No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

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The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is designed to ensure that the vast majority of Connecticut public school students are deemed failures after taking this year’s Common Core SBAC tests.

Here are the projected results for this year’s SBAC test for 6th graders.  [The information comes from the SBAC organization’s own report.]

Projected Common Core SBAC Results for 6th Graders

English/ Language Arts  6th Grade Percent failing to reach goal
All 6th Graders 60% Fail Rate
African American 6th Graders 75% Fail Rate
Latino 6th Graders 74% Fail Rate
6th Graders (Special Education) 90% Fail Rate
6th Graders (English Language Learners 95% Fail Rate

 

The Common Core SBAC test is designed to ensure failure because it is testing children at 2-3 grade levels above their present curriculum and because it requires significant computer skills just to get through the test.

The Common Core SBAC test is also extraordinarily expensive, in part because all children must take the test on updated computers, using updated software and utilizing expanded internet bandwidth.

In California, another state that is using the Common Core SBAC test, cost data that is part of a major lawsuit being brought by local school districts reveal that the total cost of the Common Core SBAC Testing farce could be $250 – $500 dollars per child, per year.

Here in Connecticut, the Malloy administration is providing significantly less than 20 percent of the cost of implementing the SBAC testing program, meaning local property taxpayers are literally shelling out tens of millions of dollars for a test that is designed to fail their children.

But rather than tell the truth about the Common Core SBAC testing scam, the corporate education reform industry and their allies are engaged in an unprecedented effort to mislead student, parents, teachers and the public about the SBAC test.

Equally offensive, these corporate funded lobbyists have joined with the Malloy administration and some school superintendents to try and stop parents from opting their children out of these tests and punishing children whose parents have opted them out.

In what may well be the  most incredible and absurd defense of the Common Core SBAC test written to date, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded front group for the Common Core and Charter Schools recently published an article entitled, “For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity.”

Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, is a registered lobbyist whose compensation package is in excess of $150,000 a year.  His job is to promote the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.

In a truly bizarre defense of the unfair and discriminatory SBAC test, the front man for the Common Core and Charter School front group writes,

For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity

I have my annual physical this week. It’s not something I look forward to, and I particularly dislike the associated blood test. Nonetheless, the test provides my doctor and me with important information about my health, and we use that data to make decisions that help me live a healthier life. It makes me think: there are some interesting parallels to the standardized assessment that my own children, and all Connecticut children in grades 3-8 and 11, take annually.

[…]

I appreciate the value of the SBAC test because I know firsthand that grades don’t provide parents with enough information. In my experience within the public education system, grading practices from teacher to teacher and school to school vary enormously. That’s why I rely upon standardized assessments to accurately understand where my own children stand. If any of my children are behind in school, knowing that early is an opportunity; it gives me time to prepare them before they graduate high school, rather than finding out they’re behind once they’re enrolled in expensive remedial classes in college.

[…]

The comparability of the data among students, schools, and districts is also important. Since I am divorced, my children attend schools in two different towns, and I want to be sure that both school systems are preparing them equally for the future. Absent a comparable measure such as the SBAC, it would be hard for me to know.

Despite these benefits, many parents are still concerned about over-testing. Some expend an incredible amount of energy trying to opt their children out of the SBAC. I want to alert these parents to the important benefits of having access to standardized assessment data. Also, my unsolicited advice to concerned parents is this: consider speaking with a principal about your district’s high school graduation requirements. In your earnest efforts to do what is right for your children, you may be inadvertently creating problems; under Connecticut law, districts are generally required to incorporate test results into graduation requirements. There are some exceptions, but you should confirm that your children can still graduate if they miss the test.

[…]

Some parents have inadvertently pushed their children into more testing by choosing to enroll them in the Advanced Placement (AP) courses that impress the most prestigious colleges and universities. It’s hard to argue against demonstrating mastery in these advanced courses. However, when stacked on top of SAT and ACT tests in high school, these additional exams may contribute to the notion that there’s too much testing these days.

