CT SBAC Results – It’s a Friday afternoon in August – Good time to release the results – Today at noon!

Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration is finally ready to release the 2015 SBAC results!

Two months after parents in Washington State and Oregon were informed about how their state’s children did on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests, Connecticut will finally get the news today about how our children “performed” on the absurd testing fiasco.

The first rule of modern government and politics is that when you don’t want people to know something, release the information on a Friday.  If possible, a Friday in August is best time to make something “public” if the goal is to make sure the public doesn’t actually hear about it.  The technique is an “art form” and strategy that the Malloy administration has used repeatedly over the past five years.

So now, after the spending more than $50 million dollars in state funds over the post two years on the new Common Core standardized testing scheme, and local school districts spending millions more, the Connecticut State Department will be revealing the test results this afternoon… A Friday afternoon in August.

In addition, apparently the wait for the CMT/CAPT Science test is finally over as well.  While the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme has obliterated the usefulness of the Math and English Language tests, the traditional testing process is still being used to measure whether students are learning the state’s science curriculum.

Unfortunately, the education reform industry’s definition for being “college and career” ready only applies to Math and English so other important subjects, like science, go unaddressed.  If policymakers were really concerned about the “whole child,” the science results would have been released long ago so that schools and parents could be focusing on the full array of subjects that allow student’s to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to live fulfilling lives.

Check back later for the numbers and the political spin from Governor Malloy’s administration and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

More than 500 New York State principals slam Common Core testing frenzy

While Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, and the Connecticut State Department of Education are instructing Connecticut superintendents and principals to mislead and lie to parents in an attempt to scare parents from opting their children out of the standardized testing frenzy, a group of more than 500 New York State principals have signed a letter setting the record straight about the problems associated with these new Common Core standardized tests.

Hopefully more Connecticut school administrators will join education leaders like Madison, Connecticut Superintendent  Thomas Scarice and stand up, step forward and speak out against the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAC), the overuse of standardized testing in Connecticut’s public schools and the right of parents to opt-out their children from these unfair, unnecessary, expensive and destructive tests.


New York State Principals

 An Open Letter to Parents of Children throughout New York State

Dear Parents,

We are the principals of your children’s schools. We serve communities in every corner of New York State — from Niagara County to Clinton, Chautauqua to Suffolk. We come from every size and type of school, with students from every background. We thank you for sharing your children with us and for entrusting us to ensure that they acquire the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their dreams and your hopes for them.

This year, many of your children experienced the first administration of the newly revised New York State Assessments. You may have heard that teachers, administrators, and parents are questioning the validity of these tests. As dedicated administrators, we have carefully observed the testing process and have learned a great deal about these tests and their impact. We care deeply about your children and their learning and want to share with you what we know — and what we do not know — about these new state assessments.

Here’s what we know:

1)    NYS Testing Has Increased Dramatically: We know that our students are spending more time taking State tests than ever before. Since 2010, the amount of time spent on average taking the 3-8 ELA and Math tests has increased by a whopping 128%! The increase has been particularly hard on our younger students, with third graders seeing an increase of 163%!

2)    The Tests were Too Long: We know that many students were unable to complete the tests in the allotted time. Not only were the tests lengthy and challenging, but embedded field test questions extended the length of the tests and caused mental exhaustion, often before students reached the questions that counted toward their scores. For our Special Education students who receive additional time, these tests have become more a measure of endurance than anything else.

3)    Ambiguous Questions Appeared throughout the Exams: We know that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers to ambiguous questions in both ELA and Math. In some schools, identical passages and questions appeared on more than one test and at more than one grade level. One school reported that on one day of the ELA Assessment, the same passage with identical questions was included in the third, fourth AND fifth grade ELA Assessments.

4)    Children have Reacted Viscerally to the Tests: We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up. One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, “This is too hard,” and “I can’t do this,” throughout his test booklet.

5)    The Low Passing Rate was Predicted: We know that in his “Implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards” memo of March 2013, Deputy Commissioner Slentz stated that proficiency scores (i.e., passing rate) on the new assessments would range between 30%-37% statewide. When scores were released in August 2013, the statewide proficiency rate was announced as 31%.

6)    The College Readiness Benchmark is Irresponsibly Inflated: We know that the New York State Education Department used SAT scores of 560 in Reading, 540 in Writing and 530 in mathematics, as the college readiness benchmarks to help set the “passing” cut scores on the 3-8 New York State exams. These NYSED scores, totaling 1630, are far higher than the College Board’s own college readiness benchmark score of 1550. By doing this, NYSED has carelessly inflated the “college readiness” proficiency cut scores for students as young as nine years of age.

7)    State Measures are Contradictory: We know that many children are receiving scores that are not commensurate with the abilities they demonstrate on other measures, particularly the New York State Integrated Algebra Regents examination. Across New York, many accelerated eighth-graders scored below proficiency on the eighth grade test only to go on and excel on the Regents examination one month later. One district reports that 58% of the students who scored below proficiency on the NYS Math 8 examination earned a mastery score on the Integrated Algebra Regents.

