Connecticut will no longer use SBAC and SAT as part of teacher performance evaluations.

As the CT Mirror reports,

The state Board of Education voted late Wednesday afternoon to adopt new usage standards for state mastery test data, explicitly prohibiting the use of those test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

[…]

State education board Chairman Allan B. Taylor and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell both praised the board’s approval of the plan as an important clarification of the role state tests should play: a goal-setting tool for teachers, not part of a formula for rating an individual teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.

While state mastery tests – which include the Smarter Balanced assessments, SAT, CMT and CAPT science – are no longer an option, school districts are still required to measure teachers in part on their students’ testing success, which makes up 22.5 percent of the teacher evaluation rating. Now, school districts will have to choose from a number of non-state exams to evaluate teachers in that category.

In a written response, the Connecticut Education Association posted;

This is a big victory for students, teachers, and public education,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “The voices and expertise of teachers were heard and addressed by policymakers who did the right thing by putting the focus back where it belongs: on teaching, learning, and student achievement.”

[…]

Cohen concluded, “We feel confident that these new guidelines will have positive outcomes for everyone—students, teachers, and administrators—and will allow us to continue to move forward to improve the educational opportunities for all public school students in Connecticut.”

While the state’s action is an important and positive step, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test and the SAT will still be used for the unfair and discriminatory labeling of students, teachers and schools.

The State Board of Education Action means the SBAC and SAT will be used for the following inappropriate purposes;

Informing goals for individual educators
Informing professional development for individual educators
Discussion at the summative evaluation conference
Informing collaborative goals
Informing professional learning for groups or teams of educators
Any communications around planning
Development of curriculum
Program evaluation
Selecting or evaluating effectiveness of materials/resources
School/district improvement planning
Informing whole school professional development to support school improvement

The complete CT Mirror story can be found via the following link: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/06/ct-scraps-using-state-test-scores-to-compute-teacher-ratings/

Time to protect your children by opting them out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme

We are once again coming up on the time of year that Connecticut public school students will be told to stop learning and start testing.

Students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors will have their time and attention diverted from instructional activities in order to prepare for and take the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) test and the SAT.

These tests are useless and unscientific.  They fail to provide teachers and parents with any usable information about how to improve teaching or  student’s academic performance in relation to what is actually being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

Equally disturbing, these unfair and discriminatory tests are being used to categorize, rank and punish students, teachers and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker explained her in her recent piece, Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker,

Neither the SBAC nor the SAT is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC and SAT are not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

They are a worthless measure of how students are doing with what is actually taught in Connecticut classrooms.

And most troubling of all, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is literally designed to fail many Connecticut’s children.

As academic studies have clearly proven, although standardized tests are fraught with discriminatory elements, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) was at least intended – more or less – to measure how Connecticut’s children were doing on the curriculum that was being taught in Connecticut’s schools.

On the other hand, the SBAC test is aligned to the Common Core, a set of developmentally inappropriate standards created by the corporate education reform industry and forced upon the states by those who seek to privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than testing factories and profit centers for the massive testing industry.

Costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, the SBAC test is worse than a colossal waste of time and money because it is being used in an underhanded attempt to tell students, especially those who utilize special education services, those who need help learning the English language and those who come from poor households that they are failures.

Connecticut’s children deserve much better…

And Connecticut’s parents can have a profound impact on this situation by telling their child’s teacher and principal that their son or daughter will not be participating in this year’s SBAC testing farce nor will they be allowed to waste their time in the SBAC preparation lessons.

Now is the time to do what is right for Connecticut’s children….Opt them out of the Common Core testing scam.

A simple letter to your child’s teacher and principal refusing to allow your child to participate in the SBAC tests is the best way to stand up for Connecticut’s public school students.

Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker

In a weekend commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate entitled, Failed common core tests punish students, education advocate Wendy Lecker writes,

Across the country, states are re-examining their embrace of the hastily implemented common core tests. Membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has dwindled from 31 to 14 states. West Virginia is the latest state to consider dropping the test for all grades.

Last year, Connecticut convened a committee to review Connecticut’s standardized tests, the SBAC and SAT. However, the committee’s final report ignored serious validity problems and concluded Connecticut should plow ahead with these expensive and questionable standardized tests.

Connecticut’s teachers’ unions, CEA and AFT, dissented from this report, because these committee members did their homework. Their enlightening minority report is based on an examination of the evidence on the SBAC, as well as surveys of teachers, administrators, parents and students conducted across Connecticut.

The minority report highlights the evidence ignored by the Mastery Committee. It notes that experts across the country admit that computer adaptive tests such as the SBAC are “in their infancy” and their validity cannot yet be established. Compounding the validity problems is the inconsistency in computer skills among different populations in Connecticut, with poor kids at a particular disadvantage; and the inconsistency in devices used. Shockingly, the minority report emphasizes Connecticut has not proven alignment between the SBAC and our state standards. There is also no evidence that the SBAC is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC is not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

The SBAC is a bust. But, though recent federal law allows Connecticut to explore other types of assessments, Connecticut remains wedded to the SBAC.

