CT Capitol Report Headline Reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

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While some tend to fall back on the phrase, “I told you so” much too often, the truth is that rarely does one get a chance to point to someone else confirming an individual’s claim that that they really were right when others were wrong….

So with that as the backdrop and propelled by an opportunity to brag, tempered by an appropriate dose of humility, I am proud to report that ctcapitolreport, the state’s leading news aggregation website, is sporting a headline that reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

The reference is to my long-standing and on-going observation that in order to balance next year’s Connecticut state budget, provide sufficient revenue to fund critical services and begin to reduce the unfair tax burden on Connecticut’s middle class, Connecticut’s elected officials must find the courage to actually do what is necessary and that means appending Connecticut’s tax code to require that the state’s wealthy begin to pay their fair share of taxes.

Longer term Wait, What? readers will recall that this blog does cover issues other than the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Scheme.

In fact, another primary focus of this blog has traditionally been Connecticut’s irresponsible fiscal policies that have resulted in a truly regressive tax system in which the state’s lowest income families pay about 12 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes and the wealthy, who have been coddled by both Democrats and Republicans, only pay about 5 to 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

While the inequities in Connecticut’s tax system have been growing for decades, the problem has become particularly severe as a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s unending fiscal gimmicks and his unprecedented dedication and addiction to irresponsible fiscal policies.

The article the website www.ctcapitolreport.com  is referring to is a news story posted early today by Connecticut’s premier budget reporter, Keith Phaneuf of the CTMirror.

Phaneuf has written another MUST READ story for those who want to understand Connecticut’s state budget and how Governor Dannel Malloy lied his way through the 2014 gubernatorial campaign by claiming there was no state deficit and that if he was re-elected we would eliminate the projected $1.4 billion projected deficit for next year without having to raise taxes or cut services.

Keith Phaneuf’s latest article is entitled “Tax hike ideas abound at the Capitol,” and can be found at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/23/tax-hike-ideas-abound-at-the-capitol/

The CT Mirror piece concludes with the following;

Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, D-Mansfield, who tried unsuccessfully to petition onto the 2014 gubernatorial ballot, predicted last summer that the big budget deficits projected for the next two fiscal years would eventually force a progressive income tax debate this spring.

“Requiring the wealthy to pay their fair in state income tax is the only responsible way to balance the state budget and begin to reduce the heavy and inappropriate burden on Connecticut’s middle-income taxpayers,” Pelto said last week. “Failure to require the rich to pay their fair share will mean unacceptable cuts in vital services and hurting the middle class and all working families by shifting even more of the tax burden onto local property taxpayers.

Or, in other words, “I told you so.”

Hello Superintendents – Common Core SBAC Test “Mandate” is not like Connecticut’s truancy laws.

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Reading the misleading letters that Connecticut parents are still receiving from some local school superintendents it remains clear that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and more than a handful of school superintendents need to take a deep breath and actually read Connecticut’s State Statues…and then consider those statutes in the context of their moral and ethical responsibility to Connecticut’s students and their parents.

Parents throughout Connecticut, and across the nation, continue to inform local school officials that they are opting their children out of the Common Core Testing program because they understandably refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.

But rather than handle the situation in a professional, dignified and respectful fashion some local school superintendents, using memos provided by Malloy Department of Education, continue to mislead and harass parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to determine what is best for their children.

A typical example of the arrogance of these education autocrats can be found in the recent letter authored by New Haven’s Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries who writes,

“…please understand that federal and state laws require that all public school students be tested, so New Haven Schools has no degree of freedom in this matter.”

As if he has no choice but to “follow orders,” Superintendent Harries adds,

“…the state law also does not allow parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment.”

A little honesty on the part of Connecticut’s State Department of Education and these local school officials would make a huge difference in this debate about a parent’s right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme.

If superintendents would take their blinders off for a moment they’d realize the following:

Their authority to try and force a child to take the SBAC test, or punish a child who does not, is not like the authority they have to deal with the issue of truancy, which is clearly and concisely laid out in state law.

When it comes to the so-called “mandate” that children must take the Common Core SBAC Test, Connecticut State Statue 10-14n. reads,

Mastery examination. (a) 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.

10-14n (b) (1) For the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.

Putting aside the fact that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test is not a true mastery exam because it does not measure “grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing…,” the actual truth is that there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or local school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC exam.

