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

4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blumenthal and Murphy vote NO on parents’ right to opt out of Common Core testing

11 Comments

In an astonishing display of utter disregard for Connecticut’s public students and parents, Connecticut’s two United States Senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, voted against an amendment that would have recognized a parents’ right to protect their child from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scam.

Although a day doesn’t go by that Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy don’t hold a press conference, issue a press release, send out an email or Tweet some statement about how they are fighting for Connecticut’s citizens, when they had the opportunity to stand with Connecticut’s parents and public school advocates they voted NO!

Blumenthal and Murphy VOTED NO to an amendment that would have required school districts to notify parents about federally mandated assessments (the massive common core testing program) and would have made it clear that parents may opt their children out of the test.

Refusing to recognize a parents inalienable right to protect their children from a testing scheme designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut’s public school children, Blumenthal and Murphy both voted NO on Senate Amendment 2162 to Senate Amendment 2089 to S. 1177 (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015).

In addition to requiring that parents be notified about the testing, the language of the amendment stated;

“[U]pon the request of the parent of a child made…for any reason or no reason at all stated by the parent, a State shall allow the child to opt out of the assessments described in this paragraph. Such an opt-out, or any action related to that opt-out, may not be used by the Secretary, the State, any State or local agency, or any school leader or employee as the basis for any corrective action, penalty, or other consequence against the parent, the child, any school leader or employee, or the school.”

According to the Washington Post story entitled, Senate rejects plan to allow parents to opt out of standardized tests

“Current law requires school districts to ensure that 95 percent of children take the exams, a provision meant to ensure that administrators don’t encourage low performers to stay home on exam day. The Senate bill mandates 95 percent participation of students who are required to be tested, but allows states to decide whether children who opt out are among those who are required to be tested.

But under the House bill, parents who opt their children out of tests would not be counted in the participation rate of any state, effectively removing them from the accountability system altogether. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed that provision, saying it opened a loophole to hide achievement gaps.”

With different versions in the House and Senate, a Conference Committee will be needed to negotiate a final master bill.  That piece of legislation will then come up for a final vote before going to President Obama for his signature or veto.

It is beyond disturbing that self-described “champions of the people” would vote against such an important and fair amendment.

SBAC results from Washington State confirm test designed to fail vast majority of children

3 Comments

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has provided its member states with most of the results from the spring’s Common Core SBAC testing.

Unlike Connecticut, where the Malloy administration is apparently keeping the information secret as long as possible, the State of Washington has been updating the public about the results as they came in.  As of two weeks ago, Washington State had already received the results for more than 90% of its students.

The Common Core SBAC test results from Washington State confirm the worst fears that the Common Core SBAC test is designed to fail the vast majority of public schools students.

From the initial post of 2015, Wait, What? has been sounding the alarm about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the SBAC testing scheme.

Early posts on the topic included;

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! (1/2/2015); Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster (1/6/2015); ALERT! Parents – the Common Core SBAC Test really is designed to fail your children (2/6/2015)

The problem with the Common Core SBAC test is multifaceted, including the most recent revelations that Connecticut public school students are being provided with textbooks that aren’t even aligned to the Common Core and its associated testing program.

In addition, the cut-off scores used to determine whether a student achieves goal are intentionally designed to label as many as 7 in 10 children as failures.

As reported earlier, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, including Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, met in Olympia, Washington in November 2014 to set the “cut scores” in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA).

While Vermont and New Hampshire refused to endorse the scores, the Malloy administration’s representatives voted in favor of a system that – from the start – intended to define achievement in such a way as to ensure sure that the majority of students did not meet that goal.

And now the Washington State results are in and while children in the lower grades did better than initially projected, THE MAJORITY OF STUDENTS IN GRADES 5,6,7,8 AND 11 FAILED the Common Core SBAC test in math!

The most troubling news is the fact that high school juniors in Washington State, most of whom are focused on getting the courses and grades that will get them into college, were given a test that was designed to label them as failures … and the SBAC organization’s unfair and disastrous strategy has succeeded.

According to the SBAC entity’s own memo, the SBAC test was projected to label 67% of high school juniors as “failures” and in Washington State, 71% of high school juniors have “failed” the 2015 SBAC test in math.

