“My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

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In an effort to win market share, the College Board, along with the  standardized testing industry and the corporate education reform advocates are pushing states are mandate that high school juniors MUST take the SAT.  Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan and New Hampshire are among the states throwing their students under the bus.

In Connecticut, thanks to a new “state mandate,” approximately 40,000 Connecticut high school juniors will not be attending their classes on March, 2, 2016.  Instead they will be taking another “Common Core aligned” standardized test – this time the NEW SAT.

The attempt to force the state’s 11th graders to take the NEW SAT is not about helping students, improving graduating rates or expanding the number of people who go to college.

This new “mandate” is part of the broader corporate education reform agenda that is crippling public education in Connecticut and across the nation.

In this case, it is about trying to force children to take a test that will then be used to label those students and provide the state with faulty information to evaluate Connecticut’s teachers.

Parents should be aware of what is taking place and step up to ensure that our children are not being used as pawns in this massive testing farce.

Here is the background;

Thanks to a contract signed by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Dianna R. Wentzell and approved by Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education, Connecticut taxpayers will be shelling out in excess of $4.3 million in scarce public funds, over the next three years, to the College Board, the company that owns the SAT.  In return, the College Board will allow students to take their NEW SAT — a test that has yet to be validated and has come under increasing criticism because, despite their claims, the SAT fails to adequately predict how students will do in college.

This latest debacle started last spring when, in the face of growing opposition to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme, the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Malloy decided to replace the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory 11th grade SBAC test with a new mandate that all high school juniors take what is likely to be an equally unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory NEW SAT.

However, neither Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education nor the legislators had ever seen the NEW SAT that they are now trying to force 11th grader to take.  They hadn’t seen it because the new version of the SAT isn’t even being released until March 2016.

As the College Board website proclaims, students across the United States can take the NEW SAT for the first time on March 5, 2016 which means that Connecticut’s 40,000 juniors are truly little more than an initial round of guinea pigs for a testing company whose revenue is already in excess of $841 million a year.

What is known about the NEW SAT is worrying many experts who are knowledgeable about the standardized testing system and the process that students must go through when applying to college.

Take note;

Last March, Business Insider’s headline read, America’s top SAT tutor explains why no one should take the SAT in 2016, with internationally renowned SAT tutor Anthony Greene writing;

“I’m recommending that none of my students take the first three rounds of the new SAT (March, May, and June of 2016)… “Why let students be guinea pigs for the College Board’s marketing machine?”

In an April 2015 article in Forbes Magazine, 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take the New SAT, Dan Edmonds, the Senior Director of Research and Development at Noodle.com wrote,

The simple fact is that there are numerous good reasons that students shouldn’t take the new SAT next spring — they should opt for the ACT instead. (The primary alternative college entrance example)

And this past fall, Adam Ingersoll of the Compass Group, another SAT tutoring company, warned students not to be guinea pigs for the College Board adding that the best option for most juniors will be the ACT.

There are many reasons to avoid the NEW SAT;

Reason #1 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Now that the NEW SAT is supposedly aligned to the Common Core students will face many of the same problems that they faced with the Common Core SBAC test.  In particular is the reality that there will be a significant amount of content on the NEW SAT that most high school students have not even been taught.

This situation will be most evident when it comes to the math portion of the test.

The NEW SAT merges the reading and writing portion of the old SAT into one section meaning that the Math Section of the NEW SAT will make up a larger portion of a student’s overall score (Half instead of one-third.)

Of even greater concern, the NEW SAT intentionally punishes students who haven’t completed Algebra II and gone on to take some trigonometry, statistics and precalculus.

As fellow education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker recently explained in The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus.

Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

Reason #2 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education and state legislators said Connecticut’s new SAT testing program would ensure that all 11th graders had an entrance exam score to use when applying to college.  That is a bold-faced lie.

Again, as Wendy Lecker also explained:

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

The truth is that there will be thousands of Connecticut public school students taking the NEW SAT who will discover that their test score CAN NOT be used with any college application and will only be used to “evaluate” them and their teachers. 

Reason #3 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

As high school juniors and their parents’ ramp up their college application activities, they should be aware that an SAT score is no longer needed when applying to many colleges and universities.   More and more institutions of higher education are moving away from using the SAT and standardized test scores to determine who to accept.

As FairTest, an organization that monitors to use and overuse of standardized testing has reported, more than 850 colleges and universities in the United State “DO NOT USE the SAT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students.”

FairTest goes on to explain that schools are moving away from the use of standardized tests because academic studies have consistently shown that “Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit and are not appropriate or correct indicators of how students will actually do in college.

In my daughter’s case, of the dozen or so colleges that she is considering applying to, the majority DO NOT require an SAT test.

For those schools that do require a standardized test score, my daughter will be taking the old version of the SAT on February 20, 2015.  The last date for taking the old version of the SAT was supposed to be last week (January 23, 2016) but due to the snow storm on Saturday, the testing was postponed until the end of February.

My daughter will also be taking the ACT, a college examination exam that isn’t in the middle of a tumultuous and controversial restructuring.

While she won’t be participating in the SAT test being “mandated” by the state of Connecticut, on March 2, 2016, if we determine that she should take the NEW SAT, then there are plenty of options to take the test in the spring, summer and fall, after the initial problems with the NEW SAT have been identified and resolved.

What we won’t do is serve as pawns for the state of Connecticut’s attempt to collect standardized tests results so that they can unfairly evaluate teachers.  Governor Malloy’s “education reform initiative” requires local school district to base 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on the standardized test results of their students.

My daughter won’t be relegated to being  a test subject for the College Board’s attempt to reclaim market share.

Instead, we will do what is best for my daughter’s college aspirations – the state and its testing obsession be damned.

Reason #4 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Another key issue for students and parents to understand is that for students whose college “wish list” includes schools that DO REQUIRE an SAT score, a significant number of schools require or recommend that students complete the “optional” essay that will now be part of the SAT going forward.

But students taking the “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 will find that there is no “optional” essay to take.  The Malloy administration’s contract with the College Board does not even provide Connecticut students with the opportunity to take the “optional” essay – an “option” that is anything but optional at a number of schools that actually require students to submit standardized test results.

In an October 2015 published report of the colleges and universities that do require that standardized tests scores accompany applications, approximately 34 percent recommend or require that students take the essay portion of the tests.

Furthermore, the executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan Test Prep suggested that,

“One thing to consider is that an optional but more challenging section provides an opportunity for students who are good writers and analysts to distinguish themselves. Schools appreciate applicants who challenge themselves, so earning a high score on an optional section can factor favorably on an application.”

Students who want or need to take the “optional essay” portion of the NEW SAT are simply out of luck when it comes to the state mandated March SAT.

