Bankrupting Connecticut – Nothing to see here – Just keep moving

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The Wait, What? Blog was created in January 2011.  Since then, 2,340 articles have been posted to the site.  In turn, the commentary pieces have generated well in excess of $2 million hits.

One of the most constant refrains has been the problems and dangers associated with the excess debt that is dragging Connecticut down and the irresponsible failure of the state’s elected officials – both Democrat and Republican – to deal with that mounting crisis

Initial posts to Wait What? included More on the issues underling Connecticut’s State Employee Pension System (1/25/11) and Connecticut’s state pension fund in its worst shape since the state began saving for pension obligations in the mid-1980s. (2/1/11).

Over the years came additional posts such as;

Look-Out – He’s got our credit card and he is going nuts!  (3/24/15)

WARNING!  WARNING! The state of Connecticut’s Fiscal Health  (11/18/14)

Malloy’s “NO TAX” pledge will send Connecticut into the abyss  (5/6/14)

The State Budget Gimmick to End all Budget Gimmicks (12/1/14)

Is that your credit card? Why yes, yes it is…. (9/26/13)

Connecticut: The Republic of Debt    (6/19/13)

And many, many more….

The effort to alert, warn and educate citizens about the fact that elected officials are failing to address Connecticut’s extraordinary debt crisis highlights the words of Jonathan Kozel, the great public education advocate and award winning author, who once wrote;

“Now, I don’t expect what I write to change things. I think I write now simply as a witness. This is how it is. This is what we have done. This is what we have permitted.” – Jonathan Kozol

And as if to prove the point, the debt crisis has gotten even worse thanks to the actions and inactions of Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the Democratic controlled Generally Assembly.

As if to drive the point home, today’s CT Newsjunkie headline reads, Pew: Connecticut Has One of Highest Public Debt to Personal Income RatiosThe story reports;

Connecticut has one of the highest ratios of debt to personal income and the fifth highest ratio of state retiree health care liabilities to income, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report released Tuesday.

The report, which measured each state’s pension, health care and debt costs as a percentage of personal income, put Connecticut’s total liabilities at $67.5 billion dollars or 30 percent of personal income.

The ratio of public debt to private income is 8.8 percent, which ties Connecticut with Massachusetts for the second highest rate of public debt. When pension, healthcare and public debt are totaled, Connecticut has the fifth highest rate of unfunded liabilities.

Connecticut’s pension woes are well documented. The state’s pension obligations are about 40 percent funded, according to the 2015 actuarial valuation of the fund. Only 7 other states have a higher rate of unfunded liabilities.

Courtesy of CT Newsjunkie

Courtesy of CT Newsjunkie

 

While the information is hardly new, it remains extremely newsworthy.

It is newsworthy, in part, because Connecticut’s politicians are making things worse, not better and because many of them won’t even tell the truth about the crisis.

Take for example, the notorious failure to properly fund Connecticut’s pension obligations.

The new technique for ducking responsibility is to talk about “structural change,” as if we could just pass a law to reduce the problem with unfunded pension obligations.

The fact is that a state employee hired today is placed in what is called Tier III of the Connecticut State Pension System.

Tier IIA was already the least generous pension in New England, Tier III provides is even stingier.

The real reason Connecticut owes so much money to its Pension Fund is that, for the past four decades, the state has FAILED to make the necessary payments into the fund and has even raided the fund to pay for annual budget expenses.

As the CT Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf has written over and over again, and the CT Newsjunkie explains today;

The state will have to pay more than $1.5 billion into the pension fund this year to meet the annually required contribution, of which $1.2 billion represents unfunded liability or an amortization payment toward past unfunded liability. An estimated 82 percent of that payment represents the payment for unfunded liabilities. The normal annual cost of pension benefits is less than $300 million.

Had Connecticut been making its payments all along, there wouldn’t be a pension fund problem.

If Connecticut had been funding the Pension Fund correctly, the state would now have about $1 billion available to preserve vital services and begin the process of providing adequate funding to Connecticut’s public schools, and thereby reducing the unfair property tax burden the is helping to crush the Middle Class.

Instead, scarce taxpayer money is going to address the excess debt — and still the debt grows.

Over the four decades, Connecticut has had 3 Democratic governors, 2 Republican governors and an Independent/Republican governor.  Not one of them was willing to do the right thing.

A recent public opinion poll listed Dannel Malloy as the 2nd least popular governor in United States.