The Mastery Committee report itself reveals the problems with the SAT. The technical report on which the committee relied to “prove” validity for use in Connecticut does not mention Connecticut once. It is worthless for determining the validity of the SAT as Connecticut’s high school accountability test. Moreover, the report the committee cited to show alignment between the SAT and Connecticut high school standards revealed only a 71-percent match to Connecticut English standards, with entire categories having no strong alignment or none whatsoever. Math had an abysmal 43 percent strong alignment between the SAT and Connecticut Standards. We know what would be in 100-alignment: a teacher’s end-of-year test and what students learned in that class. And since a high school GPA is a much stronger predictor of college success than the SAT, Connecticut would do well to explore high school tests that match what students actually learn.

But instead the Mastery Committee recommends blind adherence to the SAT.

Continuing these invalid tests comes at a steep price. As the minority report noted, 90 percent of teachers stated that testing and test prep has resulted in lost learning time and restricted access to computer labs. The impact is particularly devastating in our poorest districts. A majority of districts reported technical problems during testing, again with poorest districts suffering the most.

Contrary to Connecticut’s goals, these tests drive instruction, especially in poor schools. Disadvantaged districts are most vulnerable to sanctions such as school or district takeover based on poor test results. Thus, they have resorted to interim computerized tests for test prep. Children in Bridgeport and other districts suffer through multiple administrations of i-Ready tests and/or MAP tests, and prep for these tests. They lose additional weeks of learning time. Some of these districts have direct pressure from the state to use these tests, as their Alliance District funding depends on student improvement on these measures.

Yet, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins, there is a complete “lack of a research base on i-Ready and MAP as means for improving student learning” which they find “both surprising and disappointing given their widespread use as well as their cost.”

These same districts are deprived of proven interventions that actually help students learn. For example, the judge in the CCJEF school funding case found a lack of reading and math intervention staff throughout the CCJEF districts, as well as shortages of space, time and supplies for reading and math intervention. While districts cannot afford to provide real help for kids, they are forced to spend money and time on invalid measures of student performance.

It has been three years since Connecticut implemented the SBAC and there is still no evidence that it is valid. And Connecticut implemented the SAT knowing it was invalid for use as an accountability test. As long as our leaders keep failing to learn this expensive lesson, our neediest children will continue to pay the price.

This commentary pieces was first published in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on it at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failed-common-core-tests-punish-10906971.php

Attention Connecticut:  SATs are WORTHLESS – A report by whistleblower Manuel Alfaro

Tomorrow, October 1, 2016, thousands of Connecticut children will – once again – be taking the SATs in the hopes of acquiring a high enough score that they can attend the college of their choice.

However, more and more colleges and universities are going test optional.  According to Fairtest, the national test monitoring entity, more than 900 colleges and universities across the country have dropped the requirement that students provide an SAT or ACT test score with their application. Colleges have taken this step because they recognize that it is a student’s grade point average – not their standardized test score – that is the best predictor of how well a student will do in college.

Meanwhile, it was just last year that Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly mandated that every Connecticut high school junior take the SAT, despite the fact that the overwhelming evidence is that the test is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory, not to mention, it is designed to fail a vast number of children.

Instead of promoting a sophisticated student and teacher evaluation program, Malloy and other proponents of the corporate education reform agenda have been pushing a dangerous reliance on standardized testing as one of the state’s primary mechanisms to judge and evaluate students, teachers and public school.

Below are two statements that were recently posted by Manuel Alfaro on his LinkedIn account.  Alfaro is an outspoken whistleblower and critic of the College Board and their SAT.

Before coming forward to report the College Board’s unethical, and arguably illegal activities, Alfaro served as the Executive Director of Assessment Design & Development at The College Board (The SAT).

Considering Connecticut’s public officials made a profound mistake by mandating that schools use the SAT scores to evaluate students and teachers, Mr. Alfaro’s information and warnings are particularly important.

Manuel Alfaro Post #1

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

Over the last five months, I have written about several serious problems with the redesigned SAT. The problems include:

  • Development processes that do not meet industry standards; false claims made (in public documents) by the College Board about those processes; false claims made (in state proposals and contracts) by the College Board about those processes.
  • Poor quality of items—documented in letters and comments from content committee members.
  • Extensive revisions of a large percentage of operational items—the College Board claims that this happens only on the RAREST of occasions.
  • Test speediness resulting from the use of the wrong test specifications during the construction of operational SAT forms—use of the wrong specifications resulted in operational tests that, according to formal timing studies conducted by the College Board, require an additional 21-32 minutes (on top of the 80 minutes already allowed) to complete.

Under normal circumstances, the department of education of the client states would have imposed heavy penalties on the College Board; suspended administration of the flawed SATs; and demanded immediate corrective actions.