And Villar concludes,

It’s also possible that when parents talk about schools over-testing their kids, they’re referring to their districts “prepping” kids for the state test. This ill-fated attempt to quickly improve testing results simply doesn’t work, and it does not come from a faulty state-testing system.

Seasoned educators know that the best ways to prepare children to succeed on tests are to engage them in a curriculum that is challenging, to give teachers enough time and resources, and to encourage students to do their best. Somewhat similarly, there is little that I can do to prepare for the blood test at my annual physical in the short term. Only long-term efforts at exercising regularly and eating well will help me pass the test.

Villar’s incredible statements are so misleading that they cross the line into outright lies.

What is worse is that as a former superintendent of schools, Villar knows that he is not providing his readers with the truth.

For starters, here is one important bit of information for Connecticut parents.

It is against state law for a Connecticut school district to require a student to take or pass the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test in order to graduate.  The district cannot make passing the SBAC test a required element for graduation, in fact, a school district can’t even require a student take the SBAC test in order to graduate.

Furthermore, there is no federal or state law that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Even the Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, told a legislative hearing that neither the state nor a school district could punish a child who is opted out of the test.

But like others spokesmen for the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Mr. Villar apparently believes he is not bounded by any moral or ethical duty to tell the truth.

It is a shockingly sad statement, and a powerful commentary on our times, that a leading proponent of the Common Core and the Common Core SBAC testing would engage in blatant lying in order to try and mislead students, parents, teachers and the public.

I have challenged Mr. Villar to debate these issues three times over the past few weeks and each time he has failed to respond.

Rather than spew indefensible statements, the corporate education reform industry should release their talking heads to come out here into the real word and debate their positions in a public forum that would allow the media and citizens to finally learn the truth.

Oh, and if the actions being taken by Mr. Villar and Connecticut Council on Education Reform aren’t offensive enough, check back with Wait, What? this coming week to find out just who is funding these anti-teacher, anti-parent, anti-student, and anti-public school tactics.

Pelto calls for investigation and disciplinary action into violations of the SBAC Testing Protocol and the related bullying of children

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Education advocate Jonathan Pelto is calling on Attorney General George Jepsen, the Connecticut State Auditors and the General Assembly’s Education Committee to investigate the inappropriate and potentially illegal actions being taken by Governor Malloy’s administration and a group of public school superintendents in violation of prescribed testing protocols for the Common Core SBAC testing.  Pelto is also asking the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the State’s Child Advocate to step in and stop the abusive bullying and punishment that is being perpetrated by some school superintendents and local school officials against children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing.

“For weeks the Malloy administration, led by Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and a group of school superintendents including Fairfield Superintendent David Title have been engaged in an unethical and immoral effort to prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and punishing children whose parents have opted them out of the testing.”  Pelto said

“In direct violation of the SBAC Testing Protocol and their own professional code of conduct, school superintendents in Fairfield, Enfield, West Haven, Hamden, Shelton, Woodstock and a handful of other towns are punishing, or have said they will be punishing, children including third graders, who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by requiring those children to sit and stay in the SBAC testing rooms. These parents have specifically requested providing them with an alternative location in which to read a book or do homework during the eight plus hours of SBAC testing which would ensure that schools are not violating SBAC Testing Protocols which clearly state that only students taking the SBAC tests should be in the rooms where the test is being administered.”

Pelto explained that forcing children who have been opted out of the testing to remain in the testing room is nothing short of bullying and abuse because it creates unnecessary anxiety, embarrassment and a potential sense of humiliation, while fostering an environment of resentment as remaining students are forced to take the unfair tests while the students who have been opted out are forced to sit in the testing room for more than 8 hours.

“As if engaging in bullying and abuse wasn’t bad enough, these superintendents and school administrators know, or should know, that the SBAC Testing protocol prohibits children who have opted out of the test from remaining in the testing room,” Pelto said.