By rushing to “mandate” that high school juniors take the NEW SAT, the state of Connecticut has created a situation in which thousands of students that require special education services or are not proficient in the English language will find out that their mandated NEW SAT score can’t even be used in a college application.

And, at the same time, many Connecticut high school juniors who do want to take the “optional” SAT essay will learn that they will have to take the SAT yet again, this time paying for both the cost of the NEW SAT and the cost of the “Optional” SAT essay.

As an FYI, the list of schools requiring the “optional” SAT essay includes:

Stanford University, University of California, California Institute of Technology, Howard University, University of South Florida, Emory University, Purdue University, Amherst College, Harvard College, Merrimack College, Nichols College,  Macalester College, Duke University, Dartmouth College, Rutgers University, Princeton University,  Iona College, SUNY University at Stony Brook, University of Cincinnati, Arcadia University, Vanderbilt University, Baylor University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, Saint Michael’s College (VT), University of Oregon, University of Washington and Yale University. 

Reason #5 to opt-out of the March 2, 2016 “state mandated” SAT:

Finally, as to the critically important issue of whether high school juniors MUST participate in the absurd March 2nd NEW SAT testing frenzy;

The Malloy administration continues to claim that students cannot be opted out of the NEW SAT testing program.  Some school administrators are going even further threatening students that they will not be able to graduate if they don’t take the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

These threats are not only unethical and immoral but they are false.

First, as has been posted here at Wait, What? over and over again;

There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even the chairman of the State Board of Education, a lawyer, has admitted that Connecticut parents have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the state’s testing program.

If the Malloy administration believes it has the legal authority to override parental rights then they need to publish that claim so that parents can take legal action and obtain an injunction against Governor Malloy and his Department of Education.

Second, Connecticut state law specifically prohibits school districts from preventing students from graduating or being promoted to the next grade because the fail to take the state’s “Mastery Test.”

Connecticut State Statute Sec. 10-14n Connecticut State Statute reads:

As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.

[…]

(e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

While Malloy and his administration continue to mislead and lie to parents about the new Common Core testing programs, the NEW SAT is simply not a Mastery Test under the law.

No one has seen the NEW SAT but we can be sure it is not aligned to Connecticut’s curriculum and does not measure “essential and grade-appropriate skills.”

As reported above, the NEW SAT includes content that is not even required under Connecticut’s graduation requirements.  (I.E. students do not need to take Algebra II, Trigonometry and precalculus in order to graduate from a Connecticut high school).

In addition, the Commissioner of Education has not set the “cut scores” that identify if a student has or has not achieve a proficient score.  The Commissioner has added that the “cut scores” will not be set until after the testing has been completed.

The state of Connecticut cannot claim that the NEW SAT is the state’s Mastery Test when the state can’t even identify what is or what is not “mastery.”

Also, school districts cannot require that a student take the NEW SAT in order to graduate.

Requiring that a student take the test to graduate or be promoted to the next grade makes taking the test a mandatory criteria, something state law forbids.

The statute reads;

“No public school may require…such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.”

By refusing to allow a student to graduate unless they take the NEW SAT makes taking the NEW SAT a “SOLE CRITERION” for graduation and is therefore illegal.

The “mandate” that high school juniors take the NEW SAT is not to benefit our students or our schools.  It is truly a part of the broader agenda that is undermining public education in Connecticut.

These initiatives actually hurt our students, parents, teachers and public schools.

The threats from Governor Malloy, his administration and local school districts have to stop.

Parents, not the Governor, not the Commissioner of Education and not local school officials have the sole authority and discretion to decide if a student is or is not going to take the NEW SAT.

In my case, my daughter WILL NOT be taking the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016 and I would recommend that other parents of high school juniors consider taking the same step.

The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his State Department of Education are engaged in an unethical effort to spin their new “mandate” that every Connecticut High School Junior (11th grader) MUST take the NEW SAT test on March 2, 2016.

Driven by their support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and their desire to use the test scores to rate students and evaluate teachers, the state is on a mission.

However, parents, students, teachers and the public should be aware that their effort is a disgrace and that their lies will not go unchallenged.

To repeat a common refrain here at Wait, What? – There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman has admitted to parents that they have the right to opt their children out of the test, although she remains silent in public about this fundamental issue.

Local school superintendents and school administrators also know the truth.  If they are telling students and parents that children must take the SBAC or SAT in order to graduate or move on to the next grade they are lying!

The SBAC test is designed to fail students, in part because it includes content that the majority of students have not be taught.  Proponents of the NEW SAT claim that it too is aligned to the Common Core, but it isn’t even being released until March 2016 so those Connecticut students who do take it on March 2, 2016 are nothing short of guinea pigs for the corporate testing industry.

It is parents – not the state – that have the inalienable right to decide whether their child should take a test that is designed to label tens of thousands of students as failures when they are not failing by any honest definition of that word.

My next Wait, What? column here will be entitled;

 “Why my daughter will not be taking the NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

As a prerequisite to that piece and to better understand the under-handed action that is being taken by the Malloy administration, please take the time to read fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s expose entitled, The lies in the new SAT.

This article was first published in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut’s political and educational leaders have sold us a bill of goods with the new SAT. Last spring the legislature and the State Board of Education hastily decided to replace the 11th-grade SBAC with the newly designed SAT. The move was in response to outcry about the invalidity of the SBAC and about the addition of another standardized test for juniors.

As I wrote previously (http://bit.ly/1Kv8TXk), our leaders did not wait for the SAT to be validated, nor did they validate any accommodations that English Language Learners (ELL) or students with disabilities would need.

Instead, they misrepresented the facts to parents and students.

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

In other words, for thousands of students, the state-mandated SAT will not count for college applications and they will have to take another test — either the SAT or ACT without accommodations.

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus. Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

The SAT is designed to be a test with winners and losers. It is a comparative, scaled test. As one top SAT tutor recently wrote to the Business Insider, “(i) f everyone got a 1,600, there would be no point to this test at all. This test is designed to show colleges who is better and who is worse — not who is good.” A test with this goal should not be used as an accountability test, which is supposed to confirm who has met state academic goals for high school — i.e. who is “good.”

The final lie our state leaders are selling is that the new SAT will tell us who is ready for college success. As I have written before, the evidence — something our leaders rarely examine — shows that the best predictor of college cumulative GPA and graduation, i.e. college success, is the high school GPA. This is true over time, across the entire nation, in all types of colleges and universities. By contrast neither the SAT nor the ACT is a good predictor of college success.

