Better school libraries, not more Common Core testing, is a real Civil Rights issue

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The Corporate Education Reform Industry and its allies have been spending a lot of energy claiming that requiring more Common Core standardized testing is a “Civil Rights” issue because it serves as the mechanism to determine which public schools are failing.  How else, they assert, will we ever be able to determine where to invest public dollars in order to provide children of color with the support they need and deserve to become college and career ready?

Of course, the entire claim is nothing but a scam considering the fact that standardized test scores are driven by poverty, English language barriers and unmet special education needs, all of which are  factors that can be identified without turning classrooms into little more than standardized testing factories.

But truth has never been a concern to those who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting the notion that privatization, charter schools, the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme are the solutions to reducing the nation’s achievement gap.

Calling for more testing, rather than recognizing the fundamental challenges associated with poverty and language barriers, has become the overarching strategy of the education reformers.

Their education philosophy is driven by the notion that when it comes to ensuring academic achievement, test prep and a curriculum focused on math and English language arts trumps a comprehensive school experience in which children are given the full range of courses, programs and services they need in order to learn and prosper.

In this era of scarce resources, the fact that more money is being spent on more testing, while important educational assets like school libraries are allowed to disintegrate, is a quintessential example of the stupidity surrounding the education reform agenda and a reflection of the real Civil Rights issues that are facing poorer school districts.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his General Assembly recently adopted a budget that devotes more than $50 million over the next two years for the SBAC Common Core testing program, while doing nothing to address the very real Civil Rights violations associated with the fact that that tens of thousands of black and brown public school children don’t even have access to a quality school library.

Walk into any one of Farmington Connecticut’s elementary schools and you’ll find a vibrant school library with an average of 60 books per child and trained library professionals to help students learn how to fully utilize libraries and the portal to information and knowledge that library’s provide.

A visit to a Fairfield elementary school will reveal a center of learning with at least 50 library books per child and Greenwich is not far behind with 45 books per child.

By comparison, there are 17 elementary schools in Bridgeport with so-called “School libraries” that have less than 15 books per child, and a growing number of schools that have no school library at all. Library professionals are just as scarce.

And not surprisingly, considering the State of Connecticut’s historic underfunding of its public schools, Bridgeport is not alone.

While the State of Connecticut and its school districts can find the money for the technology required to institute the Common Core testing program, some can’t or refuse to come up with the funds necessary to provide students with a quality school library.

The following chart reveals just the tip of the iceberg;

School Districts with libraries that have less than 15 books per child # of Elementary Schools
Bridgeport 17
Hartford 9
New Haven 3
Meriden 3
West Haven 3

 

Other towns with elementary schools that have libraries with less than 15 books per child include Ansonia, East Hartford, Griswold, Naugatuck, New Britain, Rocky Hill and Shelton.

And although it is the 21st Century and Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the nation, there are elementary schools in Connecticut that don’t have any school libraries at all.  That list includes schools in East Hartford, Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and elsewhere.

Oh, and what about those magical “charter schools” that the education reformers claim will “save” the poor and minority children?

According to the official school profile reports filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education, Achievement First Bridgeport Charter School, Achievement First Hartford Charter School, Achievement First Elm City Charter School and Side by Side Charter School in Norwalk have no school library at all.

Meanwhile, Highville Charter School (Hamden) has a library with only 12 books per child and the infamous Capital Prep (Hartford) has a library with 13 books per child, but as reported previously, students aren’t allowed to take books out of that library.

The charter school and corporate education reform industry lobby groups have spent nearly $1.4 million so far this year promoting Governor Malloy’s education reform agenda.

Just imagine what they could be doing with those funds if they were actually serious about helping poor children succeed in school.

Fellow Education advocate and columnist Sarah Darer Littman has written extensively about the school library issue in Connecticut.  Start by reading her piece in CTNewsjunkie entitled, College, Career and Democracy ready? Not without a trained librarian

Blumenthal and Murphy vote NO on parents’ right to opt out of Common Core testing

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In an astonishing display of utter disregard for Connecticut’s public students and parents, Connecticut’s two United States Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, voted against an amendment that would have recognized a parents’ right to protect their child from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scam.

Although a day doesn’t go by that Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy don’t hold a press conference, issue a press release, send out an email or Tweet some statement about how they are fighting for Connecticut’s citizens, when they had the opportunity to stand with Connecticut’s parents and public school advocates they voted NO!

