Common Core, Education Reform, John Bestor, No Child Left Behind Act, Race to the Top, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing John Bestor, NCLB, RTTT, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing
Published in today’s CT Mirror, John Bestor’s commentary piece entitled “Connecticut’s lawmakers must see through the ‘edu-profiteers’ and testing mania” is a MUST READ!
John Bestor writes;
I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is, as a public school employee and practicing school psychologist, to have federal legislation written that continues to allow our students to be assessed by an unproven and invalid standardized test process and also enables the charter school industry to take funds allocated for public school students and divert them to their own private business interests.
I object to the testing mandate on many levels.
I can assure you that our elementary school students are tested three times a year on standardized measures in both reading and math as mandated by state legislation; in addition, they are also required in grades 3 through 8 and again in 11th to sit through 7-to-10 hours of further redundant testing in the same subject areas.
At least the testing that takes place three times a year — at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the school year — informs and drives instruction. The 7-to-10 hours of high-stakes Common Core-aligned testing has no other purpose than to serve as a town-by-town scorecard. It neither informs instruction of a student nor assists in planning educational interventions.
Unfortunately, the battle over Common Core-aligned testing has taken on a life of its own. It is strongly advocated by so-called reformers and the business interests that they support. At the same time, it remains highly controversial to professional teachers and educators who fully understand the dangers inherent in “teaching to a test” and also understand that there are multiple ways to evaluate what students are learning and that students are more than a test score.
When Connecticut first adopted the CMT/CAPT as standardized means for monitoring student progress, it was administered to students in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 and special education students with individual education plans could be opted out by decision of the school’s planning and placement team. This saved these vulnerable learners from the frustration and torment of a test beyond their already carefully-monitored skill levels.
Of course, this more reasoned approach ended with No Child Left Behind. Since NCLB, the pressure for test results has affected learning for students in all communities. Middle-to-high-performing school districts could absorb the intrusion caused by testing more readily than low-performing districts.
These low-performing districts then proceeded to narrow the curriculum and over-emphasize “teach-to-the-test” methodologies in order to prove their effectiveness, even though such strategies were unlikely to motivate their students to learn for the joy of learning.
As a result, more students in low-performing districts were driven away from learning and sadly many discontinued their education well before graduation. As Thomas Scarice, the out-spoken superintendent of the Madison (CT) Public Schools, has repeatedly stated: “We’ve wed ourselves to a high-stakes testing model for well over a decade, and it’s shown to corrode education rather than improve it.”
I also strongly object to the federal government’s continued willingness to provide private businesses access to scarce tax-dollars to fund charter schools that are then allowed to flaunt the rules and regulations that traditional public schools are required to follow.
The track record of charter schools in our state and across the nation reflects a highly contentious image that borders on, at worst, criminality and at best questionable practices, many of which would never be allowed in traditional public schools. The supporters of charter schools have been allowed to prey on parents who are seeking clean, safe, well-supplied facilities and are willing to accept strict disciplinary practices that emphasize military-style punishments while blindly putting their trust in an unsubstantiated promise of future results.
It is unconscionable that states, like ours, are allowed to underfund their local school districts annually while somehow investing significant financial resources into the coffers of private enterprise that will suspend students for numerous, sometimes quite minor, behavioral infractions and may shut their doors suddenly on students when no longer profitable.
I understand that wealthy benefactors and major donors to all political campaigns have supported a “cottage” industry of think tanks, lobbyists, and high-profile media figures posing as experts, but it is the obligation of our U.S. senators to see through this self-serving charade and work to amend and pass federal legislation that will support the majority of public school children and their families.
Many of my colleagues and I have written to alert our two senators of the continued dangers embedded in this re-authorization bill. I also understand that the art of passing legislation involves compromise, but simply replacing one flawed law with one that is similarly flawed is UNACCEPTABLE.
In the current legislative climate, it is too risky to pass laws that fail to address the “core” issues impacting the inequitable distribution of educational opportunities across our state and nation. Having thought considerably about the trade-offs involved in the Every Child Achieves Act as recently passed through the Senate HELP subcommittee, the cons continue to out-weigh the pros enabling edu-profiteers unfettered access to a market that should remain within the public trust.
I can only hope that our Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy will hear the voices of teachers who work directly with children in our classrooms and to those who advocate for our public school students.