For example, in 2010, the state of Florida fined Pearson nearly $15 million, which Pearson paid. (Source: www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/florida-hits-fcat-contractor-pearson-with-another-12-million-in-penalties/1110688.) The nearly $15 million fines were imposed because the FCAT results were delivered late. Imagine what the fines would have been if the problems had been as severe as the ones I’ve disclosed about the SAT.

The reason you are not seeing this type of reaction from the states administering the SAT for accountability is that they are partly responsible for the problem. Allow me to elaborate: Typically, to protect both the state and the testing company, an assessment contract that includes the use of an assessment created for the intent and purpose of college admission, not state accountability, would include a clause requiring that the test items be reviewed and approved for use by a content committee from the client state.

This additional step, however, costs money; requires that custom SAT forms are created for each state; and impacts administration schedules. So, even though it is in the best interest of the state, the College Board, and—most importantly—students, state officials opted not to do it. What are the ramifications of this decision?

  • The inclusion of items unfit for use in the target state
  • Performance level descriptors that are meaningless
  • Students spending time on items that should not have been included on the test
  • Teachers being evaluated (partially) using results from tests that may or may not accurately assess student performance

To illustrate the 4 points above, consider the following item (from Practice SAT Forms):

This item targets two different clusters of the Common Core Standards for Math:

Understand and apply theorems about circles

Find arc lengths and areas of sectors of circles

If students get this item wrong, it is impossible to tell whether students got it wrong because they don’t understand and are unable to apply theorems about circles to determine the measure of angle O or because they are unable to compute the length of minor arc LN, after they’ve determined the measure of angle O.

To be included in a state assessment, items have to clearly align to a single standard. The item in this example cannot be aligned even to a single cluster, much less the individual standards within each of the two clusters. Thus, this item would be deemed to exceed the content limits of the standards and would be excluded from inclusion on the state tests.

If students get this item wrong, the performance level descriptor associated with their scores will state that the students are unable to compute arc lengths; they are unable to apply theorems about circles; or both. But this is meaningless as it is impossible to determine what exactly led to the incorrect answer.

This impacts teachers in a similar way: You cannot tell if they are doing a great job at teaching students to compute arc lengths; apply theorems about circles; neither; or both. How useful are the teacher reports generated from an assessment that includes such items? They certainly cannot be used to let teachers know what they need to improve on.

The SAT contains many items like the one in the example above. University researchers should analyze all the practice SAT tests to determine the full scope of the problem. If I continue to provide examples, we will get more of the same glib responses from the College Board.

Next Steps

Demand that the heads of department of education of your states take immediate action by either:

  • Suspending SAT administrations until the College Board addresses the problems
  • Resigning, and letting an individual willing to protect the interests of your students and families take over (and fix the problems).

Manuel Alfaro Post #2

To minimize advantages resulting from the use of calculators with computer algebra systems (CAS), the College Board uses a simple trick to keep students from directly solving math questions using their CAS calculators. For example, in Item 1 below the correct solution requires a simple substitution before solving a linear equation. This item is counted towards one of the “linear equation” dimensions under Heart of Algebra. However, that simple substitution (“k=3”) makes this item a system of equations (see Item 29 below, for an example of a similar item with a different arrangement of the equations), which makes it count toward a different dimension within Heart of Algebra.

(Source: SAT Practice)

As the College Board uses this trick frequently, each operational form contains several items that are artificially “enhanced” to defeat CAS advantages. This leads to the construction of operational SAT forms that do not meet SAT content specifications because the “enhanced” items are misaligned. In the case of the form containing Item 1, the form would have too few items targeting the “linear equations” dimension and too many items targeting the “system of equations” dimensions. In some cases (Item 9, below), the enhancements push the items completely outside the scope of the entire SAT content specifications—this item should not have been included in the test at all, as it is a system of more than two equations.

(Source: SAT Practice)

Items like these are unfit for use under the classification the College Board originally assigned them because they target two different skills. As I mentioned on my September 26, 2016 post, if students get these items wrong, it is impossible to tell whether it is due to their inability to solve equations or their inability to evaluate expressions. Sadly, these enhanced items don’t promote best instructional practices, as the College Board aims to do.

In any case, the inclusion of these types of items results in SAT operational forms that are not:

  • Parallel psychometrically, as the pretest item statistics were invalidated when the College Board revised the items (and did not pretest them again) during operational form construction;
  • Parallel content-wise, as each operational form may contain several items that are misclassified or are beyond the scope of the SAT content specifications.

What does this mean? It means that the SATs are WORTHLESS; INDEFENSIBLY WORTHLESS.

Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public school deserve better.  Governor Malloy and Connecticut’s elected officials should immediately repeal the requirement that Connecticut students take the SAT and replace that mandate with an evaluation system that actually measures whether students are learning what is being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

Will the SAT become Rhode Island’s high school “exit exam”?

Check out the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) website and you’ll see that they proudly declare that;

Rhode Island has implemented a statewide diploma system to ensure access for all middle and high school students to rigorous, high quality, personalized learning opportunities and pathways.

