Time to protect your children by opting them out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme

We are once again coming up on the time of year that Connecticut public school students will be told to stop learning and start testing.

Students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors will have their time and attention diverted from instructional activities in order to prepare for and take the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) test and the SAT.

These tests are useless and unscientific.  They fail to provide teachers and parents with any usable information about how to improve teaching or  student’s academic performance in relation to what is actually being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

Equally disturbing, these unfair and discriminatory tests are being used to categorize, rank and punish students, teachers and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker explained her in her recent piece, Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker,

Neither the SBAC nor the SAT is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC and SAT are not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

They are a worthless measure of how students are doing with what is actually taught in Connecticut classrooms.

And most troubling of all, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is literally designed to fail many Connecticut’s children.

As academic studies have clearly proven, although standardized tests are fraught with discriminatory elements, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) was at least intended – more or less – to measure how Connecticut’s children were doing on the curriculum that was being taught in Connecticut’s schools.

On the other hand, the SBAC test is aligned to the Common Core, a set of developmentally inappropriate standards created by the corporate education reform industry and forced upon the states by those who seek to privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than testing factories and profit centers for the massive testing industry.

Costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, the SBAC test is worse than a colossal waste of time and money because it is being used in an underhanded attempt to tell students, especially those who utilize special education services, those who need help learning the English language and those who come from poor households that they are failures.

Connecticut’s children deserve much better…

And Connecticut’s parents can have a profound impact on this situation by telling their child’s teacher and principal that their son or daughter will not be participating in this year’s SBAC testing farce nor will they be allowed to waste their time in the SBAC preparation lessons.

Now is the time to do what is right for Connecticut’s children….Opt them out of the Common Core testing scam.

A simple letter to your child’s teacher and principal refusing to allow your child to participate in the SBAC tests is the best way to stand up for Connecticut’s public school students.

“‘Toxic’ Steve Perry should embarrass charter supporters”

Oklahoma educator and education advocate Dr. John Thompson is an award-winning historian and inner-city teacher. He is the author of A Teacher’s Tale: Learning, Loving and Listening to Our Kids.  He recently attended a speech given by charter school owner Steve Perry and wrote about his observations for the website, Nondoc.

Thompson wrote;

Although I’d mostly come to hear perspectives from charter supporters in the crowd, I found myself instead listening, horrified, as keynote speaker Steve Perry, a former charter school principal-turned-showman from Connecticut, shouted non-stop insults during his entire keynote address.

Thompson added;

Perry has a reputation for failing to respect the regulatory rules of the road and is remembered for calling unions “roaches” in 2013. Worse, his charter school, Capital Preparatory Magnet School, would sentence “even the youngest students in the building” to sit at what was known as the Table of Shame as a form of punishment. His current gig is running Sean “P-Diddy” Combs’ 160-student charter, a Harlem magnet school that recruits suburban students.

[…]

At Thursday’s summit, Perry told the audience that charter supporters shouldn’t even talk with people who disagree with them. He also claimed opponents of Oklahoma City’s KIPP expansion are racists. In fact, he said people like me — who display pro-Barack Obama bumper stickers but oppose charter and voucher expansions — are as bad as the worst racists in American history. Perry went on to say that public schools were “designed” to fail in order to maintain Jim Crow and drive the school-to-prison pipeline.

[…]

Perry said virtually nothing about real-world schools. Instead, he shouted memes that were often incomprehensible. He kept likening charters to the consciousness-expanding “red pill” in The Matrix while calling for an all-out assault on public schools and public school educators who were irredeemable because they had taken the “blue pill” of complacent resignation.

Thompson concluded;

I don’t know if local charter leaders were fully aware of whom they were hiring to articulate their message in Oklahoma City. I do hope, however, that they are embarrassed by his toxic speech.

Local charter leaders should distance themselves from Steve Perry and apologize to teachers for his outrageous behavior.

His piece is a “Must Read” on the antics of Steve Perry and those seeking to destroy public education in the United States.  You can find and comment on his piece at:  https://nondoc.com/2017/01/31/steve-perry-charter-supporters/

Breaking – Malloy proposes half-baked scheme to reform education funding

Rather than address the fact that the State of Connecticut underfunds it public schools by almost $2 billion a year and the state should dramatically increase its level of support for public schools in the state, Governor Dannel Malloy went to New Britain today to announce a sham proposal that will further exacerbate Connecticut’s failed school funding policies.