8)    Students Labeled as Failures are Forced Out of Classes: We know that many students who never needed Academic Intervention Services (AIS) in the past, are now receiving mandated AIS as a result of the failing scores. As a result, these students are forced to forgo enrichment classes. For example, in one district, some middle school students had to give up instrumental music, computer or other special classes in order to fit AIS into their schedules.

9)    The Achievement Gap is Widening: We know that the tests have caused the achievement gap to widen as the scores of economically disadvantaged students plummeted, and that parents are reporting that low-scoring children feel like failures.

10) The Tests are Putting Financial Strains on Schools: We know that many schools are spending precious dollars on test prep materials, and that instructional time formerly dedicated to field trips, special projects, the arts and enrichment, has been reallocated to test prep, testing, and AIS services.

11) The Tests are Threatening Other State Initiatives: Without a doubt, the emphasis on testing is threatening other important State initiatives, most notably the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Parents who see the impact of the testing on their children are blaming the CCSS, rather than the unwise decision to implement high stakes testing before proper capacity had been developed. As long as these tests remain, it will be nearly impossible to have honest conversations about the impact of the CCSS on our schools.

 

Here’s what we do not know:

1)    How these Tests will Help our Students: With the exception of select questions released by the state, we do not have access to the test questions. Without access to the questions, it is nearly impossible to use the tests to help improve student learning.

2)    How to Use these Tests to Improve Student Skills or Understanding: Tests should serve as a tool for assessing student skills and understanding. Since we are not informed of the make-up of the tests, we do not know, with any level of specificity, the content or skills for which children require additional support. We do not even know how many points were allotted for each question.

3)    The Underlying Cause of Low Test Scores: We do not know if children’s low test scores are actually due to lack of skills in that area or simply a case of not finishing the test — a problem that plagued many students.

4)    What to Expect Next Year: We do not know what to expect for next year. Our students are overwhelmed by rapidly changing standards, curriculum and assessments. It is nearly impossible to serve and protect the students in our care when expectations are in constant flux and put in place rapidly in a manner that is not reflective of sound educational practice.

5)    How Much this is Costing Already-Strained Taxpayers: We don’t know how much public money is being paid to vendors and corporations that the NYSED contracts to design assessments, nor do we know if the actual designers are educationally qualified.

Please know that we, your school principals, care about your children and will continue to do everything in our power to fill their school days with learning that is creative, engaging, challenging, rewarding and joyous. We encourage you to dialogue with your child’s teachers so that you have real knowledge of his skills and abilities across all areas. If your child scored poorly on the test, please make sure that he does not internalize feelings of failure. We believe that the failure was not on the part of our children, but rather with the officials of the New York State Education Department. These are the individuals who chose to recklessly implement numerous major initiatives without proper dialogue, public engagement or capacity building. They are the individuals who have failed.

As principals of New York schools, it is always our goal to move forward in a constant state of improvement. Under current conditions, we fear that the hasty implementation of unpiloted assessments will continue to cause more harm than good. Please work with us to preserve a healthy learning environment for our children and to protect all of the unique varieties of intelligence that are not reducible to scores on standardized tests. Your child is so much more than a test score, and we know it.

Parents can opt their children out of the standardized testing frenzy and school superintendents should be supporting them

Connecticut Parents have a right to opt their children out of the standardized testing frenzy and school superintendents should be supporting them.

It is not easy being a superintendent of schools.  I know, having had a superintendent in the family and having e worked with dozens of superintendents over the past 30 years.

Superintendents are pulled in countless directions and are often put in “no-win” situations.

However, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor has put Connecticut’s public school superintendents in an untenable position and now they must choose whether they see their job as carrying out orders from above or serving as the voice and chief advocate for the students, parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers that are part of their school district.

Superintendents must make this choice because Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and their Corporate Education Reform Industry thugs are on a mission to convince parents and guardians that they do not have a right to opt their child out of the unfair, ill-conceived and ludicrous standardized testing fiasco that is enveloping Connecticut’s Public Schools.

Sadly, far too many Connecticut Superintendent of Schools appear to be turning their backs on their students and communities and are, instead, taking on the responsibilities of following inappropriate orders and directives.

Yesterday, Regional School District #16 joined Shelton and other districts in trying to persuade parents that they lack the right to opt-out their children for these faulty tests.

Reports are coming in from across the state that other superintendents have or will be sending out letters that are intended to mislead parents into believing that their local school administrators “don’t have a choice” when it comes to the opt-out issue.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem is that superintendents have been instructed by the State Department of Education to send out a letter based on a model that was provided by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.  The letter is misleading, inappropriate and contains statements that cross the line into outright lies.

As was the case in Shelton, public school parents are being told that local school administrators, “have no degrees of freedom in this matter.  Federal and State laws require that public school students be tested.”

As directed by Commissioner Pryor’s office, the local letter states;

“Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language – that all students enrolled in public schools must take this yearly state assessment.  Until such legislation changes, the Department of Education and each school district must comply with federal and state mandates.”

As many Wait, What? readers already know, this information was contained in a December 2013 memo that was sent by Commissioner Pryor’s office to public school superintendents.