An announcement about the details surrounding the “new diploma system” is expected later this fall, now that the public comment process on the proposed regulations has concluded (Rhode Islanders had until September 15, 2016 to weigh in on the propose changes).

Earlier this month, pro-education reform governor Gina Raimondo, whose husband is part of the education reform and charter school industry, announced that she was “open” to using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SAT testing scheme as a graduate requirement in Rhode Island.

As numerous academic studies have revealed, grade point averages, not standardized test scores are the best predictors of college success.

In fact, these studies show that the SAT correlates with the income of the student’s parents and does not predict how a student will do in College.

Over the last few years, more than 850 colleges and universities have decided not to require applicants to even provide SAT scores and this list includes well over 180 “top-tier” universities and colleges.

But defending her indefensible position, Governor Raimondo claimed that the NEW SAT was better because it was aligned to the Common Core, a statement that indicates how little the governor understands about the shortcomings associated with the Common Core and its Common Core testing scheme.

Rhode Island state officials had already announced plans to drop the requirement that students pass the Common Core PARCC tests in order to graduate, a decision they reached based on the evidence that the PARCC test is not an appropriate indicator of what the child has been taught or whether they are college ready.

Why Governor Raimondo is “open” to the use of the SAT is a sad reminder about the level of ignorance on the part of some elected officials in this country.  It is also an indicator that far too many officials see students are little more than profit centers for the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

Inside school funding “victory,” CT Judge apparently seeks to set special education services back 40 years

As the evidence makes clear … the State of Connecticut fails to provide most of its cities and towns with adequate school funding.

Now, in an important but flawed legal ruling, the judicial branch of government is finally making it clear that the state’s unwillingness to deal with this significant problem violates Connecticut law.

Yesterday, September 7, 2016, a Connecticut state judge agreed with a coalition of towns, parents and public school advocates that the actual mechanism by which Connecticut distributes school aid is unconstitutional because it fails to provide poorer communities with adequate resources that are required by the Connecticut constitution. The judge’s proposed remedy, however, was limited (More coming on that front).

While the decision is an important milestone on the school funding issue, Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s Memorandum of Decision is nothing short of absurd, ill-conceived and simply  wrong when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the state’s illogical teacher evaluation system and the state’s over-reliance on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and SAT testing schemes.

In his ruling, Moukawsher actually suggests that students should face even more standardized testing in Connecticut’s classrooms.

And of greatest concern is his unwarranted, outrageous and mean-spirited attack on special education services in Connecticut’s schools.

The truth is that Connecticut has actually been a leader when it comes to providing special education services to those who need extra help in the classroom.  While issues certainly exist when it comes to adequately identifying and providing services to those students who have special needs, the underlying problem is not that students get special education services, but that Connecticut’s cities and towns are left with an unfair share of the burden when it comes to financing those extra educational activities.

In Connecticut, there has been widespread consensus that society and the state have an obligation to ensure that every child is provided with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to live more fulfilling lives and that includes children with special needs.

Yet in an stunning diatribe, Judge Moukawsher appears to suggest that Connecticut retreat from that commitment.

Moukawsher writes;

“Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately proforma efforts..

To suggest that Connecticut public schools do not have an obligation to serve, as best they can, every student is to suggest policymakers retreat from the most basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and that of the State of Connecticut, as well as, from federal law and regulations that apply to those who need extra services.

In today’s world, a policy that seeks to define any children as unteachable is repugnant.

One can only hope that the judge, in his haste to issue a ruling, misspoke or misunderstood his fundamental role in ensuring that the state continue to meet its duty to all of Connecticut’s children, their parents and the broader society.

To reiterate, when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the problem is not that services are provided, but that the state is failing to fully reimburse school districts for those costs.

As a society we must recognize our commitment to every public school student.  Stepping back from that commitment is simply not acceptable.

To read the Judge’s entire Memorandum of Decision go to; https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html

More media coverage of the ruling can be found at:

Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’  (CT Mirror)

Ruling may end ‘hold harmless’ principle in CT budget politics (CT Mirror)

Judge Orders State To Make Sweeping Changes To Education Funding, Policies (CT Newsjunkie)

Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools (Hartford Courant)

Judge says state’s school funding formula is irrational  (CT Post)

Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to overhaul its school system (New York Times)

Want to know how a student is doing? Forget the SBAC or SAT test – Ask a teacher

In a recent press release, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman pontificated about their effort to measure every child, teacher and public school by the score students received on this year’s Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

Wyman said,

“These successes are valuable indicators that we are on the right track today, and they position us for a stronger tomorrow.”

However, in the real world, the results from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme is hardly a valuable indicator nor does it suggest we are on the right track to anything other than forcing schools to develop better systems for teaching to the test.

As Connecticut public education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker wrote in a Stamford Advocate in August 2015, instead of looking to an unfair testing scam for guidance about student performance, If you Want to know how a student is doing? Ask a teacher.