2015 SBAC Results in Math SBAC Projection% FAILING Washington State Results% FAILING
   
   
Grade 11 (High School Juniors) 67% FAIL 71% FAIL

 

The State of Washington will be holding a press conference on August 18, 2015 at 10am to release the disaggregated district-level results for their state which will undoubtedly reveal that the SBAC test particularly discriminates against children from low-income homes, children who face English language barriers and children who need special education services.

Meanwhile, there is no word when the Connecticut State Department of Education will be releasing the results for Connecticut’s public school students.

 

AFT, NEA and the Corporate Education Reform oriented DGA

18 Comments

Perhaps we should simply call it a symptom of the corporatization of the modern American labor movement.

Or perhaps we call it a product of the centrifuge that is sucking mainstream American politics into the control of the corporate elite.

But whatever we call it, the premature decision by the American Federation of Teachers to endorse Hillary Clinton for President is yet another example of how the unions representing teachers have been gravitating toward backing those who are perceived to be more acceptable to corporate interests, display a track record of supporting policies that are less than supportive of teachers and the nation’s public schools and/or are defined as the “only” choice because the Republican alternative would be “even worse.”

Truth be told, the issue isn’t even really about Hillary Clinton.  As the presidential nominating process moves forward Hillary Clinton may very well be the “best” choice for the Democrats and the electorate, but the AFT leadership’s decision to endorse her now is an stark indicator of just how far the teacher unions have gone to become part of the get-a-long, go-along status quo.

Rather than requiring that any candidate seeking political support from teachers have a solid progressive record on public education and articulate clear-cut policies and positions that are diametrically opposed to the corporate education reform industry, there is a growing acceptance of candidates who have thrown their support behind the charter school industry and the broader education reform agenda.

Above all else, one thing is certain and that is that the American Federation of Teachers, and for that matter, the National Education Association, has consistently backed Democratic candidates whose records and positions are closely aligned with the so-called “education reformers.”

No where is that clearer than with the massive financial support that the AFT and NEA have given to the Democratic Governors Association, despite the DGA’s outspoken and on-going support for President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s education reform agenda, the Common Core, the associated Common Core testing scheme and the inappropriate requirement that standardized test scores be used as part of the teacher evaluation process.

Over the past five election cycles, the American Federation of Teachers has handed the Democratic Governors Association more than $5.5 million in money that was earned by America’s teachers and given to their union with the intention that the funds would be used to support candidates and promote policies that support teachers and enhance public schools.  The National Education Association has donated $4.8 million more.

But despite teacher unions giving more than $10 million dollars to the DGA over the past decade, the organization whose role it is to elect Democratic governors has remained committed to an education reform agenda that is actively and intentionally undermining teachers, the teaching profession and the nation’s public education system.

Just last summer, as opposition to the Common Core and its associated unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme grew, along with the resulting opt-out movement, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who was Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association at the time, dismissed the legitimate concerns that were being raised as nothing more than the work of right-wing nuts.

As reported in an AP story in June 2014, Democrat Shumlin dismissed the opponents of the Common Core as “crazy” conservatives adding, “The fact that the tea party sees that as a conspiracy is a symptom of their larger problems.”

But of course, opposition to the corporate education reform agenda is not a “right-wing issue,” nor is the push back against the heavy-handed and faulty implementation of the Common Core and the Common Core testing scam.

In fact, it is real world it is a broad spectrum of liberal, moderate and conservative parents, teachers and public school advocates who are leading the effort, all across the United States, to turn back the corporate funded public school privatization and education reform effort.

Although the NEA and AFT were two of the DGA’s four largest donors during recent 2014 election cycle, one would think the DGA went out of its way to remind teachers that while their money was useful, their opinions were not.

Not only did the DGA spend more than $3.8 million to promote the re-election of corporate education reform aficionado Democrat Dannel Malloy to serve a second term as  Connecticut’s governor, but the members of the DGA went on to elect Malloy to serve as the next Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Malloy, who in 2012 became the first sitting Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest schools districts is such an eager charter school advocate that he threatened Connecticut’s Democratic controlled General Assembly that at the same time he was proposing to cut funding for public schools, he would not sign any budget bill that did not expand the number of charter schools in the Constitution State.