The same top SAT tutor notes that the College Board’s claim that the new SAT will accurately reflect the demands of the American high school curriculum has a major flaw, namely “this is exactly what they said about the last version that they launched”— the one the College Board has now abandoned. He declared that anyone who takes the new SAT is merely “a guinea pig for the College Board’s marketing machine.” He recommends that none of his students take the new SAT until other guinea pigs prove its validity.

Those other guinea pigs? Connecticut’s students, thanks to our political leaders, who served them up merely to satisfy College Board’s data needs. It is time that parents demand that leaders make education policy that is in the best interests of students, not testing companies.  

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-lies-in-the-new-SAT-6777613.php

Wendy Lecker is absolutely right!

 Parents and students;

 Do not be bullied by the Malloy administration or your local school administrators.

 If our other elected officials, state legislators and board of education members, were really committed to the well-being of the parents, students, teachers and residents of their communities they would be taking action – now – to stop this abuse of power.

For more about the NEW SAT read;

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

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

Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016

PSAT score delay spells more bad news for Connecticut SAT mandate

How can Donald Trump be so wrong (and yet so right about middle class anger)

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“With all due respect” to Donald Trump’s supporters, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump is a sociopath, psychopathic, lunatic who would quickly destroy what is left of the fundamental ideals that produced what we nostalgically refer to as The Great United States of America.

That said, for a clue about the Trump juggernaut, one need only read the Washington Post’s article entitled, Charting Trump’s rise through the decline of the middle class.  The Post wrote,

“For anyone trying to understand the emergence of Donald Trump as a force in this pre-election year, the Pew Research Center this past week provided some valuable insight. There’s little doubt that what has happened to America’s middle class has helped to create the climate that has fueled Trump’s sudden rise.”

The entire political dynamic is, of course, more complex than can be explained by a single circumstance but there is a disturbing truism about Trump and the Middle Class that can’t be denied.

Trump taps into the bitterness about what can best be described as people’s hatred of “politics as usual.

It is a form of politics we know well here in Connecticut.

Eight years ago, in April 2008, before Barak Obama upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President, I wrote a “controversial” commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that led the editorial section that day and generated a good deal of backlash from the power elite.

At the time I was actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, having had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down with her on two occasions to talk policy and politics.  Then, as now, there are few that can deny she is extraordinarily prepared to serve as our nation’s President.

But in April 2008, in comment that turned out to be surprisingly controversial, candidate Obama observed that “economically frustrated people in small towns are bitter…”

The comment generated harsh attacks from Hillary Clinton, John McCain and the political establishment.

For her part, Clinton blasted Obama saying, “Sen. Obama’s remarks are elitist, and they are out of touch.”  The attacks continued and Obama ended up “walking back” his comments.

As we now know, Obama went on to win and has done a pretty good job keeping the status quo intact.

At the time, I found the whole political debate bizarre considering there were, in fact, lots of middle class people who were angry and bitter about the way the way the rich were getting richer at the Middle Class’s expense and that some of those people, like myself, lived in small towns.

The commentary piece I wrote may be as “timely” today as the day it was published – April 20, 2008.

The editorial was entitled, BITTER? YOU BET!

It read,

OUR POLITICAL LEADERS SEEM UNABLE TO GRASP, LET ALONE SOLVE, THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS CONFRONTING CONNECTICUT AND THE NATION.

Hey, over here – I’m bitter!

The presidential candidates, political pundits and media have plunged themselves into a fevered debate about Barack Obama’s recent comments observing that some hardworking Americans are bitter.

Although I can’t speak for the small-town people of Pennsylvania, I can certainly report that as far as I’m concerned, I’m bitter and getting more bitter by the day.

In fact, as a middle-income American, I’m not only bitter, I’m angry and disappointed as well. Political pandering, mediocrity and incompetence on the national and state levels are undermining many of the fundamental values that we middle-income Americans hold dear, while threatening the economic vitality and viability of our country and our state and undermining the economic health of many of our families.

The damage from failed leadership is evident throughout the political process and across the political spectrum. Perhaps most clearly of all, it can be seen right here in Connecticut, where our state is losing its competitive edge while our leaders are unable or unwilling to confront the challenges of the 21st century.

Take the Connecticut economy. For the 40 years leading up to 1990, Connecticut’s job growth was impressive, but since then, the complete failure of our state to develop a coherent and effective economic development strategy has had devastating consequences.

From 1989 to 2005, while the nation witnessed job growth of 24 percent, the number of jobs in Connecticut dropped by 0.2 percent, placing us dead last – 50th – in the nation in job growth.

As of late 2006, the number of nonfarm jobs in Connecticut was only about 5,400 more than in 1988. Incredibly, according to the Connecticut Economic Resources Center, “Connecticut is notable as the only state in the nation with negative business growth between 1989 and 2004.”

The state’s failure has damaged families across the economic scale. Over the past 15 years, the income gain for Connecticut’s middle-income families (the middle 20 percent) was barely half the national average, which ranked us 49th worst in the country as measured by the change in average real income.

Although it’s true that some of Connecticut’s wealthiest families have done just fine over the past decade and a half, the level of income inequality between Connecticut’s top- and middle-income families, as well as the income disparity between Connecticut’s top and bottom families, increased more than in any other state in the country.

Rather than step forward with vision and courage, Connecticut has responded to these economic challenges with an extraordinary and mind-numbing failure to make the right policy decisions. Instead of addressing the unfairness of Connecticut’s tax structure, state leaders have made our tax system even more regressive, which in turn has placed an even greater burden on hardworking families.

Lest we forget, the state has raised the gross receipts tax on gasoline four times over the past four years. In addition to the 25 cents per gallon state tax on gasoline, the state charges an additional 7 percent (which equals about 21 cents a gallon).

Then, to add insult to injury, more than half a billion dollars of the revenue from that expanded gross receipts tax that has been raised since 2000 wasn’t even used to upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, but was dumped into the state’s general fund.

However, it is hard to imagine anything more troubling then the state’s decision to saddle our state, our taxpayers and our children with an extraordinary level of irresponsible and crippling state debt.

Today, Connecticut’s state government faces long-term obligations and indebtedness of more than $54 billion.

Excessive borrowing and the failure to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future costs associated with state employee and teacher pensions, as well as health and retirement benefits, means that a future bill of unimaginable proportions awaits us all. The cost, as of now, is about $15,500 for every man, woman and child in our state.

Imagine that in addition to all of their other troubles, the average middle-income family of four in Connecticut has an “outstanding debt” to the state exceeding $60,000 – on top of their existing annual tax obligations.

Regardless of what Sen. Obama really meant by his recent comments, it strikes me as quite obvious that many families, lower- and middle-income alike, are undoubtedly bitter.