Last year, Wendy Lecker wrote;

A friend of mine had a priceless reaction to the specious claim by education reformers that our children need standardized tests so parents can know how they are doing in school. He laughed and said that in 20 years of parent conferences no teacher ever felt the need to pull out his children’s standardized tests to provide an accurate picture of how well they were learning.

Parents have relied on teachers’ assessments to gauge their children’s progress and most have pretty much ignored their children’s standardized test scores. For decades, this approach has served parents and students well. Recent research shows that non-standardized, human assessments of student learning are superior to standardized tests of all kinds.

I have written about the voluminous evidence showing that a high school GPA is the best predictor of college success, and that the SAT and ACT, by contrast, are poor predictors. (http://bit.ly/1K7CNzG)

Even standardized college placement tests, tests ostensibly designed to measure “college readiness,” fail miserably at that task — with real and damaging consequences for students.

College remediation is often used as a weapon by education reformers. Overstating college remediation rates was one of the tactics used by Arne Duncan to foment hysteria about the supposedly sorry state of America’s public schools and justify imposing the Common Core and its accompanying tests nationwide. As retired award-winning New York principal Carol Burris has written, while Duncan and his allies claimed that the college remediation rate is 40 percent, data from the National Center on Education Statistics show that the actual percentage is 20 percent.

Exaggeration is not the only problem with college remediation. Many of the students placed in remedial classes in college do not even belong there.

Judith Scott-Clayton of Columbia’s Teachers’ College and her colleagues examined tens of thousands of college entrants and found that one-quarter to one-third of those placed in remedial courses based on standardized placement tests were mis-assigned. These students wrongly placed in remedial classes could have passed a college- level course with a B or better. Moreover, when students are mis-assigned to remedial courses, the likelihood of them dropping out of college increases by eight percentage points. These high-stakes tests produce high-cost errors.

Scott-Clayton and her colleagues found that by incorporating high school grades into the college placement decisions, misplacements were corrected by up to a third, and there was a 10-percentage point increase in the likelihood that those students placed in a college-level course would complete that course with a grade of C or better.

Once again, non-standardized, human assessments of a student’s learning are more helpful than standardized tests.

Some institutions are getting that message. After California’s Long Beach City College began incorporating high school grades into placement decisions, the rate of students who placed into and passed college English quadrupled. The rate for math tripled. Just last month, George Washington University joined the long and growing list of colleges and universities that dropped the requirement for SAT or ACT scores.

These institutions of higher education understand that standardized tests are poor predictors “college readiness” and that high school grades are superior.

Yet too many policymakers cling to the failed strategy of using standardized tests to try to tell us what teachers are much better at telling us. Congress is set to reaffirm the requirement that states administer annual standardized tests, even though the data show that a child who passes one year is very likely to pass the next. Washington, West Virginia and California announced plans to use the not-yet validated and increasingly unpopular SBAC test in its college placement decisions.

California announced this move even as it is considering ceasing the use of SBACs to judge schools. Equally hypocritical, Washington State’s Board of Education just announced that it is lowering the SBAC high school passing score below the “college-ready” level arbitrarily adopted by the SBAC consortium last year.

Amid opt-outs and outrage at the SBACs, Connecticut passed a law replacing the un-validated 11th grade SBAC with the SAT as a required high school test; even though the SAT has been proven to have little predictive value for determining college success.

The key to ensuring and determining college readiness is clearly not high-stakes error-prone standardized tests. If politicians really want to understand how to prepare our children for college, maybe they should try a new — for them- approach and consult experts with a great track record of knowing what makes kids college-ready. Maybe they should ask some teachers.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s full column on the issue at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Want-to-know-how-a-student-is-6431076.php

BREAKING NEWS – “NEW” SAT a fraud on Connecticut and the nation’s high school students, their parents, teachers and taxpayers

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

– Former College Board (SAT) executive

A major and devastating controversy is crashing into the “NEW” SAT and thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut’s high school students are caught up in the growing disaster.

A leak of thousands of SAT questions, a stunning expose by Reuters News about myriad of problems associated with the standardized testing scheme, an FBI raid and now a broadside posted by a former SAT executive is focusing attention on the absurd use of the “NEW” SAT to evaluate Connecticut’s public school students, teachers and schools.

The harsh reality is that Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly should never have mandated the use of the “NEW,” Common Core-aligned SAT as Connecticut’s 11th grade mastery test.

For background on the initial mistake see Wait, What? posts;

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

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

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

Criticism of the NEW SAT grows as Connecticut’s 11th grades are told they MUST take it on March 2nd,

As well as, The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker); Connecticut school psychologist John Bestor on the NEW SAT and opting-out; REQUIRING THE SAT GETS CONNECTICUT LESS THAN NOTHING (By Ann Cronin)

Now, as a result of the most recent allegations, Malloy, his political appointees on the State Board of Education, his department of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly should immediately suspend the use of the SAT to evaluate students, teachers and public schools and should further demand that an independent investigation into the SAT and its lack of validity be conducted.