Blumenthal and Murphy VOTED NO to an amendment that would have required school districts to notify parents about federally mandated assessments (the massive common core testing program) and would have made it clear that parents may opt their children out of the test.

Refusing to recognize a parents inalienable right to protect their children from a testing scheme designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut’s public school children, Blumenthal and Murphy both voted NO on Senate Amendment 2162 to Senate Amendment 2089 to S. 1177 (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015).

In addition to requiring that parents be notified about the testing, the language of the amendment stated;

“[U]pon the request of the parent of a child made…for any reason or no reason at all stated by the parent, a State shall allow the child to opt out of the assessments described in this paragraph. Such an opt-out, or any action related to that opt-out, may not be used by the Secretary, the State, any State or local agency, or any school leader or employee as the basis for any corrective action, penalty, or other consequence against the parent, the child, any school leader or employee, or the school.”

According to the Washington Post story entitled, Senate rejects plan to allow parents to opt out of standardized tests

“Current law requires school districts to ensure that 95 percent of children take the exams, a provision meant to ensure that administrators don’t encourage low performers to stay home on exam day. The Senate bill mandates 95 percent participation of students who are required to be tested, but allows states to decide whether children who opt out are among those who are required to be tested.

But under the House bill, parents who opt their children out of tests would not be counted in the participation rate of any state, effectively removing them from the accountability system altogether. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed that provision, saying it opened a loophole to hide achievement gaps.”

With different versions in the House and Senate, a Conference Committee will be needed to negotiate a final master bill.  That piece of legislation will then come up for a final vote before going to President Obama for his signature or veto.

It is beyond disturbing that self-described “champions of the people” would vote against such an important and fair amendment.

SBAC results from Washington State confirm test designed to fail vast majority of children

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The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has provided its member states with most of the results from the spring’s Common Core SBAC testing.

Unlike Connecticut, where the Malloy administration is apparently keeping the information secret as long as possible, the State of Washington has been updating the public about the results as they came in.  As of two weeks ago, Washington State had already received the results for more than 90% of its students.

The Common Core SBAC test results from Washington State confirm the worst fears that the Common Core SBAC test is designed to fail the vast majority of public schools students.

From the initial post of 2015, Wait, What? has been sounding the alarm about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the SBAC testing scheme.

Early posts on the topic included;

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! (1/2/2015); Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster (1/6/2015); ALERT! Parents – the Common Core SBAC Test really is designed to fail your children (2/6/2015)

The problem with the Common Core SBAC test is multifaceted, including the most recent revelations that Connecticut public school students are being provided with textbooks that aren’t even aligned to the Common Core and its associated testing program.

In addition, the cut-off scores used to determine whether a student achieves goal are intentionally designed to label as many as 7 in 10 children as failures.

As reported earlier, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, including Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, met in Olympia, Washington in November 2014 to set the “cut scores” in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA).

While Vermont and New Hampshire refused to endorse the scores, the Malloy administration’s representatives voted in favor of a system that – from the start – intended to define achievement in such a way as to ensure sure that the majority of students did not meet that goal.

And now the Washington State results are in and while children in the lower grades did better than initially projected, THE MAJORITY OF STUDENTS IN GRADES 5,6,7,8 AND 11 FAILED the Common Core SBAC test in math!

The most troubling news is the fact that high school juniors in Washington State, most of whom are focused on getting the courses and grades that will get them into college, were given a test that was designed to label them as failures … and the SBAC organization’s unfair and disastrous strategy has succeeded.

According to the SBAC entity’s own memo, the SBAC test was projected to label 67% of high school juniors as “failures” and in Washington State, 71% of high school juniors have “failed” the 2015 SBAC test in math.

2015 SBAC Results in Math SBAC Projection% FAILING Washington State Results% FAILING
   
   
Grade 11 (High School Juniors) 67% FAIL 71% FAIL

 

The State of Washington will be holding a press conference on August 18, 2015 at 10am to release the disaggregated district-level results for their state which will undoubtedly reveal that the SBAC test particularly discriminates against children from low-income homes, children who face English language barriers and children who need special education services.

Meanwhile, there is no word when the Connecticut State Department of Education will be releasing the results for Connecticut’s public school students.

 

On SBAC – Connecticut’s Best Places for parents and students – Stonington, Madison, Region #19, Danbury

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UPDATED AS DATA ARRIVES

Every year groups like Livability.com release lists of the best places to live in American.  The organization observes that, “Making a Best Places to Live list is part art and part science.”