You can read the full memo here:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/206539705/Connecticut-State-Department-of-Education-on-Opt-Out-State-Testing-Requests-2014.

While Pryor’s memo states;

“There is no opt-out language in state or federal law governing assessment. Sec.10-14n of the Connecticut Education Laws states that “Each student enrolled…in any public school shall annually take a statewide mastery examination.”

The memo goes on to explain;

 “….there are no legal/policy directions when parents seek to remove a child from statewide testing. Until recently, there have only been a handful of requests for exemptions each year. Districts are now reporting greater numbers of parents desiring to remove their child(ren) from participation in the statewide testing program.

The State Department of Education memo then goes on to instruct Connecticut public school superintendents and other school administrators about what they should say to mislead, trick and lie to Connecticut parents.

Those instructions are as follows:

“If Parent(s) contact their public school district to request/inform the district that they want their child(ren) removed from statewide testing…

  • The school or district administrator explains to the parent that the district has no degrees of freedom in the matter. Federal and state law requires that public school students are to be tested.

If Parent calls the state to ask if they can opt-out of testing.

  • State informs parent that there is no opt-out language in the law. As long as the student is enrolled in a Connecticut public school, the district is required to test them on some form of the statewide exam. The state sends a copy of the statutory references to the parent.

If Parent informs the district that, regardless of the law, the district is not to test the student.

  • District is advised to get this statement of intent from the parent in writing so that the district can provide a written response. The CSDE’s legal office has provided a model letter…which districts may adapt, citing all pertinent laws and regulations and asking the parent to reconsider as it is a violation of the law not to comply.

If Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.

  • In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing).

When it comes to the Connecticut Mastery Test, local superintendents are well aware  that if parents “insist that the child not be testing” then “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing).”

Incredibly, Commissioner Stefan Pryor’ directives for the 2104 standardized testing are even more misleading because the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test is nothing but a test of a test  and doesn’t even qualify as a Connecticut Mastery Test under the law.

Here is the Connecticut State Statute on the definition of a Mastery Test;

“Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (a) As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.”

Even Malloy and Pryor have to know that a Test of a Test CANNOT be used to “measure essential and grade-appropriate skills.”

If SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test, is not a Connecticut Mastery Test then parents have the absolute right to opt-out their children.

If Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor want to further destroy their careers and ask Attorney General George Jepsen for an official opinion that the Common Core field test is a Connecticut Mastery Test or they want to go hunt for a judge to rule that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test is a Connecticut Mastery Test then they have that right.

But even if Attorney General Jepsen or a Connecticut judge determine that the Common Core test of a test is a Connecticut Mastery Test, then parents can return to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s own memo that states;

  • In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing.

The following chart indicates which towns are using the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test and which superintendents decided not to turn their students into guinea pig and stuck with the Connecticut Mastery Test.

As you can see, only a handful of towns decided to wait until the Corporate Education Reform Industry could work out the bugs and problems with their new absurd Common Core test before making our children suffer through it.

Meanwhile, if you are look for examples of Connecticut opt-out letters here are some drafts that you may want to use.  http://www.scribd.com/doc/202349382/UPDATED-Draft-Opt-Out-Letters-for-Connecticut-CMT-and-Common-Core-Smarter-Balanced-Assessment-Field-Test-1-26-14

No HS means the districts does not have its own high school but I part of a regional high school:

School District Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test (Grade 3-8) Common Core Smart Balanced Field Test (Grade 11) CMT (Grades 3-8) CAPT (Grade 10)
Andover X No HS
Ansonia X x
Ashford x No HS
Avon x x
Barkhamsted x No HS
Berlin x x
Bethany x No HS
Bethel x x
Bloomfield x x x x
Boton x x
Bozrah x   NO HS
Branford x x
Bridgeport x x
Bristol x x
Brookfield x x
Brooklyn x No HS
Canaan x x
Canterbury x No HS
Canton x x
Chaplin x No HS
Cheshire x x
Chester x No HS
Clinton x x
Colcehster x x
Colebrook x No HS
Cornwall x No HS
Coventry x x
Cromwell x x
Danbury x x
Darien x x
Deep River x No HS
Derby x x
Eastford x No HS
East Granby x x
East Haddam x x
East Hampton x x
East Hartford x x
East Haven x x
East Lyme x x
Easton x x
East Windsor x x
Ellington x x
Enfield x x
Essex x   NO HS
Fairfield x x
Farmington x x
Franklin x   NO HS
Glastonbury x x
Granby x x
Greenwich x x
Griswold x x
Groton x x
Guilford x x
Hamden x x
Hamden x x
Hampton x No HS
Hartford x x
Hartland x No HS
Hebron x No HS
Kent x x
Killingly x x
Lebanon x x
Ledyard x x
Lisbon x x
Litchfield x x
Madison x x
Manchester x x
Mansfield x No HS
Marlborough x x
Meriden x x
Middletown x x
Milford x x
Monroe x x
Montville x x
Naugatuck x x
New Britain x x
New Canaan x x
New Fairfield x x
New Hartford x No HS
New Haven x x
Newington x x
New London x x x x
New Milford x x
Newtown x x
Norfolk x No HS
North Branford x x
North Canaan x x
North Haven x x
North Stonington x x
Norwalk x x
Norwich x No HS
Old Saybrook x x
Orange x No HS
Oxford x x
Plainfield x x
Plainville x x
Plymouth x x
Pomfret x No HS
Portland x x
Preston x No HS
Putnam x x
Redding x x
Rocky Hill x x
Salem x x
Salisbury x x
Scotland x No HS
Seymour x x
Sharon x x
Shelton x x
Sherman x No HS
Simsbury x x
Somers x x
Southington x x
South Windsor x x
Sprague x   NO HS
Stafford x x
Stamford x x
Sterling x  NO HS
Stonington x x
Stratford x x
Suffield x x
Thompson x x
Tolland x x
Thomaston x x
Torrington x x
Trumbull x x
Union x   NO HS
Vernon x x
Voluntown x  NO HS
Wallingford x x
Waterbury x x
Waterford x x
Watertown x x
Westbrook x x
West Hartford x x
West Haven x x
Weston x x
Westport x x
Wethersfield x x
Willington x  NO HS
Wilton x x
Windham x x x x
Winchester x   NO HS
Windsor x x
Windsor Locks x x
Wolcott x x
Woodbridge x  NO HS
Woodstock x   NO HS
Region 1 x x
Region 2 x x
Region 3 x x
Region 4 x x
Region 5 x x
Region 6 x x
Region 7 x x
Region 8 x x
Region 9 x x
Region 10 x x
Region 11 x x
Region 12 x x
Region 13 x x
Region 14 x x
Region 15 x x
Region 16 x x
Region 17 x x
Region 18 x x
Region 19 x x
Norwich Free Academy x
Woodstock Academy x
School District Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test (Grade 3-8) Common Core Smart Balanced Field Test (Grade 11) Connecticut Master Test (Grades 3-8) CAPT (Grade 10)

Malloy and Pryor’s “Mandatory” March Madness: The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test

Despite what Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and their corporate education reform industry allies are telling Connecticut parents, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment “Field Test” scheduled for March-June is not a Connecticut Mastery Examination. 

In fact, it is nothing more than a Test of a Test.

And to suggest that parents must force their children to participate in the Common Core Test of a Test is utter nonsense!

Take a look at the applicable Connecticut State Statute;

“Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination. (a) As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.”

Even Malloy and Pryor must realize that a Test of a Test CANNOT be used to “measure essential and grade-appropriate skills.”

As Wait,What? readers already know, the Smarter Balanced Consortium’s own website explains the situation;

Field Test

The Smarter Balanced Field Test will take place from March 18 – June 6, 2014. The Field Test is a trial run of the assessment system…

Furthermore, according to the corporate entity that is developing the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor could have chosen to try and force only 10% of Connecticut students to participate.

Instead the Malloy/Pryor operation decided to disrupt Connecticut’s entire public education system by trying to force all public school students and teachers to shift from instruction to testing for extended periods of time from March through June. 

But rather than tell the truth about the Common Cause testing frenzy, Malloy, Pryor and their inner-circle of non-educators are engaged in an ongoing taxpayer-funded PR campaign to try to persuade parents that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Test of a Test is good for our children, teachers and public schools.

Just take a look at the following form letter that Commissioner Pryor’s office developed and sent to public school superintendents around the state.  Superintendents were then instructed to use their school principals to “educate” parents about the benefits of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Test.

Your mission [insert reader’s name] should you decide to accept it is to identify the half-truths, misleading statements and out-right lies contained in the letter that Commissioner Pryor’s office is telling local school administrators to send to parents.

Letter provided by the Commissioner Pryor and the Connecticut State Department of Education

 Smarter Balanced Field Test
Parent and Guardian Notification Letter Template

DIRECTIONS: Before this letter is distributed, place the following text on school letterhead and insert the information indicated by bold type in parentheses.

                                                                                                                                               

[Insert date]

Dear Parent or Guardian:

Our school is one of many in the country that will participate in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test this spring.  Schools in 24 states will participate in the field test starting this March.

For our school, all students in [insert grades(s) here] will participate in the Field Test in both mathematics and English language arts/literacy.  Students will not participate in the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) for these content areas.  Please note that students in Grade 5, 8, and 10 are required to take the CMT or CAPT Science test.  Students assessed with the CMT/CAPT Skills Checklist will not participate in the Smarter Balanced Field Test, but will continue to be assessed with the CMT/CAPT Skills Checklist.

Our school plans to administer the Field Test [insert dates here].

  • The tests are not timed; however, it will take approximately 3 to 4 hours to complete each content area test.
  • Testing may be scheduled over multiple sessions of about 45 minutes each, but may be scheduled in shorter or longer sessions as appropriate for the students in the school.

To comply with federal and state statute, participation in the field test is required.  Please note that Smarter Balanced will adhere to all federal and state privacy laws, including but not limited to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The Field Test is an opportunity to “test the test.”  Information from the Field Test will be used to evaluate the testing software, ensure the quality of test questions, and evaluate the effectiveness of the test administration and training materials.

