Diane Ravitch: Why all parents should opt their kids out of high-stakes standardized tests

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post writes;

The Network for Public Education, a nonprofit education advocacy group co-founded by historian Diane Ravitch, is calling for a national “opt out” of high-stakes standardized testing, urging parents across the country to refuse to allow their children to participate in this spring’s testing.

In a video released on the network’s website, Ravitch says families should opt out of state-mandated high-stakes testing in part because the scores provide “no useful information” about the abilities of individual students and are unfairly used to evaluate educators. She also notes that testing and test prep take up valuable class time that could be better put to use providing students with a full curriculum, including the arts.

Opt-Out Video by Diane Ravitch

You can also view the video via this following link: https://vimeo.com/161182196

“Opt out is the only way you have to tell policymakers that they’re heading in the wrong direction,” Ravitch says in the video, aimed at parents.

Ravitch has been the titular leader of the movement against corporate school reform since the publication of her 2010 book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” which explains why she had abandoned her support for No Child Left Behind and test-based school reform. From 1991 to 1993, she worked as assistant secretary in charge of research and improvement in the Education Department of President George H.W. Bush and served as counsel to then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander. She was a supporter of No Child Left Behind, the chief education initiative of President George W. Bush, until she researched its effects on schools and students and concluded that it led to a narrowing of curriculum, an obsession with test prep and demoralized teachers.

What has become known as the “opt out” movement has been growing in various states for a few years, sparked by standardized test-based school reform that began under the administration of the younger Bush and gained steam under President Obama. A growing number of parents are refusing to allow their children to take tests that they believe — and that assessment experts say — are being used in an improper manner to evaluate students and teachers.

Last year, the opt-out movement was strongest in New York state, where about 20 percent of students refused to take the state’s “accountability” test, but tens of thousands of students in other states did the same thing. In fact, the U.S. Education Department issued more than a dozen letters to states where opt-outs were reported, warning them of possible sanctions if at least 95 percent of all students are not tested. The 95 percent threshold is set in federal K-12 education law, first in No Child Left Behind and then in its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In New York, officials reacted to the opt-out movement by making the mandated tests shorter, removing time limits and temporarily saying that the scores won’t be used to evaluate teachers for years. Betty Rosa, the newly elected chancellor of Board of Regents, the state’s education policy-making body, said that if she had children who were of an age to take the state-mandated Common Core tests, she would keep them home on testing day.

The Network for Public Education is a coalition of dozens of groups that advocate for public education. It recently issued a state report card that evaluated states on criteria seen as promoting a professional teaching force, equitable and sufficient funding, and equal opportunities for all students to succeed.

The nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, which fights the misuse of government-mandated standardized tests, says on its website that the average student takes 112 tests between kindergarten and 12th grade and that the assessments “are frequently used in ways that do not reflect the abilities of students of color, English language learners, children with disabilities, and low-income youth.”

Indeed, Yohuru Williams, Fairfield University professor and a board member of the Network for Public Education, has argued that annual high-stakes testing feeds racial determinism. He said in a statement:

“Choosing to opt out is one way of fighting back against the tide of corporate education reform with its emphasis on high-stakes testing, which has had a traumatizing effect on young people. We have a moral responsibility to demand that the government attack the real source of inequality in American society, which is poverty, rather than promoting schemes that discourage rather than encourage social justice.”

Both FairTest and the United Opt Out National, a grass-roots organization affiliated with the network, have information on their websites about opting out. FairTest says that despite threats from policymakers, it knows of no school or district that has been sanctioned for testing opt-outs.

Poetic Justice writes “Be Careful Brethren” – A Message About Education from Martin Luther King Jr.

Poetic Justice is the blog of a Connecticut educator, poet and fellow education advocate and blogger.  In honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday, she provides us with King’s words – “The Purpose of Education,” – written when the truth-teller was 18 years old and a student at Morehouse College.

King wrote;

As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.

The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers!

Poetic Justice adds

“Be Careful Brethren – these words are truer today than they were in 1948.”

Also take the time to watch the following Youtube video of children reading Dr. King’s words

Video can be found here:

Jesse “The Walking Man” Turner is a hero and deserves our help

Jesse “The Walking Man Turner” is walking from Connecticut to Washington DC this summer to protest the education malpractice that is demoralizing parents, teachers, and turning our children into human capital.

Jesse is successfully raising awareness and support for students, teachers and our nation’s public schools.

