Connecticut Education Association vote would promote democracy in union elections

Similar to the Electoral College for President of the United States, the Connecticut Education Association presently elects its officers through a process that separates individual union members from the direct election of their officers.  However, educators attending the CEA’s annual Representatives Assembly (RA) will have the opportunity to change that…for the better.

If the constitutional change is adopted, teachers throughout Connecticut would he given the ability to vote directly for their state officers.

It is a change that would not only ensure democracy at the CEA, but it is a step that would send a powerful message about the importance of one person, one vote in our society.

As a recent press release explained,

The amendment will be voted on by delegates at this year’s CEA Representative Assembly on May 6th. Under the proposal, all 43,000 CEA members would have the right to vote for state-level union leaders.

Connecticut educator, Martin Walsh, a teacher residing in Wethersfield and member of the CEA’s Progressive Caucus said,

“Unions thrive on participation, and direct democracy spurs involvement. In this age of instantaneous and secure data transmission, it makes perfect sense to open statewide elections to all union members. Our proposal can be easily implemented at a reasonable cost. Now is preeminently the time to make this important change.”

At a time when our democracy is under unprecedented threats, it is great to see that the Connecticut Education Association will actually be voting on a Constitutional Amendment to expand the use of direct democracy when it comes to electing officers.

Progress made on making Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system fairer

The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is an unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory measure that seeks to determine how well public school children are doing.  Despite the massive problems with the testing scheme, supporters of the testing program have argued that the test should be used to judge and label students, teachers and public schools.

In a significant development, it appears that the State of Connecticut may, at the very least, be taking steps to ensure that the test results are not inappropriately used as part of Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system.

As the Connecticut Education Assocation is reporting,

“The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) took a giant step forward in addressing teachers’ concerns regarding the use of state mastery examination results in teacher evaluations. PEAC defined the clear use and purpose of the state mastery exam, agreeing that it should not be used to evaluate teachers.

PEAC unanimously agreed to recommend new guidelines for educator support and evaluation programs to the State Board of Education. These new guidelines support the use of state mastery test scores to inform educator goal setting and to inform professional development planning, but prohibit their use as a measure of goal attainment or in the calculation of the summative rating for an educator.

If adopted by the State Board of Education at its next meeting – April 5, 2017 – the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) test would still be used for a variety of purposes but would play a much more limited role in the teacher evaluation process.  The SBAC test could still be used for the following purposes;

Informing goals for individual educators
Informing professional development for individual educators
Discussion at the summative evaluation conference
Informing collaborative goals
Informing professional learning for groups or teams of educators
Any communications around planning
Development of curriculum
Program evaluation
Selecting or evaluating effectiveness of materials/resources
School/district improvement planning
Informing whole school professional development to support school improvement

However, according to the agreement approved by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC), the Common Core SBAC test would not be used for Inclusion in the calculation of the rating in the summative evaluation of a public school teacher or part of the teacher SLO/goal attainment process.

Not surprisingly, the Malloy administration focused on the continued use of the SBAC testing program.  A statement issued by Malloy’s Department of Education explained;

The Connecticut Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) on Wednesday voted to preserve the role of state mastery tests in the educator evaluation and support system to inform goal-setting and professional development planning, but not as a measure used to calculate a final evaluation rating.

The recommendation by PEAC, the panel of education partners tasked with developing an educator evaluation system that works toward the goal of ensuring every child has access to a high quality education, now goes to the State Board of Education for consideration.

“Our goal is to ensure teachers have the tools and support they need to continuously improve their practice and deliver high-quality teaching and learning in the classroom,” said Commissioner of Education Dianna R. Wentzell. “Today’s recommendation by PEAC affirms the consensus among Connecticut education stakeholders that state mastery tests provide a valid and reliable estimate of student achievement and that they can play an important role in goal-setting for educators.”

Check back for more on this developing story

What is the purpose of the State-sponsored Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) “Mastery” Test?

The Common Core SBAC testing scheme is the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory annual testing system mandated by Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration.

Designed to fail a vast share of Connecticut’s students, the SBAC test is aligned to the Common Core, rather than what is actually taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

If Governor Malloy and his allies in the corporate Education reform industry get their way, the SBAC test will continue to be used to rate and rank order students, teachers and schools.  For them, it is a mechanism to ensure students, and teachers are deemed to be failures, thereby paving the way to turn even more Connecticut public schools over to privately owned, but publicly funded charter school companies and others that seek to profit off the privatization of public education.

With the Connecticut legislature’s approval, the Malloy administration has been busy turning Connecticut’s public schools into little more than testing factories and profit centers for private entities, many of which have become some of Malloy’s biggest campaign donors.

One of the areas that remains unresolved is how the SBAC testing scam will be used in Connecticut’s teacher evaluation process.  Malloy and his ilk want to require that the results of the unfair tests be used as a key tool in determining how well teachers are doing in the classroom.