Pelto pointed out that the requirement that children who are not taking the test must be removed from the testing room is unequivocal.  According Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, in section 3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10) and section 3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)

Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered

The SBAC Test Administration Manual clearly states only students who log-in to the SBAC Test are participantsTherefore, if a child has been opted out of the test and is not signing in to the test is not participating and cannot remain in the testing room.

Pelto urged appropriate officials to intervene and investigate these violations noting, “As long as the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Connecticut remain intact, parents have the fundamental and inalienable right to refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.  Furthermore there is no federal or state law that allows the state or local school districts to punish a child (or parent) who has opted their child out of these destructive tests. The unwarranted and outrageous attack on parental rights by Governor Malloy’s administration and some school superintendents must be stopped”

An example of a local school district’s bullying behavior can be seen in the recent letter from Fairfield Superintendent David Title who wrote the following to parents seeking to opt their children out of the SBAC tests;

“Students who chose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate”

In Enfield, Superintendent Schumann informed parents seeking to opt their children out that their children would be required to stay in the classroom with their fellow students during the testing periods and that, “His hands are tied and that their rules come from the state.”

In West Haven teachers were instructed to tell parents that children opted out would be required to sit quietly in their testing room during the eight plus hours of testing.

School officials in at least three towns reported that when they called the State Department of Education for guidance about the sit and stay policy they were told that the mandatory SBAC Test Administration Manual was a set of guidelines and it was up to the town to decide whether to require children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to sit and stay in the classroom or whether to relocate students to the library or some other safe location where they could read or do homework.

Superintendents allegedly violating the SBAC Testing Protocol and engaging in bullying include:

Fairfield Superintendent David Title 203-255-8277

Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500

West Haven Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300

Hamden Jody Ian Goeler (203) 407-2090

Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110

Wooodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

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Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education.  The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.

Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”

Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…

Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.

The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.

However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.

Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.

But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.

Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text.  Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.

Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.

Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.

And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.

Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.

TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078

AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is  Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.

I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.

 I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

 With this being said,  I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take  regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that  we have made in Connecticut and  in particularly, in  East Hartford Public Schools, specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment, and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children,  and making sure that we are “doing right” by  Connecticut’s future.

Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010.  Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.”   The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens.  As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.

 Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.

Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of  our  children, I  ask  you  to  think  of  the  second  grader  who  will  only  have  second  grade  one  time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.  When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better.  While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact.  When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy, in the past  to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.

Look-Out – He’s got our credit card and he is going nuts!

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At last week’s State Bond Commission meeting Governor Dannel Malloy responded to a question by admitting that that his administration was informing Wall Street analysts that Connecticut would be dramatically increasing the use of the state’s credit card this year.

The CT Mirror’s story about the stunning announcement was entitled, “Malloy to Wall Street: Expect state borrowing to jump 40 percent this year.” 

There wasn’t a lot of other media coverage about the statement despite the fact that it is probably the single most important thing that Governor Malloy has said since he falsely claimed, during last year’s gubernatorial campaign, that there was no state budget deficit this year and that he would be able to solve next year’s projected $1.4 billion budget deficit without raising taxes or cutting vital services.

  • Recall that with less than a week to go before Election Day 2014, Malloy said the state was enjoying a budget surplus, although we now know that this year’s budget deficit has added up to over a quarter of a billion dollars and continues to get worse.
  • And as to his “Read My Lips” promise of no new taxes and no cuts to critical programs, the proposed budget that Malloy announced in February included $900 million in additional tax revenue, shifting about $300 million in existing spending onto the state credit card, along with a series of devastating and irresponsible cuts to essential state services.

But forgetting that Malloy didn’t tell the truth about the status of this year’s state budget deficit while misleading voters by promising to do the impossible when it comes to next year’s budget, the latest news that he plans to put another $2.4 billion onto the state credit card this year should be front page, top of the fold, large font headline news in every media outlet in the state.

Although the amount of state debt already makes Connecticut one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to how much debt our taxpayers must pay back over the next two decades, we now have a governor who increased the amount of annual borrowing from about $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion a year in his first term and has now announced that he is planning to borrow forty percent more this year.