Please consider carefully, the insidious role that reform lobbyists, misguided philanthropists, and self-serving business interests have had in shaping and destroying one of our most revered bedrock institutions: the American public school system.
You can read and comment on the piece at – http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/04/24/connecticuts-lawmakers-must-see-through-the-edu-profiteers-and-testing-mania/
Education Reform, No Child Left Behind Act, Race to the Top, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, Thomas Scarice Superintendent of Madison Corporate Education Reform Industry, NCLB, RTTT, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing
A commentary piece written by A dozen of Connecticut’s most forward thinking school superintendents:
This commentary piece as first published in CTMirror and can be found at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/16/op-ed-connecticut-education-vision-lacks-clarity-coherence-superintendents-say/
Connecticut education needs clearer vision, better objectives
The journey of education reform, which has at times moved in a deliberate direction and at other times wandered in many directions, is currently at a very important and, potentially exciting, crossroads. At this moment, a narrow window of opportunity has presented itself.
As the federal government debates renewing the failed No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), our state is set to submit our latest plans to be held harmless from the sanctions of NCLB through a federal waiver, last done in 2012, and due for renewal on March 31, 2015.
Any effective system is best served by knowing when an important juncture presents itself and identifying, at that precise moment, the changes necessary to travel down the road of continuous improvement.
Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence. In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.
The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise.
One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:
- What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?
- Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?
- Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?
- To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?
The answers to these questions imply the need to foster the cognitive, social/emotional and interpersonal student capacities for work, citizenship and life. Additionally, they demand a deep analysis of the systemic efforts to continuously improve. Confronting these questions, and others, will require:
- A redefinition of the role of testing,
- An accountability model (mandatory in the NCLB waiver) matched to a clarified vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut
- Statewide systems that incentivize innovation and a broad sharing of innovative programs
Standardized tests … do not measure our highest aspirations for our students. They do not measure the quality of a school or the performance of an individual teacher, and are corrupted when misused for these purposes.
The following steps can be taken immediately and considered prior to submitting our NCLB waiver, particularly in the absence of a compelling vision for learning in Connecticut.
- Take action to redefine the role of testing in our schools.
Standardized tests play a critical role in validating local assessments and giving a broad view of the limited range of student outcomes they intend to measure. They do not measure our highest aspirations for our students. They do not measure the quality of a school or the performance of an individual teacher, and are corrupted when misused for these purposes. They can disrupt authentic learning for long periods of time. Yet, some districts have oriented their practice and curriculum around these tests. Some immediate steps to take include:
- Reducing or eliminating the use of standardized test scores in the evaluation of individual teachers,
- Adjusting the role these tests play in a school/district accountability model,
- Broadening the “student learning objectives” (SLO) component of the state mandated teacher evaluation plans to encourage districts to creatively incorporate local measures of worthy student outcomes, thereby returning some measure of local discretion to individual districts and the communities they serve, and
- Incentivizing districts to develop local formative and summative measures in collaboration with other districts, vetted by the Connecticut State Department of Education, similar to the longstanding exemplary “New York Performance Standards Consortium”, which was founded in 1997 on the premise that high stakes standardized tests do not measure what matters most.
- Develop an accountability model designed to drive continuous improvement, in contrast to the current model of ranking/sorting/sanctioning.
The current school/district accountability model relies heavily on standardized test scores to inform communities about the performance of their schools. This misuse of data is a disservice to each community and to the entire state because it fails to capture the many ways in which schools generate student success. A transparent balanced scorecard designed to drive continuous improvement is imperative. Some alternatives include:
- Broadening the definition of student success and aligning indicators of success with a clear and compelling vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut,
- Leaving space for districts to incorporate local indicators of student growth specific to their communities in order to foster intrinsic motivation and ownership at the classroom teacher level,
- Significantly minimizing the role of any single standardized test to its appropriate role as one data point in a series of overall performance criteria,
- Focusing on the “opportunity gap”: the extent to which districts provide equitable access for all students to a rich curricular and extra-curricular educational program,
- Incorporating a strong measure of student voice about their levels of authentic engagement in their learning experiences (genuine student engagement is not a “thing”, it is the only thing),
- Integrating local, “real world” performance assessments designed by classroom teachers, scored at the local level and juried by a quality assurance program across all districts,
- Surveying alumni to determine the extent to which they felt prepared for college, work, and life,
- Assess funding patterns to determine if resource allocation targets are being met by federal, state, and local entities, and
- Employing an external “peer review”/”school quality review” process administered by current classroom practitioners and administrators in which districts engage in a deep analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, in order to benchmark district performance, to diagnose problems of practice, and to commit to improvement strategies (accreditation models, such as that of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, could serve as ideal partners in developing a school quality review process with the state) in place of current accountability measures
In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization.
