A heart wrenching story from a teacher in Tennessee.  Could have been Connecticut or anywhere…


Read the story posted by a Tennessee teacher yesterday.  Then convert what will undoubtedly be your sadness and anger into action.

Election Day 2016 is just over 11 months away.

This time, use your vote to slap back the testing mania and the unprecedented attack on our students, their teachers, the teaching profession and our public schools.

Before you vote, demand that every incumbent explain what they have done to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the destructive agenda.

Before you vote, demand that every candidate outline what they will do to put the concept of “public” back into public education.

No votes until they reduce the use of inappropriate standardized testing, no votes until they ensure that teacher evaluation program don’t rely on the use of those unfair standardized test results and no votes for those who have become lackeys for the effort to privatize public education.

Voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

The Tennessee teacher’s powerful expose was re-posted by Connecticut educator and fellow bloggerPoetic Justice who is “A poetry teacher defending ALL students and their families.” You can find and comment on the original post at: A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

Yesterday, I quit.  In the middle of the school year, I quit.  After fourteen years in education, I quit.  I.  Quit.  Quitting isn’t something I do, particularly when children are involved, so this is still quite difficult to think or talk about.  It might seem an abrupt decision to some, but for those that know me well, you know this is something I have flirted with for a few years now.  I think it started about five years ago…

I was teaching in an inner-city school in Memphis.  I loved my principal.  I loved my kids.  I loved teaching.  Now, of course, there were issues.  Too much paperwork.  Not enough hours in the day.  Uninvolved parents.  Disobedient children.  District mandates that made no sense.  Still, overall, I was happy being a teacher.  I knew that I would either drop dead teaching or they would have to roll me out in a wheelchair.  It was what I wanted to do forever.  Then, the evaluation process for teachers dramatically changed.  Now, our students’ standardized test scores would become part of our evaluation. As I saw this change coming, I decided that I could help this process along by taking more of a teacher leader role.  So, I applied and became the instructional facilitator for the school where I had taught for the past 6 years.  In this role, I hoped to coach, mentor, and support teachers.  After all, that was a large part of that job description.  In reality, very little of my time was able to be spent doing that.  What did take up a large amount of my time was being my school’s test administrator.  I had experience with testing and the strict guidelines that go along with them, as all teachers do.  However, as test administrator, I was now responsible for reporting my teachers if they did not follow those guidelines.  The stress and worry of that prospect was just too much for me.  I had become an enforcer of a practice I didn’t even believe in.  I couldn’t do this to my teachers, so I left the position after two years and went back to the classroom.

I decided to try a different setting.  Middle school math.  My first year back in the classroom was blissful.  I loved my co-workers.  I loved the diversity of the school.  I loved teaching one subject all day.  Then, we started testing.  And the testing was even more frequent last year.  And now, three months into the school year, I’m certain we have tested more so far than we did all last year combined.

So, I quit.  I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test.  I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.  They can get someone else to do that.  It will kill my teaching soul to do it even one more time.  Like all teachers, I have kids that read below grade level.  I can’t help them though.  I also have students that have only been in the country a few months.  I can’t help them though.  I even have students who don’t know our alphabet because their language is different than ours.  I can’t help them though.  And bless their hearts, they do it because I ask them to.  Most of them would do absolutely anything I asked.  They trust me and believe that what I am asking them to do is what is best for them.  I mean that’s why I spent weeks building connections with them at the beginning of the year.  I want them to trust me.  I rarely have discipline issues.  We are too busy and engaged in the lesson to get off task.  However, after testing kids for two weeks straight, they were done.  You cannot expect struggling students to engage in an activity that is so above their instructional level for an extended amount of time without eventually seeing their behavior change.  It is too frustrating for them!  I could tell that those two weeks broke the bond that I had built with some of my most challenging students.  They just didn’t trust me anymore.  That goes against every single thing inside me that led me to become a teacher in the first place.  And to be quite honest, it broke my heart.  I recently saw a post where someone described teaching as an abusive relationship.  You love it, but it makes you so unhappy.  I get that.  It does feel that way.

So, I quit.  I wrote a resignation letter giving my 30-day notice and gave it to my principal on a Monday morning.  I told him, both of my assistant principals, and my instructional facilitator that day.  With each time I told my story, I cried.  They didn’t try to stop me.  They didn’t make me feel guilty.  They were kind and understanding.  They know.  I’m sure they feel like quitting sometimes, too.  They aren’t the problem.  I slowly told my co-workers, friends, and family.  Everyone that knows me well said to do it.  Every single educator said they understood and would do it too if they could.  Every.  Single.  One.  I’m not married.  I don’t have kids.  I don’t have a mortgage.  I don’t have a car note.  I have more freedom to do this than most.  Because of that, I can’t be quiet about this.  I need to speak for those that don’t have the option to bow out.

