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

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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 of 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


Where have all the teachers gone? By Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme


Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme are both educators, Teacher of the Year awardees in Ridgefield and both won Connecticut Celebration of Excellence Awards. Their recent commentary piece entitled, “Where have all the teachers gone?” was first published in the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Times.

Where have all the teachers gone?”

Common Core claimed its vision was to close the achievement gap and bring test scores up, guaranteeing every high school graduate to be “college ready.” None of that has been attained. Common Core was really designed to assume government control of the public education system. That goal has been achieved. Autonomy has been taken away from local boards of education, administrators, and most importantly, the classroom teacher.

Common Core was mandated for all states ignoring where individual school systems were testing. For those school systems which already ranked high, this changed the teaching of their curricula, and focused instruction on test preparation, upsetting students, parents, and teachers. It is clear that for those schools in high-risk districts, more than just common standards and tests are needed to bring students up to parity. Common Core has not delivered.

By buying into the veil of Common Core and not challenging its underpinning mandates from the beginning, education communities have lost their way, while education spirals down. They have misplaced their ethical and moral obligation to our children. Educators were supposed to “teach the children well.” If classroom teachers, administrators, teaching institutions, and state and local boards of education are not in control of public education, the bedrock of our foundation breaks down.

Common Core has caused the depersonalization of the teaching profession, resulting in less effective time on teaching, slower productivity, and a rigid classroom environment which cannot be sustained. It has taken the joy of teaching and learning away because of mandated computerized lessons, assessments, excessive data recording, and inflexible block-scheduling. Instead of a mentor/collaborative relationship with administration, the binding teacher evaluation system is confrontational, preventing teachers from speaking out. Collaboration is not encouraged among colleagues because of the dictates of this national curriculum. Those in managerial positions remain controlled by the Common Core. So do our public schools, teachers and students.

Common Core has disrupted the learning process. It has replaced inspirational and innovative instruction with a curriculum that is not educationally and developmentally appropriate, disregarding the research which documents how children learn in concert with their development. Starting in kindergarten, it is pushing curriculum to levels for which students are not developmentally ready. The recent SBAC tests failed with disastrous results. Of greater concern is a new SAT test aligned with the Common Core for all students. At least Connecticut’s CAPT tests were fair and measurable, and represented what was taught in Connecticut schools. The SAT test is designed for the college-motivated student. But not every student is heading for college. What about meeting all students’ needs and America’s needs for jobs? We cannot ignore the students who want to explore diverse career paths and entrepreneurial opportunities via community colleges, tech education, manufacturing programs, and business initiatives and apprenticeships.

The underpinnings of effective teaching and learning exist inside an outstanding classroom where student needs are being met and instruction is dynamic and inspirational. Many gifted and distinguished teachers are leaving the profession, or biding their time to retirement. Experienced and creative teachers are still trying within their classrooms to do what is right for their students, but soon they will be lost to us as mentors. Districts will find it more difficult to hire well-qualified teachers. National trends show there will be a teacher shortage because fewer college students are choosing education as their career path. New teachers will be trained to follow the Common Core program as designed and not encouraged to innovate and employ multiple effective teaching methods.

The thread that is running through our schools from elementary to high school with Common Core, doesn’t align with an educator designed curriculum, and conflicts with educational pedagogy. From K-12, we have a top down, one-size-fits-all, set in stone, system with mandated teacher evaluations which include Common Core tests results. This Common Core system is undermining public education and disrupting the learning process for students, while wasting millions of tax-payer dollars. Connecticut is diverting public funds to promote the myth of charter schools that do not really address socio-economic inequality and the achievement gap. Everything is upside-down in education. It is time for the educational community to come together, take a stand, and speak out to decentralize public education and have local districts run local schools. It is time to fund more public magnet schools, set up inter-district partnerships and make use of our distinguished classroom teachers and retirees to facilitate school, community, and parent mentorships.

Common Core has taken over our schools impacting teaching and learning. An educated child is a free child, a responsible and independent thinker ready to take his/her place in the community. The goal for our students should be their learning, not the test results. Every child’s educational life matters, and every classroom teacher makes a difference.

You can read the original article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Op-ed-Where-have-all-the-teachers-gone-6615808.php

Seattle – What happens when teacher union leaders step up to support teachers, students, parents and public schools


For those union members, education advocates and parents who are consistently frustrated by the fact that some union leaders spend more time maintaining their close relationship with the power elite than fighting for their members and public education, the recent teacher strike in Seattle, Washington is proof that real champions have been stepping up in Seattle, Chicago, at the state level in New York and Massachusetts, and elsewhere.  These teacher union leaders are making a fundamental difference in the fight to improve public schools and provide greater support for teachers, students and parents.

For an update on the Seattle Teacher Strike check out, The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking.

The post appears on Valerie Strauss’s blog, The Answer Sheet.  Strauss is a reporter with the Washington Post and her bog is one of the most important resources in the nation for information about education policy and the unprecedented assault on public schools and public school teachers by the Charter School and Corporate Education Reform Industry.