And the Democrats in the legislature acquiesced to Malloy’s threats.

Malloy also vetoed a bill, passed with bi-partisan support, to require that anyone who serves as Connecticut’s commissioner of education must have appropriate classroom teaching experience.  Malloy whined that requiring the state’s education commissioner to have education experience would cramp his appointment decisions.

Although Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy rivals New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo when it comes to anti-teacher rhetoric and policies, the harsh reality is that Malloy is nothing more than a continuation of the DGA’s effort to support Democratic governors who are wedded to the corporate education reform agenda.

Teachers, students, parents and public school advocates deserve better from the Democrats and from the unions representing teachers, the very same unions that are pouring millions of dollars into the Democratic Party.

Fairfield + Farmington – Giving CT kids math textbooks that are not aligned to Common Core

1 Comment

It is becoming increasingly clear that if your child took the Common Core SBAC Math test this year a significant amount of the material that they were tested on was not included in the math textbook they had been provided with.

Fairfield and Farmington are two more Connecticut towns that have been providing their students with math textbooks that are not correctly aligned to the Common Core, but are still testing and labeling students based on how well they did on the Common Core Math test.

Of course, making matters worse, not only are Connecticut’s public school students being labeled on the basis of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test, but thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly, teachers will be evaluated on how well their students do on the Common Core SBAC test.

Highlighting the absurdity of the whole situation is that it is becoming increasingly clear that the textbooks that many towns have purchased with taxpayer funds don’t even contain the material students are being “required” to know for the Common Core SBAC tests.

In an article entitled Vallas’ $10m textbook farce means Bridgeport students don’t have Common Core aligned math textbooks, Wait What? reported last week that students in one of Connecticut’s poorest school districts are being tested on Common Core topics that aren’t covered in the textbooks they are given.

But it turns out that students in some of Connecticut’s wealthier communities are being equally shortchanged.

Fairfield and Farmington must now be added to the list of school districts that are holding students and teachers accountable to the Common Core standards despite the fact that they are failing to provide students with textbooks cover the appropriate Common Core materials.

In Fairfield, students are provided with textbooks that are part of the Big Ideas in Math series published by Big Ideas Learning; Farmington uses the Math in Focus textbooks published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

According to Edreports, a Gates Foundation funded organization that was created to review whether public school textbooks are properly aligned to the Common Core, Big Ideas in Math and the Math in Focus textbooks fail to adequately cover the Common Core Math standards that are included on the Common Core SBAC tests.

Edreports explains that Big Ideas in Math series,

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS ON ALIGNMENT

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS ON FOCUS

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS COHERENCE

The Common Core reviewers add,

“The materials do not consistently give students of varying abilities extensive work with grade-level problems.”

As to the Math in Focus textbooks that are used in the Farmington Schools, Edreports notes, Farmington explaining,

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS ON ALIGNMENT

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS ON FOCUS

DOES NOT MEET EXPECTATIONS COHERENCE

Edreports reviewers conclude,

“Overall, the materials do not provide a focus on the major work nor are the materials coherent.”

Neither Fairfield nor Farmington school websites notify parents that the textbooks their children are given are not aligned to the Common Core.

Not only does Farmington Schools fails to inform parents of the fact that their textbooks are not aligned to the Common Core, but the school system actually brags,

“Math in Focus is the program we use in mathematics from Kindergarten up to middle school.  The curriculum in Math in Focus was one of the main models used to write the Common Core.  Math in Focus is the U.S. version of the most widely used curriculum in Singapore.  For many years, Singapore has been among the top-performing countries in international assessments.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. The standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics in school.

In school, students have a textbook and workbook.  Students use both at school and often the workbook is used for homework.

So Farmington claims that, “The curriculum in Math in Focus was one of the main models used to write the Common Core,” they just fail to note that their textbooks aren’t aligned to those standards!

It is particularly ironic that both Fairfield and Farmington fail to provide their students with Common Core aligned textbooks since both towns were among the districts that were most abusive to students and parents who sought to opt out of the Common Core SBAC testing this year.