This is an exciting opportunity for our school.  Students will be able to try out new, online testing software and new question types that will be similar to future Smarter Balanced assessments.  By participating in the Field Test, your child will be influencing the development of the Smarter Balanced assessments that will be Connecticut’s statewide assessment beginning in the 2014 – 2015 school year.  Every student response is a valuable piece of information that will be used to ensure that the new assessments are valid, reliable, and fair for all students.

Please visit the Smarter Balanced website at www.smarterbalanced.org for more information.  If you have any questions regarding your child’s participation, please contact [insert name of school contact] at [insert phone number and/or e-mail address].

Sincerely,
[Insert name of school principal]
Principal

PS, you can find Pryor’s PR piece via the following link (at least until they take it down): http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/student_assessment/smarter_balanced/CT_Smarter_FieldTest_ParentNotification_LetterTemplate.docx

Commissioner Pryor’s agency tells superintendents to mislead and lie to parents – and they are

Shelton Connecticut Superintendent of Schools Freeman Burr is sending a letter to parents who seek to opt their children out of Connecticut’s standardized testing scheme.  The letter, based on a model provided by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s office, is misleading and could reasonably be called an outright lie.

When Governor Malloy was recently asked if parents could opt their children out of Connecticut’s standardized tests he said that he didn’t know.  When Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was asked the same question he managed to provide a non-answer.

But as directed by a memo released by Commissioner Pryor’s office last December, Connecticut superintendents are being told to mislead, even lie, to any parents who seek to opt their children out of Connecticut’s misguided standardized testing fiasco.

In Shelton, public school parents who inform their school that they are opting out their children from the standardized testing are getting a letter from Superintendent Freeman explaining that, “Shelton Public Schools have no degrees of freedom in this matter.  Federal and State laws require that public school students be tested.”

Freeman goes on to explain;

“Both federal and state statutes are clear in their language – that all students enrolled in public schools must take this yearly state assessment.  Until such legislation changes, the Department of Education and each school district must comply with federal and state mandates.”

However, Freeman’s response to Shelton parents is certainly not the truth, the whole and nothing but the truth.

Rather than tell parents the whole truth, Superintendent Freeman and others are following Commissioner Pryor’s instructions and purposely misleading Connecticut public school parents.

A December 2013 memo released by Commissioner Pryor’s office reads as follows:

“There is no opt-out language in state or federal law governing assessment. Sec.10-14n of the Connecticut Education Laws states that “Each student enrolled…in any public school shall annually take a statewide mastery examination.”

However the memo goes on to explain;

 “….there are no legal/policy directions when parents seek to remove a child from statewide testing. Until recently, there have only been a handful of requests for exemptions each year. Districts are now reporting greater numbers of parents desiring to remove their child(ren) from participation in the statewide testing program.

The State Department of Education memo instructs Connecticut public school superintendents and other school administrators what they are to say to mislead, trick and lie to Connecticut parents.

Those instructions are as follows:

“If Parent(s) contact their public school district to request/inform the district that they want their child(ren) removed from statewide testing…

  • The school or district administrator explains to the parent that the district has no degrees of freedom in the matter. Federal and state law requires that public school students are to be tested.

If Parent calls the state to ask if they can opt-out of testing.

  • State informs parent that there is no opt-out language in the law. As long as the student is enrolled in a Connecticut public school, the district is required to test them on some form of the statewide exam. The state sends a copy of the statutory references to the parent.

If Parent informs the district that, regardless of the law, the district is not to test the student.

  • District is advised to get this statement of intent from the parent in writing so that the district can provide a written response. The CSDE’s legal office has provided a model letter…which districts may adapt, citing all pertinent laws and regulations and asking the parent to reconsider as it is a violation of the law not to comply.

If Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.

  • In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing), which negatively impacts the participation rate for the district. The state, to date, has not done any follow-up on these cases.

Shelton’s superintendent of schools knows perfectly well that if parents “insist that the child not be testing” then “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing).”

It is a truly shocking commentary about their obsession with standardized testing that Commissioner Pryor, the State Department of Education, Superintendent Freeman and others are intentionally misleading, even lying, to Connecticut parents.

Instead of starting with the truth and then explaining why they want parents to force their children to participate in the standardized testing program, Pryor and his entourage are trying to scare parents into compliance.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Shelton and almost every other Connecticut school district isn’t even using the Connecticut standardized mastery test this year.

Instead Shelton and those other districts are forcing their students to serve as guinea pigs or human test subjects for the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test (SBAC).

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is a corporate entity set up to develop the Common Core tests.  On their own website they admit that, “The Smarter Balanced Field Test will take place from March 18 – June 6, 2014. The Field Test is a trial run of the assessment system…”

The truth is that this year’s testing program is not even Connecticut’s mandated standardized test program.  It is nothing more than a “field test.”  As the Consortium goes on to reveal, “Each Smarter Balanced state individually determined how schools and students would be selected to take the Field Test. In some states, only a representative sample of students will participate—10 percent of students for each subject area. In others, the Field Test will be administered more broadly.”