If you don’t read Strauss’ blog you should book mark it and sign up for her regulator updates at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/

In The surprising things Seattle teachers won for students by striking, Strauss writes;

Seattle teachers went on strike for a week this month with a list of goals for a new contract. By the time the strike officially ended this week, teachers had won some of the usual stuff of contract negotiations — for example, the first cost-of-living raises in six years — but also some less standard objectives.

For one thing, teachers demanded, and won, guaranteed daily recess for all elementary school students — 30 minutes each day. In an era when recess for many students has become limited or even non-existent despite the known benefits of physical activity for children, this is a big deal, and something parents had sought.

What’s more, the union and school officials agreed to create committees at 30 schools to look at equity issues, including disciplinary measures that disproportionately affect minorities. Several days after the end of the strike, the Seattle School Board voted for a one-year ban on end suspensions of elementary students who commit specific nonviolent offenses, and called for a plan that could eliminate all elementary school suspensions.

Other wins for students in Seattle’s nearly 100 traditional public schools include:

Teachers won an end to the use of student standardized test scores to evaluate them — and now, teachers will be included in decisions on the amount of standardized testing for students. This evaluation practice has been slammed by assessment experts as invalid and unreliable, and has led to the narrowing of curriculum, with emphasis on the two subjects for which there are standardized tests, math and English Language arts.

Special education teachers will have fewer students to work with at a time. What’s more there will be caseload limits for other specialists, including psychologists and occupational therapists.

Seattle teachers had said they were not only fighting for pay raises but to make the system better for students. It sounds like they did.

Every teacher union leader in the country should be looking to Seattle for guidance on how to fight back against the forces seeking to destroy public education in the United States.

Spoiler Alert:  Teachers can educate you


So it turns out that when you take the time to listen to teachers you actually learn stuff, including how to improve public schools without privatizing and turning them over to the corporate education reform industry.

In this recent commentary piece entitled, Smart solutions for Connecticut public schools, award winning Connecticut public school teachers Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme provide a teaching moment that all policymakers would do well to stop and read.

Imagine if Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials actually stopped denigrating teachers, the teaching profession and public schools and started listening to teachers and providing the resources necessary to improve educational outcomes, especially for Connecticut children living in poverty, facing English language challenges or requiring special education services.

 Smart solutions for Connecticut public schools (By Jean Jaykus and AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme)

Their piece was first published in the Stamford Advocate;

Common Core National Standards are not outstanding standards. A state like Connecticut, the Constitution State, has an obligation to its taxpayers to answer the questions: Why keep defending Common Core and ignore an outcry from taxpayers, teachers, and students? Why are school boards not questioning this issue? Connecticut needs more than a fix for Common Core. Connecticut needs to take a pedagogical stand and replace Common Core and its SBAC tests with appropriate Connecticut standards and tests written by representatives from all education levels, including teachers, administrators and university professors. Just because the proponents of Common Core claim that it will have benefits and cure educational inequalities, doesn’t mean that it is so.

The damaging side effects and requirements of Common Core standards, teaching, and testing are affecting our schools by destroying creativity and taking away programs with proven good results. Teachers know this and morale is low. How will districts attract excellent teachers? Common Core is dummying down our public schools with overtesting and undereducating. Addressing the achievement gap does not mean bringing down higher-functioning schools to raise the level of lower-functioning schools. It is unfair to blame the schools for the achievement gap, a complex problem that is the result of socio-economic and cultural as well as educational issues. It is unfair to put students on a track based solely on tests, which is not only developmentally inappropriate, but leads to a narrow life path.

Putting all our resources behind Common Core across the state will not change the effects of neighborhood and family culture. The factors that contribute to learning and school success, from the early years on are family, parenting, neighborhood, income, good teaching, extracurricular and community activities, and especially positive role models. We need to create a culture in underperforming districts that values education. Connecticut needs the courage to challenge Common Core and change the direction of state funding to support smart solutions for schools, and promote the academic, behavioral, and emotional success for all our children.

New Connecticut standards and tests are the first step. As these are being formulated and piloted, we need additional steps and new solutions to help move our at-risk students into proficiency, raise student incentives to learn, and help close the achievement gap in our schools.

Mentoring plays a vital role in this journey. Any school willing to focus its efforts on mentoring can increase performance and create a culture of high expectations and support for all students. Start with principal to teacher mentorships. Principals need to be educational leaders, not testing supervisors and managers of technology. Instead of hiring more assistant principals and academic coaches to meet Common Core mandates, get principals back into the classrooms and help teachers enrich instruction, guaranteeing the strongest outcomes for students. In addition, establish teacher to teacher, school to school, and district to district mentorships by using state funding that is aligned to support these partnerships that model best practices. Also set up local business-education partnerships and apprenticeships. Mentoring encourages good connections, builds a strong work ethic, and helps our students work hard and pursue education.

Increase effective Magnet Public Schools across the state, like the 2014 Danbury Elementary Magnet School of the Year. Use state funding for more magnet schools, not charter schools. Magnet schools offer educational opportunities in our cities and towns in the areas like World Languages, STEM, Media, the Arts, and Tech Ed programs. Having a consortium of districts facilitates interdistrict cooperation, allows for smaller class sizes, and a greater diversity of students and talents.