Furthermore, this so-called “mandate” has been on the books since 1978 and although thousands of students have failed to take the CMT/CAPT Mastery Tests every year, no child or parent has ever been punished for missing those tests.

Now let us compare the “SBAC Test Mandate” to the very real mandate that parents are responsible for ensuring that their children go to school after the age of five.

Connecticut State Statute Section 10-184 reads,

Duties of parents. School attendance age requirements. All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments… each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.

Connecticut Statute Section 10-198a goes on to require that school boards develop truancy policies and statutes further require that if a child fails to attend school, local schools officials shall mail a notice to the parent and that,

“Such mailed notice shall include a warning that two unexcused absences from school in a month or five unexcused absences in a school year may result in a complaint filed with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

Connecticut State law further states,

“If the parent or other person having control of a child who is a truant fails to attend the meeting held pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section or if such parent or other person otherwise fails to cooperate with the school in attempting to solve the truancy problem, such policies and procedures shall require the superintendent of schools to file, not later than fifteen calendar days after such failure to attend such meeting or such failure to cooperate with the school attempting to solve the truancy problem, for each such truant enrolled in the schools under his jurisdiction a written complaint with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

The laws of Connecticut provide the government with a mechanism to punish parents who allow their children to be truants, but Connecticut law specifically fails to provide the government with any power related to punishing a parent or child for refusing to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

As long as the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut remain in place, we remain a nation where government is not all powerful.

As Connecticut law so clearly specifies, neither the state government nor local school districts have the authority to punish a child (or parent) who fails to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

If the Governor Dannel Malloy wants to change that law then he needs to propose that change, the General Assembly needs to adopt that change and then he can sign it into law.

Until then Malloy and his administration, along with the superintendents who are engaged in misleading and harassing parents need to stop what they are doing.

Their actions are not only inappropriate but unethical and immoral.

The time has come for these school officials to remember their fundamental responsibility to serve the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

If they can’t bring themselves to do that then they need to find another job for their presence here is not welcome.

Hey CT Mirror when did education fall off the list of “Pressing Issues”

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Earlier this week the “independent” news organization known at CT Mirror posted the news, “Mirror announces ‘Policy Pairings Series’ — Four Issues, Four Breweries.”

The CT Mirror article explained,

Four Connecticut homegrown breweries will serve as the backdrops for discussion of pressing state issues as The Connecticut Mirror launches its first “Policy Pairings Series.” Two events are scheduled for April and two for May at locations across the state.

Tickets are available starting today at ctmirrorpairings.org.

All events will be moderated by Mirror staff and are scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. The dates, locations and topics are:

Thursday, April 23 – Shebeen Brewing, Wolcott (Taxes)
Tuesday, April 28 – Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford (Road transportation)
Tuesday, May 12 – Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, Bloomfield (Business climate)
Tuesday, May 19 – Half Full Brewery, Stamford (Rail transportation)

The series is sponsored by the CT20x17 campaign, a non-partisan coalition of business, professional, and community organizations working together to strengthen Connecticut’s economy.

The CT Mirror noted that events are intended to be discussions “of the pressing state issues” and that the effort is the kickoff of the Connecticut Mirror’s new “Policy Pairings Series.”

Following the link provided by the CT Mirror – http://www.ctmirrorpairings.org/ – one finds a page highlighting the fact that the events are sponsored by “CT20x17: Build A Brighter Economic Future for Everyone,” along with the disclaimer;

The Connecticut Mirror is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization. Even though donors and corporate sponsors may underwrite events, they play no role in determining the content or line of questioning.

Did the CT Mirror really just say that donors and corporate sponsors, “play no role in determining the content?”

According to its webpage, “CT20x17 is a coalition of residents, associations, and businesses all dedicated to achieving the benefits for everyone of making Connecticut a top 20 state for economic competitiveness by 2017.”

The organization adds,  “Organizations from around the state have thrown their support behind the CT20x17 campaign and its framework of commonsense policies.”

CT20x17 adds that these organizations, “recognize that despite making progress in developing a talented future workforce, reducing energy costs, and cutting government red tape, our economic recovery has not kept pace with the national and regional economies. It is critical that we break that pattern and unlock the state’s enormous potential.”

Hooray for unlocking the State’s enormous potential!