Teachers, their unions and public school advocates recognize that there are much better teacher evaluation models that could be used and don’t rely on the use of standardized tests to determine which teachers are succeeding, which teachers need additional training and which individuals should be removed from the classroom.

As the CT Mirror reported earlier this week in an article entitled, Grading teachers: Tempers flare over use of student test scores;

In 2010, state legislators created the PEAC (Performance Evaluation Advisory Council), to come up with guidelines for evaluating teachers. In January 2012, the panel agreed to have nearly one-quarter of a teachers’ rating linked to the state exam scores.

Consensus then vanished, however, after the governor proposed linking the new evaluations to teacher certification and pay, and union leaders grew wary that the tests were becoming too high stakes. Complicating the issue further was the rollout of a controversial new state exam that engendered even more skepticism among union officials and many teachers about using the tests for evaluations.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the SBAC test is NOT an appropriate tool to evaluate teachers, the Malloy administration remains committed to implementing their policy of failure.

The controversy has meant that the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) has been unable to come to a consensus on how to proceed with the implementation of Malloy’s teacher evaluation plan.

As a way to move the debate forward, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers tried, unsuccessfully, to use this week’s PEAC meeting to push the group to, at the very least, define what purpose of Connecticut’s so-called Mastery Testing system.

In a recent CEA blog post, the union explained that at the meeting CEA’s Executive Director told the group,

“The threshold question is, ‘What is the role of the mastery test?’ I hold that it’s to give a 50,000-foot view that can inform resource allocation, curriculum alignment, professional development, and instructional strategies at the district level, at the building level, or even the classroom level.”

Adding,

“That is where we gain knowledge about things like social justice, about fiscal or community needs…

The President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, concurred saying that the tests

“were never designed to evaluate teachers,” adding, “If we return to that, we’re going to return to teachers teaching to the test, because their jobs depend on it.”

The CEA and AFT leadership are absolutely right on this one.

SBAC is an “inappropriate tool for evaluating teachers.”

As mentioned, there are plenty of teacher evaluation models that the state could and should be using.

Rather than maintaining their war on Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools, Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials should dump Malloy’s proposed teacher evaluation program and shift to one that is fair, efficient and effective.

With Election Day close at hand, candidates for the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives should be making it clear that if elected on November 8th they’ll shift gears and actually do what is right for Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools.

CEA wrong to claim NWEA’s MAP test is an appropriate tool for evaluating teachers.

In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece entitled, ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Wrong Answer For Students, Teachers, Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen correctly explains that,

[The] Smarter Balanced and other high-stakes standardized tests are not useful measures of student success — and were not designed to evaluate teachers. Smarter Balanced is an invalid, unfair and unreliable test that does not measure student growth within a school year. Smarter Balanced does not assist teachers in measuring academic growth, takes away precious instruction time and resources from teaching and learning, and is not developmentally and age-appropriate for students.

Teachers, administrators and parents want an evaluation system that develops and sustains high-quality teaching and provides teachers with more time to collaborate on best practices that result in a better outcome for all students.

But then, in a bizarre move that appears to be yet another attempt to acquiesce to Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s ongoing education reform and anti-teacher agenda, the leader of the CEA claims that although the state should not use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test as part of the state’s teacher evaluation program, it is okay to use the NWEA’s MAP standardized test as a teacher evaluation tool.

The CEA’s President notes,

Teachers are evaluated appropriately by measurable results using:

  • Standardized progress monitoring tests like NWEA or STAR.

  • Progress on student performance rubrics tied to external standards in their evaluations.

  • District- and department-designed common assessments

When developed correctly, student performance rubrics and district and department designed common assessments can be useful tools when it comes to evaluating and improving teacher performance.

However, standardized tests like the SBAC or NWEA’s MAP are inherently unfair and inappropriate for use as part of a teacher evaluation system.  Period.  End of Story.

Education Advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, addressed this very point when she recently published, Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

As for the claim that the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) is a valid teacher evaluation tool, Wendy Lecker explains,

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

The truth is that the NWEA’s MAP standardized test is just as inappropriate a tool to evaluate teachers as is the SBAC and the unions that represent teachers have a fundamental obligation to ensure that public policy makers understand what are and what are not valid techniques for determining how well an individual teacher is doing in the classroom.

The CEA’s latest move to condemn the SBAC but endorse the MAP is an uncomfortable reminder that, over the past six years, teachers and other public employees have watched as their union leaders have engaged in an almost schizophrenic approach when it comes to dealing with Governor Malloy’s bully, while standing up for their members.

Wanting to be perceived as “insiders” for the purpose of “getting into the rooms of power,” some union leaders have consistently dismissed or tried to explain away Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman’s ongoing anti-teacher, anti-public employee agenda.

On the other hand, recognizing that their membership is getting angrier and angrier and that the Malloy/Wyman agenda is undermining public education, public services and is translating into public employee layoffs, some of these same unions have taken to running television advertisements urging citizens to stand up for the public servants who educate our children, provide critically important support for those in need and ensure that government programs are available to the people of Connecticut.