Malloy’s response was that his “numbers were low” because he was making the tough choices and doing the right thing.

But of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Malloy’s legacy is not about doing the right thing.

Among Malloy’s list of failures is his refusal to properly address Connecticut’s long term debt.

You can read the important CT Newsjunkie story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/pew_connecticut_has_one_of_highest_public_debt_to_personal_income_ratios/

Malloy/Democratic budget – Push costs onto local property taxpayers and call it structural change

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Although Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the Democratic leaders in the legislature have still not released all the details about the “Malloy/Democratic Compromise Budget,” the General Assembly is expected to vote on the spending plan as early as tomorrow – Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Clinging to his inaccurate claim that his budget doesn’t raise taxes, one of the small details associated with Malloy’s irresponsible approach to managing state government became apparent yesterday as the CT Newsjunkie and The Day newspaper of New London reported that the Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Office will stop, “its longstanding practice of performing toxicology tests for most sudden deaths.

The Malloy/Wyman solution – just have local towns pay the costs.

As The Day reported,

Dr. James Gill told reporters Monday that an impending 5.75 percent cut to the office’s approximately 6.2 million budget, which included two layoffs and is the latest in a series of budget cuts at the state level, means that, beginning June 1, the office will stop its toxicology work in relation to homicides, motor vehicle deaths and most suicides.

The office still will make the corresponding blood samples available to police, Gill said, but it will be up to police to seek out private toxicology testing — something that can cost almost $200 per test.

In addition, the Day explained that the State’s Chief Medical Examiner announced that the office itself could lose its accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners this summer due to the budget cuts and layoffs that are part of the Malloy/Democratic compromise budget.

“When an official with the association visited Connecticut last year for the office’s annual review, she noted that the office’s seven autopsy pathologists were on track to perform 325 autopsies each that year — a number that, if exceeded, would cause the office to lose its full accreditation.

In the past almost two years, the office’s autopsy numbers have increased 58 percent — from 1,488 to 2,357 — stretching employees thin and leading to a projected budget shortfall of $456,000 for this fiscal year.

The official recommended adding an eighth medical examiner to the staff, noting that Gill already has taken on a full case load in addition to his administrative duties.

“Loss of accreditation means that an office cannot meet the minimal standards of practice for death investigation,” Gill explained in a March meeting with the state legislative Appropriations Committee. “Mistakes by a medical examiner put people’s lives at risk, can result in the innocent (being) imprisoned and cost millions of dollars in civil claims.”

In the fall last year, he told the committee, the office proposed reorganizational and hiring plans that “would have saved the office money,” but couldn’t be fully implemented because of the hiring freeze in place at the time.

The Team Malloy solution…

State expenses shifted to local taxpayers

Larger budget deficits due to the required use of more overtime.

Or as Malloy calls it – “structural change.”

Malloy and Legislative Democrats target Regional Vo-Tech high schools for devastating cuts

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Unable to get a budget agreement with Governor Dannel Malloy to the floor of the Connecticut House of Representative and State Senate in time, the Connecticut General Assembly crashed and burned last Wednesday night as the 2016 regular session came to the end.

Although a super-secret budget agreement had been reached between Governor “my way or no way” Malloy and the Democratic leaders of the legislature, various factors, including partisan politics and the political fallout from what is actually contained in the budget, resulted in the postponement of the debate and vote on a new state budget until a special session that will be held soon.

While some of the details about the budget agreement between Malloy and the Democratic legislative leadership have been revealed, much of it remains shrouded in secrecy.

According to budget documents that surfaced last week, the massive list of cuts to state programs and services includes an incredible $7.7 million cut to Connecticut’s Vocational-Technical high schools.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and state legislators across the political spectrum brag about their commitment to preparing Connecticut’s children for the economy of the 21st Century, their actions fall far short of their rhetoric.

The state of Connecticut reports;

The Connecticut Technical High School System (CTHSS) is committed to providing quality and challenging academic and technical programs. Its mission is to ensure that students are successful in the workplace, take advantage of postsecondary educational opportunities, and secure advanced apprenticeship training that prepare them for the 21st century workplace. Therefore, the CTHSS has developed a challenging program of study for each of the 37 technical programs. These areas include: construction, manufacturing, electronics, information technology, culinary arts, health tech, and other service areas.

But the reality is that Malloy’s record, when it comes to support for the Vo-Tech high school system, waivers between benign negligence and an outright effort to completely destroy the successful education program.