Malloy’s proposal does little more than redirect a relatively small amount of existing funds from wealthier and middle income towns to Connecticut’s poorest communities.  The amount of money won’t have a profound impact for poor towns, but it will certainly ensure major cuts to local schools in a large number of towns and lead to significantly higher property taxes in the majority of Connecticut’s communities.

At the same time, in a truly outrageous maneuver, Malloy is proposing allowing those towns that received a cut in aid to reduce their minimum expenditure requirements, thereby literally lowering education quality in the majority of Connecticut’s towns.

As the CT Mirror explains;

The new pool of money – for educating physically or developmentally disabled students – would be funded almost entirely by redirecting nearly one-quarter of the $2 billion in state dollars that currently go toward the ECS grant and all of the so-called Excess Cost grant, which helps school districts pay for services for severely disabled students.

The CT Mirror added;

To accomplish the goal of redirecting education dollars to the districts most in need, Malloy would change how the state measures poverty in schools

Malloy would replace it with the number of participants in Husky A, health care provided through Medicaid.

[…]

“The concern is that you would underestimate poverty,” Daniel Long, the research director for Connecticut Voices for Children.”

As one representative for communities told CT Newsjunkie;

“The governor’s proposed changes to ECS and special education funding, coupled with his proposal to require towns to pick up one-third of the cost of teacher pension costs, will make it impossible for small towns to fund education without staggering increases in local property taxes,” said Betsy Gara, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. “This proposal will divert resources away from our smaller communities in a way that spells absolute disaster for our local property taxpayers.”

You can read more about this breaking story via the following links;

CT Mirror – Malloy proposes shaking up state education aid

CT Newjunkie – Malloy Will Pitch Changes To Education Formula

Governor Malloy’s Press Release on the issue can be found here  – Gov. Malloy’s Proposed Budget Provides a Fairer Distribution of Education Aid, Allocates Additional $10 Million for Special Education

 

Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker

In a weekend commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate entitled, Failed common core tests punish students, education advocate Wendy Lecker writes,

Across the country, states are re-examining their embrace of the hastily implemented common core tests. Membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has dwindled from 31 to 14 states. West Virginia is the latest state to consider dropping the test for all grades.

Last year, Connecticut convened a committee to review Connecticut’s standardized tests, the SBAC and SAT. However, the committee’s final report ignored serious validity problems and concluded Connecticut should plow ahead with these expensive and questionable standardized tests.

Connecticut’s teachers’ unions, CEA and AFT, dissented from this report, because these committee members did their homework. Their enlightening minority report is based on an examination of the evidence on the SBAC, as well as surveys of teachers, administrators, parents and students conducted across Connecticut.

The minority report highlights the evidence ignored by the Mastery Committee. It notes that experts across the country admit that computer adaptive tests such as the SBAC are “in their infancy” and their validity cannot yet be established. Compounding the validity problems is the inconsistency in computer skills among different populations in Connecticut, with poor kids at a particular disadvantage; and the inconsistency in devices used. Shockingly, the minority report emphasizes Connecticut has not proven alignment between the SBAC and our state standards. There is also no evidence that the SBAC is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC is not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

The SBAC is a bust. But, though recent federal law allows Connecticut to explore other types of assessments, Connecticut remains wedded to the SBAC.

The Mastery Committee report itself reveals the problems with the SAT. The technical report on which the committee relied to “prove” validity for use in Connecticut does not mention Connecticut once. It is worthless for determining the validity of the SAT as Connecticut’s high school accountability test. Moreover, the report the committee cited to show alignment between the SAT and Connecticut high school standards revealed only a 71-percent match to Connecticut English standards, with entire categories having no strong alignment or none whatsoever. Math had an abysmal 43 percent strong alignment between the SAT and Connecticut Standards. We know what would be in 100-alignment: a teacher’s end-of-year test and what students learned in that class. And since a high school GPA is a much stronger predictor of college success than the SAT, Connecticut would do well to explore high school tests that match what students actually learn.

But instead the Mastery Committee recommends blind adherence to the SAT.