As Keith Phaneuf explained in his CT Mirror article last week,

“Malloy notified the State Bond Commission on Tuesday that he increased what is commonly referred to as the “soft bond cap” from $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion for the 2015 calendar year.

That’s up almost 40 percent from last year, and almost 80 percent from 2012, when Malloy had set the cap at $1.4 billion.”

In an attempt to explain why the state would borrow such an excessive amount this year, Malloy told reporters,

“[M]oney continues to be relatively cheap and that can’t be guaranteed to last forever…Let’s try to capitalize on getting the cheapest possible money that we can when we have that opportunity.”

To put that statement into perspective, imagine calling a family meeting and telling your spouse and kids,

“Hey everyone, we just got a credit card in the mail with a low interest rate so you should all go out and buy all the things you want because we don’t know how long we’ll have access to low rates like these…and then when your youngest asks, but dad, how will we pay for the high monthly minimum payments that will be due each month for the next twenty to thirty years, you pat him or her on the head and say, I’m impressed you understand that point but don’t worry about it, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

In response to Malloy’s breathtakingly irresponsible announcement, the General Assembly’s Republican leaders on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee pointed out not only does Connecticut rank as one of the most indebted states — per capita — in the nation, but observed that, “During these tough fiscal times we should be reining in borrowing.”

Of course, after their political shot at Malloy and the Democrats, the Republicans on the Bond Commission then voted for all the new bonding that was on the agenda for this month.

It should be noted that Malloy’s obsession with excessive borrowing is hardly new.

As the CT Mirror’s story notes,

“In the last two years leading up to the 2014 gubernatorial election — which Malloy won by defeating Greenwich Republican Tom Foley — the governor and the legislature’s Democratic majority also moved hundreds of millions of dollars of operating expenses onto the credit card to avoid pre-election tax hikes.

These steps included:

  • Refinancing debt to push $392 million in payments owed then until after the election.

  • Bonding $173 million in new municipal aid.

  • Bonding $57 million for pollution abatement and stem cell research grants that previously were paid for out of the operating budget.

  • Borrowing an extra $39 million so that debt payments tied to converting state finances to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles could be deferred until after the election.

And finally, as if to prove just how out of touch all of Connecticut’s leaders are on the issue of the growing burden they are placing on Connecticut’s taxpayers by borrowing more and more money, the CT Mirror story concludes with,

“Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia countered Wednesday that Republican lawmakers are not critical of state borrowing whenever the funds support projects in their home districts.

“I’ve never seen such hypocrisy out of the GOP,” Puglia said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Both Frantz and Davis [The Republican’s two top leaders on the General Assembly’s Finance Committee] serve on the bond commission and have voted to approve financing for various projects in their communities, or in those of their colleagues…”

Great, just great….

Rather than address the real problem, the Democrats and Republicans spend their time hurling insults at each other while they all just keep using the state’s credit card knowing that it is Connecticut’s residents who will end up having to pay off the enormous cost of the principal and interest they are racking up.

CT Capitol Report Headline Reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

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While some tend to fall back on the phrase, “I told you so” much too often, the truth is that rarely does one get a chance to point to someone else confirming an individual’s claim that that they really were right when others were wrong….

So with that as the backdrop and propelled by an opportunity to brag, tempered by an appropriate dose of humility, I am proud to report that ctcapitolreport, the state’s leading news aggregation website, is sporting a headline that reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

The reference is to my long-standing and on-going observation that in order to balance next year’s Connecticut state budget, provide sufficient revenue to fund critical services and begin to reduce the unfair tax burden on Connecticut’s middle class, Connecticut’s elected officials must find the courage to actually do what is necessary and that means appending Connecticut’s tax code to require that the state’s wealthy begin to pay their fair share of taxes.

Longer term Wait, What? readers will recall that this blog does cover issues other than the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Scheme.