The CEA’s initial approach to the teacher evaluation issue was a case study in the strategy of trying to get-along to go-along.  But, after failing to successfully fight off Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair teacher evaluation initiative, the union changed course this past January.

As the January 5, 2016 Wait What? post,  4 years late[r] – The Connecticut Education Association may finally be standing up against Malloy and Wyman on their teacher evaluation disaster, reported,

According to a press advisory issued earlier today, the Connecticut Education Association will hold a press conference at 11am at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to call on Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to “join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs.”

If the announcement is as impressive as suggested, it would mean that the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions have finally moved 180 degrees from the position they held on January 25, 2012 when the CEA and AFT joined with the other members of Governor Malloy’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to approve the so-called “teacher evaluation framework” that inappropriately and unfairly mandates that student’s standardized test scores be a major factor in the teacher evaluation process.

In addition to reversing their position on the SBAC test, the CEA and AFT-CT have been working extremely hard to get the Connecticut General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 380 which would prohibit the state from using the results from the Connecticut’s Mastery Testing program in the state’s teacher evaluation program – a proposal that Malloy and his education reform allies strongly oppose.

And yet, as the CEA seriously – and finally – engages on this vital issue, along comes the claim that the NWEA MAP test is a valid mechanism for evaluating teachers – a claim that may please Governor Malloy and his anti-teacher friends but is absolutely and completely out of line with the academic evidence and good public policy.

Connecticut can and should have a strong and effective teacher evaluation system, but using standardized test results to evaluate teachers has no place in such a system.

It does a tremendous disservice for the CEA to suggest otherwise.

Wendy Lecker explains – Again – Why the Malloy-Wyman teacher evaluation system is a terrible farce

In her commentary piece last week, public education advocate Wendy Lecker returned to the issue of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s unfair, inappropriate and fundamentally flawed teacher evaluation system.   Her article, entitled Teacher evaluation system needs overhaul, first appeared in the Stamford Advocate.

While Wendy Lecker has pounded away about the problems associated with Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system for four years, the good news is that it seems that some of the power-elite are finally listening.

Having helped craft and usher in the absurd and destructive teacher evaluation system, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) will be holding a press conference later today, January 7, 2016, in which they will apparently stand up for Connecticut educators and take a strong stand against Malloy and Wyman’s anti-teacher and anti-public school, teacher evaluation program.

The problem with the existing teacher evaluation system could not be any clearer.  As Wendy Lecker explains – Teacher evaluation system needs overhaul;

With the passage of the new federal law replacing the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), Connecticut now has a unique opportunity to rethink its flawed teacher evaluation system.

In response first to the federal Race to the Top grant and then the NCLB waiver mandates, Connecticut developed a teacher and principal evaluation system calling for student standardized test scores to be a part of a teacher and principal’s effectiveness rating.

Under the federal law replacing NCLB, the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”), the federal government no longer requires states to link student standardized test scores to teacher evaluations.

Connecticut’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (“PEAC”), the body that oversees the teacher and principal evaluation system, will next meet in January. Since PEAC last met, the notion that one can rate teacher’s effectiveness based on student standardized test scores has been thoroughly debunked.

As the American Statistical Association maintains, teachers account for only 1-14 percent of the variance in student standardized test scores. Joining the ASA and others, the American Educational Research Association recently declared that it is almost impossible to disentangle this tiny teacher effect on student test scores from other in-school and out-of-school factors. A New Mexico court recently blocked that state’s test-based teacher evaluation system because there is no scientific evidence proving that such a system is valid.

Standardized achievement tests were not designed to be instructionally sensitive, i.e. show what or how well a teacher teaches. They cannot be jury-rigged after the fact to be.

In light of the ESSA, some PEAC members, notably the Connecticut Education Association, now indicate they would advocate decoupling statewide standardized tests from evaluations. Indeed, why continue such a demonstrably invalid practice?

Other members, including Connecticut’s superintendents’ and boards of education associations (CAPSS and CABE), maintain that standardized test scores must still be included because they show “student achievement growth.”

What does that mean?

Learning is a complex process. Even if one focuses only on cognitive skills, different grades teach different content and different skills. Each standardized test measures skills that supposedly correspond to that grade level. Comparing one grade level test to another is comparing apples to oranges.

As I wrote in an earlier column (bit.ly/1sOOxFc), in constructing “growth scales” for standardized tests, statisticians make a fictional assumption that learning in math and reading is linear and can actually be compared from year to year. To make this work, they can only focus on a limited universe of skills that might be subject to such a rough comparison.

Measuring growth through standardized tests is, at best, looking at a tiny fraction of cognitive skills.

When we construct an evaluation system based on that tiny universe of disjointed skills, all the components in that system will be equally narrow. Any observations of and conclusions about teachers will center only on how those teachers are teaching those particular skills.

Why do we want to know so little about a teacher?