This year, Connecticut’s public school parents learned the value of living in a school district where the local superintendent and other school administrators treat their public school students and parents with respect, dignity and maturity.

In far too many towns, local school officials, driven by the directives of Governor Malloy’s administration, misled, harassed and abused parents and students who wanted and deserved honest information about their fundamental rights as they related to the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme.

While there were thankfully towns where local administrators did provide parents and students with the truth, far too many families were forced to confront the fact that their community’s school leaders refused to conduct themselves in an honest, ethical and moral fashion.

As a result, mapping where Connecticut parents and students are treated with respect has become particularly easy.

To identify the best communities for parents and students, one need only look at the percentage of high school students who opted out or refused to take the unfair Common Core SBAC test, a test designed to fail the vast majority of students, a test that was particularly dangerous and damaging for high school student who intend to go on to college.

The best places for parents and students to live is where school administrators recognize the importance of treating their community with the respect they deserve.

And based on that vitally important criteria, the communities and school districts that rise to the very top of the list are Stonington, Madison and Regional School District #19 (E.O. Smith High School which includes Mansfield, Ashford and Willington) and Danbury.

Some of the other towns where school administrators deserve praise include Region #9, Westport, Watertown, Groton, New Fairfield, Windsor, Winchester (Gilbert School), Granby, Manchester, Ellington, Darien and New Milford.

When the test scores arrive this summer, more and more parents will learn that the SBAC test is literally designed to label the majority of children as failures.  Parents will wish they lived in a districts led by school administrators who understood their duty to their parents and students.

At the other end of the spectrum are many of Connecticut’s poorest communities and a set of other towns whose school administrators crumbled to the pressure from the Malloy administration.

For a stunning example of arrogance, one need only look to Fairfield, where the superintendent and assistant superintendent saw fit to mislead and lie to parents about their opt out rights and where students who were opted out were forced to sit and stay in the testing rooms despite the despite the fact that the SBAC test protocol required that students who were taking the test were not supposed to be present in the testing room.”

All school districts have been asked to report the number of students, by grade levels, that were opted out of the Common Core SBAC Testing.

The following chart represents the data school districts provided on the number of high school juniors who were opted out or refused to take the Common Core SBAC test.  If your town is not listed it is because they have not provided the requested information to date.  There are towns that achieved high opt out rates. One of West Hartford’s high schools reported  a 52% opt out rate, while the other high school in the town reported 8%

The chart will be updated and republished as more information is made available by the superintendents.

Parents who live in communities where school administrators chose to stand with their parents and students should be commended!

Those who live in communities where school administrators mistreated misled, abused, harassed and lied to parents and students should consider demanding that their local school boards take action to ensure that the district is led by administrators who are willing and able to do their jobs in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Perhaps most disturbing is that some administrators appeared to be pleased that they were able to force a 100% test participation rate, a sad testament to the state’s inappropriate demand that everyone take the poorly designed and unfair Common Core SBAC test… What a sad commentary!

TOWN % OPT OUT
Stonington 93%
Madison 86%
Region #19 EO Smith 85%
Danbury 80%
Bridgeport Magnets (Ferris Wheeler Magnet Programs 77%-35%) 77%
Region #9 (ELA Part 2 66% Math 60%, ELA 51%) 66%
Westport 60%
Watertown 58%
Groton 51%
Weston 41%
New Fairfield 39%
Windsor 39%
Winchester (Gilbert School) 38%
Wethersfield 31%
Granby 30%
Manchester 19%
Ellington 17%
Darien 15%
New Milford 12%
Newtown 9%
Coventry 8%
Region #5 Amity 7%
Region #12 6%
Glastonbury 3%
Simsbury 3%
Old Saybrook 3%
Griswold 2%
Milford 2%
Wilton 2%
Bethel 1%
Chesire 1%
Colchester 1%
Fairfield 1%
Greenwich 1%
Killingly 1%
Lebanon 1%
Monroe 1%
Montville 1%
Putnam 1%
Region #16 1%
Region #17 1%
Shelton 1%
Wolcott 1%
Bloomfield 0%
Bolton 0%
Bridgeport (High Schools) 0%
Cromwell 0%
Norwich 0%
Meriden 0%
Region #8 0%
Region #10 0%
Region #15 0%
Seymour 0%
Westbrook 0%

Note:  The 1% communities are those in which at least one student was opted out.

Opt-Out movement rolls across CT – with opt out rates in excess of 50% in a number of high schools

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Although most parents of public school students won’t appreciate the disastrous impact of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test until the test results arrive at homes this summer, record numbers of parents have stepped up to opt their children out of the inappropriate SBAC testing scheme.