Let’s face it: In addition to the challenges associated with our sub-rate economy, Connecticut families are struggling to pay mortgage and health care bills, while trying to figure out how to pay for the increased costs of gasoline, home heating, electricity and local property taxes (not to mention the problems associated with having to cope with the obscene costs of getting their children a college education).

It’s enough to make anyone bitter.

Jonathan Pelto is a former state representative from Storrs.

Yohuru Williams asks – What Would Dr. King Say About the Corporate Assault on Public Education?

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Dr. Yohuru Williams is one of my heroes, as well as a fellow education blogger and activist.  Dr. Williams is also a professor of history and a dean at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

This wise and powerful commentary piece first appeared in the Progressive on January 16, 2015.  It has since been reposted on many blogs.

What Would Martin Say?  (By Dr. Yohuru Williams)

This year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in US history. It also has marked a renewed push by the proponents of corporate education reform to dismantle public education in what they persist in referring to as the great “civil rights issue of our time.” The leaders of this effort, including US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are fond of appropriating the language of the civil rights movement to justify their anti-union, anti-teacher, pro-testing privatization agenda. But they are not social justice advocates. And Arne Duncan is no Reverend King.

In a 2010 speech observing the forty-fifth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, Duncan boldly invoked the words of John Kennedy: “Simple justice requires that public funds . . . not be spent in any fashion which encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination.” Duncan enjoined those in attendance, “Let me repeat that, President Kennedy said that no taxpayer dollars should be spent if they subsidize or result in racial discrimination.” Yet Duncan and the Obama Administration—through Race to the Top, a program similar to the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind—have pursued policies that exacerbate segregation and racial inequality.

In a 2010 interview with then-chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Joel Klein, Duncan went even further, invoking the name of Martin Luther King to justify attacks on public schools. Dr. King “explained in his powerful Letter from Birmingham Jail why the civil rights movement could not wait,” said Duncan. “America today cannot wait to transform education. We’ve been far too complacent and too passive. We have perpetuated poverty and social failure for far too long. The need is urgent and the time for change is now.”

But there is plenty of evidence that King would never have endorsed corporate education reform or privatization. Consider how King defined the role of education.

While still an undergraduate at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1947, King said: “I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education.” They “think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses.” He continued: “Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.”

Here, King plainly laid out two visions of education that continue to war against each other. While he acknowledged the importance of an education in preparing persons for the workforce, enabling “man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life,” he also saw a much deeper purpose.

“We must remember,” King warned, “that intelligence is not enough . . . Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” He asserted, “The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest. For King, the lofty goal of education was not just to make a living but also to make the world a better place by using that production of knowledge for good. “To save man from the morass of propaganda,” King opined, “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 notion that privatization can foster equality is fiction.

King was born into a world in which privatization was the enemy of equality. In the 1930s, for instance, the NAACP struggled against agents of the Democratic Party in many southern states that tried to define it as a private club; they cut off avenues to full political participation through vehicles like the white primary. Poll taxes and literacy tests were also still employed in many locations to deny African Americans political participation. It is hard to imagine King under any circumstances endorsing either testing or privatization as the means of ensuring equality.

In fact, King by implication strongly rebuked the privatizers in his observations regarding Senator Eugene Talmadge, the notorious segregationist governor of his home state of Georgia.

Talmadge, King observed, “possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America,” and “wore the Phi Beta Kappa key.” King reflected, “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?”

The same could be said at present for the cadre of corporate education reformers touting Ivy League degrees and billion-dollar bank accounts without an ounce of empathy for those harmed by their efforts. Like Talmadge, they fail to see beyond the narrow confines of their own self-interest the inherently dangerous and corrosive impact their policies are having not only on the nation’s youth but also the foundations of American democracy. When Arne Duncan suggests, for instance, as he did in a speech at a Brooklyn charter school in 2009, that based on high-stakes testing, “we should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ ” there is a serious problem. In neglecting to address how the nation would deal with the so-called failures on these high-stakes tests, he is not only betraying the movement but the very function of education as King imagined it.

King would never have endorsed high-stakes testing. “The function of education,” he explained in 1947, “is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” Furthermore, he never would have supported any individual or group that promoted a view of education simply as a means of ensuring job efficiency without human compassion. Education that “stops with efficiency,” he warned, “may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”

King saw how school privatization was used to maintain segregation in Georgia. He witnessed the insidious efforts of Eugene Talmadge’s son, Herman, a distinguished lawyer, who succeeded his father in the governor’s office. Herman Talmadge created what became known as the “private-school plan.” In 1953, before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Talmadge proposed an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to empower the general assembly to privatize the state’s public education system. “We can maintain separate schools regardless of the US Supreme Court,” Talmadge advised his colleagues, “by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision.” The plan was simple. If the Supreme Court decided, as it eventually did in Brown, to mandate desegregation, the state would close the schools and issue vouchers to allowing students to enroll in segregated private schools.

What we are seeing in the name of “reform” today is the same plan with slight modifications: brand schools as low-performing factories of failure, encourage privatization, and leave the vast majority of students in underfunded, highly stigmatized public schools.

This effort will create an America that looks more like the 1967 Kerner Commission’s forecast, two societies separate and unequal, than Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community.

For King, the Beloved Community was a global vision of human cooperation and understanding where all peoples could share in the abundant resources of the planet. He believed that universal standards of human decency could be used to challenge the existence of poverty, famine, and economic displacement in all of its forms. A celebration of achievement and an appreciation of fraternity would blot out racism, discrimination, and distinctions of any kind that sought to divide rather than elevate people—no matter what race, religion, or test score. The Beloved Community promoted international cooperation over competition. The goal of education should be not to measure our progress against the world but to harness our combined intelligence to triumph over the great social, scientific, humanistic, and environmental issues of our time.

While it seeks to claim the mantle of the movement and Dr. King’s legacy, corporate education reform is rooted in fear, fired by competition and driven by division. It seeks to undermine community rather than build it and, for this reason, it is the ultimate betrayal of the goals and values of the movement.

Real triumph over educational inequalities can only come from a deeper investment in our schools and communities and a true commitment to tackling poverty, segregation, and issues affecting students with special needs and bilingual education. The Beloved Community is to be found not in the segregated citadels of private schools but in a well-funded system of public education, free and open to all—affirming our commitment to democracy and justice and our commitment to the dignity and worth of our greatest resource, our youth.

 

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

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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:

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

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A growing number of parents (and educators) understand that the Common Core standardized testing frenzy is bad for students, teachers and public schools.

Recognizing that they have a fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests, hundreds of thousands of parents across the country have been opting their child out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

In New York State last year, nearly a quarter of a million parents opted their children out of that state’s Common Core testing farce.

While Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration misleads, lies and threatens parents, teachers and school administrators in an unethical attempt to derail the opt out movement in the Constitution State; public officials in other states actually take action to respect the will of their constituents.

For example, in Montclair, New Jersey the Board of Education approved, on a vote of 6 to 0, a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the testing program and directing the “Montclair School District to provide an alternative learning plan for children whose parents have refused for them to take the [Common Core] PARCC tests.

In response to that plan, parents in Montclair received the following letter yesterday, January 14, 2016;

Dear Parents/Guardians/Caregivers:

As you know, the New Jersey Department of Education requires all students to take state assessments. There is no provision for a student to opt-out of statewide assessments. However, last year the Montclair Board of Education passed a resolution allowing the district to create a plan for students not taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) according to their parents’ request.

The district procedures for parental refusal of standardized testing are as follows:

All parents/caregivers must notify the school principal by March 1 using the attached form or this link that his/her child will not be participating in the scheduled statewide assessment. A separate form is required for each child. The electronic PARCC Opt-Out form will automatically be submitted to the district and your school principal(s).

We are also including a form for your use in opting out if you do not have access electronically.

Please fill out a separate form for each child and return to your respective school principals by March 1.

Sincerely,

Ron Bolandi

Interim Superintendent

In Montclair, New Jersey parents can opt their children out of the Common Core testing by simply providing their child’s name, school, grade and signing a statement which reads

“I attest that I am the parent of this student and by typing my initials in this box I consent to my student opting out of all PARCC assessments during the 2015-2016 school year.”

Connecticut parents can see what they are missing by clicking on Montclair, NJ Parental Opt-out form;

Imagine, public officials who actually respect and stand up for the rights of their constituents.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and their State Department of Education are not only misleading, lying and bullying Connecticut parents, but they are engaged in an orchestrated effort to punish the school districts and local taxpayers in communities in which parents refuse to allow their children to participate in the Common Core SBAC scam.

See:  Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

Malloy and Wyman’s failure to act means that the responsibility now rests with Connecticut’s legislators and local boards of education.

It is time for Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials to do the right thing and stop undermining Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and public schools.

The first step is ensuring Connecticut’s parents have the same rights as parents in Montclair, New Jersey.

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

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REMEMBER:  There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits Connecticut parents from opting their children out of the destructive Common Core testing scheme.

However, according to a series of letters and memos signed by Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell, on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s administration, local school districts that failed to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) testing scam will be receiving a letter by (tomorrow) January 15, 2016 informing them that their local school system will lose grant funds if they don’t force at least 90% of the children to take this year’s Common Core tests.

Education Commissioner Wentzell has informed Connecticut superintendents that there will be severe consequences for any school district that fails to stop parents from standing up to protect their children from the testing madness.

The Malloy/Wyman administration’s memo to superintendents included the following:

District Participation Rate Consequences 2014-15

For School Districts that had a participation rate “Below 80%” in any category, “funds will be withheld if, at a minimum, participation in 2015-16 fails to meet Level 2 criteria (which the state is now setting as  greater than 90%.)

The State Department of Education memo adds that any school district that failed to reach the 95% participation threshold this year must (1) attend a meeting with the State Department of Education and (2) submit a detailed corrective action plan that will be reviewed and approved by the State Department of Education.

The mandatory meetings will be held by February 5, 2016, corrective action plans must be submitted to the State Department of Education by February 16, 2016 and those plans will be “reviewed, revised as necessary, and approved by CSDE” by February 29, 2106.

The Malloy administration’s memo fails to identify what authority the State Department of Education has to force local force school districts to submit “corrective action plans,” to review and approve such plans or to withhold taxpayer funds from any district that does not achieve a 90% participation rate.  (Where the decision to mandate a 90% participation rate rather than 95% level is a complete mystery.)

Of even greater concern is the fact that the State Department of Education fails to provide local school districts with any guidance, instruction, or legal advice about how they are supposed to lie, mislead or stop parents from utilizing their fundamental right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core testing program.

The state also fails to explain why they consider it good public policy to withhold taxpayer funds from schools in which parents have gotten involved and opted their children out of that excessive testing system.

And yes, this attack on students, parents, teachers, public schools and our fundamental legal rights is taking place right here in Connecticut.

No word from legislators about what they are doing to protect their constituents from this incredible assault.

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

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Yesterday, lawyers for Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen spent the day in a Connecticut courtroom arguing to a judge in the CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit why the state should not be held accountable for failing to provide Connecticut’s children with their constitutionally guaranteed right to a quality education.

We can be sure of one thing.  If a Republican governor was engaged in such an unethical and immoral approach to Connecticut’s school funding system, Democratic officials would be leading the demonstrations demanding that the state of Connecticut settle the lawsuit and fulfill their obligation to our state’s children.

But Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen claim the “Democratic Party” label and thus there was nothing but silence yesterday from Democratic Party officials.

Meanwhile, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education is not only preparing to take the stand against Connecticut’s children in the critically important CCJEF School Funding Lawsuit, but she is leading the Malloy/Wyman administration’s inappropriate attack on students, parents and the public school administrators who were honest and truthful, last spring, about a parent’s right to opt their child out of the disastrous Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Although there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents a Connecticut parent from refusing to have their child participate in the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Testing Program, that truth isn’t stopping the Malloy administration from reaching out to punish the school districts that didn’t “prevent” parents from utilizing their inalienable right to opt out of the testing.

The attack on Connecticut school districts that “allowed” children to be opted out is nothing short of reprehensible and the Malloy administration’s tactics are becoming a national disgrace.

Dr. Daniel Katz is a New Jersey-based educator, university professor, expert on preparing special education teachers for the classroom and a fellow education blogger.  From his vantage point, Daniel Katz has been watching Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration’s attack on students, parents, teachers and public education with disgust.

In his latest column entitled, Connecticut Recommends Thumbscrews, Daniel Katz writes;

Connecticut’s Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy does not always grab attention in the annals of corporate education reform.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has made battles with public unions more central to his image.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plainly relishes getting to act “tough” and yell at teachers questioning his agenda. Democratic Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel shuttered 50 public schools, mostly serving ethnic minority children, in one go, without caring to listen at all to the residents of the impacted neighborhoods.  Neighboring governor and fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York staked a huge portion of his agenda for 2015 on ramming through controversial education reforms, and his approval rating both overall and especially on education have tanked in a highly visible manner.  Compared to headline grabbers like these, Governor Malloy does not seem to get much attention.