I want much more for my son. I want my son’s teachers to help him learn skills, but I also want them to help him apply those skills to other subjects and in life. I want them to help him make sense of the world. I want them to help him ask better questions, so he can become a more critical thinker. I want them to help him be a better member of his school community so he can learn to become a good citizen. I want teachers who can assess my child with tools they developed based on their teaching.

None of these teaching skills can be measured with a test.

However test scores are simple, readily available measures; so policy-makers embrace them, even when they are inappropriate.

Rather than construct an evaluation process based on what is easiest to measure, shouldn’t PEAC start with an examination of the type of skills we want in teachers?

Determining whether a teacher has those skills will require us to rely on the professional judgment of administrators and other teachers who observe a teacher’s practices, the work she assigns, and her students’ work.

The state can provide guidelines but it is time start trusting professional educators again. Teaching and learning are complex human endeavors that will never be properly reduced to numbers.

Connecticut now has the opportunity and moral duty to right the wrong being done to our teachers and students. All eyes will be on the PEAC members to see if they have the courage and wisdom to do so.

For more about Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation policies check out the following Wait, What? posts;

Malloy’s Teacher evaluation system is fundamentally and fatally flawed

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought

Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured

Opt Out growing – Now decouple Common Core test from Teacher Evaluation Program

Will Malloy decouple Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair Common Core SBAC Test?

Teacher Evaluations At The Heart Of Education Reform Are Flawed (By Jonathan Kantrowitz)

Evaluate Teachers based on Standardized Test Scores? Can an “education reformer” please answer the following question?

Teacher Evaluation Program: Malloy, Pryor and General Assembly slam door on a locally developed plans

Test Scores and Teacher Evaluations – But Wait – That’s Like Comparing Apples and Tomatoes

4 years late[r] – The Connecticut Education Association may finally be standing up against Malloy and Wyman on their teacher evaluation disaster

According to a press advisory issued earlier today, the Connecticut Education Association will hold a press conference at 11am at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to call on Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to “join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs.”

If the announcement is as impressive as suggested, it would mean that the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions have finally moved 180 degrees from the position they held on January 25, 2012 when the CEA and AFT joined with the other members of Governor Malloy’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to approve the so-called “teacher evaluation framework” that inappropriately and unfairly mandates that student’s standardized test scores be a major factor in the teacher evaluation process.

The CT Mirror reported on the development that fateful day in January 2012 in an article entitled Coming soon: teacher report cards based on student performance;

Years of disagreement have stalled efforts to grade teachers and dismiss those who are ineffective. That all changed Wednesday when a group of educators — including teachers’ unions, superintendent and school board groups — agreed on how to properly evaluate teachers…

[…]

“Districts are really going to embrace this,” said Diane Ullman, Superintendent of Schools in Simsbury and a member of the state panel responsible for creating an evaluation process districts must follow. “We’ve been waiting for this.”

The plan calls for student performance and testing to count for half of the grade the state’s 50,000 teachers receive. The remaining share will be linked to teacher observations and parent and peer feedback surveys.

“I think we are 100 percent there,” Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council as he pointed to the presentation on display outlining the plan. “That’s our system.”

[…]

The group agreed teachers should be evaluated as follows:

  • 45 percent on student learning indicators (things like test scores and attendance);
  • 5 percent on how the school performs as a whole or student feedback survey;
  • 40 percent on teachers’ observation and practices;
  • 10 percent on peer and parent feedback surveys

[…]

In a statement, Malloy called the agreement a “milestone.”

“Connecticut has taken a major step toward a meaningful teacher evaluation system,” Malloy said. “Today’s consensus proposal has real potential to increase teacher effectiveness — and as a result, to elevate student achievement.”

[…]

…both the state’s teachers’ unions said Wednesday they are on board with this plan. ‘This is very robust,’ Mary Loftus Levine, head of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said of the plan. ‘This is a pretty good plan,’ agreed Sharon Palmer, leader of the state’s American Federation of Teachers chapter. “Yes, student improvement and growth is playing a huge role, but it’s factoring it in in a fair way.”

After the PEAC vote, an article appeared on the CEA Blog that sought to persuade teachers that the new teacher evaluation system was good news.  The CEA Blog explained;

A council working to develop new educator evaluation guidelines reached favorable consensus today on a basic framework that will meet the needs of Connecticut teachers. CEA has been a strong advocate for teachers as a member of the state Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) that has been meeting for over a year.

“It was a compromise by consensus, which was reached after many months of long, tough conversations,” said Mary Loftus Levine, CEA executive director. “What the positive consensus shows is that all education stakeholders want the same results. And we and other members of PEAC are pleased to have developed a structure for a fair, reliable, and valid evaluation system with accountability for all. Student achievement is the overarching goal.”

CEA’s voice on the council has resulted in a framework which is consistent with the goal of elevating the teaching profession by holding everyone accountable, while producing a new evaluation system that is fair, valid, reliable, and useful. The area of greatest teacher concern and focus in PEAC’s work has been how to define, implement, and include “multiple indicators of student academic growth and development.”