My first step was sending the following letter home to all my students’ parents:

November 24, 2015

Dear Parents,

I regret to inform you that today is my last day as your child’s math teacher at #####.

I want you to know that this decision was not easy for me.  I will fill you in on why I am leaving, but first I will tell you what absolutely did not have anything to do with me leaving.  First, your children are not why I’m leaving education.  They are, in fact, the only reason I have any apprehension about this decision.  This, of course, will be most difficult for them.  I have talked to them about this and they handled it like rock stars, but please talk to them about it when they get home.  Adult decisions are often hard for anyone to understand, especially children.

Secondly, the administration at ##### is not why I am leaving.  I have felt nothing but supported by my administrative staff this school year.  I believe they have the best interest of your children in mind.  If I was going to teach anywhere, it would absolutely be at #####.

Finally, the teachers at ##### are not why I am leaving.  I have worked with many teachers over the past 15 years.  The teachers at ##### are some of the best I have ever seen.  In a profession where you are often blamed more than revered, I admire their willingness to keep waking up each day and choosing to keep going for their students.  Please continue to support the teachers at #####.  They need it, but more importantly, they deserve it.

Now…here is why I am leaving.

For the past five years, I have seen the testing of our students become more frequent and more frustrating for all those involved.  I absolutely hate having to stand before my kids and tell them they have to take another test.  It kills a little bit of my teaching soul each time I have to do it.

I spend so much time having to test them that I have little time to teach them, much less listen and talk to them.  So far this year, I have given my students the following tests: iStation Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), iReady Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), MAP Test (given in ELA, Math and Science), and the MIST test (given in ELA, Math, and SS).

These are just the tests that are mandated by the district or state.  We also give pre- and post-Common Formative Assessments at the school level.  Why all the testing these days?  The following is a post I saw online that explains it perfectly.  I’m not sure who posted it originally, so I am unable to give credit.  “The feds require annual testing for accountability. This translates into the BIG test that every state has (In Tennessee this is what we refer to as TCAP, now TNReady…more about that later).  However, the stakes are so high for that test, that states require additional “practice” tests.  But, the results of the state tests are used to threaten districts that are “failing”.

So the districts require “benchmark” tests, to make sure the students are ready for practice tests.  Individual schools and administrators are held accountable for their scores on the benchmarks, so they also impose building-level tests.  The result is non-stop testing.”

Back to TNReady.  This is the new state test that students will be taking this year in place of TCAP.  TNReady is a computer-based test and will be given in February and April.  Because it is taken on the computer, testing schedules will disrupt our regular schedule more than just a week like we were accustomed to under TCAP.  If that isn’t bad enough, the test is just down-right confusing.  You can read a blog post about it and take some practice questions here:http://www.mommabears.org/blog/alarming-info-about-tnready-testing-bomb.  Additionally, the blog post by State Representative Andy Holt shows you exactly how this is being handled by those in power in Tennessee: http://www.andyholt4tn.com/holt-what-tn-teachers-parents-should-know-about-standardized-tests/.

I urge you to become familiar with what is going on in education and make your voice heard about what is best for your child.  You can do this by contacting your school board members, representatives and senator.  And vote every single time.  It does make a difference.

So, back to my leaving.  I have to try to fight this somehow.  I’m not sure how I will go about that yet.  I guess this is my first step.  I do know that I can no longer be the messenger of something that I believe is harmful to my students.  That is exactly the opposite of why I became a teacher in the first place.  I am meant to help, support, empower, and praise children.  Under this current testing culture, I am simply helping to hurt them and that just isn’t who I am.

In closing, I am going to miss my kids so much.  I can barely think of it without crying.  However, I hope they eventually look back at this time and realize that I stood up for something I believed in even though it was a very, very difficult choice.  When they are faced with standing up for something they believe is wrong, I hope they are strong enough to do so.  It isn’t easy, but I think we all need a little more of that in our world.

My next step?  Not sure yet.  I do know that it is a disgrace that we are allowing companies from the testing industry to make millions of dollars off the abuse of our public education system.  Not only are we killing the spirits of students who want to learn, but we are also killing the spirits of teachers that want to make a life-long career of this.  I’m not the first one to give up and I certainly won’t be the last.  In 10-20 years, we are going to look back at this time in education and be very ashamed of what we have allowed to happen.

Finally, please hope and pray that my kids get a qualified teacher quickly. One that isn’t jaded by the system, that loves them in spite of their challenges, and has the strength to withstand the foolishness that educators endure.  I couldn’t be that for them anymore and the grief that causes me is suffocating at times.  I will miss them every day.  This quote helps when the feelings become overwhelming, “Be OK with not knowing for sure what might come next, but know that whatever it is…you will be OK”.