At the beginning of his first term as governor, Malloy proposed disbanding the Vo-Tech high school system altogether.  When students, parents, teachers, the business community and legislators fought back, Malloy retreated and allowed the 18 schools and their nearly 11,000 students to exist.

However, the Malloy administration has consistently used the state budget to squeeze these important and valuable schools, a system of highs schools that are successfully helping thousands of students have more successful careers.

At last count, approximately 95 percent of Vo-Tech students graduate and almost half (45 percent) of those graduates go on to pursue higher education opportunities.

Others use their Vo-Tech training in one of the 30 occupational trade programs to enter the workforce with the skills needed to get and keep a job in these difficult economic times.

Yet, as Connecticut’s economy continues to lag, rather than invest in more vocational and technical programs, or at least provide the funds needed to maintain the level of services at the state’s existing schools, the budget that the Democrats are being instructed to support includes a record-breaking budget cut to the Vo-Tech high school system.

The budget the General Assembly passed last June and was signed into law by Governor Malloy provided almost $171 million dollars to fund the costs associated with Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools.

Although many, if not most, of the state legislators in Hartford are unaware of the impending disaster, the Malloy/Democratic leadership compromise budget would reduce funding to $163 million – a cut of nearly $8 million.  The new budget would also grant the governor with the power to reduce funding for the Vo-Tech high schools even more through layoffs and budget rescissions.

Once the legislature adopts a new state budget, Democrat and Republic incumbents will turn their time and attention to their re-election campaigns.

When you hear them on the campaign trail saying that they support programs to provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills to be “college and career” ready … just know …. They are lying.

CT Dem Legislators – Why the silence on the layoff of state employees

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Among the most disturbing elements of the debate surrounding Connecticut’s state budget crisis is the silence on the part of most Democratic state legislators about the ill-conceived layoffs being perpetrated by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the their administration.

A “throw them to the wolves” mentality might not be surprising from those who hate public employees and the existence of public services, but the public, the people who rely on state services, the impacted state employees and their families deserve better from those who call themselves Democrats.

Hundreds of state employees have already been laid off.  When Team Malloy/Wyman are done with round #1, the families thrown onto the unemployment line and into chaos will exceed 2,500.

The new “super-secret” compromise budget agreement developed by legislative leaders and the governor that will be voted on in the upcoming special session will lead to hundreds and hundreds of additional layoffs of state employees.

And from the vast majority of Democratic state legislators we hear nothing but silence.

Laying off these more junior public employees is not good public policy, it is not a mechanism to bring about structural change in government and it certainly doesn’t help address Connecticut’s long-term state employee pension problem.

Real structural change comes from identifying more effective ways to deliver services, eliminating services that are not needed and implementing strategies to address unfunded pension and healthcare costs.

Malloy’s helter-skelter layoffs serve none of those solutions.

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to ensuring critical state services are provided more efficiently and effectively

The state employee layoffs are NOT related to eliminating services that are not needed

And the state employee layoffs are certainly NOT the mechanism for addressing the long-term obligations the state has due to it negligent failure to properly fund its long-term pension and health care costs.  In fact, laying off employees who belong to the Tier IIA and Tier III pension programs actually makes the funding of pension and healthcare costs even worse.

State legislators know – or better know – that more than 80% of the present pension fund crisis is the result of the unfunded costs for state employees who were enrolled in the Tier I pension program.  Enrollment in Tier I ended in 1985 and about 97% of Tier I employees have already retired.

Putting aside the reality that it is illegal to change the pension program for those who have already retired, laying off state employees who are paying into the pension and health care funds actually undermine the effort to put the pension and healthcare fund on proper financial footing.

No legislator, Democrat or Republican, who actually understands how services are provided and the massive fiscal challenges that face Connecticut should be supporting Malloy’s unstructured state employee layoff effort – even those who support reducing the number of state employees and the level of services provided in Connecticut.

But the burden to speak up, to tell the truth, and to address issues related to reducing the number of state employees falls heaviest on the Democrats.  Not only are the Democrats in control of the executive and legislative branches of state government, but they have the historical and social relationship with public employees and their unions.

The failure of so many democratic legislators to publicly speak out about the Malloy/Wyman anti-public employee policies – policies that hurt Connecticut – is a sad commentary and one that voters should consider well when voting.