Celebrate creativity in schools, and you instill passion, curiosity, pursuit, and purpose. You capture those teachable moments, a time to enrich the classroom experience and opportunities. When you value time on art, music, theatre, student government, field trips, and athletics, it connects the community to the schools. Student participation in these meaningful activities develops skills like communication, cooperation, time management, organization, problem solving, and leadership.

Establish more pre-school programs. These programs give young children more experiences in language development, play, and school readiness. Use state funds for community parenting education programs that foster strong family relationships, school support, and parent networking.

And it’s time to use our retired teachers. They are a proven asset. Many are available to render services in schools even on a part-time basis. They are well-suited to a variety of public school needs and activities in the total education of our students.

We can have education that excels, helps close the achievement gap, and moves children forward. Instead of treating high-stakes reading and math tests as a one-size fits all single measurement of success, how about celebrating excellence in education for educational growth and opportunity. It is time to stop hiding behind the screen of Common Core and adopt smart solutions for Connecticut schools.

Jean Jaykus taught for the Ridgefield Public Schools for 36 years in grades 3-6. She was Ridgefield’s Teacher of the Year, and won a Connecticut Celebration of Excellence Award for her curriculum project in Science and Technology. AnneMarie Surfaro-Boehme taught in the Ridgefield Public Schools for 34 years. Her teaching career includes the Early Childhood levels kindergarten, first, and second grades. She was Ridgefield’s Teacher of the Year, and won a Connecticut Celebration of Excellence Award, for her curriculum project in “The Arts: Creative and Performing.”

Teachers Matter


True, teachers don’t matter to the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the people who are pushing the Common Core and the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Testing Scheme.

And teachers don’t seem to matter to people like Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who is not only an adherent to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing fiasco but remains the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose eliminating tenure for all public school teachers and rescinding collective bargaining rights for teachers working in the state’s poorest school districts. [Although it is valuable to note that New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly a top contender for being the most anti-teacher governor in the country.]

But people out here in the real world know that teachers matter.

Teachers matter a lot…

We all remember teachers that mattered to us when we were young, and for those of us with children, we treasure and appreciate the teachers that matter and have made a difference in our own children’s lives.

Teachers matter when they make international headlines, like the incredible individuals who gave their lives trying to protect their students over in Newtown, Connecticut.

But the amazing thing about teachers is that they matter when their deeds are deemed truly heroic and they matter when they are simply “doing their jobs.”

Sadly, disturbingly, shockingly, the United States is witnessing the greatest assault on public education in our lifetimes. Greed, stupidity, ignorance, and even more greed are behind the historic effort to denigrate teachers, turn our schools into little more than Common Core Testing factories, and destroy the concept of a true and comprehensive public education system.

In the name of preparing children to be “college and career” ready the forces behind the corporate education reform industry are undermining the very essence of the teaching profession and public education in the United States.

And the root of their ignorance (or stupidity) is their failure to truly understand that teachers matter.

As the founder, along with leading public education advocate Diane Ravitch, of what is called the Education Bloggers Network, I’ve had the tremendous honor of working with, getting to know and regularly reading the writing of more than 230 education bloggers who are collectively and individually fighting for public education and against the destructive tactics of the so-called “education reformers.”

Many of these bloggers and commentators have used their voices to help remind their readers that teachers matter.

One such article was posted earlier this week by an educator and teacher from Washington State who goes by the name of Teacher Tom.  And while he was simply telling about a moment in his day, this post, like many that Teacher Tom writes, served as a an extraordinary reminder that teachers matter…

Please take a moment and read Teacher Tom’s blog post entitled, You Want Mommy To Come Back.”  I am confident that it will remind you, like it reminded me, that teachers matter.

Sometimes mommy has to leave and you don’t want her to leave.

When I started teaching, I was a distractor. In fact, I considered myself a master distractor. I had every confidence that I could calm any kid down in less than five minutes through a combination of goofing, enthusiasm, and “Look what those kids are doing over there!” Today, I’m more inclined to simply sit with a crying child, to listen to any words they might be trying to say, to show warmth and empathy, to assure them that mommy always comes back, and to allow them the full arc of their strong emotion. Most kids still stop crying in less than five minutes, but that’s no longer the goal now that my priority is their feelings rather than my discomfort with their feelings.

So when mommy left last Friday, when he reached out to mommy as she walked away, when he screamed and cried and pulled himself from my arms, when he dropped to the floor to kick his feet in outrage, I sat there with him, blocking out the whole world but him.

I could hear he was saying words as he screamed, but they weren’t at first discernible, so I said, “You’re mad that mommy left,” and “You’re sad that mommy left.” No one can truly tell another how they feel, but I was pretty sure I was close to the mark in this case. He was still saying the words through his tears, repeating them. Finally, I thought I made out, “I want mommy to come back.”