Remember, voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

“Thanksgiving Thanks to Teachers We Remember Who Didn’t Teach Common Core” By Alan Singer


A re-post of Alan Singer’s latest column

Across the United States there are dozens and dozens of outstanding pro-public education bloggers, commentators and citizen journalists who are working as Drum Majors in the historic battle to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and re-insert the notion of fundamental concept of public back into public education.

One of the best is Alan Singer whose writing can be found in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.

In a commentary piece published today he pays tribute to the “Teachers We Remember,” while successfully obliterating the illogical and counter-productive policies promoted by the President of the United States and the other politicians who have become pawns for the “education reformers.”

Alan Singer’s full piece can be found at: Thanksgiving Thanks to Teachers We Remember Who Didn’t Teach Common Core.

For my part, I dedicate this repost to Mrs. Stratton, Mr. Coughlin, Mr. Fulton and the other teachers who I remember and cherish and who most certainly did not teach the Common Core.

Alan Singer writes;

President Barack Obama remembers his fifth grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Hefty. In 1971, Barack was a “kid with a funny name in a new school, feeling a little out of place, hoping to fit in like anyone else.” He recalls how “Ms. Hefty taught me that I had something to say — not in spite of my differences, but because of them. She made every single student in that class feel special. And she reinforced that essential value of empathy that my mother and my grandparents had taught me.” Barack remembers how Ms. Hefty made every child feel special. He remembers she encouraged empathy with others. He does not remember teachers who stressed skill acquisition. He does not fondly recall teachers that pushed testing. What had the greatest impact him as a human being, something he claims to carry with him as President, is feeling special and a sense of empathy.

But as President, Barack Obama has pushed a completely different education agenda, certainly not one based on his experiences in Ms. Hefty’s classroom. Obama’s Race to the Top initiative promotes Common Core skills based instruction tied to round after round of high-stakes assessments. No one gets to feel special. No empathy here. Ms. Hefty would be very disappointed in her star pupil.

My memories about teachers are not much different from Barack’s. When I was in middle school I joined the school’s math team, even though I was not particularly interested in math. The reason was my official teacher, Brenda Berkowitz, was coach of the math team. My mother had died and my father would sometimes rush out to work without leaving lunch money. Ms. Berkowitz always checked that I had lunch and when I didn’t she lent me twenty-five cents to buy a salami sandwich at the local deli. I don’t remember one lesson she taught in math, but I do remember the salami sandwiches. Ms. Berkowitz was definitely my best teacher ever.

The National Education Association interviewed celebrities about their most memorable teachers and their responses are remarkable similar to mine and Barack’s. Patti La Belle, from Philadelphia, talked about Ms. Eileen Brown who “was very helpful to my family and me. She and I became close friends and are good friends.” Zoe Saldana remembered Ms. Dilia Mieses Ritmos Espacio de Danza of the Dominican Republic who taught the “importance of perseverance and discipline.” Hilary Swank remembered the elementary school teacher who gave her her first acting role in a school production. Oprah Winfrey most memorable teacher was a fourth grade teacher who “believed in me.” Oprah “learned to love learning because of Mrs. Duncan.” Friendship. Perseverance. Acting. Love of Learning. No Common Core here. No high-stakes testing.

The NEA also interviewed elected officials, some of whom voted for Race to the Top. Former United States Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia thanked “Mrs. W. J. B. Cormany who “taught me to put my best efforts into everything I undertake, a lesson so important that it has remained with me to this day.” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California thanked Ms. Virginia Ryder who “took me under her wing, giving me individual attention, and enabled me to go to a good high school.” Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska thanked Ms. Hattie Buness who “opened the world for me when she taught me to read, to explore, and to question.” Congressman Paul Ryan, now Republican Party Speaker of the House of Representatives, thanked Frank Douglas who “taught me more about the world in six months than I had learned in 18 years.” Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah thanked “Ms. Eleanor Smith who “inspired me to go on to college at a time when the most that could be expected of me was to continue to work at the trade that I had learned. She told me that one day I would be a great poet.” A lot about best efforts, but who would have thought Orrin Hatch loved poetry?

And a special thank you to Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester who just pulled the state out of the Common Core PARCC high-stakes assessment consortium. The PARCC test is collapsing, down from 26 states to five plus Washington DC. Smarter Balance, the other national testing group is down to fifteen states after a high of thirty-one. Some states had belonged to both testing groups.

As a result of the Obama Race to the Top and Common Core initiatives, the average student in some United States big-city schools now takes over 100 hundred hours of mandatory standardized tests during their school career. Eighth-grade students are the most tested. They sit through between 20 and 25 hours of standardized tests, which makes up about 2.3% of school time. And this does not include ordinary teacher-made, school-wide, or district tests.