In short, with today’s favorable consensus, PEAC is recommending a three-tiered system with no single test score or indicator being used to assess student learning. It has achieved this goal with fair and balanced weighted percentages as follows:

  1. Multiple indicators of student learning will count as 45% of the evaluation. Half of that 45% weight will come from a standardized test, which would be either the CMT, CAPT, or another valid, reliable test that measures student learning.

  2. Teacher performance and professional practice will be weighted at 40%.

  3. Other peer, student, and parent feedback will be weighted at 5% with professional activities counting for 10%.

Malloy’s inappropriate initiative mandating an unfair teacher evaluation system has been a cornerstone of his pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing, Pro-charter school and anti-teacher agenda.

Check back here at Wait, What? for details following the CEA’s press conference on Thursday.

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

As the 2015 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly came careening to a close last spring, legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill that replaced the mandate that 11th graders take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test (SBAC) with a new requirement that all high school juniors take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory College Board SAT test.

Without remotely understanding the ramifications of their action, legislators and Governor Dannel Malloy congratulated themselves for a job well done.

The Connecticut Education Association heaped praise on the very elected officials who had undermined public education in Connecticut, taking credit for the move to the SAT and complementing elected officials for a move that was as wrong as adopting the Common Core SBAC testing scheme in the first place.

But once again, politics being politics, the narrow world view held by those on the inside drove the policy making process at the expense of Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

The extremely serious problems with requiring that all 11th graders take the SAT test is becoming increasingly apparent.

In her latest column in the Stamford Advocate, fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker takes on the ignorant claims of those who support using the SAT as a definitive measure of educational success.

The problem is that Connecticut’s policymakers seem completely unwilling or unable to listen to the facts and do the right thing when it comes to the absurd standardized testing craze.

Parents and students beware…

Why use the SAT? by Wendy Lecker 

A new large-scale, longitudinal study should make Connecticut policy makers think twice before continuing with their ill-advised policy imposing the SAT as the new “mastery test” for 11th graders.

Last spring, after opt-outs and outcry from parents and students, Connecticut lawmakers decided to quickly abandon the unvalidated SBAC test — but only for 11thgraders. In its place they decided to adopt the newly redesigned SAT.

Jettisoning the SBAC was a step in the right direction, but adopting the SAT presents a host of new problems.

First, the SAT is supposedly a test to predict college “aptitude,” not to assess what Connecticut high school students have learned.

Yet Connecticut plans to use the SAT to judge and rank schools and, of course, sanction them when they perform poorly. The State Department of Education confirmed that after it receives the 2016 results, cut scores will be set to determine “mastery.”

I asked SDE who will set the cut scores and how they can possibly have proof that these scores are valid representations of “mastery” when the test is new, as they will only have one year of results and it isn’t designed to test mastery. SDE refused to answer.

And even though the College Board itself opposes the use of the SAT for teacher evaluations because there is not enough evidence of its validity or reliability for this use, Hartford public schools is already planning to use the SAT in teacher evaluations this year. The district intends to compare spring 2016 SAT scores against students’ fall 2015 PSAT scores.

Second, while the SAT provides accommodations for certain students with disabilities, it does not provide any for English Language Learners (ELL). SDE plans to simply use the accommodations previously used for the CMT and CAPT for the new SAT.

However, experts in this field confirmed to me that one cannot simply transfer accommodations from one test to another. When I asked SDE for any proof of the validity and reliability of using CMT/CAPT ELL accommodations for the SAT, again, they refused to answer.

Proof that there are significant problems using the SAT for accountability purposes in Connecticut comes from a study just published by the University of California.

The study examined 1.1 million students from 1994-2011. It found that one-third of the variance of SAT scores could be explained by parental education, socio-economic status or status as a member of an underrepresented minority. By contrast, socio-economic factors accounted for only 7 percent of the variance in high school GPAs.

Even more stunning is that while in 1994, parental education was the strongest predictor of SAT scores, in the last four years of the study, status as a member of an underrepresented minority overtook both parental education and socio-economic status as the strongest predictor of SAT scores.

And while there is a racial gap in high school GPAs, that gap is not nearly as huge as the racial SAT gap. The study found, in ranking University of California applicants, Latinos and African-Americans comprised 60 percent of the lowest decile in SATs, but they comprised only 39 percent of the lowest decile in GPA. And while they comprised 12 percent of the top decile in GPA, they comprised only 5 percent of the top in SAT. Ranking by SAT score produces more severe racial/ethnic stratification than GPA.

The study also confirmed what three other large scale studies found: that the SAT is a poor predictor of college success. The evidence showed that high school GPA is an accurate predictor of college completion, while the SAT is very weak.

This finding was especially true for students of color. When controlling for parental education and socio-economic status, the predictive power of the GPA increased — while the SAT’s predictive power got even weaker.