I wanted him to know that he had been heard, that I understood and empathized, and I wanted it to be something that was true, so I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

He shout-cried at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

I nodded. I worked on keeping my voice gentle. I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

And he said back, “I want mommy to come back!”

We went back and forth like this several times. He seemed to really wanted me to know that he wanted his mommy to come back.

Other children tried to sooth him: one girl brought him a costume, another tried to hand him a construction paper fire truck. He didn’t accept their overtures, although he was by now present enough to shake his head “no” at them rather than simply scream as he was doing at me.

By now he was very clearly saying, “I want mommy to come back!” And I was replying, “I want your mommy to come back too,” to which he always shout-cried back, “I want mommy to come back!”

I continued to attempt to put a name to his feelings, using words like “mad,” “sad,” and “angry,” as well as to state the truth that “mommy always comes back.” But whenever I said, “I want your mommy to come back too,” he shouted at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

Then, finally, I really heard him. He said, “I want mommy to come back!” stressing the pronoun for his tin-eared teacher.

This time I answered, “You want mommy to come back.”

He nodded as if to say, “Finally,” and in one motion picked himself from the floor, stepped up to the art table, still crying, and got to work gluing construction paper shapes to a red fire truck pre-cut, his hands not fully under his own control. As he wadded and creased the paper, it looked almost as if he were wrestling with it, his fingers clenching and curling from the emotion that was still coursing through his whole body.

After a couple minutes, he became silent as he concentrated on manipulating the small pieces of paper, the last of his strong emotion going into this construction project.

I said one more time, “You want mommy to come back.” This time he ignored me.

You can read more of Teacher Tom’s posts at http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/

And you can find out more about the Education Bloggers Network on our emerging website at: http://edubloggers.org/

And remember, no matter how much the anti-public education forces deny it, teachers matter.

Education School Deans in CT make national headlines with powerful commentary piece


Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate, whose blog gets as many as 800,000 hits a month has highlighted the courageous stand taken by a number of college and university deans at schools of education in Connecticut.

The anti-testing, pro-teacher position these college deans are taking is especially important in light of the fact that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has been engaged in an effort to force the University of Connecticut to turn its School of Education over to the Corporate Education Reform Industry.  The Malloy administration’s State Department of Education has also been working to undermine some of the schools of education in the Connecticut State University System, especially targeting the program at Southern Connecticut State University.

In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece, education deans from Connecticut’s independent colleges and universities step forward on behalf of teachers, the teaching profession, teacher preparation and public education in Connecticut.

Covering the news, Diane Ravitch posted a story entitled, “Connecticut: Ed School Deans Call for Common Sense and an End to Teacher-Bashing,”

Diane Ravitch writes;

Kevin G. Basmadjian, Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, wrote a powerful article in the Hartford Courant in collaboration with other deans from across the state.

Connecticut’s students are among the highest on the NAEP, yet its policymakers insist that its schools and teachers are unsuccessful. The politicians want more charter schools and Teach for America.

He writes:

“As a nation and a state, we have clearly failed to address the inequalities that disproportionally impact many urban school districts where kids are poor and segregated. Sadly, for the first time in 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students now come from low-income families. But instead of addressing this crisis, we have demonized teachers for failing to solve problems our government cannot, or will not, solve. Poverty, homelessness and the dangerously high levels of emotional and psychological stress experienced by low-income students — these are the problems many of our nation’s public school teachers face every day.

“Our nation’s obsession with standardized test scores will not solve these problems, and they put our country at great risk intellectually as well as economically. As educational researcher Yong Zhao writes, countries with which we are often compared — such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea — are moving away from a focus on testing in their public schools. Why? Because they have learned from the history of the United States that a great education and nation is one that rewards creativity, originality, imagination and innovation….

“The most recent scapegoat for our nation’s shameful achievement gap is teacher preparation programs, for failing to produce a steady stream of what the U.S. Department of Education abstractly calls “great teachers” to work in our neediest public schools. By blaming teacher preparation programs, the department can yet again divert public attention from the most crucial barrier to achieving educational equality: poverty.

There is a need for more “great teachers” who will commit themselves to our state’s neediest public schools. But achieving this goal will take more than naive slogans or punitive measures levied against teacher preparation programs that do not successfully persuade graduates to teach in these schools. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher preparation — with its emphasis on standardized test scores — work against this goal because of the overly technical, anti-intellectual portrait of teaching they endorse. We in Connecticut need to make these jobs more attractive to prospective teachers through increased respect, support and autonomy rather than criticism, disdain and surveillance.”

The entire commentary piece authored by the deans can be found here: Stop Blaming Teachers And Relying On Tests.

The authors of the powerful piece are Kevin G. Basmadjian, the dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University. Also participating in writing this piece were: James Carl, dean of the Isabelle Farrington College of Education at Sacred Heart University; Allen P. Cook, dean of the School of Education at the University of Bridgeport; Sandy Grande, chair of the Education Department at Connecticut College; Robert D. Hannafin, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University; Ann Monroe-Baillargeon, dean of the School of Education at the University of Saint Joseph; Nancy S. Niemi, chair and professor in the Education Department at the University of New Haven; and Joan E. Venditto, director of education programs at Albertus Magnus College.