Under Race to the Top and Common Core students, teachers, schools, districts, and states are evaluated based on the high-stakes standardized tests, transforming schools from places where students like Oprah learn to love learning and Senator Murkowski learned to question into test prep academies. There is no more time for acting and poetry.

You have to wonder if Ms. Hefty would have been willing to be a teacher under these circumstances and what would have happened to that little boy with a “funny name” called Barack Obama.

Go and add your thanks for the teachers you remember – You can read and comment on Alan Singer’s article at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/thanksgiving-thanks-to-te_b_8645698.html


New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results


Labeling children on the basis of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized tests is bad public policy.  Evaluating teachers on the scores their students get on those tests is equally wrong, yet that is exactly what the policy is in the State of Connecticut.

Last spring, more than 500,000 students across the country were opted out of the standardized testing craze.

This unprecedented development was the direct result of a growing awareness by parents, students, teachers and public education advocates that the standardized testing scheme isn’t useful and that the Corporate Education Reform Industry is turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

While school superintendents and administrators have been a major part of the anti-standardized testing coalitions in New York, far fewer Connecticut school administrators have been willingly to step forward and speak up on behalf of the students, parents, teachers and public schools they are sworn to serve.

In contrast, in the Constitution State Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has consistently been one of the school leaders who has been willing to provide his students, parents, teachers and community with the appropriate information about the extraordinary problems that come with a public education system that is overly reliant on standardized testing.

(See for example, Superintendent Scarice addresses the powerful and ugly truth about SBAC testing charade and Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again. and Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”)

With parents increasingly recognizing the inherent negative consequences that stems from the Common Core testing program, attention is now turning to the second major problem with the pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing initiatives that have been sponsored by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the other political allies of the “Education Reformers” — and that is  — the inappropriateness of evaluation of teachers, based, at least in part, on their student’s standardized test results.

Late last week, superintendents in Nassau Country, New York sent a powerful letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for an end to the use of standardized test results as part of that state’s teacher evaluation process.

The superintendents wrote;

It is because of our residents’ deep commitment that we feel a responsibility to protect our education system from misguided policy decisions, however well intended they may be. We understand that building an accountability system to ensure highly effective instruction for all students is a natural extension of the effort to raise expectations for all students. However, the exaggerated use of student test data in that system unfortunately undermined the initial goals.


We believe our parents understand the value of assessment but stand firmly against the continued distortion of curriculum driven by this flawed accountability system. The well-thought out decision of a significant percentage of our parents to opt their children out of State testing is a reflection of this concern.

Salvaging higher standards will require the State to accomplish three important objectives:

  • Declare a moratorium on the use of student achievement data for educator evaluations
  • Begin work in earnest toward developing a computer adaptive testing system, which will require far less time devoted to testing, ensure questions more appropriate to academic functioning rather than chronological age, and return actionable data in a timely fashion
  • Complete the review of the standards and make adjustments where appropriate.

Connecticut’s superintendents should follow the lead of their New York colleagues and demand that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly repeal the law they developed mandating that student achievement data from standardized tests be used as part of the educator evaluation process.

Numerous models have been developed to evaluate teachers (and administrators) without relying on flawed standardized test results.

In fact, Superintendent Scarice and the Madison Board of Education have adopted exactly such a model.

Education Reformers and their obsession with Standardized Testing – Even the NY Times can’t get the story right!

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Fellow education blogger Diane Ravitch, the nation’s premier public education advocate, opened the New York Times this morning and noted that even the New York Times has been “snowed” by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their false narrative that the solution to the challenges facing public education in the United States is to have more standardized testing.

Diane Ravitch writes;

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

It is more than an embarrassment that the “mass media” takes corporate education reform industry propaganda for truth.  In fact, it is a dangerous confirmation that without the truth citizens cannot keep their government and leaders in check.

Of course, here in Connecticut we have a governor who not only dramatically increased the amount of standardized testing, claiming it was necessary in order to determine whether schools are making children “college and career ready” but explained,

“I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores” – Governor Dannel Malloy

[See Wait, What? Post, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test, if it means raising scores” Dan Malloy 4/9/12.]

So to the New York Times and all the other media entities that have become puppets for the “Education Reformers” remember this…

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right. . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, and indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams (1735–1826)

“A Test Score is an approximation, not a precise measure” (George Washington University)


As the nation’s colleges and universities move away from relying on standardized tests scores to determine whether a student is capable and ready to attending college, public officials in Connecticut and across the country continue their mindless devotion to more standardized testing as the means of determining whether our children our “college and career read.”

In Connecticut this past spring, Governor Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly voted to mandate that every high school junior take the SAT.

The new law was part of Malloy’s larger “education reform” initiative that has been forcing Connecticut public school students and their teachers to devote more and more time preparing for and taking the “Common Core aligned” standardized tests.