Continuing these invalid tests comes at a steep price. As the minority report noted, 90 percent of teachers stated that testing and test prep has resulted in lost learning time and restricted access to computer labs. The impact is particularly devastating in our poorest districts. A majority of districts reported technical problems during testing, again with poorest districts suffering the most.

Contrary to Connecticut’s goals, these tests drive instruction, especially in poor schools. Disadvantaged districts are most vulnerable to sanctions such as school or district takeover based on poor test results. Thus, they have resorted to interim computerized tests for test prep. Children in Bridgeport and other districts suffer through multiple administrations of i-Ready tests and/or MAP tests, and prep for these tests. They lose additional weeks of learning time. Some of these districts have direct pressure from the state to use these tests, as their Alliance District funding depends on student improvement on these measures.

Yet, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins, there is a complete “lack of a research base on i-Ready and MAP as means for improving student learning” which they find “both surprising and disappointing given their widespread use as well as their cost.”

These same districts are deprived of proven interventions that actually help students learn. For example, the judge in the CCJEF school funding case found a lack of reading and math intervention staff throughout the CCJEF districts, as well as shortages of space, time and supplies for reading and math intervention. While districts cannot afford to provide real help for kids, they are forced to spend money and time on invalid measures of student performance.

It has been three years since Connecticut implemented the SBAC and there is still no evidence that it is valid. And Connecticut implemented the SAT knowing it was invalid for use as an accountability test. As long as our leaders keep failing to learn this expensive lesson, our neediest children will continue to pay the price.

This commentary pieces was first published in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on it at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failed-common-core-tests-punish-10906971.php

News Flash – Malloy moves to undermine teachers, public schools and property taxpayers yet again!

In a brazen move that will undermine local public education and increase taxes at the local level, Governor Dannel Malloy announced today that his new proposed budget will dump a major portion of the state’s obligation to fund the teacher’s retirement system onto the back of local towns and taxpayers, all while cutting the most important middle income relief program.

Malloy’s tactics would require Connecticut’s cities and towns to make drastic cuts to local education and increase local property taxes in order to make up the cost shift of $407.6 million in FY 2019 and $420.9 million in FY 2019.  His plan would also end the property tax credit designed to help middle income families who are already facing high local tax burdens.

In an article entitled, Malloy would bill towns for teachers’ pensions, cut middle-class tax credit, Keith Phaneuf of the Connecticut Mirror explains;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday his proposed budget would shift $407.6 million, nearly one-third of the cost of municipal school teachers’ pensions, onto cities and towns next fiscal year…

[…]

Malloy also said the two-year budget he will present Wednesday to the General Assembly would propose eliminating the $200 property tax credit within the income-tax system, costing nearly 875,000 middle-class households as much as $105 million per year based on nonpartisan analysts’ estimates.

More on this breaking story can be found at – http://ctmirror.org/2017/02/03/malloy-would-bill-towns-for-teachers-pensions-hints-at-cut-to-middle-class-income-tax-credit/

and at CT Newsjunkie – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_proposes_shifting_one_third_of_teacher_retirement_costs_to_towns/

Republicans propose right-wing education bills in Connecticut

The American Legislative Exchange Council is the right-wing, Koch Brothers funded advocacy group that is behind many of the ultra-conservative proposals that have been sweeping state legislatures across the nation.

Here in Connecticut, at least two new ALEC bills have been introduced this session.

One has been introduced by Republican State Representative Candelora (R-86th District) who was one of only two Connecticut state legislators to sign a recent letter in support of Secretary of Education designate Betsy DeVos.

Candelora is pushing an ALEC bill to set up virtual on-line schools in Connecticut despite the overwhelming evidence that on-line virtual schools have been an unmitigated disaster in every state that has adopted the concept.  See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06794-R00-HB.htm).

Meanwhile, another Republican legislator, State Representative Rosa Rebimbas  (R-70th District) is pushing another ALEC concept, School Vouchers, which are designed to shift scarce public funds away from public schools and give the dollars to private and parochial schools.  The legislation, House Bill 6814 would set up a system of Education Savings Accounts, a form of school vouchers. See https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/TOB/h/2017HB-06814-R00-HB.htm

As for ALEC, the Center for Media and Democracy has been tracking their activities for years. They report,

More than a quarter of all the state legislators in the country belong to ALEC, although the secretive group does not disclose its list of more than 2000 legislative members. ALEC gets 98 percent of its funding from corporations and sources like the Koch family foundations, and it acts as a conduit for special interest influence in state legislatures. ALEC convenes legislators, corporate lobbyists, and right-wing think tanks to vote as equals, behind closed doors, on “model bills” that benefit ALEC’s corporate members, industry funders, and right-wing allies. These bills are then introduced, often word for word, in state legislatures around the country.