The SAT cannot determine whether a student is ready for college success. The SAT never professed to determine whether someone is “career-ready,” whatever that means.

But, as the study shows, the SAT has an adverse effect on racial minorities.

So, while the SAT may be able to identify the demographic makeup of a school — and there are easier and cheaper ways to find that out — it cannot tell us a thing about the quality of the education that school provides.

If all the SAT will do is rank schools by race, why is Connecticut using it?

Connecticut’s students deserve far better and we should demand that Connecticut’s “leaders” abandon their blind, failed adherence to standardized testing.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at:

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Why-use-the-SAT-6601625.php

What Arnie Duncan’s Resignation Really Implies (Guest Post by Daniel Kwet)

Daniel Kwet is a Connecticut educator on the front lines of the effort to provide Connecticut’s urban children with the education they deserve.  In a school system under-funded by both the State of Connecticut and the local community, Daniel Kwet and his colleagues are not only fighting for children but provide a powerful inspiration for the rest of us who are advocating on behalf of students, parents, teachers and our public schools;

What Arnie Duncan’s Resignation Really Implies (Guest Post by Daniel Kwet)

Recently, Arne Duncan announced that he will resign as United States Secretary of Education.  His tenure has been controversial.  The National Education Association had recently asked for his resignation and its board cheered when he stepped down.  Understanding these events and their significance should help us better understand what is happening in the ongoing fight for public education.  It should also help us to understand the obstacles our unions and all people interested in the future of public education are facing.

While I am no fan of Arne Duncan, I think his resignation needs to be situated in the broader landscape of our political system.  We are currently entering an election cycle.  When Barack Obama ran for office in almost 8 years ago, he ran with Linda Darling-Hammond as his educational advisor, one of the most progressive possible choices he could have made.  Upon election, Obama made a clear shift in appointing Duncan.  Duncan had been “CEO” of Chicago schools and pushed a corporate agenda, so no one could have had any delusions about who he was.  He proceeded to help push through the Race To the Top, the Bush administration’s educational policy on steroids.

The Democratic Party is thoroughly saturated with pro-corporate education deformers.  At every level, national, state, and local, Democratic deformers have been pushing charter schools and restructuring our school policies to adopt a corporate mentality, stripping the public sphere of its emphasis on common good through high stakes standardized testing and through grants that are funded by the super-rich, especially Gates, Waltons, and Eli Broad.  Many urban districts are strapped for cash, leaving them in a weakened position to turn down outside programs when there is a strong enough financial incentive.

As we enter another election cycle, there will be an attempt to make Hillary Clinton look like a saint.  The NEA has officially endorsed Hillary and highlighted her “achievements” in a front page editorial.  Environment plays a large role in shaping the child’s education.  As educators, we should be aware that her husband ripped apart welfare with the Orwellian titled Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, passed through the anti-labor North American Free Trade Agreement that sent good paying jobs to sweatshops overseas, greatly increased the amount of people (mostly black and Latino) in our prison systems (though now we’re supposed to believe it was a mistake).  Perhaps most egregiously, he pushed the Democrats further into the hands of its corporate wing, the Democratic Leadership Council in so-called “Third Way” politics, helping to pave the way for what we are dealing with now. It is also worth noting that Hillary Clinton has served on the board of Walmart.

At this point, Arne Duncan was a political liability for Hillary to gain the support of teachers.  The NEA needs to have real demands and not simply clap for public relation moves.  Below are some simple things should be a base line of support for any candidate:

Will you guarantee that if elected, you will appoint a pro-teacher, pro-union secretary of education?  Who would you consider viable candidates for that position?

Will you denounce charter schools and do everything in your power to get rid of them?

Will you oppose the corporate restructuring of our schools and do everything in your power to get them adequate funding so they can more easily refuse grants that don’t align with our actual needs?

Will you refuse campaign donations from the Gates Foundation, the Waltons, the Broad Foundation, and similar foundations and their front groups?

Furthermore, the NEA has a lot to account for when it writes editorials that omit the clear flaws of the candidates.  This is a pedagogy of deceit, and we should be opposed to it, as it misinforms our members so the NEA can continue a game of begging the Democrats to dismantle public education with kiddy gloves on and friendly faces while it puts the rank and file to sleep.  We should learn from the victories in Chicago and Seattle that nothing is gained if nothing is demanded.  If we fail to learn, we will be in the same place in 2017 as we were in 2009.

Republican State Senator Toni Boucher calls Malloy out on his latest anti-teacher hissy fit

While Democrat legislators are strangely silent on Governor Malloy’s latest attack on teachers and the teaching profession, Republicans in the State Senate, led by State Senator Toni Boucher, the ranking member of the Education Committee is speaking out about Malloy’s bizarre veto of a bill requiring that the Commissioner of Education have some classroom experience.