Which is a shame because when it comes to the Holy Trinity of education reform – common standards, standardized testing tied to punitive consequences, and preference for charter schools over district schools, Governor Malloy is the complete package. In 2012, he called for major changes to teacher tenure in Connecticut, earning praise from ConnCAN, an education reform group promoting charter schools.  Facing push back from teachers and parents about the pace and nature of education reforms, Governor Malloy was forced to call for a “slow down” in the pace of reforms, especially tying teacher evaluations to standardized test results.  $91,000 in campaign donations flowed to Connecticut Democrats from a single wealthy businessman and charter school advocate, Jonathan Sackler, and three members of his family; those donations and others from Wall Street were rewarded with proposals for over $21 million in new charter school funding while public school spending remains flat.

It is pretty clear that Governor Malloy stands shoulder to shoulder with New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel even if he prefers to draw less national attention to himself.  So it is perhaps not surprising that his education department is contemplating thumbscrews for the Opt Out movement in Connecticut.

Opt Out was not the force in Connecticut that it was in neighboring New York with only 11,200 students not taking the state exams while the state says 267,000 did.  However, a number of individual districts did not meet the 95% testing requirement of No Child Left Behind which was continued in the new Every Child Succeeds Acts, and in some districts those numbers were significant. Roughly 7 out of 10 high school juniors opted out in Stonington, and participation fell below 95% in over 30 communities.

This Fall, roughly a dozen states got a letter from Ann Whalen at the US Department of Education, an adviser who is acting as the assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education, reminding them that their districts need to test no less than 95 percent of all students and that the state needs an action plan to deal with those who do not.  The letter opens by reminding state chief education officers of the legal requirements to test all children in grades 3-8 and once in high schools, that the examinations must be same for all students, and no student may be excluded from the examinations.  Ms. Whalen asserts that the sections of the law she cites “set out the rule that all students must be assessed.” The letter continues to remind the state officers that both their state and local authorities who receive Title I, Part A money assured that they would test all students in accordance with the law.  Ms. Whalen also offers “suggestions” for actions state education authorities can take to address participation in the assessments:

  • Lowering an LEA’s or school’s rating in the State’s accountability system or amending the system flag an LEA or school with a low participation rate.
  • Counting non-participants as non-proficient in accountability determinations.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to develop an improvement plan, or take corrective actions to ensure that all students participate in the statewide assessments in the future, and providing the SEA’s process to review and monitor such plans.
  • Requiring an LEA or school to implement additional interventions aligned with the reason for low student participation, or even if the state’s accountability system does not officially designate schools for such interventions.
  • Designating an LEA or school as “high risk,” or a comparable status under the State’s laws and regulations, with a clear explanation for the implications of such a designation.
  • Withholding or directing use of State aid and/or funding flexibility.

Ms. Whalen also reminds the states that they have “a range of other enforcement actions” including placing conditions on Title I, Part A grants or even withholding them.  For a real kicker, she goes on to say that if states with less than 95% participation in the 2014-2015 school year do not assess 95% of students this year, then the federal education department “will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I, Part A State administration funds; (2) place the State’s Title I, Part A grant on high-risk and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title VI State assessment funds.”

Short version: States with Opt Out numbers that put them or local districts below 95% test participation must bargain, cajole, plead, or threaten districts and schools into making that target.  The Federal Education Department has put in writing that not only failure to take action to address low assessment rates, but also failure to meet the 95% target this year, WILL result in some form of punitive action from Washington.  Presumably, the degree of the punishment will depend upon how vigorous the state actions are.  It is also safe to assume that the Education Department offices in Washington have a new logo:

Connecticut got its own version of this letter from Dr. Monique Chism in the office of state support, and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Dr. Dianna Wentzell quietly sent the state’s reply on December 4th, waiting until December 28th to release it to the public. In the letter, Dr. Wentzell assures Washington that although Connecticut met the 95% participation rate statewide, they are “not pleased” that a number of districts did not do so, and the state has devised a tiered intervention system to “ensure that districts meeting the standard are commended, those failing marginally are gently alerted, and those falling behind are strongly reminded of the potential consequences and provided support to remedy the situation in 2015-2016.”  In the next school year, Connecticut’s accountability system will “lower a school by one category for low participation rates in the 2015-2016 year.”  The system is explained in a graphic:

Districts in Connecticut are now warned: if your test participation rates were below 80% in any category, funds WILL be withheld if this year’s participation rate is not at least 90%.

SDE consequences

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This remains as problematic as it has been every time the federal government or a state entity has raised it.  Yes, it is true that federal law requires that at least 95 percent of all students in all subcategories are tested in the participating grades.  Yes, it is true that state and local officials have to do what they can to test the students in the participating grades and have almost no legal authority to exempt any of those students.  However, the statute was written to prevent states and local school authorities from hiding low performing student populations from accountability systems.  I challenge Dr. Wentzell, Dr. Chism, or Ms. Whalen to find a single line of statutory authority to compel parents to submit their children for examination or to find any legislative intent in the original NCLB legislation or its successor to punish schools and districts for not exerting 95% control of the parents in their district.  There have been schools since 2001 who have not managed to test 95% of their students, but there is not a single example of a school being punished for that.

In the end, Connecticut, at the prodding of the Federal Education Department, is setting itself up for an unpleasant confrontation with parents, often parents that elected officials find difficult to ignore, with very shaky legal footing.  North Haven High School, for example, had extremely low participation rates on the 11th grade exams.  The community also has a median home value $22,000 above the state median and median household income $16,000 above the state median.  With only 4% of its residents below the poverty line compared to the state average of over 10% it is unlikely that North Haven’s schools rely significantly upon Title I funds, so it is unclear exactly what money Dr. Wentzell would withhold.  However, the loss of any money intended to help children who are in poverty based upon actions of parents rather than upon actions of school authorities is unprecedented, contrary to the intention of any federal and state accountability laws – and far more likely to increase the parental backlash than to bottle it up.

While Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Attorney General George Jepsen don’t face the votes this year, Connecticut’s legislators do.  In this battle between the Malloy administration and Connecticut’s public schools, state senators and state representatives would do well to be clear about whose side they are on… Are they going to stand with Malloy or with Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers?

Hey Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen – Connecticut children have a Constitutional Right to a quality education!

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Six years ago the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in the case of CCJEF v. Rell that Connecticut’s State Constitution REQUIRES that all public school students have the fundamental right to “an effective and meaningful (quality, adequate) education, the standard for which is “dynamic” and dependent on the “demands of an evolving world.”

Connecticut’s Supreme Court then sent the case to a trial judge to determine what the State of Connecticut must do to meet that standard.

However, for the past six years Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Attorney General George Jepsen and the Malloy administration have fought to derail, destroy or dismiss this incredibly important lawsuit.

Instead of stepping up to fulfill their legal duty to the children of Connecticut, these “Democratic” politicians have devoted a massive amount of taxpayer resources in an immoral attempt to prevent Connecticut’s children (and Connecticut’s local property taxpayers) from having their “day in court.”