And so the group is sponsoring a series of sessions about unlocking the “State’s enormous potential.”

But the independent CT Mirror could find no place in a discussion about unlocking Connecticut’s enormous potential to discuss the vital issues surrounding primary, secondary and higher education in Connecticut or about Connecticut sad record of inadequate funding for the one thing that would actually unlock the state’s enormous potential?

Hey CT Mirror, what gives?

It turns out that CT20X17 – The group dedicating to “unlocking the state’s enormous potential” – doesn’t even have an educator or public education proponent on its Steering Committee.  In fact, the committee is exclusively made up of Connecticut’s corporate elite or their representatives.

The CT20x17 Steering Committee includes;

  • John DiCarlo, Public Policy and Economic Development Manager, Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Bill Ethier, CEO, Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, Inc.
  • Oz Griebel, President & CEO, MetroHartford Alliance
  • Jennifer Jackson, President & CEO, Connecticut Hospital Association
  • Cliff Leach, Vice President, Government Affairs, The Hartford
  • John O’Toole, Board of Directors, Connecticut Economic Development Association
  • Tim Perra, Director, Global Communications, Stanley Black & Decker
  • Kim Sirois Pita, Kim Pita Peaces
  • Jeff Pugliese, Vice President, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce
  • Bill Purcell, President, The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Tony Rescigno, President,Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce
  • JoAnn Ryan, President & CEO, Northwest Connecticut’s Chamber of Commerce
  • Paul Timpanelli, President & CEO, Bridgeport Regional Business Council

So here comes a corporate sponsored series of forums on Connecticut’s pressing issues and yet no discussion of education…

And adding insult to injury, the CT Mirror informs readers that its kick-off session, sponsored by CT20X17, will focus on the “THE FUTURE OF CONNECTICUT’S TAX POLICY,” yet there isn’t even a panelist at the tax forum who will argue that Connecticut actually needs a fair, progressive tax structure in order to provide the range of services and programs that will address all of the challenges facing Connecticut.

Instead, the panelists who are participating in the forum, while undoubtedly experts and well meaning, are either part of the existing dysfunctional and regressive tax system that haunts Connecticut or are dedicated to the corporate sponsored rhetoric of lower taxes, especially for the wealthy and elite within the business community.

According to the CT Mirror’s promotional materials, the discussion on the The Future of Connecticut’s Tax Policy will be led exclusively by;

Sen. Scott Frantz (R-36th District) – Ranking Member, Finance, Revenue & Bonding
William Dyson (D) – Co-Chair, State and Local Tax Structure Review Panel
Stephen LaRosa – Senior Director, State & Local Tax, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Let’s be clear.

We all recognize that the newspaper industry is virtually extinct and the new world of cyber-based media outlets means that entities like the CTMirror must find significant sources of revenue, other than from advertising dollars, but it is extremely disturbing to think that the CT Mirror would claim corporate sponsors have no role in determining content when the evidence is exactly the opposite.

Just this past week the CT Mirror bragged about a major corporate sponsorship that will allow them to host a discussion about the “pressing issues” of our time…

But then we learn that education is not deemed a pressing issue and even the discussion of taxation is limited in scope to ensure there is no meaningful opportunity to discuss the reality that we need to require the wealthy to start paying their fair share and that we must dramatically alter our present tax code so that we can change Connecticut’s unfair and regressive tax structure into one that is fairer, more progressive, provides the resources necessary to fund government functions, including education, and promotes rather than destroys the middle class.

Rather than misleading readers by claiming  that, “Even though donors and corporate sponsors may underwrite events, they play no role in determining the content…,” perhaps the CT Mirror should be more transparent by simply appending the following to their site….

“Paid for and authorized by our corporate sponsors.”

In that way, at least Connecticut citizens would have a fighting chance to know that this “platform of independence” is compromised by the need for operating funds.

Common Core SBAC Test – Connecticut wrong, Vermont right!

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Fellow Connecticut education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has yet another MUST READ piece about the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s attack on public education and how Connecticut’s leaders are failing to protect our state’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Lecker’s column is entitled, The truth about the SBACs, and it can be found in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and on-line at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

Wendy Lecker writes;

A New England state is leading the way on sane testing policy. Unfortunately for us Nutmeggers, that state is Vermont, not Connecticut.