Legislature FAILS to decouple SBAC test results from Malloy’s unfair teacher evaluation system

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Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and corporate education reformers will be crowing this morning on their successful campaign to defeat Senate Bill 380, legislation that would have forced the Malloy administration to stop using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test results as part of Connecticut’s flawed Teacher Evaluation Program.

Given the opportunity to do the right thing and stand with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools by deemphasizing the destructive SBAC testing scam and ensuring that Connecticut’s public school teachers are evaluated using a system that actually measures their effectiveness, Connecticut’s legislators – once again – turned their backs and walked away.

For those who support public education and believe in creating better, healthier and more productive learning environments … The November Election can’t come soon enough.

Malloy and Wyman seek to turn their “Wisconsin Moment” into a Wisconsin Era

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Elected on a claim that he would stave off a “Wisconsin Moment,” Governor Dannel Malloy and his “policy partner” and side-kick Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, have not only ushered in Connecticut’s own anti-public employee, anti-government service and anti-middle class “moment,” but Malloy and Wyman are making it clear that nothing less than a Wisconsin Era.

Malloy is saying that the only budget that will get his signature is a full-fledged austerity budget; a spending plan that destroys vital state services and lays off public employees while coddling the rich and shifting even more of Connecticut’s already unfair and inequitable tax burden onto the back of Connecticut’s middle class.

In his latest diatribe, the ever smug, sanctimonious and thin-skinned bully of a governor has announced that he will veto any spending plan put forward by the General Assembly’s Democratic majority that reverses Malloy’s record-breaking, mean-spirited and draconian cuts to the critically important services that Connecticut residents need and deserve.

Pontificating that Democratic lawmakers won’t consider “enough spending cuts,” Malloy has – yet again – telegraphed that when it comes to the state’s revenue and expenditure plan it is  his way or no way.  It is a strategy that will require unprecedented state employee layoffs, will reduce the availability of critically important services for Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens, will mean less funding for Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, and will lead to higher local property taxes for Connecticut’s middle income families.

In addition to harming Connecticut residents, the Malloy-Wyman approach to governance leaves the leadership of Connecticut’s unions with egg on their faces and blood on their hands.

As many will recall, during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Connecticut’s union leaders were only too proud to hoist Dannel Malloy onto their shoulders with the false claim that Malloy, and Malloy alone, would protect Connecticut from following the dark and devastating tactics being implemented by Wisconsin’s right-wing, Tea Party governor and legislature.

As the media and union representatives reported in June 2014,

Preventing a “Wisconsin moment” from taking place in Connecticut was the prevailing theme of the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s 10th biennial political convention.

A union blog post at the time reported,

“AFSCME President Lee Saunders electrified the more than 300 union delegates to the convention with his keynote address on June 16” roaring, “We can’t afford Connecticut to become another Wisconsin.”

Saunders added,

“This election is in our hands. If we turn out the vote of people who share our values, who want to preserve the middle class, who care about quality public services, then we will win.”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) leadership explained,

We have chosen to support candidates who will act to prevent a ‘Wisconsin moment’ here in Connecticut,”

And the President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO echoed the rhetoric at a press conference to announce labor’s support for Malloy saying,

“In recent weeks we’ve heard candidates talk about Connecticut having a ‘Wisconsin moment.’ Well let me say unequivocally — we are not Wisconsin.”  

In response Malloy bragged about his commitment to a Connecticut moment,” explaining that,

“A Connecticut moment is when you stand up for your fellow citizens.”

In the weeks that followed, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was created to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

Another $160,000 in union member funds was slid into the slush-fund that Malloy’s campaign operatives were using to get around Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.

Now, eighteen months later, Malloy and Wyman are standing up on these issues…

But rather than standing up for the People of Connecticut and doing their right thing, they are standing up, turning their backs and walking away from the very people who elected them.

To better understand the damage being wrought by Malloy, Wyman and their policies, one need only read some of the unsettling commentary pieces that have been published by many of Connecticut’s media outlets.  For example,

Connecticut must not balance budget by denying basic medical care

Looming Health Care Crisis Can Be Avoided by Restoring Funds to Community Health Centers

Connecticut position as leader in Children’s Dental Medicaid in jeopardy.

An aging Connecticut needs the Legislative Commission on Aging

Budget cuts threaten Connecticut’s progress in mental health

Governor puts low-income families at risk of losing health coverage

CJTS teachers lament ‘inhumanity’ of sudden staff layoffs

Short-sighted budget cuts undermine CT’s long-term prosperity

CSCU tuition increase no surprise, but is just as wrong

Are school administrators bullying and abusing your child over the SBAC testing frenzy?