CT Teacher Martin Walsh Slams Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme


Martin Walsh is a Connecticut teacher and public education advocate.  He is also challenging the incumbent CEA President Sheila Cohen in this spring’s election for CEA Officers.

In a commentary piece posted at CTMirror today entitled, “SBAC test is part of corporate plan to discredit Connecticut public schools,” Martin Walsh makes one of the strongest statements by any educator about the failing of the Common Core SBAC Test.

If you are going to read one piece about the discriminatory, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Testing Scam, this is the piece to read.  Read it then then pass it on to every parents, teacher and citizens you know.  Now is the time to opt out children out of the Common Core SBAC Testing disaster

SBAC test is part of corporate plan to discredit Connecticut public schools (By Marin Walsh)

Our founders recognized that the fundamental purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. The Declaration of Independence reads in pertinent part “…A]ll men are created equal… they are endowed…with certain unalienable rights…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

How, then, does the State of Connecticut justify the obstacles and roadblocks it has erected to prevent parents from exercising the right to opt their children out of corporate-backed standardized testing?

Easy. It doesn’t. It puts them in place and arrogantly dares anyone to defy them. And it doesn’t expect many parents to challenge the test anyway.

Why aren’t more parents alarmed by these for-profit corporate-sponsored tests? Largely because they trust their public schools and local elected officials to notify them of threats to their children’s welfare.

Sadly, most superintendents, boards of education and even the teachers’ unions are letting parents and schoolchildren down by not informing them of the pernicious nature of the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test.

For example, most parents don’t realize that the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was amended to allow the corporations behind SBAC to use the test for data mining. Children’s data is no longer protected by federal law.

Additionally, the cut scores which determine passing rates have been arbitrarily set to ensure that about 60 percent of those taking the language arts test will fail and the failure rate for the math portion will be about 70 percent.

Not content with labeling schools and teachers as failures in order to advance its agenda, the corporate reform movement (actively abetted by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Board of Education) callously plans to attach the label to children.

Mastery test results should be used to measure progress and show teachers where support is needed to promote student success, not to brand children as failures.

In New York, and other states, test results have caused outrage after the fact and resulted in strong coalitions of parents and teachers opposed to toxic testing. Superintendents, administrators and teacher unions know this. Why are they silent? Why are so many of them willing tools in the state’s plan to thwart the right of parents to opt out? They should be challenged on that point until a satisfactory answer is provided.

The real purpose of the SBAC test is to buttress the corporate mantra of “failed public schools” in order to advance their case for the privatization of education. Rupert Murdoch put it bluntly in 2010 when he said “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone…”

That figure comes in part from test support materials, software and new textbooks aligned with the Common Core, but much of it will come from the expansion of charter schools.

Today, Connecticut is dumping $100 million dollars of taxpayer money into charter schools every year with little to no oversight and the governor’s proposed budget contains funding for an additional four. At the same time, magnet schools have gone unfunded and the state is doing everything in its power to dismiss or delay the CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs. Rell case which would require the state to honor its obligation to adequately fund public schools, an obligation which it has never met.

The SBAC is one aspect of a larger scheme which, at its core, is about corporate greed, not the welfare of children. I urge parents to investigate this issue for themselves and to opt their children out of the SBAC if they have concerns. A sample opt-out letter can be downloaded from this website: Walshminnick2015.org.

Martin Walsh, a teacher in Glastonbury and resident of Wethersfield, is a candidate for president of the Connecticut Education Association.

New State Reading Test for Teachers vs. Steve Perry and the Testourkids.com Reading Centers


According to the Corporate Education Reform Industry, the way to improve educational outcomes in the United States is to dramatically increase the amount of testing for students and teachers.

As proof, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform legislation of 2012, Connecticut teacher in Grades K, 1, 2, and 3 will be required to take the Foundations of Reading Test this year and biennially going forward.  The new test is produced by the standardized testing conglomerate Pearson Education Incorporated.

Teachers who have already passed the Foundations of Reading test for certification eligibility are only exempt from completing the “survey” on reading instruction this year.  They will be required to take it next time.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, “The results of the survey shall identify strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction based on the reading objectives surveyed, and will provide disaggregate and aggregate data at the individual educator, school and district level. The results shall be used to develop student learning objectives (SLOs) and teacher practice goals and will inform professional learning…”

And Connecticut teachers – you need to note – that despite what teachers were told by their union, the Foundation of Reading Tests results WILL NOT BE confidential although they are exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

By comparison, one need only go to Steve Perry’s corporate website to see how the corporate education reformers deal with pesky things like determining the “strengths and weaknesses in knowledge of reading instruction.”

Steve Perry, who now calls himself, “one of the greatest influential figures in education today,” is very busy these days.