There is a growing national consensus that standardized testing has deleterious effects on education. The National Research Councilconcluded that test-based accountability under the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) had “zero to little effect” on achievement. Evidence from around the nation proves the focus on standardized testing has narrowed curricula and resulted in significant losses in learning time. Anxiety is prevalent among public school students, as more and higher stakes are attached to these standardized tests.

There is also a growing realization of what experts have known for years — that the federal government demands that states overuse and misuse standardized tests. Experts know that standardized tests are of limited value, because they are unstable, unreliable and most importantly, do not measure the breadth of skills and experience that are the goals of education. Despite the well-known limitations of standardized tests, federal officials insist test scores be used to rank and rate schools, students and teachers, and impose real-life consequences, including sanctions on schools and possible school closures, firing teachers and even decisions regarding student placement and graduation.

When federal policy conflicts with a solid body of evidence, one would expect our state education officials, those charged with safeguarding the educational rights and welfare of our children, to provide guidance on sound testing policy.

Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s top education officials have failed to provide any useful guidance whatsoever. To the contrary, Connecticut officials willingly participate in damaging testing practices. Connecticut rushed to sign on to the federal NCLB waiver in 2012, without analyzing the costs or consequences. As part of the waiver, then Education CommissionerStefan Pryor committed the state to implementing the common core tests known as the Smarter Balanced, or SBACs. These tests are longer than the CMTs, and must be taken on a computer or tablet, requiring a certain level of computer skill and literacy. Commissioner Pryor also agreed to “cut scores,” proficiency levels, guaranteeing that a vast majority of Connecticut students will fail the new tests. By agreeing to the waiver, Pryor also committed the state to evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, even though the weight of evidence demonstrates that evaluating teachers on student these test scores is invalid and major organizations such as the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association oppose this practice.

Contrast Connecticut’s complete lack of leadership with Vermont’s. Because the NCLB waiver called for mandates that were contrary to good educational practices, Vermont refused to apply for an NCLB waiver in 2012. In an August 2014 resolution, Vermont’s State Board of Education called on the federal government to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states.”

Last week, Vermont’s State Board of Education unanimously approved a new resolution on the SBAC tests, which gives strong and informed guidance that Connecticut’s education leaders are unwilling to provide.

Vermont’s resolution declares that while the SBAC tests “purport to measure progress towards `college and career readiness . . . the tests have not been externally validated as measuring these important attributes.”

Accordingly, the state board resolved “until empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (“college and career-ready”), test results should not be used to make normative and consequential judgments about schools and students.”

Vermont’s state board also resolved that until Vermont has more experience with evidence from the SBACs, “the results of the SBAC assessment will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance, and thus should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose.”

Finally, honest education officials admit the SBACs have never been proven to measure “college readiness” or progress toward “college readiness,” and in fact are unreliable to measure student learning. In other words, the foundation upon which the Common Core rests is an artifice, and our children are being subjected to unproven tests. Connecticut districts have been diverting resources and time toward a testing regime without any proof that it would improve our children’s education.

In its thoughtful articulation of its policy stance, Vermont’s educational leaders demonstrated their dedication to the educational welfare of Vermont’s children. It is shameful that Connecticut’s so-called leaders cannot muster the same concern for ours.

Again, the full article can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

IMPORTANT HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR WAIT, WHAT? READERS!

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For weeks we’ve been focusing on a parent’s right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scheme and how the state and some local superintendents haven been engaged in an unethical, immoral, and I believe, illegal attempt to harass and mislead parents.

A quick search of the blog will quickly identify that the most common phrase appearing in recent posts has been – “The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.”

Unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory because the Common Core SBAC test fails to measure what has actually been taught in the classroom, that the SBAC test is based on materials that is more than two to three levels above grade level, that the SBAC test pass/fail score is calibrated to fail the majority of public schools students and that the SBAC test is particularly unfair because it discriminates against those who face English Language barriers or need special education services.

To ensure that we are all “on the same page” about what the Common Core SBAC test really is, I’m asking – urging – even begging – that Wait What? readers take time out of their busy schedules take the 4th grade Common Core SBAC English Language Arts test.  (Please do at least the first seven questions.  People can go beyond the first seven questions if they want, but if everyone does at least the first seven we will have a common platform to judge the test.)

After completing the homework assignment, please post your thoughts on this blog article or send your comments to [email protected].