Apparently Malloy feels that that notion of having to select someone who actually knows something about teachers and what is going on in the classroom would cramp his style, so the governor who will become the leader of the Democratic Governors Association next year vetoed a bill that passed the General Assembly’s Education Committee 32 – 0, the Connecticut State Senate by a vote of 36 -0 and the Connecticut House of Representatives by a vote of 138 – 5.

Through the entire legislative process, only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill (In the State House) and neither Malloy nor his administration ever raised any public opposition to the common sense bill.

Yet another stunningly arrogant action from a politician who will soon be traveling the country urging voters to cast their vote for the Democrats.

Compared the silence of the lambs, the Republican reaction actually sounds like a clarion call to action.

In a press release entitled, “Why Is Governor Malloy Undermining Teachers Again?” Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), the ranking member of the Education Committee and State Senate Minority leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) quickly released a strong statement yesterday about the Governor’s decision to veto of HB 6977; AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

The two Republican legislators wrote, 

“Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Malloy has been highly critical of teachers and retired teachers.  Today’s veto of an important measure will surely give them cause for concern.

“The bill simply requires the state education commissioner be a qualified person with a master’s or a higher degree in an education-related field.  Additionally, they must have at least five years as a teacher and three years as an administrator in a school or district in Connecticut or another state.  Currently, the commissioner is not required to hold a degree or have any experience in education.

“Why would he veto this valid request?  Apparently, it ‘restricts’ his authority to pick a new candidate,” said Boucher and Fasano.

When announcing the new commissioner, Dianna Wentzell, Malloy stated: “I made it clear that we were looking from day one for someone who has been a teacher.” Previously, the governor had been criticized by teachers for his prior commissioner, Stefan Pryor, who lacked teaching experience.

Senator Fasano said, “In the words of Queen, another one bites the dust. Governor Malloy is backpedaling on another policy he seemed to support not too long ago. The governor made education experience a priority when searching for his new commissioner, after distancing himself from a previous controversial choice. So why reject a bipartisan effort to ensure that education experience is always a priority?”

Senator Boucher said, “If you recall in in February of 2012 Malloy said in order for teachers to earn tenure, ‘basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.  Do that, and tenure is yours.’ Sadly, the insults continue.  We encourage the state board of education and the Governor to at least follow the spirit of this legislation- supported unanimously in the legislature – which sought to bring the highest possible standards to one of the most important positions in our state government.  Which requires the depth of experience and knowledge in the field of education. It is important to the future of education in our state.”

Malloy vetoes bill requiring that education commissioner have education experience

Dannel shows his true stripes yet again…

The CT Newsjunkie headline reads- Union Leader ‘Stunned’ By Malloy Veto of Standards For Education Commish while the CT Mirror exclaims Malloy vetoes qualifications for education commissioner

The leader of Connecticut’s teacher unions are stunned because the Right Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy decided to veto legislation that would have required that the state education commissioners have “a strong classroom background, something his first education commissioner lacked.”

The legislation passed the Education Committee 32 to 0

It passed the State Senate 36 – 0

And it passed the Connecticut House of Representatives  138-5

Only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill in the House.

But Dannel Malloy vetoed it anyway.

The story?

Harken back just over one year ago, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s was holding its political endorsing convention.

As a candidate attempting to petition on to the ballot, the union refused to allow me to address the delegates.

Instead, as the CT Mirror called it, the convention was “a two-day infomercial promoting the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, with one carefully choreographed note of discord: A rebuke to the Democratic governor’s choice of Stefan Pryor as commissioner of education.”

Before formally endorsing Malloy, the statewide labor federation adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a requirement that an education commissioner hold the same credential as a school superintendent, a standard that Pryor does not meet.

“We’re hoping the governor’s listening,” said Melodie Peters, the president of AFT-Connecticut, one of the state’s two major teachers’ unions.

The resolution drawn up by the AFT, which separately endorsed Malloy ahead of the AFL-CIO convention, was a message to a Democratic governor and to labor’s rank-and-file. It was meant as a gentle rebuke to Malloy, not a rejection; a way to soothe educators, not provoke them.

Pryor never was mentioned by name, but he has become a pressure-relief valve for labor, which acknowledges a need to draw anger away from the governor. Peters agreed when asked if the resolution was a second-term message to Malloy about a need for a new commissioner.

Now, a year later, having failed to testify against the union’s proposed bill or even voice any opposition what-so-ever, Malloy vetoed the very concept  was submitted as a result of that AFL-CIO resolution.

As the CT Mirror explained last year,

Teacher unrest has given Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic state legislator, an opening to try to organize a third-party run for governor.

Malloy told the delegates Monday in a well-received speech that he’s made mistakes, but he stopped far short of apologizing for what teachers still say was a gratuitous and deliberate insult.

The task for union leaders has been to manage the anger of the rank-and-file, sharply contrasting the overall labor record of Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in a generation with the hostility to labor and collective bargaining by GOP governors in once-union friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan.

[…]

A procession of delegates stepped up to microphones Tuesday to speak in favor the resolution.

