Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing
Sarah Darer Littman, a fellow public education advocate, blogger and regular commentator here at Wait,What? is also an award-winning author of books for young people.
Last week she and a number of other leading authors and illustrators wrote a powerful letter to President Obama about the inappropriate use of standardized testing and the failings of the corporate education reform movement.
In a commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, Sarah Darer Littman explains why she and the authors took this important step;
“I am proud to have been a signatory to a letter sent to President Obama last week, along with over 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including luminaries of the field such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.
We signed on to the letter because we know that lighting the fire of literacy is critical to our nation’s future, and we’re deeply concerned that current educational policy is dousing that fire. When one receives letters from young people telling them how reading your book has changed their life, it creates a special responsibility to advocate for change.
As you ponder who to vote for in your local Board of Education elections, please consider carefully each candidate’s position on excessive standardized testing.
Party label is no indication of position, alas — over-testing insanity might have started under a Republican administration with No Child Left Behind, but rather than correcting the problem, the Obama administration’s policies have reinforced it. Here in Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy even went so far as to state that he’d “settle for teaching to the test” as long as it meant raising test scores.
In many of the schools in Connecticut that need them the most, we don’t have full-time librarians, or libraries filled with books that appeal to young people. Yet we’re spending a fortune on consultants, and on technology to implement what — more testing. Author Neil Gaiman summed it up in a recent lecture, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”:
“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”
Test scores don’t matter as much as raising a nation of life-long readers — because reading fiction is a key to imagination and creativity. It is both a mirror, where we can see that we are not alone in our experiences, and a window, where we can learn to empathize with the experiences of others whose lives might be very different from our own.
A friend of mine in New York state called me, upset, after receiving the results of the tests this fall. Her son’s reading scores weren’t what she’d expected, and she wondered if she should worry. I know her son well — he loves reading and we have lively discussions about the latest book. I sent her links to numerous articles about the flawed Pearson ELA tests and told her that there was nothing the matter with her son — that he’s a bright kid who loves reading and that it borders on criminal that these tests would even create a doubt in her mind about the truth of this.
Please consider this carefully when voting for Board of Education. Vote for literacy, not test score-driven “readicide.”
You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-vote-for-literacy-not-testing-4933218.php.
You can read the author’s letter to Obama and additional background on Valerie Strauss’ blog at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/22/top-authors-including-maya-angelou-urge-obama-to-curb-standardized-testing/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman
Connecticut is quickly getting the message.
As far as the education reform industry is concerned, there are two standards of Accountability. There is one standard for teachers and a very different, much lower standard of accountability for the professional education reformers and their corporate entities.
Call it yet another example of the Great American Corporate Accountability System, otherwise known as laws and rules are only for the rank and file, not for the elite.
Sarah Darer Littman has yet another “must read” piece that appeared in this past weekend’s CT Newsjunkie entitled, Is Accountability Only For Teachers?
In it she observes;
“Accountability. It’s the No. 1 buzzword of corporate education reform. Teachers must be held can countable based on their students’ performance on standardized tests, even though the method is deeply flawed.
Students must also be held accountable. Poverty is no excuse. Who cares if you’ve experienced early childhood trauma, if your parents aren’t native English speakers, or if you have a learning disability. No excuses, no compassion. Toe the line, Bucko.
As Achievement First Hartford Academy stated in its 2007 charter application: “Excuses will not be tolerated. Mediocrity will not be good enough.”
Yet when it comes to the education reformers themselves there is little or no accountability and there are plenty of excuses — even to measures they have set for themselves. Take the aforementioned Achievement First Academy Hartford, which just had its charter renewed for three years in a shameful act of cronyism by the state Board of Education.
Here are some of the goals Achievement First Hartford set in its 2007 charter application:
-p.12 - “The AF Hartford approach to student behavior will be overwhelmingly positive. While there will be clear, strict consequences for poor behavior at AF Hartford, research finds that positive recognition of good behavior is more likely to fundamentally improve student behavior.”
-p.41 - Special Needs Populations: “All students with disabilities attending AF Hartford will be accorded a free, appropriate and public education. Disability will not be used as a criterion for non-eligibility for admissions or enrollment . . . AF will comply with all regulatory special education requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Likewise, AF Hartford will fully comply with additional regulations and policies of the State of Connecticut.”