Commissioner Pryor is claiming this test of a test is Connecticut’s Standardized Test and goes on to say that students MUST take the test and parents MAY NOT opt their children out of it.

But in reality, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test is nothing more than an experiment and as Commissioner Pryor and the State Department of Education admit, if parents “insist that the child not be testing” then “in these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing).

The whole Common Core standardized testing scheme is already a hoax, but to tell parents they’ve lost their parental rights is beyond contempt.

As stated earlier this week, it is time for Commissioner Pryor to resign and any superintendent or school administrator who intentionally misleads and lies to parents should be forced to head out the door right behind him.

My kid is not an idiot…Hooray for Standardized Testing?

Good News!  My kid is not an idiot…

Like parents all across Connecticut, I’ve been waiting patiently – and not so patiently – for my child’s Connecticut Mastery Test (Fourth Generation) results to arrive in the mail.

The CMTs were, of course, given last March but the results are arriving late because Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education determined that an outside auditing company was needed to determine whether the testing company got the results correct.  Apparently $25 million or so only gets you the results, it doesn’t necessarily assure accuracy.

But that minor point aside, according to the state of Connecticut’s annual, multi-million dollar investment in standardized testing and the hundreds and hundreds of hours spent on test prep, I can now say with great pride that my child appears not to be an idiot.

Not only that, she apparently is more than proficient…which certainly sounds impressive.

In fact, not to brag, but according to the Connecticut Master Test results, depending on the subject, my child has reached Goal* or Advanced* levels of achievement.

The CMT report identifies the fact that Goal* is the same as Level 4 and Advanced* is equivalent to Level 5.  While the text goes into detail about various aspects of the data, it unfortunately fails to explain who determined the “cut scores” or what went into defining what range of scores are needed to reach each level.  But we’ll assume that Bob from accounting or whoever decided the difference between Level 3 or Level 4 or Level 5 made the decision correctly.

The only indication is the verbiage that reads, “Overall Scores in mathematics, science, reading and writing are reported in scale score units.  The scale scores for each content area range from 100 to 400.  Within the scale-score range, five performance levels have been established for each content area.  These five levels are: Advanced, Goal, Proficient, Basic and Below Basic.  The Goal Range includes the two highest levels, Advanced and Goal.  Scoring in the Goal Range is a challenging, yet reasonable, expectation for Connecticut students.”

I’m glad to know that scoring in the Goal Range is a “reasonable” expectation for Connecticut students.  Although, considering poverty, language barriers and special education needs are universally recognized as the greatest factors influencing test scores; I’m not exactly sure whose definition of “reasonable” they are using.

On a more positive note let me quickly add that as someone who has personally had their ups and downs with standardized test results I’m particularly appreciative of the fact that the state of Connecticut starts counting or scoring the test results at 100.  Whether below basic or advanced a score of 101 sounds so much better than a score of 1.

More importantly, thanks to Connecticut’s personalized report, I can now compare my child’s performance to the average results of the other children in her school, which in this case also happens to be the same as the district.  While I’m left in the dark about why a score of 293 is only Goal* in Science but a score of 295 is well into the Advanced* level in Writing, at least I can drive around town knowing that my kid is smarter than the average kid in both areas.

Sadly, like her father, the same cannot be said for Mathematics.  I’m thinking her failure is due to her genetics (or maybe her teacher).

Oh, but needless to say, I can also now take great pride in the fact that according to my kid’s test score in Reading, she is “likely to demonstrate an exceptional ability to read and respond to grade-appropriate literary, information and reading-to-perform-a-task texts without assistance.”

Although I have to say that the words, “likely to demonstrate” threw me for a bit of a loop since I thought the whole purpose of standardized testing was to determine – in painfully exact detail – whether a child does or does not have certain abilities.

The notion that my child might be one of those who scores at an advanced level but doesn’t have the exceptional ability that actually correlates with the ability to demonstrate that skill is a little too overwhelming to handle.

Also, I’m a bit confused by the notion that my child is now “reading-to-perform-a-task text without assistance.”  I’m pretty sure there are seals that can do that and yet I can’t even get the kid to clean her room as directed and that message is even delivered verbally.

However, when all is said and done, the most important lesson was the state’s explanation that “The CMT is only one indicator of student performance” and that “other information, such as class work and other tests” should be used when making “educational decisions.”

It is certainly Orwellian to learn that while Governor Malloy’s new education reform bill will judge my child’s teacher on the students’ CMT scores; the state is telling me that I shouldn’t make educational decisions about my own child based on the same CMT results.

It leaves me thinking that when it comes to our elected officials and our government’s approach to education, perhaps the solution is simply to change the name of my blog to “Failure is an Option” and call it a day.

Achieve Hartford, the corporate funded education reform group blames extraneous factors

The Hartford Courant article is entitled “Achieve Hartford:  A Rough Year For CMT scores.”  It reports that Achieve Hartford has released their assessment of this year’s Connecticut Mastery Test results.

