-15)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SBAC Test Administrators Manual could not be clearer;

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

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

So Students, Parents and Teachers:

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

Please send information to [email protected]

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

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

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Last November, the Washington Post headline read, The astonishing amount of data being collected about your children.  The article reported on the “Brave New World” of data collection and data mining that is taking place in the nation’s public schools and how private companies are accessing and using that information for profit.

The media coverage in the Washington Post continued this past January with a piece entitled, New student database slammed by privacy experts.

Although the issue has yet to generate a lot of media attention here in Connecticut, all across the United States parents and advocacy groups have been highlighting the growing problem and demanding that public officials take steps to protect students, parents and teachers from the government and corporate education reform industry’s efforts to collect and utilize information.

Here in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have been moving “full-speed head” with national and state plans to collect large amounts of data on Connecticut’s public school students and teachers, some of which will undoubtedly end up in the hands of companies looking to market their products.

As a result of a series of policy changes, parents not only have little knowledge of this growing problem, but have little say over what information is being collected about their children and how it can be used.

At the recent State Department of Education meeting in which a group of school superintendents were instructed on how to mislead parents about their right to opt out of the Common Core SBAC testing scheme, one high ranking employee with the state department of education mocked concerns about the potential misuse of the data collected during the SBAC testing process.

However, whether their statement was due to intention or ignorance, their dismissal spoke volumes about how little public officials care about what parents think or want.

Officials can’t hide the truth forever.

Jennifer Jacobsen, a public education advocate in Connecticut, serves as the director of the Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education and is among the most outspoken leaders in the effort to force public officials to address the very serious issues regarding the use and misuse of the data being collected in public schools.

In a recent CT Mirror commentary piece, Jennifer Jacobson wrote;

The Connecticut Alliance for Privacy in Education– CAPE- represent a diverse membership of organizations who have come together to advocate for a comprehensive student data law in our state. Our members include:

The Connecticut Parent Teachers Association, Connecticut Parental Rights Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union -CT, Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Connecticut Association of Private Special Education Facilities, CT Council of Administrators of Special Education, CT Federation of School Administrators, CT Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Connecticut Education Association, Connecticut Education Association College Student Program….and growing.

The mission of CAPE is to protect the children, students, families, and educators of Connecticut by addressing the risks associated with the collection of student data and other educational records.

There is great potential for the appropriate use of student data to bring positive outcomes for our children and students. However, the use of student data also brings with it immense responsibility and great risk to the safety and civil liberties of children and their families.

Policymakers, educators, parents, and communities must ensure that all individuals and entities who have access to student data take steps to protect the lives behind the data.

Thirty-three states have enacted 55 laws thus far around the issue of student data. Legislatures around the nation continue today to have this important discussion. Connecticut is among a minority of states that have yet to enact legislation pertaining to the protection and use of student data, leaving our children and families inadequately protected. As such the Education Committee of the General Assembly has raised HB 5469: An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy.

HB 5469 does accomplish some welcome changes in policy:

The prohibition on student tracking and profiling, limiting data collection by school contracted apps and websites, the limitation on advertising, the requirement of de-identification of student information for use to improve a site or product, and the limited use of directory information are examples of such improvements. Further, the inclusion of a parent notification provision that their child has become a party to a contract or when there has been a breach are additional strengths of the bill. However, the bill is limited only to contractors who store education records and operators of websites and apps, and excludes state data collection and other third parties who have access to student information.

Based on testimony that was submitted at the public hearing on March 2, we feel that additions to the bill should expand to include the following provisions:

Marne Usher of the CT PTA stated their organization’s concern surrounding the limited scope of the bill and advocated that they would “like to see legislation that ensures consistent policies for ALL student data regardless of who is collecting it. Parents have the right to know about ALL data that is collected in their child’s record. Parental consent should be the first step before any data collection and we see no mention of this in the legislation”

ACLU-CT, David McGuire primarily focused on civil liberties protections for students in regards to baseless searches and seizures of students’ personal electronic devices and passwords citing “the patchwork of unequal privacy policies” used in districts around the state, urging the committee to expand protections in the bill that would uphold students Constitutional 14th amendments rights.