Firm opt out numbers are trickling in from around the state and the number of parents who have refused to have their children abused by the testing process is significant, especially among high school juniors who are particularly at risk of being negatively impacted by the test that is intentionally designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut students.

Despite a concerted, unethical and immoral effort by Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and some local school superintendents to mislead, harass and punish students in an effort to convince parents not to opt the child or children out of the Common Core SBAC test, thousands of parents and students have refused to be bullied and refused to take the disastrous test.

In towns where school superintendents handled their duties in a professional and appropriate fashion, the number of students opting out has reached massive proportions with some high schools reporting more than 80 percent of their high school juniors did not take the test.  A  number of high schools have seen opt out rates in excess of 50 percent.

Not surprisingly, where superintendents and school principals failed to fulfill their ethical responsibilities, choosing instead to bully and harass students by claiming that they could not graduate if they failed to take the Common Core SBAC test or telling parents that it was illegal to opt out of the SBAC test, the number of students refusing the test was significantly lower.

However, those schools administrators will discover that misleading and even lying to their schools’ parents will lead to major repercussions.

Check back here at Wait, What? and watch for media reports about the actual opt out numbers as school districts finalize and report on their Common Core testing activities

Also feel free to report any information you’ve heard in the comment section or send that information to [email protected]

Greater transparency needed around standardized testing in schools (By Maria Naughton)

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Maria Naughton is a fellow education advocate, as well as an educational consultant, former teacher and mother of four.  She also writes a column for the New Canaan Advertiser newspaper and is a regular quest columnist here at Wait, What?  Her latest piece can be found at: http://ncadvertiser.com/50468/column-greater-transparency-needed-around-standardized-testing-in-schools/

Greater transparency needed around standardized testing in schools by Maria Naughton

Following last year’s field test, high school juniors have started the new Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA), which has replaced two sections of the former sophomore-year CAPT. Different than the CAPT, this new test aligns to the Common Core standards, which claim to raise the bar for students. Measuring fewer academic topics, the SBA was created to measure, “college and career readiness,” a term referring to the ability to skip remedial coursework in either a post-secondary institution or in a certificate program leading to a “career pathway,” like those in a technical school.

This eight-hour assessment, which ends June 12, is web-based, and adaptive to student ability. The Smarter Balanced Consortium, a multi-state public agency located at UCLA, created the test. Low scores are predicted, but New Canaan may do better than most following many years of preparation. Regardless, perhaps we need to think more deeply about this unproven test and its future impact.

These tests have been inserted into a critical year. As juniors, students are working hard to meet academic demands while making preparations for college. Many are taking AP courses, and studying for other high-stakes tests, such as the AP, SAT and ACT, which help students earn credits and increase their chances for college admissions. SBA testing during this year causes students to miss instructional time, putting both grades and AP credits at risk, and impacts efforts to do well on college entrance exams. Considering many students are already taking college-level coursework, the “college readiness” predictive value of the new test seems redundant. Additionally, in creating this test, the Consortium seems to ignore findings that high school grades are a bigger predictor of college success than any standardized tests.

Unlike class grades, these tests currently mean very little for juniors. Results won’t be available until after July, and won’t impact grades or course placement. A quick survey of nine Connecticut colleges and universities found that none are looking at these scores. To fulfill graduation requirements, just like in the past, these scores may be only one of many factors, according to state statute. The NCHS handbook lists these, and students can easily meet with their counselors to clarify.

Students and families may find the scoring parameters unsettling. Despite its lack of validity and untested predictive value, the Consortium has already determined that most students in Connecticut will fail the Spring 2015 test. According to them, 60-90% of test-takers won’t pass, with sub-groups doing the worst. A score of one through four will become part of a student’s academic record, yet the implications of scores are unclear. However, according to a draft Consortium Policy Framework, low scores may result in additional coursework and remediation in grade 12 to prove college-readiness.

And in what ostensibly seems to be a clinical trial, the Consortium, in partnership with UCLA, will analyze these results, to be used for research, development and future recommendations. Clearly, the Consortium wields much control over our local schools, yet we know little about them. This group, consisting of 17 states, is federally funded, and is supported by the Gates Foundation among others, but it isn’t clear to whom they are accountable. Their assessments, they claim, will ensure our children are, “productive, engaged and ethical citizens” but how that is accomplished is unclear. Their goal is to, “improve educational outcomes” for millions, yet their governance authority is not transparent to families and taxpayers, and the data sharing remains a mystery.