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There is an extremely serious problem taking place in some school districts across Connecticut and parents, teachers, child advocates and elected officials must act immediately to protect our children from the corporate education reform industry and their lackeys.

With the state-sponsored Common Core SBAC testing scheme now in full-swing throughout the state, parents and guardians in numerous schools districts are reporting that Connecticut public school children continue to be abused by local school administrators, who are following orders from Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Education Commissioner Wentzell and the State Department of Education.

In addition to lying and misleading parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests, a disturbing number of school districts are unethically and immorally punishing students who have been opted out of the tests, while some districts are ordering students to “log-in” to the SBAC tests before the schools will honor the parents’ directive that their child is not to participate in the tests.

As previously reported, some school districts are bullying children who have been opted out by forcing them to stay in the testing rooms despite the fact that the SBAC testing regulations clearly and strictly prohibit students who are not taking the test from remaining in the testing locations.

The practice of forcing students to stay in the testing room, despite having been opted out of the SBAC program by their parents, is an ugly strategy to embarrass, humiliate and ostracize children who are inappropriately being required to sit in the testing room for hours while their peers are taking the defective and high-stakes SBAC tests that are designed to unfairly fail a significant number of the state’s children.

School administrators who refuse to place children in an alternative safe and appropriate environment (such as the school library) during the testing period are not only engaging in an unethical form of bullying, but they are violating the State of Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) regulations.

The SBAC protocol reads;

 “Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

See:  Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4) which notes;

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences… A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation.

Under the law, regulations and SBAC protocol, the Connecticut State Department of Education is required to investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education, and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law.

In addition, superintendents, principals or other school administrators who require or permit students who have been opted out of the SBAC tests, to remain in the testing room risk not only losing their certification to work in Connecticut pursuant to Connecticut State Statute 10-145b(i)(1), but they have violated their duties under Connecticut State regulations that require school administrators to adhere to a Professional Code of Conduct.

As if forcing students who have been opted out to remain in the testing rooms during the testing period wasn’t serious enough, some school districts are actually using an additional technique to make it appear that they are achieving extremely high participation rates.  These school districts have taken the despicable step of telling children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by their parents that they must first sign-in (log-in) to the SBAC test program before the school will honor their parent’s directive that they are not to take the SBAC test.

This strategy is a direct result of the Malloy administration threat that any school district that allows more than 5 percent of their parents to opt out, will lose money – in this case – federal funds that are supposed to be used to provide extra support to the poorest child in the local school system.

IMPORTANT:

If your child or a child that you know is being forced to remain in the testing room during the SBAC testing, you are asked to provide that information, as soon as possible, so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the continuation of the child abuse and to hold local school officials accountable for their reprehensible actions.

Information about any abusive practices related to the SBAC testing should be sent to Wait, What? via [email protected]or mailed to Wait, What? at PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Bullying and abuse have no place in Connecticut’s public schools.

Please help ensure that those engaged in these abusive tactics are held accountable.

CEA wrong to claim NWEA’s MAP test is an appropriate tool for evaluating teachers.

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In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece entitled, ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Wrong Answer For Students, Teachers, Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen correctly explains that,

[The] Smarter Balanced and other high-stakes standardized tests are not useful measures of student success — and were not designed to evaluate teachers. Smarter Balanced is an invalid, unfair and unreliable test that does not measure student growth within a school year. Smarter Balanced does not assist teachers in measuring academic growth, takes away precious instruction time and resources from teaching and learning, and is not developmentally and age-appropriate for students.

Teachers, administrators and parents want an evaluation system that develops and sustains high-quality teaching and provides teachers with more time to collaborate on best practices that result in a better outcome for all students.

But then, in a bizarre move that appears to be yet another attempt to acquiesce to Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s ongoing education reform and anti-teacher agenda, the leader of the CEA claims that although the state should not use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test as part of the state’s teacher evaluation program, it is okay to use the NWEA’s MAP standardized test as a teacher evaluation tool.

The CEA’s President notes,

Teachers are evaluated appropriately by measurable results using:

  • Standardized progress monitoring tests like NWEA or STAR.

  • Progress on student performance rubrics tied to external standards in their evaluations.

  • District- and department-designed common assessments

When developed correctly, student performance rubrics and district and department designed common assessments can be useful tools when it comes to evaluating and improving teacher performance.