Malloy and other proponents of the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme continue to claim that the excessive testing programs are needed in order to determine whether Connecticut students, schools and teachers are succeeding.

Under Malloy’s policy, not only will the state rate schools and students based on standardized test results, but Connecticut’s public school teachers will also be evaluated on how well their students do on these unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.

However, while Malloy and the legislature were mandating that every 11th grader take the SAT, George Washington University in Washington, D.C. was announcing that students applying for their prestigious undergraduate program would no longer be required to even submit SAT or ACT scores with the college applications.

Michael Feuer is a Dean at George Washington University and the elected President of the National Academy of Education, an internationally recognized academic organization that, “works to advance high quality education research and its use in policy formation and practice.”

In a recent GW Magazine article, Dean Michael Feuer explained why George Washington was dropping the SAT requirement,

It is important to remember that a test score is an approximation, not a precise measure of ability or achievement. It provides a snapshot into the complexities of learning and cognition, but it’s a blurry on…The picture has potential value—but it’s not the real thing.”

The public education expert and education school dean added,

There is lots of evidence that students are spending considerable time planning for and preparing for the test at the expense of time they could be spending on real learning. This is one of the factors that led the University of California, for example, to change its testing admissions policy. It’s on the minds of many educators especially in an era of so much testing who want to shift attention back to teaching, learning and achievement…”

A special commission at George Washington University was tasked with the job of determining the value of standardized test scores when it came to “understanding how a student performs at GW.” Their reported concluded that,

“One can predict success at George Washington University based upon a student’s high school record, especially his or her high school GPA.

As a result, George Washington will no longer require an SAT score, relying instead on a policy in which,

High school coursework and grades will continue to be the most important factors in GW’s holistic review process, along with a student’s writing skills, recommendations, involvement in school and community, and personal qualities and character.”

George Washington University joins the long and growing list of major college and universities that are dropping the SAT requirement.  According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), More than 800 four-year colleges and universities, including at least 195 Top Tier academic institutions, no longer require SAT or ACT scores from students applying for their undergraduate programs or have dramatically reduced the use of SAT scores when making admission decisions.

College and universities are making it incredibly clear.  Students need to spend more time learning and less time taking these unnecessary standardized tests.

And here in Connecticut, if the waste of learning time is a persuasive enough reason to reduce the amount of testing, with local public schools trying to cope with inadequate state funding, Governor Malloy’s state budgets devote at least $73 million to the Common Core and Common Core Testing program during fiscal years 2015-2017.

Less testing, more learning is what will provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills needed to be “college and career ready.” 

It is extremely disturbing that Connecticut officials continue to push schools, teachers, students and Connecticut taxpayers in exactly the wrong direction.

For more about the SAT debacle read;

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

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

Madison Superintendent provides Parents with the truth about the Common Core SBAC Test


As George Orwell wrote in his initially classified book of fiction,

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

To which it is well to remember the words of Winston Churchill who observed,

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

If you had a child in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you’d have a superintendent, school administrators and Board of Education that was committed to telling the truth about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing System and dedicated to putting children, parents, teachers and their public schools above the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s ongoing attempt to undermine public education in the United States.

If you had a children in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you would have received the following a letter from Superintendent Thomas Scarice and Assistant Superintendent Gail Dahling-Hench, a letter that honestly and truthfully explains why the Common Core SBAC test is not an appropriate tool or mechanism to judge our children, their teachers or our public schools.

The letter to Madison Parents states;

Individual Student Reports for the 2015 Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test were mailed this week. This specific report format is provided to the district by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and is a product of the national Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, consisting of 18 states.

Tests are designed with a purpose. The SBAC test was designed to measure the college and career readiness level of students through their achievement on the Connecticut Core educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-8 and 11. In addition, as in prior years, the science CMT/CAPT test was administered in Grades 5, 8, and 10.

One singular test provides an extraordinarily limited view of individual student performance. This particular test is based on an incomplete view of “college and career readiness”. In fact, this test endeavors to provide parents and educators with a predictive measure of an individual student’s college and career readiness by mere achievement of educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The reliability of these predictions is imprecise and suspect at best.

Resources provided by the CSDE clearly state that characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories (levels) is an oversimplification, and that the specific achievement levels should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.

Perhaps most concerning in the student reports is the definitive nature of the claims made about an individual student based on one test. This can be found in the language that declares whether or not your child has “met the achievement level” expected for a specific grade, and whether or not your child will need “substantial support to get back on track for success in the next grade”. These claims are particularly alarming given the inadequacies, imperfections, and lack of reliable evidence on one singular test to make such assertions. A balance of assessment tools at the school level provides a more complete picture of individual student performance, as well as timely and actionable data. We encourage parents to look at student performance over various measures when understanding the academic performance of their child.