Rather than treat parents and students in a respectful, honest and professional manner, Fairfield, Superintendent of Schools David Title wrote the following to parents;

“Please understand that every student attending school during the administration of the state mastery test (all components of SBAC and Science CMT and CAPT) will be expected to participate in these tests.  Students who choose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room.  There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate.”

And in Farmington, Superintendent Kathleen Greider reportedly told the Farmington Board of Education that,

Any high school junior who was opted out of the SBAC test would be punished by being forced to the back of the line when it came to selecting AP, Honors or other advanced courses for their senior year.

If the Fairfield and Farmington Boards of Education were really committed to representing the interest of their students, parents, teachers and taxpayers, they’d be demanding an investigation about why their superintendents are failing to provide their community’s students with Common Core aligned textbooks and bullying and harassing students and parents who sought to opt out of the unfair and destructive testing scheme.

For more about the how these textbooks fail to provide students with the appropriate materials go to: http://www.edreports.org/reports/series/index.html

Democracy appears to be a burden for the “modern” American Federation of Teachers

4 Comments

On Friday, fellow public education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman wrote an incredibly powerful piece in CT Newsjunkie entitled “Serving Up A Preferred Candidate,” in which she took issue with the obviously undemocratic process that the American Federation of Teachers was using to endorse a candidate for President of the United States.

Sarah Darer Littman opened her piece with the following observation,

I’ve been commenting privately for years that the unions don’t need the Koch Brothers to destroy them — they are doing a good job of that themselves by working against the interests of their own rank-and-file membership. I speak in particular of AFT President Randi Weingarten, who reportedly pulled in an AFT income of over half a million dollars in 2014, while the average teacher salary in the United States has declined by 2.3 percent since 2000 to $56,689.

Sarah Darer Littman went on to describe what appeared to be the AFT’s presidential endorsement process, which was hardly a model of openness and transparency.

Less than 24 hours later, AFT President Randi Weingarten, a close personal friend of Hillary Clinton and a member of Hillary Clinton’s “Super-PAC,” announced that that AFT was endorsing Hillary Clinton for President.

As Politico reported, Weingarten explained the endorsement by stating,

“Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities.”

The harsh reality is that Hillary Clinton has actually been a vocal proponent of the corporate education reform agenda and she has a long way to go before it can be said that she is the best choice for students, parents, public schools or the teachers who make up the American Federation of Teachers.

Before Election Day 2016, Hillary Clinton may very well become the Democratic nominee and the best choice for President, but the AFT’s premature endorsement is actually a disservice to Clinton, and more importantly, to the nation’s teachers and the legacy of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that is steeped in the history of American Democracy.

But Weingarten seems intent on leading a “modern” AFT.

Last summer, Randi Weingarten and the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter was committed to endorsing Governor Dannel Malloy’s and his effort to get re-elected to the governor’s office despite the fact that Malloy was the only sitting Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts.

However, rather than use the campaign and the endorsement process to focus attention on Malloy’s ugly record on public education and provide him with an opportunity to become a supporter, rather than an opponent, of teachers and the teaching profession, the union leadership throws out their “democratic” endorsement process in order to hand him the union’s support.

Despite being the only pro-public education, pro-teacher candidate in the race for Governor, the AFT-CT refused to allow me to fill out a candidate questionnaire, refused to allow me to speak to the AFT-CT candidate endorsing committee, refused to allow me to address the AFT-CT executive committee and even prohibited me from speaking to the AFL-CIO’s annual endorsing convention, a meeting in which Randi Weingarten was the keynote speaker.

At the time, no one doubted that the leadership of the AFT and AFL-CIO would endorse Dannel Malloy, but prohibiting an open, transparent and democratic process was a sad reminder that being with the perceived winner – at all costs – has become the exclusive goal of some union leaders.

A year later and nothing has changed.

Once again, few doubted Hilary Clinton would get the endorsement from her friend Randi Weingarten and the union she runs.

But rather than ensure that the AFT provided for an open and honest discussion and an endorsement process that ensured that the membership was heard and their opinions taken into consideration, Weingarten pushed through an early endorsement thereby allowing Time Magazine to write;

Hillary Clinton Wins Key Endorsement From American Federation of Teachers –

Hillary Clinton has secured the first major union endorsement of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

The American Federation of Teachers, a powerful, 1.6 million-strong national union, voted on Saturday to endorse the former secretary of state, calling Clinton a “champion” for “working families.”