Under “Charter Self-Evaluation and Accountability,” Achievement First Hartford listed the following:
-p.65 - Suspensions: “We will have an average of 5 or fewer suspensions for the months of January to June (or a total of 30 or fewer suspensions during this six month period).
-p.66 - Student Retention: “Student attrition will be less than 5 percent (other than students moving out of the district) during our first year and less than 3 percent in each successive year.
-p.68 - Staff Turnover: “There will be low rates of administrative and teacher turnover. Our targets for annual teacher turnover will be less than 25% in the first two years and less than 15 percent after that.”
Yet how did Achievement First Hartford measure up? We know their “positive recognition of good behavior” methods resulted inthe highest number of suspensions of any school in the state, with 32.5 percent of elementary school students and 49.4 percent of middle school students having at least one in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or expulsion.
Clearly their model — and their leadership across the board — is flawed, because in the elementary school category, the top four slots in the suspension leaderboard were held by Achievement First schools: Hartford Academy, 32.5 percent; Elm City College Prep, 26 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 20 percent; and Amistad Academy, 13.8 percent.
In the middle school category, Achievement First dominates again, with three of the top four slots: AF Hartford Academy, 49.4 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 43.7 percent; and Amistad Academy, 41.9 percent.
High school? Achievement First had two schools in the top six, with Elm City Prep ranked second at 40 percent and Bridgeport Achievement First sixth at 35.9 percent.
The recent voluntary resolution agreement of a civil rights complaint filed on the behalf of six AF Hartford students by Greater Hartford Legal Aid is proof-positive that AF failed their special needs students.”
Everyone tracking the education reform corporate movement should take the time to read this informative and disturbing piece.
By understanding the real “achievements” of organizations like Achievement First, Inc. readers will have a much better understanding of the notion that the best way to describe these education reforms is to start by saying…”don’t look at the man behind the curtain.”
You can find Sarah Darer Littman’s full commentary piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/sboe_is_accountability_is_only_for_teachers/
Arne Duncan, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor Arne Duncan, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor
Last week, the Secretary of Education for the United States of America, Arne Duncan, joined by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, held at a “town hall meeting” at one of Hartford’s magnet schools.
In response to a question from a high school student in attendance, Duncan taught the students an extremely valuable lesson…some politicians lie. In fact, in an attempt to “bond” with the students, Duncan lied through his teeth.
In this case, America’s Patron Saint of Standardized Testing claimed that when he was the CEO of the Chicago School System he cut the amount of standardized testing by 50%. Of course, that statement isn’t close to the truth.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone by the likes of the U.S. Secretary of Education, Governor Malloy weighed in on the issue of the overuse of standardized testing by saying, “We need a multifaceted approach which doesn’t overemphasize [testing],”
A particularly funny, if not ironic statement, considering over Malloy’s term in office we will be seeing a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in the use of standardized testing in Connecticut’s public schools.
Fellow columnist, Sarah Darer Littman, dug into the Duncan/Malloy extravaganza with her usual depth of research, humor and outrage. The product is an absolute “MUST READ” piece that appears on the CTNewsjunkie website.
An Open Letter to Connecticut Students (by Sarah Darer Littman)
Last Friday, during a town hall meeting at the Classical Magnet School in Hartford with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and assorted other luminaries of the Connecticut political firmament, one of you — Justin Vega — raised a great point with Secretary Duncan.
According to a CT Mirror report, Vega told Duncan that he felt “as if all the time and money spent on standardized testing has compromised the quality of his education.”
The responses given by both Governor Malloy and Secretary Duncan provided us all with a teachable moment in politics, critical thinking, research, statistics, and media literacy.
Malloy warned Vega that Hartford schools could potentially have a 40 percent dropout rate and said: “We have to do everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen. We need a multifaceted approach which doesn’t overemphasize [testing],” the CT Mirror reported.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from parenting my own kids is that they learn as much from what I do as from what I say. They don’t hesitate to point out when there is a discrepancy between my words and my actions. I ask them to do it politely. It’s important they respect my authority, but in order to maintain a healthy relationship, it’s equally as important that they question it, particularly if my words and actions don’t ring true. The same is true of democracy.