Not only is Perry a full-time employee of the Hartford Board of Education where he holds the position of principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, but he is preparing to open two new charter schools (Bridgeport and Harlem) and is crisscrossing the nation on the “Steve Perry Education Truth Tour.”   Apparently Perry’s mantra on his Education Truth Tour is that, “Teaching is the Greatest Act of Defiance.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to http://www.drsteveperry.org/ you’ll discover an announcement that you have the opportunity to open up your own “Reading Center” via www.testourkids.com.  The announcement even states, “We Finance All Individuals & Organizations.”

And better yet, by heading over to www.TestOurKids.com will reveal the news that you don’t even need to be a teacher to own your own reading center.

Filled with pictures and videos of Steve Perry, the TestOurKids.com website, which is registered to Perry’s publicist, proclaims that the business is dedicated to opening reading centers across the nation!

In fact, for only $25 per month per child and a one-time startup fee of $99.99 you can open up a reading center and you don’t even need to be a teacher!

Not only does TestOurKids.com provide ONLINE READING LESSONS, but ”Hundreds Of Fun – interactive animated leveled books,” a “Diagnostic Online Reading – Assessment,” PLUS, “A Proven Content – a safe environment of your home or office, For Each Student – Comprehensive, supplemental reading instruction, Fun Digital Learning Environment – makes connections possible.”

You can even – Schedule An Online Assessment

If the incredible opportunity via their website isn’t enough to persuade you, check out their Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/TestOurKids1

Scroll down for posts like;

  • Let’s call our public schools what they really are – ‘government’ schools’ 
  • Who’s side are the teacher’s union on, anyway? 
  • Where is the outrage for our children? Black children are being robbed @TestOurKids wants to help; Open Your Own Reading Center —> 
  • Invite Dr. Steve Perry to your area CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Steve Perry can come to your location/church or school CALL 860.997.6802 
  • Enough is Enough; Teach Our Black Children how to Read! Visit testourkids.com 
  • Steve Perry in Buffalo NY talking about education reform for our children! 
  • And a special post at the same time, attacking Buffalo teachers, and observing, “Do people deserve a raise when they’re not doing the job right? Buffalo Kids reading proficiency only 13%… When will it be about the Kids First!” 
  • Education is a BIG WORD…Let’s start FIRST by teaching our kids how to read, getting their education will follow! @TestOurKidscom can help with this first step! 
  • When you have a system that doesn’t focus on learning how to read at an early age then our children will never get a full education! @TestOurKidscom reading centers can help

And while Steve Perry’s face is plastered across all the marketing materials, Perry’s publicist explains that he is actually the leading force behind the effort.

Yusuf Salaam explains that he is,

“Currently a successful and highly sought after publicist representing 5 of the top Educators in the country, I recently closed negotiation deals with my client Dr. Steve Perry and Bishop TD Jakes to promote furthering education in our minority areas. Have coordinated visits to the White House personally from First Lady Michelle Obama to have my client Dr. Marco Clark come celebrate his educational success and student achievement.”

Salaam adds that he,

“[M]anages brand awareness and promotion for an innovative online company TestOurKids.com, which operates as an online reading assessment software and reading lessons for children K-12th grade and assists organizations plus schools open and operate their own reading learning centers all over the US. After reaching a monumentally 300,000 evaluations reading assessments, we expanded our ambitions further and started assisting individuals also build their dreams in helping children in their communities. My management teams has opened facilities in 8 major cities and in conjunction with professionals has begun the process of teaching our children how to READ! “

And to fully appreciate the level of success these private reading centers are having, one need only look as far as Middletown Connecticut where both the Middletown Press and the Middletown Patch reported on testourkids.com early last summer.

For example, in an article entitled, Helping Middletown’s Littlest Readers Achieve, the Middletown Patch reported that, “The students’ reading scores have improved dramatically after participating in the six-month program.”

According to the Patch,

Last year, the Middlesex County Branch of the NAACP and the President Rosa Browne identified an epidemic within the town’s public school literacy scores.

More than half of the Hispanic and African American fourth-graders were reading below the goal level, and the scores only worsened as children got older. With cooperation from Superintendent Dr. Patricia Charles, a group of low performing children in grades Kindergarten through third were taken from MacDonough and Bielefield Middletown Public Schools and were provided an effective pilot program to help eradicate this problem.


Children were bused to Brain Wiz Reading Center, operated by Yusuf Salaam, a nationally recognized publicist to some of the top educators in the country, in order to increase their reading abilities at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The program is powered by TestOurKids.com, a computerized system that evaluates children’s reading skills, and it is utilized throughout the country, primarily for reading centers and schools that require the extra help

The children 5- to 8-years-old were tested prior to the start of the program and then retested on their last day and the results were overwhelming. All children who completed the course improved sufficiently, and some scored 2 to 3 grade levels higher in their overall reading. These gains were achieved in spite of extreme winter conditions and multiple holiday vacations from December to May. The program ran for an hour-and-a-half each day, Tuesday through Thursday.

 So teachers of Connecticut…

Rather than waste your time taking the Pearson Foundation of Learning Test this year, just follow Steve Perry’s website to the opportunity of opening your own reading center…. no certification or testing needed and apparently some local school districts will even bus their little ones to your location every day….

