Two critical education issues for the Connecticut legislature By Anne Manusky

Education advocate Anne Manusky weighs in in two extremely important issues that the Connecticut General Assembly should address this legislative session.  Her commentary piece originally appeared in the CT Mirror.  You can read and comment on the column at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/01/10/two-critical-education-issues-for-the-connecticut-legislature/

Two critical education issues for the Connecticut legislature By Anne Manusky

From my perspective we have two critical points in the current Connecticut education crisis that must be dealt with first during the General Assembly’s 2017 session: One, the Common Core State Standards – they are developmentally inappropriate for many of our children, especially those in the elementary years. And Two: Measuring our children using the new state mastery test, which lacks psychometric test validation and reliability.

It takes time for children to reach certain levels of development  (i.e. vision development is not typically fully acquired until between the age of 8 and 10; and a child’s first baby tooth will typically fall out about the age of 6 or 7). Years of child development theorists’ research,  seem to have been thrown aside when children’s education standards were proposed to be redrawn by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers.

Why this “education” without allowing for typical development? Pushing children to mentally do things they are incapable of is a form of child abuse.  The Connecticut Core Standards are in need of major overhaul and return to developmental appropriateness.

As for measuring academic progress, the Smarter Balanced Assessments are purported to use the Connecticut Core Standards to determine academic mastery levels of our public school children.  So where would factual information be on the analysis of the Smarter Balanced Assessments for Connecticut?

I submitted a freedom of information request in March, 2016, to Commissioner Dianna Wentzel and the State Department of Education for documentation of the validity and reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, as well as for the facts behind Commissioner Wentzel’s statement in a Hartford paper on the “…deep psychometric study…” done to remove a portion of the test to reduce test time.

Staff of the SDE provided Smarter Balanced Field Test materials from 2013, yet did not provide validity or reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) for Connecticut.   Assistant Attorney General Ralph Urban for Commissioner Wentzel and the State Department of Education said at the FOIA hearing they “can’t prove the existence of a negative” and “they don’t exist.”  How did Commissioner Wentzel and her staff make any valid decisions on this without this psychometric testing of the SBA for Connecticut?

The financial cost of this “test?”  It is in the neighborhood of $21 million over three years in Smarter Balanced testing and data collection through the American Institutes for Research.

This is a worrisome concern.  White papers such as Dr. Mary Byrne’s  regarding the validity of the Smarter Balanced Assessments  for Missouri, and the 100 California Education Researchers study (2016) provide details of what is missing to make the Smarter Balanced Assessments valid tests. This information was provided to Commissioner Wentzel, the SDE and the SBE, without response.

Connecticut’s General Assembly, especially the Education Committee, has very serious issues besetting it come this session — the future of our children’s public education.

Connecticut is obligated to its childrens’ public education and to provide developmentally appropriate, valid, and reliable academic testing.  Public education is not an enumerated right of the federal government, as provided in Article 10 of the U.S. Constitution.  Also, the fact the Smarter Balanced Consortium is an interstate compact which was never approved by Congress is another troubling point.

The “work” of the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education bring a great deal into question.

It is time for our state to return to local school district control and have parents and residents involved in education. Cut the CT Core Standards and fraudulent Smarter Balanced tests, which our state cannot afford financially or ethically.

Connecticut Legislators – Now is the time to act on the inappropriate SBAC testing program!

Anne Manusky is a Connecticut parent, education advocate and trained academic researcher.  In this commentary piece she lays out why the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) testing system fails to provide accurate and useable information about student performance, why it should not be used as part of an effective teacher evaluation system and why Connecticut’s elected officials should defund the SBAC testing madness and use those funds to help address Connecticut’s budget crisis.

Anne Manusky writes;

As a parent and former psychological research assistant, I have had great concerns with education reform:  Common Core implementation and their reportedly ‘innovative’ tests – CT’s choice, the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

The concerns have become real, and as our elected officials review and make legislative decisions, a critical element must be reviewed: credibility of the state test, statutorily the “state Mastery test”, as well as the questionable Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s interstate compact.

Currently there are two CT General Assembly bills which consider the Smarter Balanced Assessments the state “Mastery Test” (requirement of state statute):

SB 380 ‘An Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance Results on the Mastery Examination on Teacher Evaluations – https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB380

And,

HB 5555 ‘ An Act Concerning the Minimum Budget Requirement and Prohibiting the Inclusion of Participation Rates for the State Wide Mastery Examination in the Calculation of a School District’s Accountability Index Score – https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB5555

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) has no psychometric analyses providing the validity and reliability of the assessment; no independent verification of this assessment exists.

These analyses are necessary to determine credibility of this test.

An FOIA request was recently submitted to the CT State Department of Education for

1) Any and all materials providing validity and reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments; and 2) the “deep psychometric study” the State claims to have completed.

Commissioner Wentzel made a point to provide that the Smarter Balanced testing was being reduced due to a said “deep psychometric study”.  Top state officials lop off almost two hours off the ‘Smarter Balanced’ test. Hartford Courant   http://www.courant.com/education/hc-state-officials-cutback-smarter-balanced-test-20160225-story.html.

Materials provided from the State Department of Education to substantiate these questions did not provide validation or of further psychometric testing to determine a “deep psychometric study” had been conducted.

On the other hand, 100 education researchers from California provide “The assessments have been carefully examined by independent examiners of the test content who concluded that they lack validity, reliability, and fairness, and should not be administered, much less be considered a basis for high-stakes decision making.”  Common Core State Standards Assessments in California: Concerns and Recommendations, CARE-ED, Feb 2016,  (See http://media.wix.com/ugd/1e0c79_2718a7f68da642a09e9244d50c727e40.pdf)

Testing which has no credible basis should not be used to assess children in California, or anywhere else for that matter. It then becomes even more of an issue that these tests were believed to be suitable for assessing children, it has no credibility in use for the evaluation of classroom teachers.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Wentzel even acknowledges in her CGA HB 5555 Testimony:

“…Without reliable measurements….. it would be difficult to “measure improvement and growth among our students from one year to the next.”

Why wouldn’t the State Department of  Education’s highest officer and/or staff review the validity, reliability and construct validity of what is being considered the “state Mastery test”?

How much time have CT’s children wasted on taking this “test”?

At this time, the state of CT is under a 3-year SBAC compact. This compact was found in the state of Missouri to be an unlawful interstate compact, never was approved by Congress. .https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/26/judge-rules-missouris-membership-in-common-core-testing-group-is-illegal/

The current fiscal issues for the testing include the Smarter Balanced Consortium Membership fee is $8,080,331 for 3 years, as well as fees for the American Institutes of Research (AIR – which gives the Smarter Balanced) – $13,555,173 for 3 years.

These are serious issues which need to be addressed by our Connecticut Legislature.

Defund the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium compact, cut the unproven, invalid Smarter Balanced testing saving the CT taxpayers over 7 million in one year alone.

Also, an investigation into the State Department of Education as well as the State Board of Education’s decisions to use this “test” without review of basic statistical significance should be completed.

Anne Manusky is absolutely correct.  As Connecticut’s elected officials grapple with Connecticut’s ongoing budget crisis, they can make a significant and positive difference for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers by passing Senate Bill 380 and requiring that the Malloy administration stop using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test as part of the state’s mandated teacher evaluation program.

In addition, as Anne Manusky points out, the Connecticut legislature should stop funding the failed SBAC testing program and use those funds to preserve some of the vital services that Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens need and deserve.

If Connecticut’s state senators and state representatives are committed to doing the right thing for Connecticut, they should start by reading this commentary piece and acting on its recommendations.