So ask yourselves — is this the same Governor Malloy who said, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test” if it means raising test scores? Note that he didn’t say he would strive for you to have a meaningful learning experience and develop critical thinking skills. He made it all about your test scores.
Despite Malloy’s assertion that we need a “multifaceted approach which doesn’t over-emphasize” testing, his policies do the opposite.
You can find this absolutely must read piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_an_open_letter_to_connecticut_students/
Democratic Party, George Jepsen, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, Stefan Pryor Sarah Darer Littman, The Democratic Party
Public education advocate and CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman, has produced another “must read” column articulating the anger and frustration that so many of us are feeling toward much of the leadership of the Democratic Party.
I pretty sure it was actually on my 18th birthday that I raced to the Old Town Hall to register as a Democrat. Less than two years later, I become, what I think, was the youngest Democratic Town Chairman in Connecticut history, beating out my former boss and mentor, Sam Gejdenson.
Today I watch a Democratic President and Democratic Governor undermine the public education system and coddle the rich, while here in Connecticut we witness the deepest cuts in history to our public colleges and universities, while slashing some of the most vital human services, such as respite care for parents of the developmentally disabled.
In recent years, time and time again, we’ve witnessed the Democratic leadership taking our party away from its core beliefs and principles.
In what is certainly an award-winning response, Sarah Darer Littman says enough is enough:
A Woman Without A Party (By Sara Darer Littman)
When my son registered to vote two years ago this month, he wanted to register unaffiliated. “Both parties are just corporate shills,” he said.
I had a hard time disagreeing with that point of view, but I talked him out of it with the same words my father told me thirty years earlier, when I was a new voter: “You should always join a party in a closed primary state so you can vote in a primary.”
My son listened to me, as I listened to Dad. So he was shocked when I told him that I’d gone to Town Hall this week and changed my registration from Democrat to Unaffliated in the final stage of my journey to disgust and disillusionment with the two-party system.
“Welcome to my world,” he said.
At 18, I was a registered Republican. At 36, I became a Democrat. And now, as a woman of a certain age, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney General George Jepsen, and their BFF Arne Duncan, have persuaded me to join the fastest growing voter group in both Connecticut and the country — the Unaffiliated.
(Read her full post at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/a_woman_without_a_party/)
Sarah ends by saying, “One of the books that has most influenced me was one I read in that 10th grade honors English class, George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. The reason I’ve become unaffiliated is because as I looked from one party to the other on education, “already it was impossible to say which was which.”
I know Sarah speaks for many of us…
Education Reform, Pelto, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Wendy Lecker Standardized Testing
(A Blog Post by Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto)
Ask any parent, high school student or teacher- 11th grade is hell. Aside from the heavy course-load, juniors have to suffer through a litany of standardized tests- and these count: SATs, SAT subject tests, ACTs, APs.
Could anyone make junior year any worse? Why yes! Thank President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and Connecticut’s esteemed legislators. They all pushed and/or voted to make the Common Core State Standards Connecticut law.
As we all know, the CAPT test, the only state standardized test in high school, is administered in 10th grade. That test will now be replaced by the Common Core test, which will now be administered in 11th grade.
Would anyone who has any familiarity with high school ever be moronic enough to add ANOTHER standardized test to 11th grade, losing weeks of learning time and adding stress to the pressure cooker that is junior year?
Of course not- but then again, students, parents and teachers were never consulted before the Common Core was rammed down our throats.
What could possibly be the justification for this move to eleventh grade testing? That “we” want to make sure students are “college-ready?” Do people really think that a standardized test, scored in seconds by a computer, will tell us whether a student is ready for the research, writing and in-depth learning she will face in college? Rather than imposing tests that pretend to measure whether they are college-ready, leave our kids alone- they already have enough exams on their plate. We want them to be well-rounded, healthy individuals, with time for extra-curricular interests and yes, even a social life.
Defenders of the Common Core, a set of standards written with virtually no teacher involvement, like to claim that its critics are right-wing nuts or left-wing nuts.
But we aren’t. We are parents, who care deeply about education and learning. We also love our children and unlike the geniuses that thought it would be a bright idea to add another round of high stakes testing in junior year, we understand their social and emotional needs.