Many families who are aware of the testing/standards flaws, the scoring problems, and the questionable data practices are refusing the test. Following state guidance, local district administrators had been telling parents that opting-out was not possible, because 95% participation was needed to ensure federal funding. Administrators have since reversed that decision, but even if that were true, in communities like New Canaan, that amount is negligible. In truth, no district should be coerced into accepting this murky and experimental plan, certain to fail most children, at the risk of losing funding for their neediest students.

It’s time for all of us to take a serious look at the role of standardized testing in our schools, paying extra attention to this new assessment. Greater transparency is needed around all those involved, including the Consortium, to better understand the impact on our students, the ongoing quality of our schools and the allocation of future resources. State law requires districts to give annual assessments, but there is no law forcing a child to take them. Parents can, as in the past, refuse the test. Parents should refuse to accept the results if children have already been tested. This is the only means by which a parent will have a voice in this process. Let’s restore control of education to the towns, school districts, and to the families they serve.

 

Teacher’s First Amendment Rights and the CEA’s recent problematic memo

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Having just observed Memorial Day, a special time to honor military personnel who died while serving the United States, most Americans would probably be stunned to learn that teachers and other public employees DO NOT HAVE full First Amendment rights when working in their capacity as a public employee.

Considering we honor and memorialize American servicemen and women who gave their lives to protect the nation and its fundamental values, it is more than a bit disconcerting to think that public employees are treated differently than everyone else when it comes to what is arguably the most sacred law of the land.

But as the Connecticut Education Association wrote in a recent memorandum sent out to Connecticut’s teachers under the headline “Constitutional limitations on individual teacher advocacy for opting out,”

“There is no protection under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech for a teacher while on duty for advocating opting out of standardized testing for students.”

The CEA memo was drafted by the union’s Member Legal Services lawyers and released following the CEA’s recent Representatives Assembly meeting.

While Connecticut school teachers should take the advice and guidance from their union’s lawyers extremely seriously, the memo falls short of providing teachers with all the information they need about the legal issues surrounding what a teacher can or cannot say about the Common Core or the Common SBAC testing issue or when they can say it.

For examples, what are the First Amendment rights of teachers when they are speaking in their capacity as parents?

And what rights do they have when they are not speaking as teachers, but instead are functioning as citizens of the United States?

It would be extremely helpful if the CEA provided teachers with additional information clarifying what rights individuals, who happen to be teachers, have when they are not speaking in their capacity as public school teachers.

The CEA Member Legal Services memo opens with;

“There is no protection under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech for a teacher while on duty for advocating opting out of standardized testing for students.  Similarly, there is little, if any, constitutional protections for a teacher advocating opting out while off duty.  The reason for this is that school districts administer standardized tests pursuant to state law, specifically Chapter 163c of the Connecticut General Statues.  Since administration of standardized tests is part of a teacher’s job duties, a teacher’s encouragement of opting would be viewed by the district as being disruptive of its obligation under state law and district policy.”

Although the memo fails to cite the sources used to back up their definitive statement, it appears the CEA’s legal team is relying on the foundational 2006 case of Garcetti v. Ceballos in which the United States Supreme Court voted by a 5 to 4 margin to limit the First Amendment rights of all public employees.

The Supreme Court ruled that while the First Amendment protects the speech of public employees when they are acting “as citizens,” they don’t have the same protection for speech when it is spoken “pursuant to… official responsibilities.”

In this little known, but extremely important case, the Supreme Court reasoned that “[g]overnment employers, like private employers, need a significant degree of control over their employees’ words and actions” in order to secure “the efficient provision of public services.” Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 418 (2006).

The court decision goes on to explain that government needs “a significant degree of control over their employees’ words and actions,” and that therefore, they may restrict employees’ speech made “pursuant to their official duties.” Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 418, 421.

The result of this and subsequent cases is that public employee’s First Amendment rights can be limited if the government has a legitimate “proprietary interest in directing or controlling the individual’s speech.”

Like the National Education Association, the Connecticut Education Association has sought to warn teachers that they do not have unbridled First Amendment Rights when they are acting in their capacity of public employees.

However, the CEA memo unfortunately fails to explain that people, who are teachers, none-the-less have broader First Amendment rights when they are clearly speaking in the role as parents, elected official or citizens.

The underlying problem is that the courts have not been exactly clear about when those broader rights exist.