He is walking to Washington DC to tell our nation’s “leaders” that it is time to put “public” back into the debate about our public schools.

The Corporate Education Reform Industry has then corporate executives and hundreds of millions of dollars “influence” the political and policy making system by “investing” in electing candidates who will do their bidding.

We have Jesse Turner and tens of thousands of other public school advocates, activists and supporters.

Calling Connecticut home, Jesse Turner is a professor of literacy at Central Connecticut State University with a Ph.D. in Language, Reading, and Culture.  He know what is going on in our public school classrooms, knows the challenges children and teachers face and he is continually using his talent, time and energy to make a difference.

As he notes on is web page he walks because Moses walked, because the Cherokee walked, because the Navajo walked, because Martin Luther King Jr. walked, and because Cesar Chavez walked.

Jesse Turners says that walking may just be the most potent weapon human beings have against oppression.

And he walks because childhood matters, because children come first and we have to tell our nation’s leaders that our children, their teachers and local public schools are more than test scores.

Please take a moment to read up about Jesse and his walk to Washington and help this important cause by making a contribution, not matter how large or small.

Go to:   http://www.gofundme.com/JesseWalkingToDC

With deep and profound gratitude I say thank you…

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

To my friends and family, to those who have taken the time to read my blog and participate in the discussion of the important issues of our time, to those who signed my petition for governor and supported me with their time and money, to those who provided a kind word or a smile…I am truly grateful.

The list is a long one; I hold it in my heart and read it daily.

All of you, as individuals and collectively have kindled my belief that we can create the flame that is needed to light the way forward.

I thank you and wish you a happy, safe and healthy thanksgiving.

May good things be yours today and every day!

Happy thanksgiving 2014

Jonathan Pelto

More testing, less learning

So many comments on Wait, What? posts deserve to be their own post.

In fact, more often than not, the most interesting information and observations can be found in the comment section.

Here a reader confronts the mindlessness of the decision that, in the name of ensuring that students are college ready, the Malloy administration is forcing high school juniors to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test rather than actually spend their time on the college application process.

The reader writes,

Preparing students to be college and career ready through the elimination of instructional time that teachers use to prepare students for college required standardized testing (SAT, ACT) is puzzling, but the taking of instructional time so students can take state mandated standardized tests that claim to measure preparedness for college and career is an exercise in circular logic.

Junior students are experiencing an educational Catch 22, they are practicing for a test they will never take, a field test that does not count.

More madness.

In the past, Connecticut has been called “The Land of Steady Habits,” “The Constitution State,” “The Nutmeg State.” With SBAC, we could claim that we are now a “A State of Madness,” except for the 23 other states that might want the same moniker. Maybe we should compete for the title?




Education Reformers pour $6 million plus into lobbying Malloy’s education initiatives

According to the latest reports filed with the Office of State Ethics, corporate funded education reform organizations and charter schools have “invested” at least $6 million on lobbying expenses related to Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives.

Here is an updated  chart of education reform groups and their expenditures on lobbying in Connecticut since Malloy became governor:

Organization Lobbying Expenses


A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN) $2,301,340
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee) $890,600
ConnCAN/ConnAD $1,467,630
CT Council for Education Reform $129,560
Students for Education Reform $15,700
CT Assoc. of Boards of Ed (CABE) $15,132
CT Assoc. of Public School Superintendents $95,997
Achievement First $267,504
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA) $795,995*
CT Assoc. of Schools $10,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network $23,630



$6 Million plan growing


Excel Bridgeport/Teach for America Did Not File Expenses as Required

Copy of court decision ousting Paul Vallas as Bridgeport Superintendent

Let’s try it this way.

This link should access the court decision written by Connecticut Judge Bellis ousting Paul Vallas as Bridgeport Superintendent based on the fact that he lacks the qualifications to work as a superintendent in the state of Connecticut and that Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, violated Connecticut law by waiving Vallas’ need to be certified.





Listen to this audio clip from storycorps and these other videos

Listen to this audio clip from Storycorps.

It is one minute and 35 seconds, but it says more than most people say in years, decades or even in a lifetime.

If it doesn’t give you goosebumps, if it doesn’t make you believe we can and must do more to take back our nation and our world from the forces that seek to tear us down and belittle our spirit, then you aren’t listening very well.