ALEC’s long-term agenda is reflected in the current crop of bills now being filed in state houses. They undermine action on climate change and environmental protections; promote school privatization; defund unions and stop progressive wage and benefits policies; and, among other things, call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the federal budget.

ALEC is also the force behind the increased use of “preemption” laws designed to strip local governments of their power to ban fracking, pass minimum wage hikes, and enact earned sick day laws. ALEC is pushing bills to stop cities from banning plastic bags, made from derivatives of oil refining. ALEC is funded by some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world, like Koch.

Over the last three years, 109 corporations–from Ford to Google–have dumped ALEC after the public learned more about this shadowy group, particularly its role pushing national model bills like the “Stand Your Ground” law cited for exonerating Trayvon Martin’s killer, along with bills that make it harder for Americans to vote and peddling extreme climate change denial.

It is more than a little disturbing that there are Connecticut legislators pushing ALEC’s ultra-right wing agenda here in the Constitution State.

Stonington Connecticut School removes Animal Farm from 8th grade English curriculum

Censorship?

The impact of the anti-fiction Common Core?

Or both?

George Orwell’s Animal Farm has been dropped from the 8th grade reading curriculum in Stonington, Connecticut.  Although the Orwell classic has been a mainstay in Stonington and in many other schools across the state and nation, a Stonington, Connecticut teacher was told this year that he could not use the text despite having included it in his lesson plan for more than 20 years.

In response to the uproar local media reported that,

“Assistant Superintendent Nikki Gullickson has said a new system of developing anchor texts for core curriculum was put in place this year for eighth-grade classes and that the decision about Orwell’s book came from a meeting of teachers meant to build a consensus.”

However, teachers and parents say the excuse is nonsense and that local school administrators have failed to adequately explain why such an important work of literature has suddenly been deleted from the curriculum.

The story first surfaced when The Day of New London’s David Collins wrote a commentary piece earlier this week entitled, In this Orwellian time of Trump, Stonington schools drop ‘Animal Farm’.

Collins wrote,

It is troubling to me that, at a time when sales of books by George Orwell are spiking nationally amid fears of Donald Trump’s totalitarian inclinations, that Stonington has dropped his “Animal Farm” from the eighth-grade teaching curriculum.

More troubling is that a group of parents that tried to get it restored, supporting a teacher who has been using the book in classes for the last 20 years, got little traction with public school administrators.

Most frightening to me was the response from those administrators, when I called to ask about the fate of the literary classic in Stonington schools.

What they told me could have come right out of Orwell’s typewriter. I felt like I was talking to the pigs who expelled the humans from the farm in “Animal Farm” and were running the show as they pleased.

It all started when parents, clued in by their children to what was happening, opened a dialogue with a teacher at Mystic Middle School who was upset that he could no longer use in courses the classic that he had taught to so many students over the years.

Collins added,

The Mystic Middle School teacher got what I might call the Orwellian treatment when he asked why “Animal Farm” was eliminated from the curriculum after all these years, he told a parent in an email.

“There is something very ‘1984’ about all this, including the doublespeak about the curriculum,” the teacher wrote in early January. “I don’t have a good answer for ‘why’ the book was dropped …”

“None of the reasons I have been given make much sense. I have heard 1) whole group discussion of a single book is discouraged 2) the book is age inappropriate and 3) it’s not part of a ‘list’ of approved books. I don’t understand this either! …

Collins reported that when asked about the situation, Mystic Middle School Principal Gregory Keith falsely denied the development.  Collins explained,

He said the book would indeed be taught in February, evidently referring to a recent compromise in which students can volunteer to learn about the book in an “enrichment” session outside the regular classes.

At the same time, the English teacher in question was told not to discuss the matter and refer all questions to school administrators.