In fact, another primary focus of this blog has traditionally been Connecticut’s irresponsible fiscal policies that have resulted in a truly regressive tax system in which the state’s lowest income families pay about 12 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes and the wealthy, who have been coddled by both Democrats and Republicans, only pay about 5 to 6 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

While the inequities in Connecticut’s tax system have been growing for decades, the problem has become particularly severe as a result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s unending fiscal gimmicks and his unprecedented dedication and addiction to irresponsible fiscal policies.

The article the website www.ctcapitolreport.com  is referring to is a news story posted early today by Connecticut’s premier budget reporter, Keith Phaneuf of the CTMirror.

Phaneuf has written another MUST READ story for those who want to understand Connecticut’s state budget and how Governor Dannel Malloy lied his way through the 2014 gubernatorial campaign by claiming there was no state deficit and that if he was re-elected we would eliminate the projected $1.4 billion projected deficit for next year without having to raise taxes or cut services.

Keith Phaneuf’s latest article is entitled “Tax hike ideas abound at the Capitol,” and can be found at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/23/tax-hike-ideas-abound-at-the-capitol/

The CT Mirror piece concludes with the following;

Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, D-Mansfield, who tried unsuccessfully to petition onto the 2014 gubernatorial ballot, predicted last summer that the big budget deficits projected for the next two fiscal years would eventually force a progressive income tax debate this spring.

“Requiring the wealthy to pay their fair in state income tax is the only responsible way to balance the state budget and begin to reduce the heavy and inappropriate burden on Connecticut’s middle-income taxpayers,” Pelto said last week. “Failure to require the rich to pay their fair share will mean unacceptable cuts in vital services and hurting the middle class and all working families by shifting even more of the tax burden onto local property taxpayers.

Or, in other words, “I told you so.”

Hello Superintendents – Common Core SBAC Test “Mandate” is not like Connecticut’s truancy laws.

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Reading the misleading letters that Connecticut parents are still receiving from some local school superintendents it remains clear that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and more than a handful of school superintendents need to take a deep breath and actually read Connecticut’s State Statues…and then consider those statutes in the context of their moral and ethical responsibility to Connecticut’s students and their parents.

Parents throughout Connecticut, and across the nation, continue to inform local school officials that they are opting their children out of the Common Core Testing program because they understandably refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.

But rather than handle the situation in a professional, dignified and respectful fashion some local school superintendents, using memos provided by Malloy Department of Education, continue to mislead and harass parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to determine what is best for their children.

A typical example of the arrogance of these education autocrats can be found in the recent letter authored by New Haven’s Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries who writes,

“…please understand that federal and state laws require that all public school students be tested, so New Haven Schools has no degree of freedom in this matter.”

As if he has no choice but to “follow orders,” Superintendent Harries adds,

“…the state law also does not allow parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment.”

A little honesty on the part of Connecticut’s State Department of Education and these local school officials would make a huge difference in this debate about a parent’s right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme.

If superintendents would take their blinders off for a moment they’d realize the following:

Their authority to try and force a child to take the SBAC test, or punish a child who does not, is not like the authority they have to deal with the issue of truancy, which is clearly and concisely laid out in state law.

When it comes to the so-called “mandate” that children must take the Common Core SBAC Test, Connecticut State Statue 10-14n. reads,

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.

10-14n (b) (1) For the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.

Putting aside the fact that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test is not a true mastery exam because it does not measure “grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing…,” the actual truth is that there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or local school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC exam.

Furthermore, this so-called “mandate” has been on the books since 1978 and although thousands of students have failed to take the CMT/CAPT Mastery Tests every year, no child or parent has ever been punished for missing those tests.

Now let us compare the “SBAC Test Mandate” to the very real mandate that parents are responsible for ensuring that their children go to school after the age of five.

Connecticut State Statute Section 10-184 reads,

Duties of parents. School attendance age requirements. All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments… each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.