You are also invited to review the March 2015 report commissioned by the SBAC entitled, Making Good Use of New Assessments. This report conveys numerous cautions about the use, and most importantly, the misuse of these scores.

When examining your student report, we ask that you refer to the online parent interpretive guide provided by the CSDE.

We hope you find this summary helpful when examining the enclosed results for your student. If you have questions about this report….

You can read the letter at:   http://www.madison.k12.ct.us/page.cfm?p=2723&newsid=1201

When every superintendent, school administrator and Board of Education are willing to speak the truth about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scam we will have taken a gigantic step forward in our battle to put the world “public” back into our nation’s system of public education.

Time to end standardized testing mania by Joseph A. Ricciotti


Joseph A. Ricciotti is a retired education and fellow public education advocate and commentator.  His latest article, Time to end standardized testing mania first appeared in the CT Post.

Joseph Ricciotti writes;

It took the power of parents in the nation as part of the “opt out” of standardized testing movement to realize that the use of standardized tests in public education is a dismal failure.

Needless to say, to hear the President of the United States shift his views on standardized testing should now prompt other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, to give up the notion that testing can be used to assess students, teachers and schools.

Moreover, the change in the stifling use of standardized tests as a weapon against public school teachers will deal a deadly blow to the corporate education reformers in the country who relied on these tests for denigrating teachers as well as for closing public schools and for the expansion of charter schools.

Hopefully, President Obama’s change of heart concerning testing might also be the catalyst to elevate this issue for the current presidential campaign.

For example, in light of the early endorsement given to Hillary Clinton by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is it too much to ask Hillary Clinton as well as other presidential candidates what their views are on the use of standardized tests in our public schools?

We have had two decades of misguided educational political leadership from Washington, D.C. with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top (RTTT) and now Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which has ushered in a plethora of inappropriate standardized high-stakes testing that has taken its toll on public school teachers and public schools, particularly in urban areas.

What is needed now in our schools across the nation is a return to allowing teachers the freedom and autonomy to be the sole determiners of student progress.

Hence, teachers should be allowed and encouraged to use their expertise and judgment and to base their assessments upon teacher made tests that are diagnostic and individualized to help determine student strengths and weaknesses.

Likewise, these teacher made tests will be used primarily to help to improve and strengthen instruction which should be the sole purpose of testing in the classroom.

No other profession has been more demonized over the past 20 years than teaching.

Reformers such as Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and superintendents who did the all the dirty work for these reformers, like the embattled Paul Vallas from Chicago, who came to Bridgeport, has taken its toll on the teaching profession.

However, despite President Obama’s admission that we are “over-testing,” the real challenge facing the teaching profession is a lack of leadership in Washington, D.C.

Hence, it is now up to potential Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if elected, to make the change of new leadership in the nation a reality by appointing a pro-public education advocate and preferably a former educator as the next Secretary of Education.

The newly appointed cabinet secretary’s first legislative act as Education Secretary should be to diminish the role of high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools and to restore the dignity of the teaching profession.

Needless to say, this can only occur if a Democrat becomes the next president as it is not possible to believe that any change in the testing mania will occur if a Republican should be elected as the next president.

Although all public school educators should rejoice in the admission by the president that we are “over-testing,” the real joy will come when we have new pro-public education leadership in Washington, DC as Secretary of Education.

Until then, it is premature to believe there will be any change until we see a fundamental shift in the values and goals that are supportive of public education in which standardized testing plays a diminished role in our nation’s public schools.

Hence, we need organizations such as the NEA and the UFT to challenge the presidential candidates in order to make the necessary changes that will make a positive difference in the education our nation’s children are receiving.

NEWS FLASH:  Vermont State Board of Education Trashes Common Core SBAC Test


Yesterday the Vermont State Board of Education approved a letter that is being sent out to parents of public school students in that state.  Their honest and hard-hitting assessment that the Common Core SBAC test inappropriately labels children as failures and undermines public education is a message that all children, parents, teachers and policymakers need to hear.  By telling the truth and essentially trashing the SBAC test results, the Vermont Board is a shining example that we can fight back against the Corporate Education Reform Industry and its political allies. – Jonathan Pelto

A MUST READ NEWS FLASH – From fellow Connecticut public education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker;

“Do not let the results wrongly discourage your child from pursuing his or her talents, ambitions, hopes or dreams.

These tests are based on a narrow definition of “college and career ready.” In truth, there are many different careers and colleges, and there are just as many different definitions of essential skills. In fact, many (if not most) successful adults fail to score well on standardized tests. If your child’s scores show that they are not yet proficient, this does not mean that they are not doing well or will not do well in the future.”  Vermont State Board of Education 11-4-2015

Wendy Lecker explains,

Once again, Vermont’s education officials are leading the way and, frankly, putting all other education officials, state and federal, to shame. These leaders understand the proper place standardized tests should occupy in the educational landscape, and they understand the purpose of education.