While the decision reeks of censorship, an unanswered question is whether the effort to remove Animal Farm is part of the greater shift toward the Common Core which frowns upon using fiction to teach English and language arts.  Proponents of the Common Core have sought to dramatically reduce the use of fiction texts, calling instead for teachers to use non-fiction to promote “close reading.”

Now the Stonington Board of Education is stepping into the debacle.  In a follow up story on February 1, 2017, The Day reported,

“Frank Todisco, board chairman, said Wednesday afternoon that he had added an agenda item for Superintendent of Schools Van Riley to discuss the issue and then allow public comment on any issue including the “Animal Farm” decision.

“I think by hearing from the community and the administration, the board will have a better understanding of the issue,” Todisco said. “After that the board will be in a better position to evaluate what any next step might need to be.

For more on the story read The Day’s coverage at:  In this Orwellian time of Trump, Stonington schools drop ‘Animal Farmand Stonington school board to listen to public Thursday on ‘Animal Farm’ decision

Massachusetts said NO to more charter schools, Connecticut should as well

At the same time that Governor Dannel Malloy is instituting the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to Connecticut’s public schools he is diverting more than $110 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Malloy and his operatives now want to expand this outrageous money grab with a plan to increase the number of charter schools in Connecticut and implement a new funding proposal that would see an additional $40-$50 million a year diverted to the private corporations that own Connecticut’s existing charter schools.

Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials should take a deep pause and look to Massachusetts for an indication of what happens when a state adopts this so-called “money follows the child” funding system.

Last November the charter school industry in the Bay State tried to push through a state-wide ballot initiative that would have allowed more charter schools to be opened in the Commonwealth.

To fund their effort the charter school industry pumped more than $24 million dollars into their political campaign.

The cash came from large corporate education reform “dark money” groups that refuse to release the names of their donors, wealthy hedge fund owners, Massachusetts corporations and out-of-state contributors including the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  (See Wait, What? post Charter School Industry raised more than $24 million in 2016 record breaking defeat In Massachusetts).

But in this case, the massive outpouring of money couldn’t buy the outcome of the election as parents, educators and taxpayers successfully pushed back against those who seek to privatize public education in the United States.  On Election Day, 62 percent of voters cast their ballots against the measure and only 38 percent in favor of the provision.

Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Assocation, summed up the significant victory saying;

 “It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value that.”

Madeloni added,

“There should be no conversation about expanding charters until the Legislature fully fund our public schools.”

Media coverage of the Massachusetts ballot initiative explained the outcome noting,

“The opposition could not match the “Yes on 2” campaign on television advertisement spending. But the “no” camp had the support of prominent Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. And it mobilized a sprawling field operation, with hundreds of teachers and liberal activists reaching an estimated 1.5 million voters statewide over the course of the campaign.”

In Massachusetts, voters realized that the charter schools were diverting scarce taxpayer funds away from local public school because Massachusetts already utilizes what is called a “money follows the child” school funding formula.  This funding system means that,

“When students leave traditional public schools for charters, they take thousands of dollars in state aid with them. And opponents focused heavily on this financial strain, raising the specter of cuts to arts education, transportation, and other services at the schools that serve the vast majority of students.”

Connecticut’s charter school advocacy groups have recently proposed just such a system for Connecticut and it is very likely that Malloy, an advocate of privatizing public education, will adopt their proposal as his own when he issues his proposed state budget next week.   See the Wait, What? Post of January 26, 2017 entitled Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme.

The question now is whether the state legislature will do Malloy’s bidding or actually step forward and do what is best for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

Stay tuned!

The dangerous rise of privatization and corporate education reform

The charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement are making unprecedented gains in their effort to privatize public education in the United States.

With Betsy DeVos on the verge of becoming the United States Secretary of Education and President Donald Trump promising to divert $20 billion in federal funding from public schools to privatization through school choice programs, the movement to undermine public education must be deliriously excited about their prospects over the next four years.

Of course, the proponents of corporate education reform have been riding high for more than two decades thanks to the policies and politics of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, both of whom used their time in office to promote charter schools and the broader corporate reform agenda.

Although the corporate reform movement has made unprecedented gains in the last twenty years, its roots go back more than sixty years to Milton Friedman’s essay, “The Role of Government in Education,” which laid out the call for privatizing public education in the United States.