But the truth is the endorsement was from the union’s leadership, not the members. 

Clinton and her historic candidacy would have been better off if the leadership of the AFT had actually engaged in a process to build a true consensus that Hillary Clinton is the best choice for teachers and public education.

And certainly the American Federation for Teachers would have been better off had its leaders approach the endorsement process in a truly democratic way.

Instead the AFT leadership’s actions undermine the extraordinary legacy of the AFT itself.

Begun in 1900, the American Federation of Teachers earned the right to represent more than 1.5 million members because the AFT leadership has always been dedicated to developing a union focused on improving the conditions for teachers and the public schools that educate America’s children.

It has been a difficult journey for the AFT.

Nearly three decades after it was founded, unprecedented efforts to undermine the union and convince teachers not to unionize resulted in the AFT’s membership to drop below 5,000 teachers in the years leading up to the Great Depression.

Even after the Depression and World WW II, the AFT failed to make great strides in the face of opposition to collective bargaining for teachers.

But then came the incredible work of Albert Shanker, Charles Cogen and other fearless labor leaders that changed the course of teachers and their unions.

In the ten years following 1960, a dedication to improving pay and working conditions for teachers and pushing policies that created schools that provided educational opportunities to all children, bolstered the number of AFT members from 65,000 to 400,000

A continued commitment to doing right for teachers and students grew the AFT to over 1 million members by the year 2000.

Shanker and those who built the AFT were never afraid to take controversial positions, fight for real change or push the union’s agenda, but they also understood the importance of including and representing their members in a way that has apparently become foreign to some of today’s union leaders.

Certainly Shanker made his share of mistakes over the years and received more than his fair share of criticism, but he profoundly believed in then notion that collective bargaining and democracy go hand in hand.

Those that know the story behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech and The March on Washington in 1963 know of the incredible work that the AFT played in that event and throughout the Civil Rights Movement.

For those that don’t know, while many unions tried to hide on the sidelines, the AFT helped finance that historic March and many of Dr. King efforts.   A glimpse at any photo from that momentous day reveals the AFT’s signs and their pro-education, pro-labor and pro-civil rights message.

Yet another extraordinary event in the AFT’s history was the decision by its affiliate, the UFT of New York City, to take a position, decades before others, to refuse to invest their funds in any bank or company that was associated with South Africa’s apartheid system.

Over the decades the American Federation of Teachers never lost sight of the importance of winning, but perhaps even more importantly, it never backed down for its commitment to stand on principle and promote a union that was dedicated to the democratic rights of its members and the nation.

But the passage of time has brought uncomfortable changes and it would appear that “winning,” however narrowly defined, has become the primary goal.

In Connecticut, the AFT’s notion of winning was re-electing a pro-charter school, anti-public education, anti-teacher candidate, rather than allowing a supportive, third-party candidate to even be considered.

And yesterday, the “modern” AFT endorsed Hillary Clinton without utilizing an open, transparent and democratic process.

In the real world, this approach is often referred to as the notion that “The end justifies the means” and, as we know, it is a concept that has been used to explain away some of the most inappropriate actions in history.

Hilary Clinton could become the best choice for teachers, students and our public schools, but she needs to do far better to earn that support.

And teachers, the members of the AFT and the AFT’s legacy deserve better than they got with the Clinton endorsement.

State’s most vulnerable children get their day in court by Wendy Lecker

No Comments

Wendy Lecker is one of Connecticut’s most outspoken education advocates.  As senior attorney at the Education Law Center, she has helped lead critically important school finance lawsuits.  Wendy Lecker is also a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.  This week she reports on Connecticut’s vital CCJEF v. Rell School Funding Lawsuit.

Once supporters for ensuring Connecticut has a fair and equitable school funding formula, Governor Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepson are now leading the effort to ensure that Connecticut’s public school students and Connecticut’s local property taxpayers don’t get the help they need and deserve.