Unfortunately, mainstream media coverage of the breaking developments surrounding the “NEW” SAT have been scarce following the in-depth investigation conducted by Reuters (See links to the Reuters stories below).

What is clear is that the Reuters’ articles serve as an astonishing and shocking expose about how privatization and greed have turned the SAT into an utter farce, especially in states like Connecticut that decided to use the “NEW” SAT as a “tool” to label children, evaluate teachers and rank public schools.

The whole issue took an even more incredible twist this past weekend when Manuel Alfaro, a former College Board executive posted an open letter about the problems with the new SAT stating,

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

In his broadside, Manuel Alfaro adds;

Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

[…]

If the heads of the Department of Education of your state knew anything about test development, they would have noticed that something about the College Board’s explanation didn’t add up and would have requested copies of the records of the face-to-face committee meetings, which the College Board must keep in order to comply with the Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing. Most importantly, the College Board needs to provide these records to the federal government as evidence for peer review of the assessment programs for these states.

The heads of the Department of Education of your states clearly lack the critical reasoning skills (and the common sense) and basic knowledge of test development required to make good decisions on behalf of the millions of children in their care. This reason alone is enough to demand their immediate resignation.

The College Board saved approximately 17 million dollars by taking shortcuts in the development of a product that affects the lives of millions of students every year. This is how the College Board can afford to offer the SAT to states for about $12 per student.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s directive, the Connecticut General Assembly adopted legislation last year mandating the use of the new SAT and this past March Connecticut’s  high school juniors  were told they “must” take the SAT and that it would be used to evaluate them, their teachers and their schools.

It was wrong for Malloy to back the new SAT.

It was wrong for the legislature to mandate its use.

And now Connecticut’s elected officials have an obligation to take immediate action to undo the damage they have caused.

For additional background, here are the Reuter’s articles reporting on their investigation:

Part 1:  http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-one/ (As SAT was hit by security breaches, College Board went ahead with tests that had leaked)

Part 2:  http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-two/ (How Asian test-prep companies swiftly exposed the brand-new SAT)

Part 3: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-cheating-iowa/ (How an industry helps Chinese students cheat their way into and through U.S. colleges)

Part 4: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-cheating-act/ (Students and teachers detail pervasive cheating in a program owned by test giant ACT)

Part 5: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/college-sat-security/ (‘Massive’ breach exposes hundreds of questions for upcoming SAT exams)

Follow up – Exclusive: FBI raids home of ex-College Board official in probe of SAT leak – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-college-sat-fbi-idUSKCN112009?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Social

REQUIRING THE SAT GETS CONNECTICUT LESS THAN NOTHING (By Ann Cronin)

Repost from Ann Cronin’s blog…

Big News! It was on the front page of the The Hartford Courant, reported on in all the other state newspapers, and featured on the Connecticut State Department of Education website:

Nearly 66% of 11th graders met the state standards for English and 40% met the state standards for math on the 2016 SAT.

And what does that tell us about what Connecticut has gained from fully funding the SAT for all high school juniors?

Absolutely nothing.

It was a waste of taxpayer money.

First of all, it doesn’t tell us anything about who is ready for college. The SAT is based on the Common Core Standards, which Connecticut has taken as its own. The Common Core Standards lack validity and reliability. Common Core Standards were written, without input from educators at the K-12 or college level, by employees of testing companies and companies that analyze standardized test data. They were never field-tested to see if being successful with those standards makes for achievement in college. So we don’t know if we should be happy if students score well because it could be that they succeeded at something that is innocuous at best and inferior education at worst.

We do know that getting a high score on the SAT gives us no information about the students’ ability to ask their own questions, make their own connections, and construct their own meaning as they read, or express their own ideas as they write in a personal voice because the Common Core rejects those skills. And we do know that those are skills needed for college. Therefore, SAT scores don’t tell us if students will be successful in college.

Secondly, this SAT does not allow for comparisons because it is a new test. Scores cannot be compared to the SAT of past years. It has different content and a different way of being scored than past tests. Also, the student population taking the SAT has changed. Previously, 82% of high school juniors took the SAT; in 2016, with the new requirement,  94 % took the test. So with different content, scoring, and test-taking populations, no conclusions about student improvement or decline can be made.

Thirdly, some may say we need the SAT to ascertain how Connecticut is doing as compared to other states, but we have the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the Nation’s Report Card, that gives state-by-state reports. NAEP tests students in reading and math and scores them, based on college readiness. There is no charge to the state or local districts. Individual scores are not reported so there is no punishments for students. Best of all, there is no class time sacrificed to prepare for the tests because, during the school year, districts do not know if they are to be tested that year.

Fourthly, the SAT is not the necessity it once was. Increasingly, high school students do not need SAT scores for their college applications. Colleges and universities are realizing the limits of standardized tests as indicators of a prospective student’s academic promise and intellectual strength. Currently, 850 colleges and universities, including 210 in the “top tier”, do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission to bachelor degree programs. The research is clear, and colleges and universities are responding to it: High school grade point average is the predictor of success in college, not standardized tests.