Friedman argued that the nation needed to scrap its historic commitment to local public schools and replace these hallowed institutions with a system in which parents could use public funds to send their children to “private for-profit schools, private nonprofit schools, religious schools or even ‘government schools,’” a derogatory term corporate education reformers use to describe local public schools.

For decades, Friedman’s proposal was relegated to academic debates about the potential advantages and pitfalls associated with privatization.

However, the situation started to change when the state of Wisconsin enacted the first large-scale school voucher program in 1989 and Minnesota adopted legislation allowing for the creation of charter schools in 1991.

Today, 43 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws paving the way for charter schools and the number of charter schools in the country has reached about 6,900, enrolling a total of almost 3 million students.

And corporate education reformers claim that they have only begun their effort to privatize the country’s public schools.

So what are the fundamental elements of corporate education reform?

Educator and journalist Stan Karp, who works for the Education Law Center and serves as an editor of the  Rethinking Schools magazine, addressed this issue in a stark and direct way more than six years ago in a presentation that was reprinted in the Washington Post.

Stan Karp wrote;

“Corporate education reform” refers to a specific set of policy proposals currently driving education policy at the state and federal level.  These proposals include:

  • Increased test-based evaluation of students, teachers, and schools of education
  • Elimination or weakening of tenure and seniority rights
  • An end to pay for experience or advanced degrees
  • Closing schools deemed low performing and their replacement by publicly funded, but privately run charters
  • Replacing  governance by local school boards with various forms of mayoral and state takeover or private management
  • Vouchers and tax credit subsidies for private school tuition
  • Increases in class size, sometimes tied to the firing of 5-10% of the teaching staff
  • Implementation of Common Core standards and something called “college and career readiness” as a standard for high school graduation:

Together these strategies use the testing regime that is the main engine of corporate reform to extend the narrow standardization of curricula and scripted classroom practice that we’ve seen under No Child Left Behind, and to drill down even further into the fabric of schooling to transform the teaching profession and create a less experienced, less secure, less stable and less expensive professional staff.  Where NCLB used test scores to impose sanctions on schools and sometimes students (e.g., grade retention, diploma denial), test-based sanctions are increasingly targeted at teachers.

A larger corporate reform goal, in addition to changing the way schools and classrooms function, is reflected in the attacks on collective bargaining and teacher unions and in the permanent crisis of school funding across the country.  These policies undermine public education and facilitate its replacement by a market-based system that would do for schooling what the market has done for health care, housing, and employment: produce fabulous profits and opportunities for a few and unequal outcomes and access for the many….

Standardized tests have been disguising class and race privilege as merit for decades. They’ve become the credit default swaps of the education world.  Few people understand how either really works.  Both encourage a focus on short-term gains over long-term goals.  And both drive bad behavior on the part of those in charge.  Yet these deeply flawed tests have become the primary policy instruments used to shrink public space, impose sanctions on teachers and close or punish schools. And if the corporate reformers have their way, their schemes to evaluate teachers and the schools of education they came from on the basis of yet another new generation of standardized tests, it will make the testing plague unleashed by NCLB pale by comparison.

Let’s look for a minute at what corporate reformers have actually achieved when it comes to addressing the real problems of public education:

First, they over-reached and chose the wrong target.  They didn’t go after funding inequity, poverty, reform faddism, consultant profiteering, massive teacher turnover, politicized bureaucratic management, or the overuse and misuse of testing.

Instead, they went after collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and seniority.  And they went after the universal public and democratic character of public schools.

Look again at the proposals the corporate reformers have made prominent features of school reform efforts in every state: rapid expansion of charters, closing low performing schools, more testing, elimination of tenure and seniority for teachers, and test-based teacher evaluation.

 If every one of these policies were fully implemented in every state tomorrow, it would do absolutely nothing to close academic achievement gaps, increase high school graduation rates, or expand access to college.

 There is no evidence tying any of these proposals to better outcomes for large numbers of kids over time.  The greatest gains in reducing gaps in achievement and opportunity have been made during periods when concentrated poverty has been dispersed through efforts at integration, or during economic growth for the black middle class and other communities, or where significant new investments in school funding have occurred.