For those who want “extra credit,” then after you do the first part of the 4th Grade ELA test try the first four questions of the 10th grade Common Core SBAC math test.  Again, please post your thoughts or send along your comments.

I am going to send this request to all of Connecticut’s school superintendents.  It will be interesting to see how many responses there are from those that are in charge of implementing the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Here are the steps to access the 4th Grade Common Core SBAC English Language Arts test

For those who have time, here are the steps to access the 10th Grade Common Core SBAC math test.

 

  • Go to http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/
  • Scroll Down and Click on Green Box – Students Interface Practice and Training Tests
  • Click on Sign In
  • Use Pull Down Menu to change to Grade 10, click Yes
  • Go to Right  Column, – 10th grade Math – click
  • Scroll Down and click on Select
  • Scroll Down and click on Yes, Begin  Now
  • Scroll Down and click on Yes, Begin  Now
  • Complete first four Question
  • You can then stop and assess the test or move on
  • Again, please post or send along your thoughts

I assure you that completing this “homework” assignment will be well worth the effort.

Jonathan Pelto (Education Advocate, Education Blogger)

Hear and Be Heard about Common Core SBAC Testing and “Education Reform”

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Please consider joining me at these upcoming events to hear about and talk about the Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme and other “Education Reform” Issues

Both events are open to the public and your attendance and participation would be great!

 

Monday, March 23, 7:00 to 8:30 pm

Jonathan Pelto

Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road, McManus Room

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 6:30 p.m.,

“Add Tests and Stir: Education ‘Reform’ in the 21stCentury,” Hosted by Robert Hannafin, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

Panelists include, Jonathan Pelto, Wendy Lecker, Thomas Scarice and Yohuru Williams

Fairfield University, Barone Campus Center, Oak Room

You can reserve by sending an email to [email protected]

 

The Press Conference that never happened but should have! (Submitted Anonymously)

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With the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Scheme having started this week, a regular Wait, What? reader sent in the following brilliant post for publication.

For those who thought Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast was real, please note that this article reports on a “faux news conference.”  This news conference did not actually take place, although the more we learn about the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam, the more we wish that this press conference had actually taken place….but alas it did not.

                                 Connecticut State Department of Education  

Faux News Conference

March 11, 2015

Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education begins the Press Conference:

On the eve of the administration of SBAC testing in our State, it has become clear to me, as interim Commissioner of Education, that there is much validity embedded in the much-heated controversy surrounding Common Core State Standards, mandated standardized testing to measure progress on those standards, and the intended practice of evaluating teacher effectiveness based on those student test results.  At this time, I have concluded that it is in the best interest of our students and their parents, our much-maligned yet highly accomplished teachers, and the tax-paying public that we suspend mandated “high-stakes” standardized testing for this year and until we have had a reasoned and fair public debate on the on-going controversial education issues that were never properly vetted and reviewed in the first place.

As your interim Commissioner, my roots are in the classroom, teaching students how to analyze and research the materials necessary to acquire the information they need to learn.  It is clear to me that we have lost our way.  The education of the next generation is not a partisan issue and must be de-coupled from highly-charged and rancorous political theater.  There are simply too many vested interests vying for pieces of the lucrative educational pie to pass any kind of “smell test” here.  It is not the common core, but rather common sense that brings me to this conclusion.  It is time to take a break – to allow our teachers to get back to what they do best and to enable our students to, once again, relish the joy and excitement of being turned on to learning as they become immersed in subject matter that engages their interests and consumes their every waking moment.

In our mission to solve the inequities that exist across our State and Nation, we have tried to apply solutions without fully evaluating the underlying systemic causes.  It is a noble undertaking.  However, we have attempted to apply business principles of incentivization, data analysis, fiscal management, and accountability to a highly varied and differentiated educational practice that we do not fully understand and does not work the same way for each individual.  We must respect that premise as we seek a course correction after several years of misdirection.

I have been particularly dismayed by the intransigence and unwillingness of state agencies to consider new information in light of the mountain of evidence supporting the success of American public education, especially when the lack of oversight and transparency in our privatized charter schools became glaringly evident this past year.  In hindsight, it must be said that the former commissioner came up through the ranks of policy development and, lacking classroom teaching experience, was unable to recognize and see the damage his privatization agenda was doing to public education.  On the other hand, as I have said, my roots are in the classroom and I know in my gut that it is time to stop the madness and get back to what we have always done best: educate young minds for the future.