Their observation is so absurd that we can virtually forego any introduction, conclusion or commentary.

Achieve Hartford writes, “One look at the summary data tells the story of 2013 test scores in Hartford. It was a rough year. The only interesting fact is that it seems to have been a rough year for almost all Districts in CT, as statewide, Grades 3-8 showed a significant decrease on average, showing potentially some extraneous factor related to this year’s test influencing the performance of students. This is little consolation for students, families, teachers, administrators and central office staff who are all working so hard to show gains in student performance.”

So let’s just get this right…

When it comes to Hartford’s public education system, these education reform proponents fail to support any policies aimed at reducing poverty, expanding services for non-English speaking students or enhancing assistance for students who need special education services.

They support a testing frenzy that includes standardized tests that aren’t aligned to what students are actually learning.

And then they have the audacity to say the “poor” test results of “extraneous factors” and are “little consolation for the students, families, teachers, administrators and central office staff who are all working so hard to show gains in student performance?”

A result of extraneous factors?

Are of little consolation?

Is it possible that these education reformers are simply too stupid to grasp that the test results don’t actually measure student performance?

Promoting good test taking? No I call it child abuse!

Connecticut Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, have become the poster boys for the education reform industry’s obsession with the overuse of “high-stakes” Standardized Testing.

Now more and more Connecticut parents are learning just how standardized tests are being misused and how the education reform movement is diverting millions of dollars and thousands of hours away from real leaning.

When it comes to the standardized testing frenzy, here is yet another story of how bad public policy leads to even worse outcomes for the children who attend Connecticut’s public schools.

But first as background;

On August 14, 2013, the CT Mirror reported that, “Malloy pointed out, however, that there were some bright spots in the [CMT] test results, namely significant improvement in scores at low-performing “alliance” districts.”

The next day came news of a possible cheating scandal at an “alliance” district school in Hartford.

However, out-right cheating is just the tip of the much bigger iceberg that reflects a variety of techniques that are used to inflate local Connecticut Mastery Test scores.

While some of these efforts and strategies may be legal, others push the boundaries to the point that any reasonable parent would call them nothing short of child abuse.

Here is a real life example from another Connecticut “alliance” district school this year.

The school is not in Hartford or Bridgeport but is one of the “alliance” districts that Commissioner Pryor and Governor Malloy have emphasized in their education reform program.

In fact, both Malloy and Pryor have traveled to this town to crow about their reforms.

The story is a shocking one and it has been fully confirmed by parents, teachers and even administrators at this elementary school.

As a result of the growing pressure to get CMT test scores up, like many schools, this elementary school has developed an official policy “to establish a positive CMT test-taking environment.”

The policy includes the following elements;

Several weeks prior to testing, classes decorate their doors with posters that include encouraging comments about the CMT test.

“CMT = Celebrating My Talents” posters are displayed around the school.

Kindergarten through 2nd grade students are recruited to send supportive messages to the older children.

Just prior to testing week, a CMT Rally is held that includes “uplifting songs,” skits and activities.   (Note:  This doesn’t count toward the world history curriculum requirement that children learn about China during the Cultural Revolution).

Apparently these steps weren’t producing sufficient improvements, so as one school administrator explained in a recent email, “there were concerns expressed by test proctors that some students were not fully engaged while taking the test – carelessly just bubbling in any answer, rushing through the tests, not going back over the test, etc.”

To address this problem, the school’s administration decided to institute a “CMT Carnival.”

 “Students needed to earn the ability to participate in the Carnival at the end of testing by demonstrating good effort during the test.  After each test, proctors gave feedback regarding students’ stamina and effort.  Parent contact, private conversations with students, and consultations were held for and with students to bolster students, who showed any difficulty or frustrations during testing.”

So how did the system play out this year?

Here is a first-hand report from one of the administrators…

“The day of the CMT celebration I gave Mrs. XXXXXX a list of students…. who were not going to be able to participate and who needed to be picked up in the cafeteria after lunch and then escorted to the assigned classrooms.  Once all students were outside, I saw [child #1] with a popcorn bag in her hands and standing in the cotton candy line. I asked her to come with me. We moved far away from the line and I asked her if she heard Mrs. XXXXXX calling her name. She said no. I asked [child #1] if she remembered that she was not supposed to participate in the CMT celebration. She said yes.”

As it turns out, in this case Child #1 is an excellent student displaying gifted skills in certain subjects.  However anxiety about the Connecticut Mastery Tests led to severe headaches and other anxious behaviors.  In order to support and protect their child, the parents decided to keep her out of the remaining CMT testing this year.  Here failure to complete the two weeks of CMT testing earned her a spot on the dreaded – no CMT Carnival list.

Along with the other students, Child #1 spent the day of the CMT Carnival in an assigned classroom.

Apparently the belief in this school, and probably others, is that by humiliating these students, segregating them from their fellow classmates and preventing them from having popcorn and cotton candy will provide them with a powerful incentive to forgo their anxieties and be more attentive when it comes to filling in the bubbles on next year’s CMT test.

Yes, this is the state of affairs that our elected officials are creating.