Or take the issue of poverty.  Most teachers agree that poverty is no excuse for lousy schooling; much of our work is about proving that the potential of our students and communities can be fulfilled when their needs are met and the reality of their lives is reflected in our schools and classrooms.  But in the current reform debates, saying poverty isn’t an excuse has become an excuse for ignoring poverty.

Corporate reform plans being put forward do nothing to reduce the concentrations of 70/80/90% poverty that remain the central problem in urban education.  Instead, educational inequality has become the entry point for disruptive reform that increases instability throughout the system and creates new forms of collateral damage in our most vulnerable communities.

The “disruptive reform” that corporate reformers claim is necessary to shake up the status quo is increasing pressure on 5,000 schools serving the poorest communities at a time of unprecedented economic crisis and budget cutting.  The latest waiver bailout for NCLB announced recently by Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan would actually ratchet up that pressure. While it rolls back NCLB’s absurd adequate yearly progress system just as it was about to self-destruct, the new guidelines require states that apply for waivers to identify up to 15% of their schools with the lowest scores for unproven “turnaround” interventions, “charterization,” or closing.

Teachers and schools, who in many cases are day to day the strongest advocates and most stable support system struggling youth have, are instead being scapegoated for a society that is failing our children.  At the same time, corporate reformers are giving parents triggers to blow up the schools they have, but little say and no guarantees about what will replace them.

The only thing corporate ed reform policies have done successfully is bring the anti-labor politics of class warfare to public schools. By overreaching, demonizing teachers and unions, and sharply polarizing the education debate, corporate reform has undermined serious efforts to improve schools.  It’s narrowed the common ground and eroded the broad public support a universal system of public education needs to survive.

Since Karp’s assessment in 2011, we’ve seen the rise of the Common Core and its associated Common Core testing scheme, a system that is turning classrooms into little more than testing factories and profit centers for the testing industry.

And that is all before Trump and DeVos introduce their own brand of radical corporate education reform in the marketplace call American public education.

Time to explore a new property tax system for Connecticut

In an important step forward, CT Voices for Children, a Connecticut based non-profit research institute, recently proposed a plan to reform Connecticut’s outdated property tax system and replace it with one that will reduce the tax burden on middle-income and working families while ensuring all cities and towns have the resources they need to adequately fund Connecticut’s public schools.

Wait, What? readers will recall that Connecticut’s middle-income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the poor about 12 percent and because the Connecticut tax structure coddles the rich, the state’s wealthiest residents only pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

The new Connecticut Voices proposal would correct those inequities and provide real property tax relief for 2.7 million residents living in 117 of Connecticut’s 169 communities.  At the same time the program would require wealthier residents to start paying their fair share in state and local taxes.

The underlying problem is that Connecticut underfunds its schools by close to $2 billion a year leaving the state’s public schools without the resources they need to provide every child with their constitutionally guaranteed access to a quality education.

The existing system also unfairly burdens the vast majority of local taxpayers.

In an historic effort to address this problem, Connecticut Voices for Children’s proposal would reform Connecticut’s property tax system as follows;

Thriving communities are made possible by good schools, roads, and other public systems. To support these building blocks of local economies, Connecticut’s cities and towns need a stable revenue source that generates needed resources without placing an unfair load onto taxpayers.

Currently, the property tax does the opposite. Connecticut’s property tax system makes residents in poor communities pay more, stifles economic development, and exacerbates racial inequalities. At the same time, because local school funding is so dependent on local property taxes, disparities in property wealth lead to disparities in opportunities for children.

We explore a partial solution to this problem: a system in which communities that tax themselves equally for education receive equal per-pupil funding for education. Our model would cut taxes for 2.7 million residents in 117 cities and towns while maintaining local control and education funding levels.

The report is based on Vermont´s adjusted statewide property tax system, with the following key features:

Gives 2.7 million residents an average tax break of about $400 per person.

Fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, alleviating inequities in communities where concentrations of government, university, and hospital property have eroded the tax base.

Reduces disparities in property tax rates and thus reduce incentives for business to relocate from communities with the highest property tax rates to nearby communities with lower ones.

Consistent with tradition of local control, communities willing to tax themselves more to spend more on education are allowed to do so.

Consistent with tradition of taxing property to fund education.

To read the full report and for more background go to: Equal Funding for Equal Effort: A Proposal to Reform Property Tax Funding for Local Education in Connecticut