Despite Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen’s best efforts, the CCJEF V. RELL trial begins today.  (See CT Newsjunkie Trial on Landmark Education Funding Lawsuit Begins)

As CCJEF explained in a recent press release;

(Hartford, CT)—The landmark CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity case goes to trial before the Hartford Superior Court beginning Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

At issue in the case is whether the State’s public education finance system meets the adequacy and equity standards required by the Connecticut Constitution (PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law, January 5. 2016).

“The journey on this long and winding judicial road has taken nearly 11 years, but now Connecticut’s schoolchildren will have their day in court,” said Herbert C. Rosenthal, CCJEF President.  “The outcome of this historic case will have profound impacts on how public education services are delivered and funded for generations to come.  It is time to acknowledge that the education finance system in our state is broken and needs to be fixed.” said Rosenthal.

CCJEF (www.ccjef.org) is dedicating our trial efforts to the memory of Dr. Dianne Kaplan deVries, CCJEF founder and long-time project director, who passed away on October 11, 2015.

CCJEF, established in 2004, is a broad-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that seeks to achieve an adequately and equitably funded PreK-12 public education system that is based on the learning needs of students and the real costs of delivering high-quality education in every community.

In 2005, CCJEF and several named school children and their parents filed suit against the State of Connecticut (CCJEF v. Rell) for its failure to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably fund the public schools. In a 2010 pretrial ruling, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the State’s constitutional obligation and remanded the case back to the trial court for full trial on the merits of Plaintiffs’ adequacy and equity claims.

As noted, additional details about CCJEF’s position can be found in the PROPOSED STATEMENT OF FACTS, while Malloy/Wyman/Jepsen’s warped version of the education funding issue can be found via State of Connecticut Position.

As the recent CCJEF press release explains, Dianne Kaplan deVries served as The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding’s Project Director until her recent death. 

Diane Kaplain deVries was a tireless advocate for Connecticut’s public school children and wrote multiple commentary pieces about the school funding issue which were published at CT Newsjunkie.

In a March 11, 2013 CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Fighting Children in the Courtroom, Diane Kaplan deVries framed the growing frustration with the way Malloy and his people sought to undermine public education in Connecticut.

A 2010 Connecticut Supreme Court pretrial ruling says that public school children have a constitutional right to a quality (adequate) education and the state must pay for it. That’s surely inconvenient for a state with a budget in the red. No wonder lawyers for both sides are bumping heads as the case inches forward to trial, currently scheduled for July 2014.

It appears from the motions filed in late January by the state in the Connecticut Coalition of Justice In Education Funding v. Rell lawsuit that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former prosecutor, would prefer to fight schoolchildren in the courtroom than to sit down with plaintiffs and realistically consider the state’s options.

The state filed two motions with the trial court. One seeks to dismiss the case because it is either moot or not yet ripe for trial, and for a second time since the case was filed, also seeks to remove the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding as a plaintiff.  This newest challenge to the coalition’s associational standing hinges primarily on the large number of school districts and municipalities that are members—creations of the state which are not ordinarily able to bring suit against it. The second motion asks the court to modify the scheduling order that sets deadlines for steps leading to trial.

In support of its motion to dismiss, the state appended some 410 pages of documents. These primarily consist of copies of the 2012 legislation, various State Department of Education compilations, and affidavits from state Department of Education Chief Financial Officer Brian MahoneyEducation Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and a consultant from Hawaii, Richard Seder.

Arguments raised by the state relating to mootness are that the CCJEF complaint describes education deficiencies that some children may have experienced in 2005. However, thanks to the education reform legislation enacted by last year’s legislature it has “dramatically and comprehensively altered the public education system the plaintiffs ask this court to declare unconstitutional” (p. 2, Motion to Modify Scheduling) The state also claims that the funding that accompanied those reforms, laid out in the Mahoney affidavit, was substantial.

Perhaps hedging bets on which argument may resonate more with the court, the state simultaneously argues against the ripeness of plaintiffs’ claims, maintaining that it is too soon for this case to come to trial because there needs to be sufficient time for those 2012 education reforms to produce a measurable effect.

Undaunted by the state’s positions, CCJEF counsel fired back a reply brief with 329 pages of exhibits. Countering the affidavits attached to the state’s brief is the affidavit of Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, one of the nation’s leading school finance experts. (For those with less reading time available, his recent blog posting on SchoolFinance101 makes use of some key scattergrams from his CCJEF reply brief affidavit.)

Baker’s analysis of the 2012 education reform legislation differs vastly from the views presented in the state’s filings. Highlights are as follows:

  • Changes in funding for the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant for 2012-13 are trivial, even for the Alliance Districts, which saw increases mostly less than $200 per pupil and under 2 percent.  Fiscal analyses reinforce rather than negate plaintiffs’ claims of underfunding of the ECS formula and its inequitable distribution of state aid.  Moreover, increased funding to charters that already outspend host districts (after adjusting for student need) and serve lower-need student populations exacerbates rather than moderates disparities in opportunity.
  • Nominal changes to various state policies enacted in 2012 produce no change to the distribution of educational opportunity (equity) and provide no measurable additional resources (adequacy).  Nor is it likely that they could in future years.  Moreover, the funds attached to the policy changes, aside from being trivial, are not guaranteed (as was evidenced in December by the Governor’s rescissions, followed shortly thereafter by the legislature’s deficit mitigation cuts).
  • The 2012 policy changes mainly add structures that label the successes and failures of districts, schools, and teachers — labels that come with an increased threat of state intervention and a reduction of local control that may adversely affect local property values, accelerating the downward spiral of communities already in long-term economic and educational decline.  Absent the provision of equitable and adequate resources, such policy changes may disrupt local governance and involvement in the schools and force upon local districts new costs and spending requirements.
  • The state’s claims of improvements to be gained through mandated changes to teacher evaluation as a policy lever for redistributing (positively) educational opportunities for schoolchildren are without foundation or supporting evidence.  To suggest that changes to teacher evaluation alone would improve the equity and adequacy of the teacher workforce — regardless of resources — ignores the increased job insecurity and absence of increased wages or benefits that counterbalance the risk.  New teacher evaluation schemes also come with substantial up-front costs that are not addressed with additional state aid to school districts.
  • Educational adequacy and equal educational opportunity should not be reserved for a tiny portion of schools (Commissioner’s Network) or districts (Alliance Districts).  Adequate funding should not sunset, nor should it be at the discretion of a single political appointee.