Ray Rossomando of the Connecticut Education Association focused on changes to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which historically prohibited the disclosure of education records of students unless a parent consented. Parental consent is no longer required in many instances simply by using the correct exception to the law, ironically at a time when parents report having a harder time garnering access to their own child’s data.

Rossomando also requested that the committee consider providing guidelines to educators and other school personnel to learn about safe and secure data handling strategies and extend the bills coverage to include educator information since they too are exposed to similar risks. Greater oversight and citizen input were further themes of his testimony that would strengthen the comprehensive intent of this bill.

Understanding the potential for the misuse of lifetime data collection on children Pam Lucashu, Legislative Liaison to TEACH CT cited banning “the use of this information being used to influence or determine the employability, criminal liability, financial standing or the reputation of the student”, which is a protective provision in human subject research protections in policy that should be codified into law to exclude such use. In fact, many other states have explicitly prohibited juvenile delinquency records, medical records and criminal records of students from being included as education records for exactly this reason.

Finally, any law that does not contain an enforcement process and a penalty for violation of that law, which HB 5469 does not, relegates its purpose to a guideline. There must be a means of enforcement and liability.

When sensitive student information enters into a data system or leaves the school building to an outside party risk ensues. It is at the point when student information is poised to leave the school, that the system to protect that data must begin.

Connecticut’s system to protect student information needs to be far more effective, uniform, and transparent than it is today. This is an attainable goal. The clarifications, amendments and additions to this bill suggested in here and at the public hearing by the members of CAPE and others would take us far toward accomplishing that goal.

It is with this vision of care and protection of this generation’s future, free and unhindered from a lifetime of collected information that may come to be used against them that we, the members of CAPE, in partnership with countless thousands of people around Connecticut call on the Education Committee, General Assembly and leadership to do the right thing for the students of this state and enact an comprehensive student data security, transparency, and privacy law.

Our kids and our families deserve no less than those in other states. We cannot allow for interest in the data, special or otherwise, to supersede the digital security of our children, nor infringe upon their civil liberties, nor keep our parents and guardians in the dark any longer.

New Canaan parent and education advocate Maria Naughton submitted testimony stating “parents, families and children do not have corporate backing, PAC’s, large philanthropic organizations or venture capitalists funding our efforts to protect our children. We are relying on those who have been elected to represent our interests and to do what is in the best interest of our children.”

Indeed.

The Connecticut’ General Assembly’s Education Committee will soon be taking up the legislation Jennifer Jacobsen addressed  in her commentary piece.

Legislators will be faced with the opportunity to strengthen this proposed new law or continue to look away while the education reform industry and their supporters undermine the privacy rights of students, parents and teachers.

For more about the legislation go to Cape4kids.org

The names and contact information for the members Connecticut’s Education Committee can be found here – https://www.cga.ct.gov/ed/

Some previous Wait, What? articles about big data, data mining and privacy can found here:

Will CT elected officials enact appropriate safeguards on student privacy this session?

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

Are Governor Malloy’s new Google Chromebooks data mining our kids?

They have your child’s data and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Additional background on the data and data mining issue can also be found at Diane Ravitch’s blog.  As the nation’s leading pro-public education advocate she has reported and written extensively about the issue.  Examples include;

U.S. Department of Education Still Pursuing Your Child’s Data

Grit and Data Mining

What You Need to Know about Data Mining of Students

CONNECT THE DOTS: Competency-Based Education, Digitized Instruction, Data Mining, The Vanishing Teacher, and Profit

Parents to New York Education Leaders: No Snooping on Our Children’s Private Data

Your Child’s Personal Records Are Part of a Massive Government Database

 

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