Wendy Lecker explains,

Connecticut’s elected officials have steadfastly refused to fix our school finance system, which leaves schools underfunded and local property taxpayers overburdened. Public school students and local property taxpayers will finally have their day in court when Connecticut’s school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, starts trial in October. It is now important to understand some of the basic tenets in school finance.

First, all children have the constitutional right to school resources sufficient for an education enabling them to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment, or progress to higher education.

Second, it costs more to educate some children than others. Children living in poverty often require more services than children who do not. The stresses associated with poverty affect brain development, often leaving children with behavioral and cognitive difficulties. As a result, schools serving poor children need specific resources, such as: social workers, behavioral therapists, psychologists, learning specialists, small classes.

Children learning English require more services than those already proficient. The services necessary to help a child learn English are different than those needed to support a child who lives in poverty. Similarly, children with disabilities require additional services.

Third, some municipalities cannot raise as much revenue as others, and therefore need more state school aid. Often, those municipalities serve the highest concentration of the neediest — and therefore most expensive to educate — children.

These cornerstones of school finance are universally accepted and understood. They form the bases of school funding systems across the nation. They undergird the CCJEF plaintiffs’ case. Essentially, the plaintiffs claim Connecticut has underfunded its public schools in large part because the state school finance system does not accurately account for the cost of education in general, the cost of educating students with additional needs or a municipality’s capacity to raise revenue.

CCJEF’s school finance experts calculated the gap between what the state provides in school aid and what our schools and children need to be about $2 billion; based on 2004 standards, costs and demographics.

What does this massive school funding shortfall mean? Schools serving our neediest children lack essential academic resources: teachers, reading specialists, guidance counselors, social workers, reasonable class size, well-equipped libraries, academic intervention services, computers, preschool, etc.

Connecticut’s leaders have gone to great effort — and expense — to ignore these three basic tenets of school finance.

Since the CCJEF case was filed in 2005 — when then-Mayor Dannel Malloy of Stamford was a plaintiff — our leaders have convened commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees ostensibly to study school funding. They did this without consulting real school finance experts. These gimmicks provided the appearance politicians were doing something to fix the problem.

In reality, our leaders have done next to nothing. The state owes our neediest districts up to $7,000 dollars per pupil. However, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, the average increase in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) aid to our neediest received was $642 per pupil.

The only recent change politicians made to our ECS formula undermined fair funding. The legislature removed from the ECS formula the ELL weight: i.e. the adjustment in the formula that attempted to account for the cost of educating ELL students. This move is contrary to sound education finance policy and is particularly absurd in a state with a growing ELL population.

Connecticut’s inaction on school finance is why our small wealthy state figures prominently in a national report on financially disadvantaged districts. Connecticut is ranked fifth in the nation in the percentage of children enrolled in financially disadvantaged districts, with more than 13 percent of our children in these districts. The state with the highest concentration, Illinois, has 25 percent.

At the same time the state has done nothing to help poor districts, it has spent millions on unsuccessful attempts to have the CCJEF case dismissed.

In the latest budget season, the state made matters worse. State figures reveal that the largest increase our financially distressed districts will receive in 2016 is about $100 per pupil. Windham will receive an increase of only $19 per pupil. Most needy districts will get no increase for 2017.

At this pathetic rate, it will take more than 20 years before the state makes up the gap in school funding.

In human terms, that means two generations of children will go through school without adequate resources to help them learn, losing years of learning they cannot recapture.

Year after year Connecticut’s elected officials have been unresponsive to the educational needs of our most vulnerable children. In October, they will have to answer for that in court.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s original piece at: http://m.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-State-s-most-vulnerable-children-6378743.php?utm_content=buffer47d00&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Superintendents and Legislators – Beware – the SBAC Tsunami is coming!

6 Comments

An open letter to Superintendents and Legislators 7/10/2015;

For more than a year and a half, public education advocates in Connecticut have been delivering the message that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is unfair, inappropriate, discriminatory and fundamentally flawed.  The Common Core SBAC test is DESIGNED to fail the vast majority of public school students.  It is a product of the education reform industry that is set on convincing policymakers and the public that our nation’s public education system is broken, that our public school teachers are bad and that the answer is more standardized testing and diverting scarce public funds to charter schools and other privatization efforts.