Addendum:  The anonymous writer of this article closes with a note of apology for borrowing heavily from Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) and urges Wait,What? readers to follow up by reading Swift’s famous treatise, A Modest Proposal.

Please note, however, that you will have a difficult time finding Swift’s essay in school libraries that have been aligned to the Common Core because the proponents of the Common Core seem to think that so-called non-fiction is more important than fiction… which is why I am spending much of my time running between libraries and book stores moving George Orwell’s 1984 from the fiction to the non-fiction section.

Connecticut parent on why she opted her children out of the Common Core SBAC test

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Jennifer Jacobsen is a parent, education advocate and has become a leading voice in the effort to educate parents about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test and the unprecedented effort by the government and corporate education reform industry to collect data about our children.

Here letter was first published in the CT Mirror and can be found via: Parent explains why she can’t allow her children to take the SBAC test

On that first sunny day of this school year, sending my children off with their new backpacks in hand, I never dreamed of how I would be spending this year.

For the better part of eight years I have in full faith sent my children off to their wonderful schools and teachers in anticipation of all that they would learn and participate in while under their care. I never imagined feeling the need to spend my time in research on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Education Reform and the Preschool to 20 Workforce Information Network or advocating for change in Hartford.

But alas, that is how I have spent this year.

After months of reading our contracts, memorandums of understanding, many grant applications and our waiver to No Child Left Behind, what I have discovered has not been an easy realization. I do not fault anyone in particular for what we have agreed to be a part of, since most states have agreed to do just the same. I do, on the other hand, greatly admire and thank the state representatives and senators that have taken the time to listen and who have proposed legislation to address some of the following concerns and questions.

Where I do find inadequacies is how we have implemented what we have in our schools and in our state.

Although there are different concerns for different people, my particular area of concern is how we as a state and a nation have unlocked our children’s information for research, “innovative” development of technology, and a whole host of other unknown purposes,  yet have left parents and college students out of the conversation on how their children’s information is being used and accessed.

Schools continue to tell parents that their information is safe under theFamily Educational Records Privacy Act. But what they don’t tell you is that federal law was amended at the end of 2011 so that schools may disclose children’s education records under a number of exceptions. It allows for schools to act as a child’s authorized representative without a parents’ knowledge or consent.

I don’t like that. That amendment wasn’t done the right way. Under protest by many in Washington, it was just done.

Who has had access to my child’s records? Where do children’s SBAC tests go when they hit the submit button, and who has access to that? What are the state laws and regulations surrounding the P20-WIN database which will hold personal information on every citizen from before preschool until the time he or she goes to work and then allow third parties to access it for research purposes? How are we informing parents of all of these things? Is there notice and disclosure and breach policies should these systems be hacked?

I see plenty looking out for organizations and foundations and consortiums and ed tech vendors, but who is looking out for the children? Who is also looking out for our teachers and our parents, because they are included in this as well?

We have made a lot of changes in a short amount of time. Things were rushed. But isn’t it more important to not meet a deadline and make sure we are implementing things correctly by first safeguarding our students above all else? I do not think the time was taken in implementing all that we agreed to change and build while balancing information given to parents or regulating things first, or just putting into practice legal protections for the lives these changes effect the most, the children of our state.

For this reason and because I do not have full confidence nor trust in this test, what it is measuring , nor where it goes, or to whom, I feel compelled to say I just do not have enough of a guarantee that this test is as safe as it could be.

I and others have asked the education committee to pass student data privacy laws in our state as many other states have already enacted. That means being honest about what we are going to say is OK and what is not OK for schools to collect, store, and provide outside access to, while providing for notifications and disclosures to be given to parents and a breach response law that is applicable to the state agencies involved — again, as so many other states already have.

In defense of our legislators, our educators and even our administrators I think they sometimes are put in a precarious situation by no fault of their own. It is not they that agreed to do most of this. They are simply following what others have agreed to do. But they can empathize with parents concerns and address them when they arise. What should be simple and easy answers to questions, for reasons unknown to me, are not easily answered. That tells me that something isn’t quite right.

We have allowed for a divide between the State Department of Education and parents, putting administrators, superintendents and teachers in the middle of that divide. I don’t think that is a fair position to put anyone. It doesn’t need to be that way.