However, standardized tests like the SBAC or NWEA’s MAP are inherently unfair and inappropriate for use as part of a teacher evaluation system.  Period.  End of Story.

Education Advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, addressed this very point when she recently published, Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

As for the claim that the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) is a valid teacher evaluation tool, Wendy Lecker explains,

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

The truth is that the NWEA’s MAP standardized test is just as inappropriate a tool to evaluate teachers as is the SBAC and the unions that represent teachers have a fundamental obligation to ensure that public policy makers understand what are and what are not valid techniques for determining how well an individual teacher is doing in the classroom.

The CEA’s latest move to condemn the SBAC but endorse the MAP is an uncomfortable reminder that, over the past six years, teachers and other public employees have watched as their union leaders have engaged in an almost schizophrenic approach when it comes to dealing with Governor Malloy’s bully, while standing up for their members.

Wanting to be perceived as “insiders” for the purpose of “getting into the rooms of power,” some union leaders have consistently dismissed or tried to explain away Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman’s ongoing anti-teacher, anti-public employee agenda.

On the other hand, recognizing that their membership is getting angrier and angrier and that the Malloy/Wyman agenda is undermining public education, public services and is translating into public employee layoffs, some of these same unions have taken to running television advertisements urging citizens to stand up for the public servants who educate our children, provide critically important support for those in need and ensure that government programs are available to the people of Connecticut.

The CEA’s initial approach to the teacher evaluation issue was a case study in the strategy of trying to get-along to go-along.  But, after failing to successfully fight off Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair teacher evaluation initiative, the union changed course this past January.

As the January 5, 2016 Wait What? post,  4 years late[r] – The Connecticut Education Association may finally be standing up against Malloy and Wyman on their teacher evaluation disaster, reported,

According to a press advisory issued earlier today, the Connecticut Education Association will hold a press conference at 11am at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to call on Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to “join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs.”

If the announcement is as impressive as suggested, it would mean that the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions have finally moved 180 degrees from the position they held on January 25, 2012 when the CEA and AFT joined with the other members of Governor Malloy’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to approve the so-called “teacher evaluation framework” that inappropriately and unfairly mandates that student’s standardized test scores be a major factor in the teacher evaluation process.

In addition to reversing their position on the SBAC test, the CEA and AFT-CT have been working extremely hard to get the Connecticut General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 380 which would prohibit the state from using the results from the Connecticut’s Mastery Testing program in the state’s teacher evaluation program – a proposal that Malloy and his education reform allies strongly oppose.

And yet, as the CEA seriously – and finally – engages on this vital issue, along comes the claim that the NWEA MAP test is a valid mechanism for evaluating teachers – a claim that may please Governor Malloy and his anti-teacher friends but is absolutely and completely out of line with the academic evidence and good public policy.

Connecticut can and should have a strong and effective teacher evaluation system, but using standardized test results to evaluate teachers has no place in such a system.

It does a tremendous disservice for the CEA to suggest otherwise.

Hey Connecticut – Nothing to worry about as the ‘Catastrophic Structural Failure’ crisis grows

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Today’s CT Newsjunkie headline reads – 2016 Budget Is Back In The Red – $141.1M

In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, [Malloy’s budget chief Ben] Barnes said the state’s revenues have slipped again and the budget is experiencing a $141.1 million shortfall. That’s just three weeks after the General Assembly closed a $220 million budget gap.

The additional $141 million deficit that the Malloy administration is now admitting to comes on top of the $220 million deficit that was announced a couple of months ago, which came on top of the approximately $600 million in deficits that had been previously announced since July 1, 2015.

The appalling truth is that with about 70 days left in the fiscal year, the state budget approved by the Connecticut General and signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy, last spring, was out of balance by over $1 billion.

Should it come as a surprise that the state budget that Malloy signed and deemed to be balanced was actually underfunded?

Hardly….

Last June, on the day the Connecticut General Assembly adopted this year’s state budget, the Wait, What? post read The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget and a few weeks later came an update entitled, CT’s Legislative Democrats set to make a bad budget worse.

Yet, speaking about the glory of the newly adopted state budget, the President of the Connecticut State Senate called it, “one of the best in his 35 years in the general assembly.”