When Sarah told her junior daughter that the Greenwich Board of Education had planned Common Core Alignment Testing to gather data for the State Board of Education this month, while she was also going to be taking AP Exams and preparing for the SAT, she said, “That’s just disrespectful.” She is right.
We adults expect respect from our teenagers. But to earn their respect, we must show them the respect they, too, deserve. Expecting them take an assessment test for data purposes when they are already facing so much pressure is not only disrespectful, it is unhealthy.
Greenwich parents rebelled and Greenwich was allowed to opt-out of testing – for this year. But just for this year. Meanwhile, across the state, juniors in other districts are suffering. Parents in the wealthy suburbs had better wake up and smell the coffee. This testing madness is coming for your kids too.
As adults, we should be modeling balance for our kids, not cruelty and insanity. The rate of suicide for the 15-24 age group has nearly tripled since 1960. Is it any wonder when the State Board of Education and the National Secretary of Education treat our already stressed out teens like lab rats instead of human beings?
This is not a partisan issue. This is a conflict between those driven by ideology alone, who clearly will never live with the consequences of their policies, versus those who live with children in our public schools. And for those of us who teach in, learn in or have children in high school, no matter what our political affiliation, it is time to rise up and shout: “Enough is enough!”
Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman and Jonathan Pelto are public education advocates and commentators. In addition to their pieces here at Wait, What? you can find many of Wendy’s commentary pieces at the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group papers and Sarah’s at CTNewsjunkie.
Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.
“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.
As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.
School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law
Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;
“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”
As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.
Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.
Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm
“Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”
Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;
“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.
First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?
That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time. ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’
Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.
In the report, the auditors state:
‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’
On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:
‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’
It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/
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/
Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America
CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman published another “must read” piece in last weekend’s CTNewsjunkie (see link)
In it, Littman tackles the issues surrounding the efforts to enhance the teaching profession, provide opportunities for young people to serve their communities by teaching in urban and poor schools systems and the political/lobbying apparatus that is known as Teach for America.
During a recent college tour, Littman and her daughter, who wants to be a teacher, ran straight into the paradox that one path to teaching is through investing, “four, possibly five years pursuing a double major in a subject area and education” or simply graduating from college and trading a two-year commitment to Teach for America in return for a brief training program and a guaranteed job in a classroom as a teacher.
Teach for America bristles at the notion that they are anything but a force for good, but as Littman notes, the issues are far more complex than that.
She cites a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University who recently wrote in the Washington Post that TFA’s message is that college grads can “use teaching in high-poverty areas as a stepping stone to a career in business.” Littman correctly writes that such an approach is “not only disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it effectively advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.”
And the evidence lays out the case that it is our poor, urban districts that are the petri dishes for the experiment. As Littman writes, “Back in February 2012, as part of his Education Reform Bill, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for tougher standards for teacher education programs. Yet the most troubled districts in Connecticut, the “turnaround” districts, are the ones where one finds the most TFA corps members, who show up in classrooms after five weeks of training.”
Littman goes on to examine the evidence about the effectiveness of the TFA program.
Agree or disagree about what the future of the TFA and TFA like programs should be, everyone interested in the subject should take the time to read Littman’s latest piece. Here complete Op. Ed. can be read here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_tfa_contracts_ignore_the_evidence_-_and_malloys_own_rhetoric/
Christina Kishimoto, Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Hartford, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor Education Reform, Hartford, Standardized Testing
Earlier this month, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School announced that they would be boycotting the (Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test system. The also released a letter explaining why.
The teachers wrote, “…MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress…It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”
By standing up to this flawed testing program, the Garfield High School teachers have sparked a national movement in opposition to the MAP Test. The effort has received the support of nationally renowned pro-public education individuals and groups including the American Federation of Teachers, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, Change the Stakes, Diane Ravitch, FairTest, Matt Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, National Education Association, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools and many more.
Over the same period, but at the other end of the spectrum, education officials in Hartford, along with their corporate education reform allies, have committed even more money, time and effort utilizing the very test that the Seattle teachers and their supporters are condemning.
Sarah Darer Littman, a CTNewsjunkie commentary writer and pro-public education blogger, has done an extraordinary job writing about the latest counterproductive efforts in Hartford.