The lack of information isn’t all on Washington either. There is no directive by them to not inform parents about many of these things. In fact they have actually given directive of the opposite nature so that parents are included and informed. The decision not to do so falls on the state.

When hiring our next commissioner I hope it is someone who likes talking to parents and sees them as a partner in their children’s education and one who believes in the true spirit of collaboration with all stakeholders — including teachers and parents and even students as well, be they old enough to participate in such dialogue.

As a mom I can honestly say I would rather be asking our legislators to get rid of most of what we have adopted. However, reaching down deep I can see the other side as well. There is value in the data for them and others.

That being said, we are currently out of balance in an all-take no-give situation. I can only point out that these things pose a risk to children. To that there is no dispute. As a result I can therefore only ask the education committee to recognize that risk and to recognize how parents are not being given all that they could be and in the end to pass regulations and laws that makes all of this a lot safer for the children of Connecticut and which would also bring us more into balance together.

There is a public hearing on the student data privacy bill on March 19 starting at 11 a.m. [The legislature’s Education Committee meets in the Legislative Office Building room 2C — Ed.]

I hope that things can change to a more open dialogue so that I can say it is now safe to participate in the state test. For now I just cannot say that is true. It is also why I have to be the one who protects my children from what has been left unprotected thus far and any potential harm that could come from that.

That is my job as a parent. To assess the situation as best I can, sprinkle in my mother instincts and make a decision that is in their best interest.  I also hope that the state can turn toward understanding of the difficulty in that decision for many, work with the committee to enact needed protections and not continue to return a response to parents that is less than one of compassion.

URGENT ALERT – Sit and Stare Policy Violates Common Core SBAC Protocol

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Two days ago, the director of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents (CAPSS) told announced that Connecticut’s superintendents of schools would now be recognizing that parents DID HAVE the right to opt-out or REFUSE to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test that began this week…

And, equally important, the head of the CAPPS organization explained that children who are opted out will be moved to an alternative location where they can read or do homework during the Common Core SBAC test periods.

But either Mr. Cirasoulo failed to tell local superintendents about this critically important policy shift or some local superintendents are still committed to violating parental rights and refusing to treat parents with the respect, maturity and dignity they deserve.

More than half a dozen parents, all from separate towns, have written to Wait, What? in the last eighteen hours to say that local officials refused or tried to refuse the parents’ directive that their student was not to take the SBAC test yesterday.

Equally appalling is that in at least two communities public schools students were not removed from the testing room while their follow students took were taking the Common  Core SBAC test.

Forcing students to remain in the testing room, referred to as a “Sit and Stare” policy, seeks to punish, humiliate and bully students whose parents have opted them out of the Common Core SBAC testing.

As previously noted here at Wait, What? “Sit and Stare” policies are nothing short of child abuse since they will lead to anxiety and the very real likelihood of resentment on the part of the children who are taking the test.

As a matter of ethics and principle, let alone their legal duty, educators do not engage, condone or allow bullying or child abuse.  Educators do not utilize “Sit and Stare” practices!

But putting aside the immoral and unethical nature of engaging in “Sit and Stare” policies is the fact that the Common Core Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, called TAM, prohibits the use of “Sit and Stare” for children who are not participating in the Common Core SBAC test!

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test Administration Manual states;

Only students who are testing can view items. Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered

 

Any Superintendent or principal who forces children who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test to “Sit and Stare” is not only engaging in bullying but is in direct violation of the mandatory instructions for the SBAC Common Core testing entity.

By using the “Sit and Stare” approach to punish students who have been opted out, these local school officials are violating the Common Core SBAC testing policy and are engaging in a serious breach of security and duty.

If you know of any local school district that is not providing students who have been opted out of the SBAC test with a safe alternative environment in which to read or do homework, please send that information immediately to  [email protected] so that we can report that the SBAC violation to the appropriate authorities.

As New ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Delivered, Some Students Say No – Hartford Courant

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Hartford Courant reporter Kathleen Megan has a comprehensive story in today’s Hartford Courant about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test and the related SBAC opt-out movement.

The story highlights parents who have opted their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC Test and includes links to where parents can get more information about opting their children out of the destructive tests.  It also provides some of the information about how the test is designed or rigged to fail the vast majority of students.