- Create systems to incentivize innovation.
Districts and teachers are suffocating from a “one size fits all”, compliance-based approach to schooling. One size does not fit all in education, no more than it does in medicine, social work or any other endeavor in which human beings are at the core of the enterprise. In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization. As a result, energy is drained, a passion for teaching and learning evaporates, and many teachers and leaders question the lack of purpose to their work. Some ways to foster innovation include:
- Creating a “Districts of Innovation” program through which the State Department of Education would administer a rigorous process identifying various district approaches to current challenges faced by schools, such as, reducing bullying, improving school climate, evaluating the performance of individual teachers and administrators, etc. These districts would apply for a waiver or modification from state requirements in order to innovate their practices, while analyzing the impact. These districts could be required to partner with a university, commit to sharing their results, and, if successful, serve as a provider of professional development for other districts. The incubation of fresh, innovative ideas, by classroom teachers and administrators would exponentially grow the capacity of educators in the state.
- Working with Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) to develop an “expert in residence” program with area districts. Districts could grant a yearlong sabbatical to individual teachers to share their innovative work and provide professional development to schools across the state.
- Pairing schools to work across different districts to collaboratively confront professional challenges. These partnerships could foster such promising practices as “lesson study”, peer to peer observations, and collaborative analysis of student work.
The window of opportunity is closing. As in 2012, the waiver for NCLB dictates the overly prescriptive education laws that compromise innovation and promote a compliance-based malaise among Connecticut’s best educators.
Some states have foregone the NCLB waiver (e.g. Vermont, Washington), choosing instead to absorb the draconian NCLB consequences in order to spare their opportunity to chart their own course through a compelling vision for learning in their states.
The opportunity for Connecticut to establish a dynamic vision for its 21st Century public schools is now.
The piece was authored by the following 12 Connecticut superintendents of schools. They are Thomas Scarice, Madison Public Schools; Jody Goeler, Hamden Public Schools; Jan Peruccio, Old Saybrook Public Schools; Kathy Veronesi, Region 13 Public Schools; Jack Cross, Clinton Public Schools; Jerry Belair, Waterford Public Schools; Patricia Ciccone, Westbrook Public Schools; Paul Freeman, Guilford Public Schools; Howard Thiery, Region 17 Public Schools; Ruth Levy, Region 4 Public Schools; Kevin Smith, Wilton; and Diane Dugas, East Hampton Public Schools.
Education Funding, Education Reform, No Child Left Behind Act, Race to the Top, Standardized Testing Corporate Education Reform Industry, NCLB, Public Education, RTTT, Standardized Testing
Jonathan Kantrowitz, is a public education advocate, political activist and blogger. His blog appears on the Connecticut Post website and the sites operated by the Hearst Media Group. In a post entitled, “U.S. has the world’s most educated workforce—but students face unparalleled levels of poverty, inequity and violence,” Jonathan Kantrowitz has written an extraordinary and profound piece about the real problems that are causing the growing educational achievement gap in the United States.
This article should be mandatory reading for the President of the United States, every member of Congress, every state governor and every state legislator.
At the very least, Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo should read it and be required to respond – in writing – as to why they are promoting policies that take our public education policies in exactly the wrong direction.
The following is Jonathan Kantrowitz’s post;
Source: Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable
A new study released today challenges the practice of ranking nations by educational test scores and questions conventional wisdom that the U.S.educational system has fallen badly behind school systems abroad.
In their report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect, the Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable examined six dimensions related to student performance—equity, social stress, support for families, support for schools, student outcomes, and system outcomes—in the G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Finland and China. They then examined 24 “indicators” within those dimensions.
Of the nine nations, the United States remains the wealthiest with the most highly educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.
“Many policymakers and business leaders fret that America has fallen behind Europe and China, but our research does not bear that out,” said James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable.
Despite high educational levels, the United States also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations. All are related to student performance. Measures included rates of childhood poverty, income inequality and violence. For example, in American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland. Rates of violent death are 13 times greater than the average for the other nations, with children in some communities reporting they have witnessed shootings, knifings, and beatings as “ordinary, everyday events.”