A Letter from a Teacher: What We Should Do Instead (Guest Post by Dr. Jeannette Faber)


This guest post is from Connecticut Educator Jeannette Farber;

 2015 is upon us. Instead of staying on the road known as “education reform,” I have 12 resolutions – one for each month of 2015.

Two words: Investment and Innovation

But first… The myth of “our public schools are failing.” We erroneously base a school’s success on standardized test scores. We are duped into thinking public schools are failing based on an international test known as the PISA test.  In the five decades of our students taking this test, we have never done well.  Yet, our nation continues to drive innovation and our nation has the world’s best universities. We are compared to countries with a 3 % poverty rate, Finland. We are compared to countries that do not educate or test everyone.  Meanwhile, in the US, we educated everyone and test everyone.  If test scores are the basis of success (again, an erroneous measure), we currently have the highest test scores in our history.  We also have our highest graduation rates – 80% in four years and 90% for those who take more than four years or who earn a GED.

There are many myths: They are perpetuated by the corporate media and those profiting from privatizing public education.

Any lack of progress in school improvement is due to the lack of teacher empowerment and to equity in funding.  We need to invert the power dynamic and create schools that work from the classroom out, not the federal, state, central office, and/or principal “down.”  We need to focus on schools where there is intense poverty. These are not “failing schools”: they are schools that are being failed by society.

“Education reform” as we know it, began in 1983; since then, teachers have had to respond to initiatives that come and go whenever there is a change from “above.” Unfortunately, many folks driving policy and influence – like Arne Duncan, the Waltons, Bill Gates – have never been educators.  Current drivers of education “reform” are “corporation education reformers.” Corporations profit from public schools by selling “solutions” that are anything but solutions. They brought narrow, not rigorous, standards, The Common Core, written by testing companies.  What follows the Common Core? Canned assessments, scripted lessons, and an increasing onslaught of standardized testing – all purchased with taxpayer money.

And worse, this replaces the joy of life-long learning with the dread of a one-size-fits-all regime. It is not real learning. It is soul crushing.

So, instead of staying on this doomed road of corporate education reform, what should we do instead?

The 12 resolutions I offer are framed by two concepts: innovation and investment

To start, by innovation, I mean this: We do need to transform public education as we still largely work on a century-old model – the factory model.  We do need to make education more innovative, creative, student centered, and constructivist – all focusing on critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration.  The current road of “corporate education reform” will not take us there. In fact, it will take us in the opposite direction.

By investment, I mean this: Equity in funding and resources.  When public education became compulsory a century ago, education leaders vowed to make public education the great equalizer. We have failed at that for a century. Usually, wealthier students receive more funding; poor students, less. That is a betrayal of our democratic values.


  1. Innovate, invert, the power dynamic: Starting from the “bottom” (See how we are conditioned to think?), educators need to take back our classrooms and schools for the sake of real learning and for our students.
  1. Innovate the purpose of “unions.” We can re-envision our teachers’ unions as true educational associations. Teachers need a credible way to ensure a seat at the head of the table.  Education associations need to shift the paradigm from being narrowly focused wages, benefits, working conditions to transforming our organizations to lead the profession. We are the experts. 
  1. Innovate the federal and state roles in education. Departments of Education (state and federal) should not be controlled of an administration. Administrations like to change the pieces, and even the game board, every 4 or 8 years. Rather, DoEs should be independent educational institutions that reports to an administration.  Institution leaders should be actual educators. Every time we get a new principal, a new superintendent, a new governor, a new president, schools have to change direction.  There is never continual focus on addressing the real problems.  And, teachers have no voice in these “initiatives” or “reforms.”
  1. Innovate by creating the education institution just mentioned – a national organization that has state and local organizations – education associations!  Teachers need professional development in the latest research and best practices. This national education institute and its state and local associations can provide professional leadership through affiliations with researchers and practioners in education, K – 12 or university experts. This would create ongoing, meaningful, and lasting transformation.
  1. Innovate how schools improve. Schools can work with these education organizations to create a vision and action plan for individual schools. Schools cannot fit into a one-size-fits-all reform.  Instead, this model would be akin to how accreditation organizations work but more for the purpose of helping schools/teachers continually work on school-improvement that works from the classroom/school out.
  1. Innovate how schools and teachers help other schools and teachers transform themselves. Each school could have a profile describing it – its strengths and challenges – so it can be part of a consortium of other like schools, all working together to affect meaningful change – all teacher/administration/expert led, of course.
  1. Invest in universal pre-school education in all 50 states. Have additional programs for children living in severe poverty that engages the parent/s and child from birth until s/he enters preschool.  Such programs can offer parenting classes and stress the importance of reading to a child.  This can help close the gap before children enter school.
  1. Invest in wrap-around serves in all school districts with a high percentage of poverty. School districts can work with outside organizations and non-profits to supply families with wrap-around services: continuing education for parents, mental health services, rehab programs, heath care, conflict mediation, character education, after-school programs, tutoring, etc.
  1. Invest in teachers. In order to have a real and lasting effect, teachers need meaningful professional development, time to collaborate, and reasonable students loads. Currently, 46.2% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. That statistic, obviously, tells us we do not treat teaching as the profession it is.
  1. Invest in collaboration. We need to invest in schedules that allow schools to be learning communities not just for students but also for teachers: these are inter-related. Teachers learn to be better teachers through continual reflection, collaboration, implementation, and innovation.
  1. Invest in lead teachers. Public education has become an incalcatrant bureaucracy. Approximately 51% of K-12 employees are classroom teachers. The remaining 49% is administration and support staff.  We need to distinguish between administrators who have a managerial role (scheduling, policy, etc.) and administrators who are educational leaders (experts in curriculum, instruction, and assessment). I’ll call these folks Lead Teachers.  We could trim the bureaucracy if we empowered teachers, unleashing their expertise in order to lead schools in a continual growth model. And, let’s narrow the wide gap between teachers’ and administrators’ salaries.
  1. Invest a rich curriculum. Since NCLB and RttT, curricula have become very narrowly focused on math and reading – both vital components to education.  However, students deserve a rich curriculum.  Art, music, history, world languages, electives, etc. And young children need play time.  We need to bring our curriculum into the 21st century: more interdisciplinary and focused problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.