In two recent commentary pieces, Littman has highlighted the ongoing effort to saddle Hartford’s students and teachers, and Connecticut’s taxpayers, with this MAP testing outrage.
To understand the underhanded, heavy-handed and behind the scenes maneuvering that “education reformers” are engaged in, read Beware of Foundations Bearing Gifts and An Expensive ‘Gift’ for Taxpayers Without Accountability.
The following passages summarize the problem;
“In August, the [Hartford Board of Education] was asked to renew the contract for the Northwest Evaluation Association MAP program for two years at a cost of $592,443, or $11.50 per student. MAP, or Measures of Academic Progress, was piloted with the 9th grade last year, but this year was extended K-12. At the time the school board was asked to renew the contract with the rollout of the program, the source of funding was described as “special funds”, with no mention of the Gates grant.
The full board was only notified of the grant in October. But because the money is being administered through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which will receive $50,000 per annum of the three year grant period to manage it, the school board was not given the opportunity to vote on the matter despite the cost implications for Hartford Public Schools and state taxpayers.
One of my major questions regarding the Gates grant and the impact on HPS has to do with technology resources. According to the NWEA technology requirements, each student requires a workstation or client and these must have adequate and stable Internet connectivity for the test to be successfully administered. “NWEA requires a persistent connection to the wireless access point, free of interruptions, to successfully run Test Taker. Any outages in the connection, regardless of how brief, may cause errors during testing or require re-testing particular students.”
Although the Gates grant budgets $592,443 over the three-year period for license fees for NWEA computer adaptive assessments, there is a mere $34,500 budgeted for computers and equipment, and that goes to Achievement First for “Technology for Residency Program for School Leadership.” As far as HPS goes, there is zero in the grant for the implementation of any technology.
According to Ms. Frederick, “HPS has been planning for the MAP testing for three years including extensive training for teachers and administrators in order to ensure all were and are prepared for the administration. In addition we have conducted a technology readiness survey to determine the level of resources available in each school. Our goal is to ensure that all schools are fully resourced to implement the test during the testing period. Purchasing computers for the schools that are the most in need is an ongoing priority in the district. When dealing with technology, issues can and do come up. When that happens, we have a system in place for resolving the issue immediately. To date, we have had very few problems administering the test district-wide.”
Ms. Frederick continued, “In administering the test, schools are very creative in using the resources they have while ensuring there is little disruption for other students. Many students take the test in a dedicated computer lab, others take the test in their classroom using either classroom computers or laptops. Several schools have laptop carts that move from classroom to classroom allowing students to remain in their classroom to take the test. In year one of the test, we have been pleased with the results both in participation and how successful schools have been in administering the test. We continue to evaluate and plan for improvement.”
Something about “creative use of resources” sounded the alarm bells with me, particularly because I’ve been hearing concerns from media and technology specialist friends in wealthy school districts about having adequate resources to implement SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium adaptive tests that will replace the CMT/CAPT in 2014-15.
I put out feelers to teachers in the trenches to try and ascertain the picture. Most were not willing to go on the record for fear of retribution. But William Morrison, a social studies teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School, painted a somewhat less-than-rosy picture in telling me that the testing was problematic because of bandwidth problems.
Another teacher at a Hartford magnet school told me the school’s Wifi is turned off during assessments in order to limit bandwidth to testing computers. This means students and teachers not taking the assessments cannot use tablet devices. Both of the school’s laptop carts are used for testing for 3-4 weeks, making them unavailable for student projects.”
And the list of problems associated with even taking the tests goes on and on, not to mention the fact that the test results themselves are of little use.
If parents and taxpayers want to know the truth about this MAP testing program, they should start by reading up on the Scrap the MAP effort that is sweeping the nation. Begin by checking out the Scrap the MAP Blog.
And then ask your state and local elected officials why Hartford and Connecticut are moving in exactly the wrong direction on this vital education issue.
Dianne Kaplan DeVries, Education Reform, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, School Funding/ECS, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker ECS, Education Reform, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor
As Governor Malloy’s PR operation continues pumping out the education reform rhetoric, we can be confident that should he seek re-election, he’ll be running on the most anti-public education record of any governor in living memory. His “Education Reform” package was certainly the most anti-teacher, anti-union bill introduced by any Democratic governor in the nation.