For one thing, it appears that there are no specific limitations on an individual’s First Amendment rights when they are exclusively acting in their capacity as a parent rather than a teacher.

However, the CEA memo reads,

“There is only a qualified protection for a teacher’s off duty speech insofar as advocating opting out is concerned.  A school district’s interest in its efficient administration of education can outweigh its public employee’s right to speak on issues of public concern.  In this balancing test, a first amendment challenge to discipline or termination is unlikely to succeed.”

Teaches should be cautious when speaking with their “teacher voice,” but CEA legal unit does a disservice to Connecticut’s teachers by simply stating that any, “first amendment challenge to discipline or termination (for “off-duty” speech) is unlikely to succeed.”

The case law simply does not support such a broad claim.

The real problem revolves around a teacher addressing issues while serving in their official capacity as a public school teacher.

The CEA memo notes that “Prohibited actions which could give rise to discipline and possible termination include but are not limited to the following actions;  conversations with parents encouraging opting out, posting on school sponsored websites, posting on private websites, or handing out flyers.”

As the law stands, it would appear that a teacher who encourages his or her students or the student’s parents to opt out of the Common Core SBAC test or posts such information on the school website could be successfully targeted by the school district.

It is far less clear that an individual who is acting solely in their capacity as a parent or as an American citizen lacks the right to address that Common Core and its related Common Core SBAC testing program.

In New York, the 600,000 member NYSUT union approaches the issue by stating,

“A teacher who, in conversations with students or parents, takes a position on testing contrary to the school district’s educational program may potentially be subject to disciplinary action, e.g. charges of misconduct or insubordination. The Supreme Court has held that when a public employee speaks in his/her capacity as an employee, the speech is not constitutionally protected.

However, because standardized testing is a matter of public concern, a local speaking as a union, or an individual member speaking as a parent or citizen, about educational concerns over standardized testing, for instance, in a letter to the editor or in a statement to the Board of Education, is protected by the U.S. Constitution at least so long as they are not encouraging other parents or students to opt out from a test.”

It would be helpful if the CEA put forward a statement agreeing with that stance or, if not, provided alternative guidance to Connecticut’s teachers.

While clarifying the First Amendment rights of teachers, Connecticut’s teacher unions should also join their fellow unions from around the country in making it extremely clear that the union will aggressively fight any efforts by a school district to harass, discipline or terminate any teacher who speaks out about a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core tests.

In New York and in other locations around the country, the teacher unions have put state and local officials on notice that attempts to punish teachers for speaking honestly about the testing scheme will be met with the full resources of the union.

Public attention and legal action have an impact.

In nearby Rhode Island, a teacher was suspended early this year for telling students about their opt-out rights.  Following the suspension the backlash against the school district was immediate and significant and the teacher was soon re-instated.  (See RI Teacher Suspended for Discussing Opt Out, Students Demand his Return.)

So, in addition to providing accurate information about the legal issues surrounding teachers and their First Amendment rights, the Connecticut Education Association and American Federation of Teachers – CT Chapter should be putting the State of Connecticut and Connecticut’s school districts on notice that any and all un-American efforts to tread on the Free Speech rights of Connecticut’s teachers will be meet with swift and overwhelming force.

Meanwhile, the most important thing that all citizens can do for their children and Connecticut’s teachers and public schools is to opt out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test.

Connecticut Education Association (CEA) starts TV advertising campaign to promote their legislation

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Following this past weekend’s CEA election, Connecticut’s largest union has begun a new television advertising campaign to push the “less testing, more learning message.”

While the TV ad urges the public to call state legislators in support of the CEA’s bill to phase out the SBAC test, the ad unfortunately fails to support the opt-out movement or even mention that Connecticut parents have a fundamental right to refuse to have their children take the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

During the recent CEA convention, the delegates did adopt a resolution in support of opt-out, but the message didn’t make it to their TV ad.

According to the CEA blog today,

“A new CEA TV commercial featuring Connecticut students, teachers, and parents is now on the air urging lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring less testing and more learning in our public schools. The commercial asks members of the public to call their legislators and ask them to amend Senate Bill 1095.

Watch the commercial below and then call your legislators and share how SBAC testing is affecting your students.”

You can see the TV ad by clicking the following link;  https://youtu.be/B3K2z5kob7k

Meanwhile, around the nation, parents, students, teachers, teacher unions and elected officials continue the push back against the Common Core testing scheme.  Here are just an example of the hundreds of recent newspaper articles on the opt out movement.