“Education is a profession, not a hobby,” said Edward Leavy of AFT Local 4200 A.

The delegates cheered.

Anna Montalvo, the president of AFSCME Local 1522, which represents paraprofessionals in Bridgeport, said a superintendent and education commissioner should meet standards, as do her members.

The delegates cheered again.

But the message of the convention eventually circled back to a simple equation: What would be best for labor, the re-election of a Democratic governor or a Republican?

Sharon Palmer, a former AFT-Connecticut president who is Malloy’s labor commissioner, vouched for the governor’s commitment to labor.

“Let me say from up close and personal, he is a good boss,” Palmer said. “Sometimes he has a sharp tongue, but more often than not he uses that sharp tongue to fight off those who would diminish us.”

Palmer, Peters and Randi Weingarten, the national AFT president who was the second-day keynote speaker, all reminded the members of Malloy’s support for a broad labor agenda and his defense of locked out health workers represented by AFT at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Weingarten ended the convention with a loud, passionate pitch for Malloy. She acknowledged rough spots in AFT’s relationship with Malloy over tenure.

“Yeah, I don’t like some of the things he’s said, either,” Weingarten said. “But what he’s done, he’s increased funding for K-12, increased funding by seven percent for K-12, making Connecticut the second-highest education spender in the country since the recession.”

She called Pelto a friend who has some important things to say, but his candidacy is a distraction and a danger that can only draw votes away from Malloy.

[…]

She told reporters after the convention that she spoke by telephone the previous day with Pelto, who had complained he wasn’t invited to speak. Only the major-party endorsed candidates addressed the convention.

Weingarten said third-party candidates can play an important role, and she has supported some in the past.

She said the stakes in Connecticut are too high: “The stakes here are whether you’re going to have a Dan Malloy or a Tom Foley as governor, whether you are going to have a Connecticut that acts as Connecticut or that emulates Wisconsin.”

As to why Dannel Malloy would veto the bill out of the blue?

According to the CT Newsjunkie,

In his veto message, Malloy said the legislation “encroaches on the purview” of the chief executive and would prevent them from picking “the best candidate to lead the department.”

Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he was “stunned” by the veto. He said it’s good public policy that doesn’t take away any of the governor’s authority to choose a qualified individual for the job.

Just like teachers have to be certified, the state’s Education Commissioner should have minimum qualifications, Waxenberg said.

He said his members will be angry about this veto and will speak with legislative leaders to “seriously consider an override session.”

[…]

AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said she’s “disappointed” in the veto, but to Malloy’s credit he heard their voices and “chose a new commissioner with extensive background in the classroom.”

Hochadel added: “We expect that he and future governors would follow this example in recommending leadership for the state’s education agency. Our state’s students and their parents deserve nothing less.”

But Malloy made it clear in his veto message that he should have the ability to hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of their background.

“Open-mindedness and flexibility are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the educational challenges that face our state,” Malloy said in his veto message. “The establishment of qualification for the Commissioner of Education in statute closes the door on a broad pool of talented and diverse leaders who would otherwise be eligible and could foster greatness in our schools.”

Malloy said he’s concerned it would unintentionally reduce the diversity of future commissioner applicant polls, since representation of African American and Hispanic teachers and administrators remains disproportionately low.

As the legislative report (JR report) explains, when the Education Committee held its public hearing, the testimony was almost unanimous in favor of the bill.

Melodie Peters, President, AFT Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke;

Ms. Peters and AFT Connecticut support the proposed bill citing the role of the Commissioner in providing, “direction and guidance to districts, schools and educators.” AFT believes the credibility of the Commissioner of Education depends, in part, on the shared experience of the Commissioner with teachers, administrators, and superintendents.”

Dr. Anne Jellison, Chair, Connecticut Association of School Administrators spoke:

“Dr. Jellison testified in favor noting that it is critical for the Commissioner of Education to have credibility and expertise among all stakeholders in Connecticut’s education system. She included that an effective, credible Commissioner needs “first-hand knowledge” of Connecticut schools and understands the impact of not only day-to-day situations but how policies impact the school environment.”

Jeff Leake, Vice President, Connecticut Education Association spoke:

“Mr. Leake testified in support of the bill, commenting that many of the members of the CEA are also in favor of a person with a background in the education field serving as Commissioner. The CEA feels the bill may be too basic in the required qualifications but stressed to the committee that their organization is looking for a commissioner who understands the qualities necessary to be a true educator.”

Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke:

“Ms. Pelletier testified in support of the bill. The position of the AFL-CIO is that high standards that have been set for teachers, administrators, and superintendents should also be a standard for the Commissioner of Education.”

But there was one person who rose to oppose the requirement that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have substantive educational experience…

Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN:

“ConnCAN opposes the proposed bill because they believe the requirements laid out in the bill for the Commissioner of Education would severely limit Connecticut’s ability to recruit talent and would, “unnecessarily exclude qualified and experienced candidates from being considered for appointment as Education Commissioner.”

So there you go…