The study is a unique analysis, which for the first time compares K-12 education internationally on an array of social and economic indicators, not just test scores. The goal was to look at the whole iceberg, not just the tip—and provide a clearer snapshot of each country’s performance, including its wealth, diversity, community safety, and support for families and schools.
Some key findings:
Economic Equity: The United States and China demonstrate the greatest gaps between rich and poor. The U.S. also contends with remarkably high rates of income inequality and childhood poverty.
Social Stress: The U.S.reported the highest rates of violent death and teen pregnancy, and came in second for death rates from drug abuse. The U.S.is also one of the most diverse nations with many immigrant students, suggesting English may not be their first language.
Support for Families: The U.S. performed in the lowest third on public spending for services that benefit children and families, including preschool.
Support for Schools: Americans seem willing to invest in education: The U.S. leads the nine-nation group in spending per student, but the national estimates may not be truly comparable. U.S. teachers spend about 40 percent more time in the classroom than their peers in the comparison countries.
Student Outcomes: Performance in American elementary schools is promising, while middle school performance can be improved. U.S. students excel in 4th grade reading and high school graduation rates, but perform less well in reading at age 15. All nations demonstrate an achievement gap based on students’ family income and socio-economic status.
System Outcomes: The U.S. leads these nations in educational levels of its adult workforce. Measures included years of schooling completed and the proportion of adults with high-school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. American students also make up 25 percent of the world’s top students in science at age 15, followed by Japan at 13 percent.
“Too often, we narrow our focus to a few things that can be easily tested. To avoid that scoreboard mentality, we need to look at many measures important to shaping our future citizens. Treating education as a horse race doesn’t work,” said HML President Gary Marx.
A call for more nuanced assessments
American policymakers from both political parties have a history of relying on large, international assessments to judge United States’ performance in education. In 2013, the press reported that American students were falling behind when compared to 61 other countries and a few cities including Shanghai. In that comparative assessment—called the Program for International Student Assessment—PISA controversially reported superior scores for Shanghai.
“We don’t oppose using international assessments as one measure of performance. But as educators and policymakers, we need to compare ourselves with similar nations and on a broader set of indicators that put school performance in context—not just a single number in an international ranking,” said Harvey.
“Our study suggests the U.S. has the most educated workforce, yet students confront shockingly high rates of poverty and violence. Research shows that those larger issues, outside the classroom, are serious threats to student learning,” noted HML Executive Director Jack McKay.
For more of his posts, go to; http://blog.ctnews.com/kantrowitz/
Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Malloy, Race to the Top, Sarah Darer Littman, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Evaluations Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Evaluation
The sentence comes from columnist and fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman latest commentary piece in this weekend’s CTNewsjunkie.
The topic: Education Reform in Connecticut
Compared to what is actually taking place in Hartford and state capitols around the country, she might have begun her piece with the term, “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over” or any number of other adynata. [Turns out the phrase is called an Adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole that is taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility].
Sarah Darer Littman’s piece stands as a beacon of truth compared to the drivel Rae Ann Knopf, the executive director of the corporate driven, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, had published on CTNewsjunkie earlier in the week. The two pieces should be read in tandem to get the full effect. Read Knopf’s corporate education reform argument and then Sarah Darer Littman’s piece entitled Legislate Based On Research, Not Hyperbole.
The corporate education reform advocates falsely claim that not only will Malloy’s education reform legislation be good for children and our schools, but the cost of these unfunded mandates will be negligible, when such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
As Darer Littman writes,
“One hopes our legislators have been paying attention to the experience of our neighbors in New York as they listen to advocates from the Big Six (ConnCan, CCER, CBIA, CAPSS, CAS, and CABE). According to March report by the New York State School Boards Association and based on an analysis of data from 80 school districts, the districts outside the state’s five largest cities expect to spend an average of $155,355 on the state’s new evaluation system this year.
That’s $54,685 more than the average federal Reach To the Top grant awarded to districts to implement the program.
“Our analysis . . . shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” says Executive Director Timothy Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”
At a time when Connecticut’s towns and cities already face the potential for significant state aid reductions based on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget, is it any wonder that the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities testified in favor of delaying a system that is proving costly and problematic elsewhere?”
Darer Littman then turns her attention to the even more important point that Malloy’s entire teacher evaluation system is a farce and insult to the notion of creating better schools and ensuring that our state’s children are provided with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.