Rather then fight back, far too many politicians and school administrators climbed on board the education reform initiatives train that are undermining public education today.

In Connecticut, the SBAC disaster was slowed by a handful of  dedicated and committed public school superintendents who recognized that parents had the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the destructive SBAC test, but the majority of local education leaders (and elected officials) kowtowed to the Malloy administration and engaged in an immoral and unethical effort to mislead parents into believing that schools had “no degrees of freedom” on the SBAC testing issue.

We all know that defense was nothing short of an outright lie.

Now the results of the 2015 SBAC tests are coming in and students, parents, teachers and the public will finally see for themselves just how unfair and discriminatory the SBAC testing scam really is.

Common Core testing is unfair to all public schools students, but it is particularly damaging to students who come from poorer families, those that have English language challenges and those who require special education services.

As the following Wait, What? blog post reports, Washington State, another SBAC testing ground, has already released their early results and 7 in 10 high school juniors have been deemed failures according to the SBAC math test.

Although the Connecticut State Department of Education continues to claim that the SBAC results are not yet available, the news from other SBAC states is that preliminary information has been handed over to the states and, as the corporate education reform industry always intended, the vast majority of public school students have been deemed failures.

So a warning to Connecticut’s superintendents and other school administrators.  Whether you have been given the results or are still waiting for them to be handed over, beware of the Tsunami that is coming…

We all know that while the state has a significant achievement gap due to poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs, our public schools are not broken and our children and teachers are not failures.

Strategies exist to close the achievement gap, but the State of Connecticut and its leaders have simply refused to address the core issues that would improve academic achievement in any meaningful way.

And Connecticut’s parents will not forget that when it came to protecting Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools from the negative consequences of the SBAC testing scheme, the vast majority of Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials simply turned their heads away and did nothing.

In the coming weeks, when tens of thousands of Connecticut parents are wrongly informed that their children are academic failures remember, the bell tolls for thee…

Here are the numbers from Washington State.

More than 7 in 10 high school juniors in Washington State FAIL the Unfair SBAC Math Test (Wait, What? Post 7/9/15)

And for more, read;

TAKE NOTE – Real Educators don’t punish AND bully students and parents for opting out!

BEWARE: 9 in 10 Children who utilize special education services will fail the inappropriate Common Core SBAC Test

More than 90% of English Language Learners “Projected” to Fail Common Core SBAC Test

 

 

More than 7 in 10 high school juniors in Washington State FAIL the Unfair SBAC Math Test

1 Comment

While there is nothing but silence from Connecticut’s State Department of Education about the results of this year’s unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test, the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction (Washington State’s equivalent of the Connecticut State Department of Education) is reporting that,

Only 29 percent of Washington High School students passed the SBAC math test.  That means that about 50,000 high school juniors, many of who are preparing to apply to college next year, are unfairly being labeled as failures.

As anti-SBAC advocates in Washington State are reporting, “By comparison, only 12,380 students from the Graduating Class of 2015 failed to pass the previous state math test.”

As in Washington State, Connecticut juniors will soon discover that they too have been the victims of the test designed to fail the vast majority of public school students.

And rather than protect Connecticut’s public schools students, Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly provided the funding and support for this outrageous injustice.

In a series of Wait, What? posts last spring, including articles entitled Is your public school student a “failure” – the Common Core SBAC Test says probably yes!  and  Opt your High School Juniors out of the Common Core SBAC Test, it became increasingly evident that the Common Core SBAC test is literally designed to fail students.

According to the SBAC  organization’s own reports, approximately 70 percent of high school juniors would fail the Common Core SBAC test in math and, as the Washington State results reveal, the SBAC has succeeded in failing 7 of 10 high school juniors in that state.

But those young people are anything but failures!

As Washington State anti-SBAC advocates note,

“What is most shocking about this result is that these same students who were not able to pass the unfair SBAC Math test were second in the nation on the NAEP (National Assessment of Student Progress) Math Test and among the highest performing math students of any students in the entire world on international math tests!”

Connecticut’s public schools students and their parents will soon learn that the pro-common core, education reform industry and their allies like Governor Malloy have succeeded in undermining our children as well.