In addition to the expert opinion, legal arguments pertaining to mootness and ripeness, as well as a strong defense of CCJEF’s legitimate standing in the case,the reply brief was offered by counsel for the plaintiffs, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (New York), with assistance from the Yale Law School Education Adequacy Clinic, both of which serve pro bono in this action.

Constitutional challenges on behalf of schoolchildren’s rights are among the most complex cases any court can hear. They are also among the most challenging cases to be brought or defended against. That said, it is difficult to fault the state for doing what defense lawyers do:  they file motions aimed at making the case go away.

However, the state’s motion to dismiss raises concerns, even incredulity, about any perception that at the 11th hour, Malloy successfully pushed through legislation that negates (or soon will) the decades of harmful neglect and deprivation of resources by the state of its public school system. Could anyone truly imagine that those 2012 reforms, together with whatever initiatives and meager funding may come out of the 2013 legislature, are sufficient for affixing the “Mission Accomplished” banner outside the Capitol complex, proclaiming that the state at long last is meeting its constitutional obligation to schoolchildren?

You can read the original piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_fighting_children_in_the_courtroom/

Connecticut’s historic school funding trial finally begins this week

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As Connecticut education advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, reports in her latest commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate, Connecticut’s children finally get day in court.

Of the many disappointments that have arisen since Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were sworn in to office in January 2011, few, if any, is greater than their immoral efforts to dismiss, derail and delay what may be the most important Connecticut court case in our lifetime – the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

The truth is that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional. 

Inadequate funding is robbing Connecticut’s public schoolchildren of their constitutional right to a quality education, while placing an unfair burden on Connecticut’s local property taxpayers.

A new funding formula is needed.  But Connecticut politicians lack the will to adopt one, so the responsibility to act has fallen on the courts.

Despite having been supporters of the lawsuits prior to taking office, Malloy, Wyman and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen have wasted five years and massive amounts of taxpayer funds trying to stop Connecticut’s judicial branch from even hearing the critically important court case.

As mayor of Stamford, Dan Malloy was actually one of the original sponsors and plaintiffs of the CCJEF V. Rell School Funding lawsuit.

Running for office in 2010, Dan Malloy bragged about his role in pushing the CCJEF lawsuit, telling the Hartford Courant on March 23, 2010;

“I think in the long run it is very important to the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy, who was among the group that launched the coalition that brought the lawsuit. “I began these efforts years ago because I firmly believed that the state was not honoring its constitutional requirement and the funding formula for education in poor and urban communities was not fair to those communities.”

Nancy Wyman and George Jepsen were also strong advocates for addressing Connecticut’s unconstitutional school funding system.

And then, when they were finally in a position to make a real difference, these three “leaders” turned their backs on Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, schools and taxpayers.

While the Malloy, Wyman and Jepsen were able to delay the day of reckoning, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell school funding lawsuit is finally set to begin on January 12, 2016 in a Hartford courtroom.

Wendy Lecker explains;

On Jan. 12, Connecticut’s school funding trial, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) v. Rell, will finally begin. The plaintiffs include a statewide coalition of parents, municipalities, local boards of education, and organizations, and individual parents in districts across the state. They began the case in 2005. Since then, the state has waged a costly, failed crusade to keep the plaintiffs from having their day in court.

The plaintiffs claim that the state’s flawed school funding system provides inadequate resources to schools, thereby depriving Connecticut’s public school children of their rights under the Education Article of Connecticut’s constitution.

Under Connecticut’s Constitution, the state is responsible for providing children with a “suitable” public education. In 2010, when Connecticut’s Supreme Court denied the state’s first attempt to dismiss the case, it defined a “suitable” education as one that enables graduates to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education. The court ruled that the state must provide sufficient resources to enable students to obtain this level of education.

The CCJEF plaintiffs contend that for children to have a constitutionally “suitable” education, schools must have certain essential resources:

  • high quality preschool;
  • appropriate class size;
  • programs and services for at-risk students;
  • high quality administrators and teachers;
  • modern and adequate library facilities;
  • modern technology and appropriate instruction;
  • an adequate number of hours of instruction;
  • a rigorous curriculum with a wide breadth of courses;
  • modern and appropriate textbooks;
  • a healthy, safe, well-maintained school environment conducive to learning;
  • adequate special needs services;
  • appropriate career and academic counseling; and
  • suitably run extra-curricular activities

This list of essential resources is consistent with what courts across the nation deem necessary for a constitutionally adequate education.

In the state’s last attempt to dismiss the case, in 2013, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration claimed that its 2012 reforms, including yearly common core standardized testing of students, evaluating teachers by students’ standardized test scores and a system of ranking, shaming and punishing districts with low test scores, would solve all the state’s education woes.

This failed tactic was attempted by states in other school funding cases, such as Kansas. The Kansas court declared that relying on similar unproven reforms rather than adequate funding was “experimenting with our children (who) have no recourse from a failure of the experiment.”

The CCJEF court ruled that there is no evidence that Malloy’s reforms would redress the constitutional inadequacies and ordered that the state prove it at trial.

The state has known all along that the plaintiffs are right — that schools need the essential resources the CCJEF plaintiffs demand. In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official, Commissioner Betty Sternberg, wrote to then-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and told her so.

In the letter, Commissioner Sternberg requested permission to continue testing children only in grades 4,6, 8 and 10. She stated that adding standardized tests in the other grades “will cost millions of dollars and will tell us nothing that we do not already know about our students’ achievement and what we must do to improve it.”

Sternberg maintained that high-needs schools needed support to improve and set forth proven strategies to improve education, including:

  • High quality preschool;
  • School based health centers/family resource centers;
  • Small class size;
  • Adequate support staff, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists, reading specialists and guidance counselors;
  • Incentives to retain experienced teachers;
  • Adequate technology, curriculum, supplies and professional development;
  • Adequate learning time;
  • Adequate space for learning.

In 2005, Connecticut’s top education official enumerated almost the exact same list of resources that the CCJEF plaintiffs seek. Moreover, Commissioner Sternberg maintained that these resources “are not a buffet,” but rather a “full-course meal.” “If we want to see significant improvement in student achievement, all of these areas should move ahead in concert,” she wrote.

Despite this admission by the state that schools need these essential resources, the state did nothing over the past 10 years to try to ensure every Connecticut school be properly equipped. Rather, the state chose to waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a futile attempt to keep the facts about its failure to fund schools from coming out in court. During that time, a generation of Connecticut children passed through the educational system deprived of basic educational resources they needed to succeed in school and life.

The governor, legislature and state education officials knowingly and repeatedly disregarded their duty to our children. One hopes that when the facts finally emerge, the court will grant our children the justice Connecticut politicians consistently denied them.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s column which first appeared in the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Connecticut-s-children-finally-6745644.php

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