In California, Standardized Testing Sparks Backlash

In Delaware, House Overwhelmingly Supports Opt-Out Rights

In Florida, Citrus County School Board Calls on Governor to Suspend Testing Consequences

In Illinois, Illinois Legislature Still Considering Opt-Out Bill

In Louisiana, Test Overkill Fatigue

In Maine, Maine Testing Opt Out, Assessment Reform Movement Hits Legislature and Maine Moves to End Smarter Balanced Testing

In Minnesota, Minnesota Teachers Want Scores Thrown Out After Repeated Computer Test SNAFUs

In Missouri, Testing Misuses Students to Evaluate Teachers and Schools

In Montana, State Testing Will Not Come Close to 95% Participation

In New Hampshire, Legislature Sends Governor Bill Allowing Test Opt Outs

In New York, English Language Arts Test Opt Outs Topped 205,000 Statewide

In New Jersey, Bill to Restrict Use of Standardized Exams Continues to Advance

In North Dakota, New Smarter Balanced Computerized Testing Has Many Problems

In Ohio, House Overwhelmingly Votes to Reduce State Testing

In Oregon, One in Seven Portland Juniors Skipped Common Core Exams

In Pennsylvania, Students Opt Out of State Keystone Exams

In Texas, Study Finds College Readiness Declines When Public Schools Focus on Test Scores

In Vermont, Testing is Profitable But Not for Students

In Virginia, Virginia Parents Say “”No” to Standardized Tests and Parents Learn How to Keep Their Kids Out of Standardized Tests

In Washington, Students Protest Common Core Exams and Maryville, Washington, Teachers Hold One-Day Strike Over Funding, Testing

In Wisconsin, Assembly Passes Bill to Skip Test-Based School Report Cards

Do you know a high school junior who is being told they MUST take the SBAC Test to graduate?

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This is an EMERGENCY request for information;

Connecticut law specifically prohibits school districts from requiring students to take the state “Mastery Test” in order to graduate.

However, in unethical, immoral and unprofessional attempt to stop students from opting out or being opted out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme, a number of Connecticut schools are telling students that the SBAC test is a graduation requirement.

A number of parents, students and community members have already forwarded evidence about the bullying and harassment that is taking place in particular schools and districts.

Your assistance in determining the extent of the abusive tactic is critically important.

If you know of a high school or school district that is misinforming students that must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate or are otherwise misleading or lying to students or parents about the SBAC test, please send the details immediately to [email protected]

Please provide as many details as possible, including, any emails, documents or other evidence of the abuse.

The name of the principal, assistant principal or other school official engaged in this unethical action is also requested.

The source of any information will be kept strictly confidential.  The actual documents can be kept confidential, if requested, but please do send along the information so that a master list can be put together of schools, school districts and school administrators who are failing to perform their duties in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Rich do better, poor do worse – Step right up and try your luck at the SBAC Test….

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Guess what?  When it comes to the Common Core SBAC test and other unfair and discriminatory standardized tests, students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse.    

The following assessment of what influences standardized test scores comes from education researcher Christopher Tienken via education blogger Peter Greene.

Peter Greene is a fellow education advocate, an educator and one of the country’s leading education bloggers. His blog is called Curmudgucation.   Christopher Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University, a former school administrator and teacher and an expert on the factors that influence standardized test scores. His work can be found at http://christienken.com/

Being that the information presented below is academic, fact-based and intellectual, some elected officials won’t take the time to read it or perhaps understand it, but the information confirms what has been understood and discussed by opponents of the Common Core SBAC testing and other inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

The information proves – yet again – that standardized test scores are driven primarily by factors far beyond the control of the classroom teacher.  Poverty, English Language proficiency and unmet special education needs are all key factors in producing lower test scores.

As Green and Tienken explain –  Standardized Test Scores ARE NOT related to grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style or curriculum evaluation….  They are a product of the socio-economic characteristics of the students taking the test.

Thanks to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing scam, while raising taxes and cutting education programs, Connecticut will spend approximately $100 million on the SBAC testing this year to tell us that the rich do well and the poor do poorly on the fraud of a test.

Just take a look at the following;

Good News! We Can Cancel The Tests Now! (By Peter Greene)

Christopher Tienken is a name you should know. Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, & Policy. Tienken started out his career as an elementary school teacher; he now edits American Association of School Administrators Journal of Scholarship and Practice and the Kappa Delta Pi Record.He and his colleagues have done some of the most devastating research out there on the Big Standardized Tests.