Here is a video of a portion of that extraordinary moment in American history:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oehry1JC9Rk

And here is a 10 minutes documentary that every citizen of this world should watch –

I Am A Man: Dr. King & the Memphis Sanitation Strike https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBDgH435oaU



Florida’s Standardized Testing Disaster – “Education Reform” At Its Worst

Like the car accident that you can’t take your eyes off of, the incredible standardized test debacle that is playing itself out in Florida is a stunning lesson about how out of control the “education reformers” have become.

Their mantra there, as it is here in Connecticut, is that standardized testing is the only way to force teachers to teach and children to learn.  Most importantly, they claim, the standardized tests are needed in order to evaluate which teachers to keep and which to remove.

As many now know, the Florida Department of Education recently released the test scores on their FCAT 2.0 standardized tests.  The percentage of Florida students who scored “at goal” had dropped from 81 percent to 27 percent.  Within twenty-four hours, Florida’s Board had met, reduced the number needed to reach goal and announced that, in fact, 4 out of 5 students did reach goal.

So much for the $254 million contract to develop and administer Florida’s testing program.

As we saw over the last five months, here in Connecticut Governor Malloy and the “education reformers” are demanding the creation of even more standardized tests.

Malloy’s original bill proposed a whole new round of testing in 11th grade and the bill that did pass will institute new testing in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

And still these reformers want more.

Like all students in Connecticut, Bridgeport’s students completed the statewide mastery tests in March.  But then, despite facing a budget shortfall and laying off dozens of teachers, School Superintendent Paul “education reformer extraordinaire” Vallas,  announced that he was instituting yet another full round of standardized tests in June because he believes that more testing is the only way to prevent teachers from allowing a “lull” in learning to take place in their classrooms.  As to the cost of this extra round of testing, Vallas says he got a very good deal.

An editorial commentary piece published this week in the Orlando Sentinel called up state officials to “”stop this madness.”

The commentator wrote;

“Of course, whether or not students learn should be part of a teacher’s and administrator’s evaluation, but when you have high stakes for students, teachers and administrators and little or no accountability for the $254 million contract lawmakers have given to the testing company, something is wrong.

Let us hold lawmakers and the testing company accountable, and let teachers teach and students learn. We must end high-stakes testing, and instead develop a system based on multiple forms of measurement that is fair for all.

Countries that we are often compared to, such as Finland and Singapore, do not use high-stakes testing to judge students and teachers. We should not, either.”

Yet Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, wants to INCREASE the number of standardized tests and require that school districts rely even more on the results.

Adding insult to injury, when he faced public criticism earlier this week, he and his team of out-of-state consultants went so far as to block the media and public from attending the meetings in which they were talking about these matters.

Although forced to change course and allow the media and public back in to the meetings, the Malloy Administration still doesn’t get it.

At the next meeting, Elizabeth Shaw, who works for Education First, Inc. and is one of Commissioner Pryor’s $60,000 short-term consultants to help him with his “education reform” initiative, announced “Something is different at this meeting. At this meeting — in the interest of transparency — the state department has invited the press to join us.”

Something different?  The media and public allowed into a public meeting?

But more to the point, Pryor and company continue down the path of implementing a system in which standardized tests play an even more important role in Connecticut’s schools.

The author of the Orlando Sentinel piece could not be more correct, it is time to stop this madness.  Our children, our teachers and the America’s public school system deserve.

 Side Note on Malloy’s Consultant (more to come on this piece): 

This Elizabeth Shaw, Pryor’s point person on expanding the use of standardized test in Connecticut?

Well she started her “education reform” career with Teach for America in Philadelphia (where Paul Vallas was heading the school system).  She quickly got promoted to TFA’s Director of District Strategy where her job was to “manage relationships” with the school district.  She then moved to the New Orleans Recovery School District (Yes, the one that Paul Vallas was the superintendent for) where she quickly moved up through the ranks to become Director of Human Resources.

Shaw then moved from New Orleans to join Education First, Inc.

Turns out Shaw is from Chicago, her father was one of Vallas’ biggest supporters when Vallas ran for Governor in Illinois and at least one Chicago blogger has reported that Shaw’s mother is best friends with Vallas’ wife.

And Education First, Inc.?  They are one of the firms that Pryor instructed SERC (the State Education Resources Center) to hire with state funds on a no-bid contract to help him with linking standardized tests and teacher evaluation.

What a strange coincidence that Paul Vallas is now in Bridgeport where he is being paid $229,000 while collecting a $1 million dollar contract from the State Board of Education in Illinois.