Calling Darer Littman’s piece a “must read” piece is a truly an understatement.
You can find it here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_legislate_based_on_research_not_hyperbole/
Malloy, No Child Left Behind Act, Race to the Top, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Malloy, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Stefan Pryor
On any given day, Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and other “education reformers” including superintendents in Bridgeport, Hartford and elsewhere are racing around – often in circles – in pursuit of some of the money that is being handed out by the United States Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” Program.
Applications and waivers are the terms of the day as more and more states and cities promise to implement reforms in return for more federal funding.
In the rush, some elected and appointed officials forget that while the preamble of a bill or program may sound great, you’d better read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.
That message came through loud and clear earlier this month when the Malloy Administration quietly submitted Senate Resolution No. 14. With no press release or even an explanation, the language of the bill reads;
January Session, 2013 of the Connecticut General Assembly
Senate Resolution No.14
RESOLUTION APPROVING THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND THE CONNECTICUT STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.
Resolved by the Senate:
That the provisions of the settlement agreement dated January 30, 2013, between the United States of America, acting through the United States Department of Justice and on behalf of the United States Department of Education, and the State of Connecticut, acting through the office of the Attorney General and on behalf of the Connecticut State Department of Education, requiring an expenditure from the General Fund budget in excess of two million five hundred thousand dollars and submitted by the Attorney General to this Assembly for approval in accordance with section 3-125a of the general statutes, are approved
Not the easiest piece of legislation to decipher, but in essence is says that on January 30, 2013, an agreement was signed between the federal government and the state of Connecticut dealing with some problem between the United States Department of Education and the Connecticut State Department of Education, and to resolve that problem, Connecticut will be issuing a check to the federal government for an amount in excess of $2.5 million.
So what is the story?
It turns out that in 2002, 2003 and 2004, the Connecticut State Department of Education applied for and was granted funds from the United States Department of Education’s National Initiative to Ensure Child Eligibility for Title I, Part C, Migrant Education Program.
The state spent those funds on various education programs that it believed met the rules and regulations of the program.
However, the federal government charged that the Connecticut State Department of Education “submitted or caused to be submitted false claims for payment or approval by misrepresenting the number of children in Connecticut who qualified for federal MEP funding.”
It is not that the federal government was saying the Connecticut’s State Department of Education stole the funds or spent them on non-education expenses; the problem appears to be the programs being funded may have helped children other than just the children of migrant workers.
In any case, after nearly a decade of investigations and negotiations, costing untold amounts of money, the federal government and the State of Connecticut recently signed an agreement that the State of Connecticut will pay back a portion of the funds….about $4.5 million.
However, as the agreement makes clear, “This Agreement is neither an admission of liability by the State, nor a concession by the United States that its claims are not well-founded.”
Bottom line – Connecticut agrees to pay back the funds but everyone agrees that the agreement does not imply that we were guilty of anything.
So in the coming years, Connecticut taxpayers will pay the United States government the sum of $4,500,000 with non-Federal funds . It actually starts with an initial payment of $1,500.000 within forty-five calendar days after the approval of the agreement by the Connecticut General Assembly, with annual payments due until the full amount has been paid).
In addition, the state will pay interest on the unpaid portion of the stipulated amount.
And, if for some reason the General Assembly rejects the agreement, bad things will happen that will undoubtedly cost the state even more.
So all in favor, say yes…
Connecticut asked for the money, it spent the money, it probably even thought it was spending the money in the right way, but the federal government said Connecticut failed to spend the money correctly and we now have to pay it back, with interest.
Of course, this migrant education program was minor compared to the amount of funds and the level of federal rules and restrictions associated with the federal government’s massive No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top funding.
And yet just the other day, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and the Connecticut State Board of Education were talking about changes and flexibility associated with Connecticut’s absurd teacher evaluation system, but there was virtually no mention that the federal waiver Malloy, Pryor and the state requested and received puts severe limitations on just how much “flexibility” Connecticut has in some of these areas.
We took the money but the rules we have to spend it under will actually do severe harm to many of our public schools.
Remember, when the “education reformers” tell us not to worry about the restrictive rules concerning No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the federal government will let us do whatever we want as long as we adopt some education reforms, remind them about this new Senate Resolution 14 that will cost us $4.5 million, plus interest.
It is a question every legislator should be asked.
And while you’re doing that, ask them why the Malloy administration is providing so little information about this settlement.