Tienken’s research hasn’t just shown the Big Standardized Tests to be frauds; he’s shown that they are unnecessary.

In “Predictable Results,” one of his most recent posts, he lays out again what his team has managed to do over the past few years. Using US Census data linked to social capital and demographics, Tienken has been able to predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or better on the tests.

Let me repeat that. Using data that has nothing to do with grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style, curriculum evaluation— in short, data that has nothing to do with what goes on inside the school building– Tiemken has been able to predict the proficiency rate for a school.

“For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.”

Tiemken’s work is one more powerful indicator that the BS Tests do not measure the educational effectiveness of a school– not even sort of. That wonderful data that supposedly tells us how students are doing and provides the measurements that give us actionable information– it’s not telling us a damn thing. Or more specifically, it’s not telling us a damn thing that we didn’t already know (Look! Lower Poorperson High School serves mostly low-income students!!)

In fact, Tiemken’s work is great news– states can cut out the middle man and simply give schools scores based on the demographic and social data. We don’t need the tests at all.

Of course, that would be bad business for test suppliers, and it would require leaders to focus on what’s going on in the world outside the school building, so the folks who don’t want to deal with the issues of poverty and race will probably not back the idea. And the test manufacturers would lose a huge revenue steam, so they’d lobby hard against it. But we could still do it– we could stop testing tomorrow and still generate pretty much the same data. Let’s see our government embrace this more efficient approach!!
And for the original source of information read – Predictable Results (by Christopher Tiemken)

Colleagues and I used US Census data to predict state test results in mathematics and language arts as part of various research projects we have been conducting over the last three years. Specifically, we predicted the percentage of students at the district and school levels who score proficient or above on their state’s mandated standardized tests, without using any school-specific information such as length of school day, teacher mobility, computer-to-student ratio, etc.

We use basic multiple linear regression models along with factors in the US Census data that relate to community social capital and family human capital to create predictive algorithms. For example, the percentage of lone parent households in a community and percentage of people in a community with a high school diploma are two examples of community social capital indicators that seem to be strong predictors of the percentage of students in a district or school that will score proficient or above. The percentage of families in a community with incomes under $25,000 a year is an example of a family human capital indicator that has a lot of predictive power.

In all, our regression models begin with about 18-21 different indicators. We clean the models and usually end up with 2-4 indicators that demonstrate the greatest predictive power. Then we enter those indicators into an algorithm that most fourth-graders, with an understanding of order or operations, could construct and calculate. Not complicated stuff.

Our initial work at the 3rd-8th and 11th grade levels in NJ, and grades 3-8 in CT and Iowa have proven fairly accurate. Our prediction accuracy ranges from 62% to over 80% of districts in a state, depending on the grade level and subject tested.

In one study soon to be published in an education policy textbook co-edited with Carol Mullen, Education Policy Perils: Tackling the Tough Issues, I report on a study in which I predicted the percentage of students in grade 5, at the district level, who scored proficient or above on New Jersey’s former standardized tests, NJASK, in mathematics language arts for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 school years for the almost 400 school districts that met the sampling criteria to be included in the study.

For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.

Colleagues and I predicted the percentages of students scoring proficient or above for grades 6,7,8 during the 2009-2012 school years as well. For example, we predicted accurately for approximately 70% of the districts on the 2009 NJ mathematics and language arts tests. Recently, another colleague and I predicted the grade 8 NJ mathematics and language percentages proficient or above for over 85% of the almost 400 districts in our 2012 sample.

The results from Connecticut and Iowa are similar, with accurate predictions in CT on all tests grades 3-8 ranging from approximately 70% to over 80%. The Iowa predictions were accurate in approximately 70% of the districts.

Being a “rich” district or a “poor” district had no bearing on the results. We accurately predicted scores for “rich” and “poor” alike. The details will be published in upcoming books and journals so stay tuned.

The findings from these and other studies raise some serious questions about using results from state standardized tests to rank schools or compare them to other schools in terms of standardized test performance. Our forthcoming results from a series of school level studies at the middle school level produced similar results and raise questions about the appropriateness of using state test results to rank or evaluate teachers or make any potentially life-impacting decisions about educators or children.

So Connecticut parents and taxpayers;

When you are being abused or hearing about children and parents being abused and harassed for opting out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test or when you are paying more in taxes and watching important school programs and services cut, now that thanks to our elected and appointed  officials we are pissing away $100,000,000.00 a year forcing children to take a test that will tell us that students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse on standardized tests.

 

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