With the release of the 2015 test scores, Vermont’s State Board, of which Education Secretary, Rebecca Holcombe, is a member, issued a letter essentially telling parents that tests have limited value in describing the education their children are receiving or the type of students they are.

Here is the letter. It should be sent to every parent and guardian across the country: More

Education Reform – Testing kids on content they’ve never learned


A primary goal of the Corporate Education Reform Industry is to privatize public education by persuading policymakers that the nation’s system of public education is failing.

A key strategy of choice for the so-called reformers and their political lackeys is to prove that students and teachers are failing by requiring massive amounts of standardized testing that measures students on concepts and content they haven’t learned.

Take for example, the NEW SAT, which Connecticut has now mandated for use in the 11th grade.

[Read Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders (Wait, What? 11-2-15) which includes education advocate Wendy Lecker’s recent commentary piece on the NEW SAT.]

A New York Times article last week entitled, Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT, laid out the facts about the NEW SAT including the news that,

“The addition of more-advanced math, such as trigonometry, means the test will cover materials from a greater number of courses.  That will make it more difficult for students to take the SAT early.  Some questions will require knowledge of statistics, a course relatively few students take in high school.”

Difficult for students to take the SAT early?

Thanks to Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democrat and Republican members of the Connecticut General Assembly, a new state law adopted last spring mandates that high school students now take the SAT in their junior year.

The test results will be used to judge both students and teachers.

However as high schools students (and parents) know, most high school juniors are, at best, tackling Algebra in 11th grade and many are still working to master Geometry.

But that coursework won’t be enough for high school juniors to succeed on the NEW SAT.

Even in academically successful Connecticut, few students will have even taken the courses needed to master the SAT and the majority of juniors may not have been provided with the math content to even survive the NEW Common Core aligned SAT.

According to most recent data published by the United States Government’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 16% of high school graduates in the country had taken a calculus course, 11% a statistics course and only a third had even come in contact with pre-calculus concepts, all of which they will be expected to answer if they want to master the NEW SAT.

And that was graduating seniors, not juniors!

The Corporate Education Reform Industry’s discriminatory tactics come into immediate view when considering that students of color have even less access to the advanced courses that would allow them to do well on the NEW SAT.

The NCES reports that while 18 percent of white high school graduates had taken calculus, only 9 percent of Hispanic graduates and 6 percent of African-American graduates had even completed a calculus course.

The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme is designed to fail the vast majority of public school students and the NEW SAT is equally unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory.

Parents take note:

People who force children to take numerous standardized tests that are designed to ensure those students fail are engaging in practices that are nothing short of child abuse.

Constantly deeming children as failures is mental abuse and child abuse is a crime.

The corporate elite and politicians pushing the outrageous testing scam should be held accountable for their abusive tactics.

More on the NEW SAT can be found via the following Wait, What? posts;

WARNING – Parents of High School Students – Especially Juniors – Beware! (10/1/15)

More on the Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016 (10/2/15)

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT (10/18/15)

SBAC Results – Telling us what we know about poverty, language barriers and unmet Special Education needs


Academic experts have proven over and over again that the major factors influencing standardized test results are poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs.

Wealthier students, students who are fluent in English and students who don’t need special education services do better.

For students who do need special education services, when schools properly fund those programs, students do better.

The Common Core SBAC test is not only designed to fail the majority of public school students, but is particularly discriminatory because the SBAC scam’s definition of “success” is even more directly connected to wealth, proficiency in the English language and the lack of any need for special education services.

The following chart makes the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the Common Core SBAC test extremely clear.  The chart rank orders the percent of students deemed “proficient” in MATH, by town, according to the 2015 Common Core.

Note that eighth graders who live in wealthier towns with few English Language Learners and the funds necessary to provide special education services score higher on the SBAC Math test, while students who come from communities in which there is significant poverty, large numbers of students who aren’t fluent in English and lack the money to provide sufficient special education services do poorly.

Connecticut’s didn’t need to spend $50 million dollars in scarce taxpayer funds and tens of millions more at the local level, over the past two years to identify the problem.

The problem is that poverty, language barriers and unmet special education services reduce academic performance.

Experts, teachers, school administrators and policymakers knew what the problem was decades ago before the Connecticut Mastery Tests were even begun and they have known it as the CMTs were given every year.

The Common Core SBAC testing is an extraordinary waste of time, money and effort.

More testing is not the answer.

The answer is for Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to adopt a fair, equitable and Constitutional school funding formula that provides schools with the resources needed to ensure all of Connecticut’s children get the quality education they need and deserve!