The future of public education is truly at risk. We must resolve to transform our public schools by entrusting the experts, American educators, to lead the way. 

Jeannette Faber has been teaching high school English in CT for 19 years. She holds three advanced degrees, the most recent a doctorate in English Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College.  Dr. Faber resides in New Haven, CT. © Jeannette C. Faber 2014


A final 2014 campaign shout-out to Connecticut teachers and their supporters


First and foremost, I want to thank the thousands of teachers, parents and public school advocates who have taken the time to read Wait, What? over the past few years.

Your camaraderie and participation in this endeavor has been a primary reason I stuck with the task of trying to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out on behalf of our public education system.

The last three years have been truly extraordinary as we have watched the corporate education reform industry set its money and political muscle on working to undermine Connecticut’s teachers, parents, students and public schools.

As we know all too well, driven by his devotion to the corporate education industry, in February 2012, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose eliminating tenure for all public school teachers in Connecticut and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.

No other Democratic governor in the country proposed such an anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education initiative.

With Election Day finally upon us, one of the greatest mysteries of our time is why Malloy has been completely and totally unwilling or unable to apologize for his inappropriate, unfair and outrageous attack on Connecticut’s educators.

Over the last few months, Malloy’s supporters have tried every excuse under the Sun to explain away Malloy’s outrageous behavior…but Malloy himself has refused to step up and publicly admit or correct his statements and actions.

In fact, when Malloy tried to clarify his position this fall he actually managed to make it worse.

Asked about his statement that teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy explained,

“I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure…”

Wait, What?  the problem is really tenure?

Fair due process for teachers is the problem??

Considering Malloy’s policies, it is fair to say that one of the more bizarre moments of the 2014 campaign was when the New Haven Register reported that, “Randi Weingarten, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers, told an enthusiastic group of union members Tuesday that the only way to stop the reach of the conservative Koch brothers and the new restrictions on labor is to re-elect Dannel P. Malloy as governor of Connecticut, and not vote for her friend Jonathan Pelto.

Strange considering Malloy’s anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal was right out of the Koch Brother’s anti-teacher, anti-public education playbook.

Not far behind the AFT leadership’s approach was that of the leadership of  the Connecticut Education Association who endorsed Malloy claiming that Malloy was the “First governor in Connecticut’s history to annually fully fund teacher pensions during his term in office and guarantee full funding in the future.”

However, as we know, Malloy had absolutely no role in ensuring that the Connecticut Teacher Retirement Pension Fund is being fully funded.  The credit for that goes to Governor Rell and the members of the 2007 Connecticut General Assembly who guaranteed that the teacher pension fund would be given the proper funds for 25 years starting in 2008.

But the most remarkable development is not that the AFT and CEA would endorse Malloy but that Malloy would make no meaningful effort to pivot back and address the concerns being voiced by Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates.

As if to prove his unwillingness to listen to Connecticut’s public school proponents, Malloy has told two newspaper editorial boards, in recent weeks, that he intends to “stay the course” on his corporate education reform agenda.

And last week, when asked if there was anything he would have done different over the past four years, if he was given the chance, he said there was nothing he would have done differently.

Nothing he would have done differently?

Nothing he would have changed over the last four years?

Putting aside his decision to skip the perfect opportunity to set the record straight on his attitude toward Connecticut teachers, what kind of person says that – given the chance – there is  absolutely nothing he would have done differently over a period of four years?

I understand that there are plenty of reasons for someone to cast their vote for Malloy or Foley tomorrow, but as a proud graduate of Connecticut’s public schools and now being a public school parent, I will not support any candidate who so callously denigrates and belittles the people who devote their lives to providing our children with the knowledge and skills they will need to deal with our increasingly complex and difficult world.

Malloy’s approach has not only been an embarrassment but it is a sad commentary on how far some of our Democratic officials have strayed from the most fundamental principles and values of our society.

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