Earlier this year we heard Malloy claim, “I don’t mind teaching to the test as long as test scores go up,” while proudly uttering the falsehood that teachers need only show up for four years to get tenure.
Since then he has pushed an agenda that makes greater use of inappropriate standardized testing and has continued to champion a teacher evaluation system that relies on the outcome of those tests, despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence the greater standardized testing leads to better outcomes.
Of course, that assumes that Malloy’s goal is better educational outcomes and not better salaries and better publicly funded contracts for the education reformers and the education reform industry that is rapidly sucking up more and more taxpayer funds in an attempt to fill their bank accounts and increase stock values.
By one estimate, the state is already spending $25 million a year on standardized testing, and that is before all the new testing kicks in.
Under Malloy’s approach and policies, cities and towns like Bridgeport, Hartford, Windham and New London are reducing teaching and support staff and dramatically increasing the number of standardized tests the children are forced to take.
Over the past weekend, a number of must read commentary pieces were published by Connecticut media outlets. Here are just three. Anyone concerned about ensuring our state provides every child with a high quality education should definitely read these pieces.
Wendy Lecker: It’s time to really put kids first
A favorite line of so-called education reformers is that we need to put students first and stop focusing on adults. However, these reformers then advocate policies that ignore the realities children experience. Achieving child-centric education policy requires first examining the lives of children, especially our most vulnerable.
As reported in Education Week, researchers at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard and elsewhere have studied how children’s lives affect learning and development. They found that a phenomenon called “toxic stress” has a profound influence on children’s ability to learn and their success later in life. Toxic stress includes physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence and the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship. Experiencing one or more of these events for a prolonged period puts the stress reaction system in a child’s body on permanent high alert. The result is that neural connections in the areas of the brain dedicated to learning and reasoning are fewer in number than they should be, and weaker, when they should be multiplying.
Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-It-s-time-to-really-put-kids-first-4081549.php#ixzz2Dzy3sPwl
Sarah Darer Littman: Attract Great Teachers Without Cherry-Picking Evidence
After the less than flattering rhetoric and misinformation from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy regarding teachers during the education reform debate, it was refreshing to read that state Education Commissioner Stephen Pryor has suddenly decided that we should start trying to attract great teachers.
During a keynote address to the annual meeting of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Pryor apparently blamed a perception gap for the lack of great teachers. Pryor cited statistics from Finland, where he said 100 percent of school teachers came from the top third of their graduating class, according to the New Haven Independent. In the U.S., only 23 percent of our teachers came from the top third. In low-income U.S. communities, the percentage is only 14 percent.
But like most proponents of the corporate education reform model, Pryor is cherry-picking data to support his argument
Read more http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_attract_great_teachers_without_cherry_picking_evidence/
Dianne Kaplan DeVries: Turkey Last Week, Another In The Oven?
The ECS Task Force has been slow-roasting its work at a low temperature over the past 15 months. Slow-roasting a turkey is a great way to prepare a Thanksgiving bird. It requires no expert cooking skills and no special tools, yet it produces a fully cooked, moist and tender bird. Not so with revamping state education aid! And just when it looked as if dishing-up time had arrived, the fowl was deemed too rare and returned to the oven.
Having earlier this month redirected my attention to the promise and progress of this illustrious body, I want to register disappointment with both the cooking process and the glimpsed product of their labors. Time to turn up the heat over the next few weeks in hopes of inspiring the group to serve up a more seasoned and tasty main course that some half a million public school kids and their school districts across the state, as well as the mill rates of 169 municipalities, may all be forced to eat should the legislature go along with the final recommendations.
First, let’s talk failed process. With so much at stake for virtually every community in the state and all current and future public school children, expectations were high that the task force would be conducted with great public transparency, reach out for advice from state and national experts in school finance, and intensively listen to input from all major stakeholder groups and knowledgeable citizens who stepped forth to weigh in on how best to modernize, rationalize, and suitably fund our public schools. Driving the issue was the constitutional challenge brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF), charging that the state’s current school finance system is inadequate and inequitable.
Read more http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_turkey_last_week_another_in_the_oven/