Percent of 8th Graders deemed “proficient” by the SBAC test, by town:

School District Mathematics
Percent at Level 3 & 4:
 Meets or Exceeds the Achievement Level
Darien School District 83.4%
Westbrook School District 76.7%
Avon School District 76.6%
Farmington School District 74.3%
New Canaan School District 71.7%
Guilford School District 69.1%
Kent School District 69.0%
Regional School District 05 67.9%
Ridgefield School District 67.6%
Easton School District 66.4%
Mansfield School District 66.1%
Canton School District 65.9%
Preston School District 65.7%
Clinton School District 65.3%
Bozrah School District 65.0%
Westport School District 64.9%
Regional School District 07 64.7%
Tolland School District 64.7%
Salem School District 63.6%
Regional School District 10 63.4%
Simsbury School District 63.2%
Granby School District 62.3%
Pomfret School District 62.1%
Glastonbury School District 61.8%
East Granby School District 61.3%
Greenwich School District 61.2%
Redding School District 61.1%
Hartland School District 60.9%
Madison School District 60.5%
Salisbury School District 60.0%
Ellington School District 59.8%
Regional School District 08 59.7%
Weston School District 59.2%
Willington School District 58.7%
Ledyard School District 57.9%
Cheshire School District 57.5%
South Windsor School District 57.4%
Regional School District 15 57.1%
East Lyme School District 56.9%
Brookfield School District 56.0%
Newtown School District 55.8%
Wilton School District 55.4%
Fairfield School District 55.1%
Voluntown School District 52.6%
Portland School District 52.5%
New Fairfield School District 52.2%
Southington School District 52.2%
Colchester School District 52.0%
Old Saybrook School District 51.9%
Shelton School District 51.4%
Regional School District 18 50.4%
Rocky Hill School District 50.3%
West Hartford School District 49.3%
Monroe School District 49.0%
Litchfield School District 48.8%
Berlin School District 48.4%
Trumbull School District 48.3%
Stonington School District 48.2%
Regional School District 04 47.3%
East Haddam School District 47.3%
Canterbury School District 46.7%
Regional School District 17 46.6%
Seymour School District 46.3%
Suffield School District 45.4%
Columbia School District 45.3%
Regional School District 13 45.2%
Stafford School District 45.1%
Elm City College Preparatory Charter School 44.9%
Somers School District 44.3%
Coventry School District 43.4%
Thomaston School District 42.9%
Regional School District 12 42.9%
Amistad Academy Charter School 41.8%
Newington School District 41.5%
Bethel School District 41.4%
Bolton School District 41.4%
Odyssey Community Charter School 41.2%
North Haven School District 41.1%
Waterford School District 40.6%
North Canaan School District 40.5%
Bridgeport Achievement First Charter School 39.7%
Regional School District 14 39.6%
Oxford School District 38.8%
Integrated Day Charter School 38.7%
Milford School District 38.1%
Regional School District 16 37.9%
Groton School District 36.2%
Wolcott School District 35.4%
Montville School District 35.4%
Wethersfield School District 35.2%
Stamford School District 35.0%
Griswold School District 35.0%
Windsor Locks School District 34.9%
Wallingford School District 34.8%
East Hampton School District 34.4%
Bristol School District 33.9%
Watertown School District 32.4%
Woodstock School District 32.3%
Lebanon School District 32.2%
New Milford School District 31.4%
Branford School District 30.8%
Windsor School District 30.2%
Vernon School District 30.1%
Plymouth School District 29.7%
Cromwell School District 29.5%
Plainville School District 28.6%
Hamden School District 27.0%
East Windsor School District 25.7%
Ashford School District 25.5%
Park City Prep Charter School 25.3%
Middletown School District 25.0%
Norwalk School District 24.7%
Danbury School District 23.8%
Putnam School District 23.6%
Lisbon School District 22.9%
North Stonington School District 22.9%
Sprague School District 22.7%
Stratford School District 22.2%
Manchester School District 22.1%
West Haven School District 22.0%
The Gilbert School District 21.9%
Jumoke Academy Charter School 21.3%
Naugatuck School District 21.0%
Regional School District 06 20.4%
Torrington School District 20.1%
The Bridge Academy Charter School 19.1%
Norwich School District 18.1%
Thompson School District 17.6%
Derby School District 16.8%
Bloomfield School District 16.5%
East Haven School District 16.1%
Killingly School District 16.0%
Enfield School District 15.8%
North Branford School District 15.5%
Brooklyn School District 15.5%
New Haven School District 15.0%
New Beginnings Inc. Charter School 14.3%
Meriden School District 13.6%
Windham School District 13.3%
Highville Charter School 12.5%
Plainfield School District 12.3%
Ansonia School District 12.1%
Hartford School District 11.9%
New Britain School District 11.8%
East Hartford School District 10.4%
New London School District 8.3%
Bridgeport School District 8.3%
Regional School District 11 8.1%
Waterbury School District 7.3%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. Charter School 6.9%

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