And from Dannel “No New Taxes” Malloy came what may have been the quote of the year as Malloy exclaimed,

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today. This agreement will help Connecticut now and in the long-run — it helps transform our transportation infrastructure as we aim for a best-in-class system. It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Yet despite those bizarre pronouncements, Malloy and his political operatives continue to pretend that it is Malloy, himself, who is the voice of fiscal responsibility.

Note that along with today’s announcement about the growing deficit, Malloy issued a statement saying;

“The question is no longer whether we’re in a new economic reality, it’s what we’re going to do about it.”

Wait, What?

Malloy is actually claiming that he is the one prepared to deal with the “new economic reality” in a responsible manner?

It was only 11 weeks ago when the February 3, 2016 Wait, What? headline reported, Malloy presents a state budget plan that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, his “policy-partner,” Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy lectured a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly today about the importance of being fiscally responsible.

It was a grand theatrical performance that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Less than two weeks ago, singer and music producer B.o.B informed the world that despite what we have been told, the World is Flat!

Like Governor Dannel Malloy, the “all-knowing” musician laid down the “truth” about the flatness of the Earth explaining;

“No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”

“A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know… grow up.”

“I question the international laws that prevent you from exploring Antarctica and the North Pole… what’s there to hide? …I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived.”

[…]

Earlier today, doing his best to channel B.o.B. into the historic chamber of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Malloy took off on a fantastic ride of revisionist history in which he blamed everyone but himself for the fiscal disaster that is dragging Connecticut into the muck.

[…]

Malloy’s rhetoric about honest budgeting was only eclipsed in today’s speech by his comments regarding his record when it comes to Connecticut’s long term debt obligations.

Unconstrained by the truth or his own record in dealing with Connecticut’s failure to properly fund its pension and post-employment benefit programs, Malloy pontificated;

“Now, it has fallen upon us to fix it. After decades of neglect, we are finally paying our pension obligations every year. I think we all know that must continue.”

This from a guy who just a few months ago proposed kicking the can so far down the road that we’d shift more than $8 billion in pension liabilities onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and grandchildren.

And lest we forget, it is Malloy who has gone crazy with the state’s credit card, borrowing money to pay for various pet projects including his massive corporate welfare program.

As for his immediate commitment to making even deeper cuts to state programs, Malloy’s approach is probably best reflected by his proposal to cut funding for dental care for poor children and his plan to save $1 million by “reducing the burial benefit for indigent people from$1,400 to $1.000.”  That last one was actually something Malloy proposed last year, but legislators reviewed the issue and trashed the plan.

Here is the reality.

What we are witnessing is a “Catastrophic Structural Failure” of leadership and as Connecticut’s fiscal house burns to the ground, Malloy, Wyman and their team continue to function as if the whole situation is nothing more than a political game in which the contest is to see who can come up with the best sounding rhetoric and political soundbites.

To them it may all be a game – a joke – but the damage from their actions is raining down on the people of Connecticut who are suffering and will continue to suffer under state leaders who have completely lost their ability to decipher reality, let alone act on it.

If Malloy’s determination to coddle the rich and deny the fact that additional tax revenue will be needed to ensure a fair, balanced and appropriate state budget, is not challenged and reversed, Connecticut will continue its parachute-less plunge toward destruction.

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

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Educator, poet and fellow education blogger, Poetic Justice, addresses the insidious and damaging impact of the corporate education reform industry’s notion that standardized test results should be a part of a fair, appropriate and effective teacher evaluation system.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the “education reformers” have devoted themselves to ensuring that the children, parents, teachers and public schools of the Constitution State are saddled with an absurd and damaging teacher evaluation system that utilizes the Common Core SBAC testing scam results to evaluate teachers.

More recently, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) has proposed swapping the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test results with the equally inappropriate MAP test which would produce a system equally unfair and discriminatory.  Public Education Advocate, Wendy Lecker, addressed the problems associated with the MAP in Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

The only reasonable approach is a teacher evaluation system that actually appropriates measures and evaluates the impact teachers are having.  Such models exist.

Here Poetic Justice lays out the situation in a way that even Malloy/Wyman and the education reformers could not misunderstand…

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

  1. Are the children safe?
    2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
    3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
    4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
    5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
    6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
    7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
    8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
    9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
    10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
    11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
    12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
    13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
    14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
    15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues’ successful practice?
    16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
    17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
    18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
    19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
    20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is in direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

teachers are most than tests scores

Please join a FaceBook page that Poetic Justice administers with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner.

FB page is located at – Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

 

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