For the full story go to: http://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-testing-opt-out-0310-20150317-story.html#page=1

As New ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Delivered, Some Students Say No

The Courant article begins;

When East Hampton Middle School students take the Smarter Balanced test this month, Julien Minnick won’t be among them.

[…]

His father, Scott Minnick, who is a member of the East Hampton school board and a teacher in Glastonbury, said he feels the tests are unfair because they are not developmentally appropriate and he feels the tests and the preparation for them take up too much class time.

[…]

“Both state and federal laws require the administration of annual assessments in our public schools in certain grades and subjects,” Interim Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell wrote to school superintendents earlier this month. “These laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests.”

But as some parents and education lawyers are quick to point out, nor does state law prohibit opting out.

Minnick, who is also running to be vice president of the state’s largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, said he thinks that many parents might prefer not to have their children take the test, but “a lot of them are victims of this intimidation they are getting from the Capitol. It takes some fortitude, and not everyone has that. I don’t blame them. It’s intimidating.”

The legal situation puts school superintendents into a murky and difficult legal zone, where they must tell parents there is no provision to opt out, but if the parent insists, there is little the district can do.

There is no punishment for students who don’t take the test, and the law says that a satisfactory test score cannot be the “sole criterion” for promotion or graduation.

“While there is language in both state and federal law that ‘mandates’ that students take standardized examinations, at the end of the day there is little a school district can do to actually compel a child to sit for a standardized test,” Zach Schurin and Michael P. McKeon, lawyers with Pullman & Comley wrote in their school law blog.

Schurin and McKeon concluded: “It would appear, then, that school districts ultimately have little leverage when confronted with students who have decided to opt out of Common Core standardized assessments.”

As to opting out, the Courant story explains,

How Do You Opt Out?

There is no prescribed way to opt out because there is no opt-out option. Typically parents call or write a letter and may go back and forth with administrators a few times before a resolution is reached.

In December 2013, that was the sort of protocol described in a state Department of Education memorandum.

That memo suggested responses to parents that held the line firmly at first — informing the parent that there is no opt-out language in the law and suggesting a letter be sent to the parents with all the pertinent laws and regulation.

But if a parent persists, the memo said, “the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as ‘absent’ [for purposes of testing], which negatively impacts the participation rate for the district.”

But that memo has since been rescinded, and the letter this year from Wentzell simply states the lack of an opt-out provision and cites federal and state laws on the subject.

When Minnick sought to have Julien excluded from testing, he wrote a letter to administrators that pointedly noted that this was not a “request” to opt out his son. “We will be informing Julien that he is not to take online tests and that if he is given one, he is not to work on it,” Minnick wrote. “We ask that the school provide him with a productive alternative activity during the test administrative and preparation sessions.”

Christine Murphy of Bristol also opted out her son, Justin, a high school junior at Bristol Central High School with a letter that demanded that he not take the test, nor any pre-test or activity associated with it.

“I will be informing Justin that he is not to take online tests … and that if he is given one he is not to work on it,” Murphy wrote,

Justin, who suffers from anxiety and attention deficit disorder, said he’s relieved that he doesn’t have to take the test. “I think it’s unfair and it’s fairly long,” he said.

Murphy said she saw no reason for Justin to take the test: “His teachers are well aware of his strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “It’s not needed to pass to twelfth grade. It’s not needed to graduate, so what are we doing this for?”

The Hartford Courant story also addresses the controversial fact that the Common Core Test is designed to fail the vast majority of students.

And the article concludes as follows,

Tom Scarice, superintendent of Madison, a high-achieving district, said he’s sure that many district leaders are asking: “How do I prepare my community to understand that the schools are not failing because their students’ scores came in lower than we expect in this town?”

Scarice said that he thinks extremely low scores will pose a credibility issue for the test. “I have kids who perform at the highest levels on the SAT and then a month later they are going to take this test and 40 to 60 percent are going to be [rated] ‘not college or career ready?’ … It makes the test lose credibility.”

Beyond the anxiety associated with taking the difficult test, Scarice said he thinks that some parents want to opt their children out of the test because they are just frustrated with how test-centered schools are becoming.

“I think parents have just woken up and said, ‘Enough already.’ Our kids are just going through too many tests,” Scarice said.

You can find the entire story at: http://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-testing-opt-out-0310-20150317-story.html#page=1

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