With the end of summer insight, be sure to give your children an extra hug.

They’ll need it when then return to the “reformed” education system that Malloy and Pryor are so proud of.

Education Commissioner Pryor: Test scores dropped because we were teaching to the wrong test…

Wait, What?

According to the CT Mirror, “Pryor said some of the more pronounced decreases in lower grades may be due to the shift to the Common Core curriculum, which has a different pace and a more analytical approach. Students using the new curriculum haven’t covered some of the areas in the test.”

So let’s get this right…

Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education is saying that because Connecticut, along with most of the rest of the nation, has started the process of shifting to a “Common Core” oriented curriculum, children didn’t have enough time to learn how to answer the questions on the old Connecticut Mastery Test…so the scores dropped.

This is the same Stefan Pryor who, along with Governor Malloy, successfully pushed through a law last year that mandates that teacher evaluation programs, starting this year, be BASED ON THE CONNECTICUT MASTERY TEST SCORES!  (Although it is important to note that Pryor and Malloy are now seeking to postpone the new testing system until after the next gubernatorial election).

In fact, not only did Pryor and Malloy demand that teacher evaluation programs be based on how well students did on the Connecticut Mastery Test but they wanted the test results to count for fifty percent of a teacher’s entire evaluation.  Only in the face of opposition did they finally agree to lower that number to twenty-two and a half percent.

But now, just a year later, Pryor is saying that although he knew the shift to the Common Core was taking place and despite the fact that shifting to the common core would lead to lower test scores on the Connecticut Mastery Test, he still spent $25 million or more conducting the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test and never once suggested that teacher evaluation plans would need to take into account the news that at drop in scores was not a reflection of a teacher’s performance.

So as a result of the policies being pushed by Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Connecticut teachers and students spent thousands of hours during the past school year prepping and taking the Connecticut Mastery Test and state and local taxpayers spent tens of millions of dollars paying for the Connecticut Mastery Test but the man in charge of the entire testing scheme now says that “some of the more pronounced decreases in lower grades may be due to the shift to the Common Core curriculum…[and]…Students using the new curriculum haven’t covered some of the areas in the test.”

Once again we are left shaking our heads and saying “you just can’t make this sh*t up.”

Where there is smoke, there is fire….State Investigating CMT Cheating

A major cheating scandal to improve standardized test results took down the superintendent of schools in Atlanta.

Allegations of cheating in the Washington D.C. School System have hounded Michelle Rhee, the Patron Saint of the Education Reform Industry.

And now comes news that an investigation has begun into possible cheating at Betances Elementary School in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant, in a story written by Vanessa De La Torre, is reporting that, “In a statement, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said the department retained the law firm of Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell and Beck, P.C. to investigate “potential irregularities detected on Betances Elementary School’s 2013 Connecticut Mastery Tests.”

According to the Courant, “The Hartford school system released a statement Thursday on behalf of Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and school board Chairman Matthew Poland pledging the district’s cooperation and “our commitment to valid and accurate student assessments.”

Hartford’s Board of Education Chairman and Superintendent of Schools pledged their cooperation…

But of course, these are the same individuals who have been strong supporters of a bonus/merit pay system that rewards the superintendent, principals and even teachers if CMT scores improve.

As the Hartford Courant reports, “Performance pay was one of the district’s reform initiatives implemented under former Superintendent Steven Adamowski in 2008.”

Adamowski now serves as Governor Malloy’s “SPECIAL MASTER” in Windham and New London.

Adamowski and other school administrators collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses as a result of the performance bonus system that Adamowski introduced.

According to the Courant, “Last fall, about 960 employees districtwide received $2.02 million in group performance bonuses for growth on the OSI in the 2011-12 year.”

Some of those who received bonuses were at the school that is now under investigation.

The Courant is reporting that “In 2012, scores jumped at Betances, a prekindergarten to grade 3 neighborhood school known as Betances Early Reading Lab. Betances posted an increase that year of 35.9 points on Hartford’s Overall School Index, a metric system that rates schools based on standardized test scores.

It was easily the biggest one-year OSI gain of any city school in the district’s history, and one that school officials touted at the time.

Only 19 percent of Betances third-graders achieved the state’s reading “goal” in 2011. When third-graders at the school took the 2012 exam, 74 percent achieved mastery in reading.

Betances principal Immacula Didier received a $10,000 performance bonus from the district last September for the OSI gain.”

While the bonus system has been controversial, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, who also controls the Hartford Board of Education, has been a major supporter of the education reform initiatives, recently succeeded in making sure the present superintendent was not reappointed because, as he put it, he was “very concerned” that the pace of reform wasn’t moving fast enough in Hartford.

So, whether it is Atlanta, Georgia, Washington D.C. or Hartford, Connecticut the pattern seems to be the same.

When you tie standardized test results to receiving bonuses, there are some adults who just can’t face the reality that it is children taking the standardized tests and so they decide to take the situation into their own hands.

You can find the Hartford Courant story about this breaking issue at: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-cheating-tests-betances-hartford-0816-20130815,0,6884398.story