So why does the State of Connecticut mandate that all high school juniors take the SAT?

The only reason left is the one politicians love to herald: To close the achievement gap.

Only those who have never taught students could give that answer. Educators know that there is no way that any set of standards or any standardized test has ever or will ever overcome the damage of poverty and racism. In fact, mandating standardized tests reinforces that damage and tells many impoverished students and students of color that they do not belong in the mainstream. Standardized test scores, including the SAT, are always correlated with the income of students’ parents. With the current 2016 SAT, school districts with higher scores include the affluent towns of Darien, Simsbury, Westport, and Wilton; school districts with lower scores include the cities of Hartford, Waterbury, and Bridgeport with their high rates of poverty. And so it has ever been.

Students with parents who have the time, the energy, the money, and the benefits from their own higher education to enrich the lives of their children and support them in school will always score higher than most students whose parents do not have those advantages. How could it be otherwise?

So mandating the SAT is not even a neutral event; it actually does harm. It limits the curriculum for all students, affluent and poor, and turns the curriculum into test prep. It does added harm to those students most in need because the cost of the tests, test prep materials, and the technology to administer the tests takes financial resources away from addressing their needs propelled by poverty and racism.

There is a path forward. Connecticut must:

  1. End the Common Core test-and-punish approach. We must recognize that we are foolishly spending millions of dollars on SBAC and the SAT, and it gains nothing for us as a state. The tests reinforce Connecticut’s shame: unconscionable income inequality.
  2. End the Common Core test-and-punish approach because it denies our children a real education as learners and thinkers that they deserve.
  3. Use the money now spent on testing to invest in what has been proven to improve student achievement. It is what every teacher knows works: positive relationships with adults in schools. Educators know that having those positive relationships with adults engages students in school, inspires them to want to learn, and gives them the skills to succeed and live productive lives. According to Wendy Lecker, senior attorney at the Education Law Center in Stamford, CT, researchers have identified three ways to foster those adult/student relationships:
  • Provide developmentally appropriate preschool in which the emphasis is on play.
  • Mandate small class size in grades K-12.
  • Reduce the student caseload of guidance counselors.

Let’s put our money where we are sure we can make a difference. It’s time to stop spending money and getting nothing for it. And, worse yet, spending money and getting less than nothing by hurting our most precious resource as a state: our children.

Ann Policelli Cronin is a Connecticut educator, education advocate and education blogger.  You can read her writing at: https://reallearningct.com/

Incredulous: Watching CT Department of Education officials lecture school administrators on how to mislead parents

Just when I thought I had truly seen everything when it comes to the arrogance, elitism, audacity and contemptuousness of those associated with the corporate funded “Education Reform” effort, I witnessed something even more breathtakingly incredible this past Monday at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

It has taken the week to even begin to be able to put into words what I and a handful of other parents and public school advocates witnessed.  In fact, I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.

As was initially reported in the Wait, What? blog post entitled, “Malloy-Wyman Administration ramp-up attack on parents who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco,” a group of targeted Connecticut public school superintendents and principals were ordered to attend a mandatory meeting at the Department of Education to discuss their failure last sprin, to stop enough parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Thanks to the anti-local control, authoritarian policies being pushed by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and their Commissioner of Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education summoned a group of local school administrators to a “roundtable discussion on family and community engagement strategies” on Monday, February 29, 2016 from 3:00 – 4:30 at the State Office Building in Hartford. The session was presented as a mechanism to enhance the communication skills of school administrators so that they could do a better job of ensuring that no more than 4.9 percent of public school parents opt their children out of the Common Cores testing mania.

After claiming that the meeting was actually a workshop, the State Department of Education told numerous parents and members of the public that they could not participate or even attend the “roundtable discussion on family and community engagement strategies.”

The state agency was clear – family and community were not welcome to attend or participate in a discussion about how to promote family and community engagement.

Finally, hours before the meeting was to begin, the State Department of Education reversed course or “clarified” its position saying that the public could come and watch, but would not be allowed to participate.

To call the event a roundtable would be … well more than a bit disingenuous.

There was nothing roundtable-ish about the session.

Instead of discussing parental concerns and how to address them, senior staff from the Department of Education lectured, instructed, talked-down-to and berated the local school administrators for an hour and a half about the need to “improve” communication with parents and their communities, thereby stopping parents from utilizing their legal and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core testing frenzy.

One of the State Department of Education’s recommendations was to co-opt students to serve as ambassadors and promote the benefits of standardized testing.

In another example, SDE staff cheered about a YouTube video of teachers singing about how great the standardized testing opportunity was for students.

But the “pièce de la résistance” occurred as the meeting came to an end and a parent respectfully stood up to address the participants and explain why we oppose the mandated Common Core testing system.

And at that point, all Hell broke loose.

Parents’ rights lawyer Deborah G. Stevenson was among those in the audience watching the proceedings and today issued a statement in response to the events at the State Department of Education on Monday.