For Connecticut parents who did not have the foresight to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test, if you aren’t angry yet…. You will be soon …. just wait until the Malloy administration releases Connecticut’s SBAC results.

For more about this news go to: http://coalitiontoprotectourpublicschools.org/50-000-juniors-in-washington-state-fail-to-pass-the-unfair-sbac-math-test and http://k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2015/PrelimSmarterBalancedResults.aspx

Vallas’ $10m textbook farce means Bridgeport students don’t have Common Core aligned math textbooks

6 Comments

When the Common Core SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test results come back later this summer, about 7 in 10 public school students will be labeled as failures.

Considering that lower standardized test scores are a result of poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs, the number of children labelled as ‘FAILURES” will be even higher in Bridgeport and Connecticut’s other poorer cities and towns.

And while the Common Core SBAC test requires students to meet the Common Cores standards, it now turns out that the new textbooks students in Bridgeport and other Connecticut communities have been given are not appropriately aligned to those Common Core standards.

In Bridgeport the problem stems from a massive contract that education reformer extraordinaire and faux Bridgeport superintendent of schools Paul Vallas rushed through without proper oversight and signed on June 12, 2012.

Vallas, the darling of both Governor Dannel Malloy and Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, signed a contract with the Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt publishing company that committed Bridgeport to a $10 million deal in which payments were spread out over 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The contract was for 90,000 new textbooks, instructional materials, testing software and training for teachers on how to utilize the various materials.

Although the problems with the “Textbook Deal” were evident from the beginning [See Wait, What? Post], it turns out the situation is much, much worse than initially reported.

Vallas purchased the new textbooks claiming they were needed in order to prepare Bridgeport students to meet the Common Core Standards

However it is now clear the textbooks Vallas ordered fail to meet those standards.

Edreports is a new non-profit organization that is  funded – of course – by the Gates Foundation and other education reform foundations and was created to review whether the textbooks that are being used by the nation’s public school are aligned to the Common Core.

Vallas ordered Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Math in Focus Program, a package that included textbooks, printed and electronic instructional content and training for teachers.  The cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers for the math curriculum products was well in excess of $3 million.

But as reported by Education Week, the Washington Post and other media outlets, Edreports has determined that the Math in Focus series DOES NOT MEET the Common Core standards.

After a complete review of each of the math textbooks that is part of the Math in Focus program, Edreports’ review included the following observations.

The materials are not coherent or consistent with the standards.”

“Correct math vocabulary is not consistently used throughout the text.”

“There is not enough content for one school year.”

“Teachers using the materials would not be giving their students extensive work in grade-level problems.”

“Overall coherence and consistency of the standards is not achieved.”

“The materials do not provide a focus on the major work nor are the materials coherent.”

And the list goes on…

For details go to: http://www.edreports.org/reports/series/math-focus.html and http://www.edreports.org/reports/series/math-focus-a.html

The news is more than a bit disturbing.

While their textbooks are not aligned to the Common Core standards, students in Bridgeport (and across Connecticut) are expected to take and pass the SBAC Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test, a test that is already designed to fail up to 70 percent of all students…and that assumes that students have actually been taught the materials they are being tested on..

Incredibly, the textbooks that Paul Vallas purchased aren’t the only ones to fail the review, which means public school children across Connecticut and the nation are being taught with textbooks that don’t prepare them for the Common Core testing program.

As Education Week reported in an article entitled, “Most Math Curricula Found to Be Out of Sync With Common Core,”

The first round of a Consumer Reports-style review for instructional materials paints a dismal picture of the textbook-publishing industry’s response to new standards: Seventeen of 20 math series reviewed were judged as failing to live up to claims that they are aligned to the common core.

“In general, the results are pretty bad for all the publishers,” said Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, who studies common-standards alignment but was not involved in the EdReports.org project. “I think people really will pay attention to this, and I think it will affect [curriculum] adoption processes going forward.”

In all, just one curriculum series stood out from the pack. Eureka Math, published by Great Minds, a small Washington-based nonprofit organization, was found to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards at all grade levels reviewed.

With every passing day we continue to learn that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is nothing short of a scam with our state’s children being used as little more than “profit centers” for the corporate education reform industry.

Older Entries Newer Entries