The communication leads with the headline – “State Department of Education Refuses to Allow Parents to Talk Immediately after the Close of a Training Session Held to Teach Superintendents How to Communicate Effectively with Parents!” 

Attorney Stevenson explained,

The Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition is appalled at the Behavior of the State Department of Education and Demands an Explanation or an Investigation.

As part of Education Commissioner Wentzell’s “leadership strategies”, designed to urge superintendents to “encourage” parents to have their children take the SBAC test rather than to opt out, the Commissioner called in Superintendents from public school districts across the state to the Department’s Hartford headquarters for a “training session” on how effectively to communicate with parents.

Facing reduced participation in the SBAC test, the Commissioner deemed it necessary to give the superintendents more “tools” to persuade parents to allow their children to take the test.

Among the “tools”, the Commissioner informed the Superintendents that if their school district’s participation rate fell below 95%, the district would be subject to dire consequences, including the loss of federal funding and the lowering of the ranking of the district moving it closer to a state takeover.

This, despite the fact that the Commissioner of Education recently acknowledged in testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee that parents do have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse to allow their children to take the test.

Yet, that right is not being respected when the Commissioner threatens parents, schools, and school districts with punishment for exercising that right.

When the Commissioner called the superintendents for more “training” to increase the participation rates, naturally parents were curious to find out about what the “training” consisted and sought to find out.

As Attorney Stevenson reports, truly amazing things happened both before and after the training session.  She added;

  • Parents politely notified the State Department of Education, days in advance that they planned to attend the “training session.”
  • While the Freedom of Information Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-225 and Sec. 1-200) states that “meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public”, and defines public agency as “including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official”, and defines “meeting” as “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency…to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power”, nonetheless, the State Department of Education attempted to keep the “training session” for superintendents closed to the public, stating it “is not a venue for members of the general public to participate.”
  • Instead, the State Department of Education referred parents elsewhere, telling them that they could “utilize the public comment section during the State Board of Education meeting to voice opinions, ideas and concerns.”
  • The State Department of Education eventually changed its mind about keeping the meeting closed, but notified only one parent of that decision, and did so only five hours before the meeting was to take place. Consequently, only a few parents got that message upon such short notice and were able to attend.
  • Upon arrival at the meeting, those parents were told that they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, and that they were expected to sit quietly and simply observe.

Then later,  as the Deputy Commissioner of Education was announcing that the “roundtable” meeting was over, a parent diplomatically and respectfully stood up, thanked the Department for its presentation and began to explain why parents were understandably concerned about the Common Core SBAC and NEW SAT testing and our accurate concern that that our public schools are being turned into little more than testing factories.

The attempt to address the group seemed especially fitting since during the lecture to local school officials that same Deputy Commissioner instructed the superintendents and principals that they were to ask parents directly why they were refusing to allow their children to take the SBAC test.

However, as the parent began to explain our concerns, the Deputy Commissioner stood up abruptly and abrasively interrupted the speaker calling for an immediate halt raging,

“See, this is why we shouldn’t have let them in.”

It appeared that she or another SDE employee also demanded that security be called.

At that point, the State Department of Education employees and the local officials turned their backs on the parents in the room and, what could only be described as “scurrying,” exited the room as if fire and smoke was about to consume them.

Attorney Steven notes,

“In effect, the parents acted with patience and respect, quietly observed and listened intently throughout the entire meeting until it had concluded.”

The Deputy Commissioner of Education, and the superintendents, on the other hand, after being instructed for an hour and a half on how to effectively communicate with parents, quietly observed and listened only for a matter of seconds to the parent, interrupted her, turned their backs to her, and promptly walked out of the room.”

***

As a witness, I have to say that the whole event was beyond belief.

Having participated and watched government in action at the national, state and local level for more than four decades, I can safely say that I have never, ever, seen an meeting as unbelievably insulting as the “presentation” (PowerPoint and all) that those targeted local school administrators were forced to sit through or the even more incredible way in which public employees responded to a member of the public trying to raise important and legitimate concerns about the very issue that the school officials were summoned to the meeting to discuss.

To be honest, the word incredulous doesn’t even begin to address the sense of shock and dismay as I watched the horrendous and grossly inappropriate behavior of the individuals who are supposed to be working on behalf of public education in Connecticut and who receive generous salaries and benefits courtesy of the taxpayers of Connecticut.

In her letter today, Attorney Stevens understandably asks for an investigation into the abusive and insulting actions taken by these state officials.

I would go one step further, if I was governor of Connecticut, these people who have already been asked to leave and replaced with public servants who recognize the importance of serving the public.

More about the meeting will be forthcoming since we were able to collect both audio and video of the debacle.

You can watch a clip of the Deputy Commissioner’s response to the parent at: https://youtu.be/XA3cX3Z8Qnk

Those who would like to contact Attorney Stevenson, who serves as Counsel for the Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition, can reach her at [email protected]firm.com