Connecticut Statute Section 10-198a goes on to require that school boards develop truancy policies and statutes further require that if a child fails to attend school, local schools officials shall mail a notice to the parent and that,

“Such mailed notice shall include a warning that two unexcused absences from school in a month or five unexcused absences in a school year may result in a complaint filed with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

Connecticut State law further states,

“If the parent or other person having control of a child who is a truant fails to attend the meeting held pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section or if such parent or other person otherwise fails to cooperate with the school in attempting to solve the truancy problem, such policies and procedures shall require the superintendent of schools to file, not later than fifteen calendar days after such failure to attend such meeting or such failure to cooperate with the school attempting to solve the truancy problem, for each such truant enrolled in the schools under his jurisdiction a written complaint with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

The laws of Connecticut provide the government with a mechanism to punish parents who allow their children to be truants, but Connecticut law specifically fails to provide the government with any power related to punishing a parent or child for refusing to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

As long as the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut remain in place, we remain a nation where government is not all powerful.

As Connecticut law so clearly specifies, neither the state government nor local school districts have the authority to punish a child (or parent) who fails to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

If the Governor Dannel Malloy wants to change that law then he needs to propose that change, the General Assembly needs to adopt that change and then he can sign it into law.

Until then Malloy and his administration, along with the superintendents who are engaged in misleading and harassing parents need to stop what they are doing.

Their actions are not only inappropriate but unethical and immoral.

The time has come for these school officials to remember their fundamental responsibility to serve the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

If they can’t bring themselves to do that then they need to find another job for their presence here is not welcome.

Common Core SBAC Test – Connecticut wrong, Vermont right!

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Fellow Connecticut education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has yet another MUST READ piece about the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s attack on public education and how Connecticut’s leaders are failing to protect our state’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Lecker’s column is entitled, The truth about the SBACs, and it can be found in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and on-line at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

Wendy Lecker writes;

A New England state is leading the way on sane testing policy. Unfortunately for us Nutmeggers, that state is Vermont, not Connecticut.

There is a growing national consensus that standardized testing has deleterious effects on education. The National Research Councilconcluded that test-based accountability under the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) had “zero to little effect” on achievement. Evidence from around the nation proves the focus on standardized testing has narrowed curricula and resulted in significant losses in learning time. Anxiety is prevalent among public school students, as more and higher stakes are attached to these standardized tests.

There is also a growing realization of what experts have known for years — that the federal government demands that states overuse and misuse standardized tests. Experts know that standardized tests are of limited value, because they are unstable, unreliable and most importantly, do not measure the breadth of skills and experience that are the goals of education. Despite the well-known limitations of standardized tests, federal officials insist test scores be used to rank and rate schools, students and teachers, and impose real-life consequences, including sanctions on schools and possible school closures, firing teachers and even decisions regarding student placement and graduation.

When federal policy conflicts with a solid body of evidence, one would expect our state education officials, those charged with safeguarding the educational rights and welfare of our children, to provide guidance on sound testing policy.

Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s top education officials have failed to provide any useful guidance whatsoever. To the contrary, Connecticut officials willingly participate in damaging testing practices. Connecticut rushed to sign on to the federal NCLB waiver in 2012, without analyzing the costs or consequences. As part of the waiver, then Education CommissionerStefan Pryor committed the state to implementing the common core tests known as the Smarter Balanced, or SBACs. These tests are longer than the CMTs, and must be taken on a computer or tablet, requiring a certain level of computer skill and literacy. Commissioner Pryor also agreed to “cut scores,” proficiency levels, guaranteeing that a vast majority of Connecticut students will fail the new tests. By agreeing to the waiver, Pryor also committed the state to evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, even though the weight of evidence demonstrates that evaluating teachers on student these test scores is invalid and major organizations such as the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association oppose this practice.

Contrast Connecticut’s complete lack of leadership with Vermont’s. Because the NCLB waiver called for mandates that were contrary to good educational practices, Vermont refused to apply for an NCLB waiver in 2012. In an August 2014 resolution, Vermont’s State Board of Education called on the federal government to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states.”

Last week, Vermont’s State Board of Education unanimously approved a new resolution on the SBAC tests, which gives strong and informed guidance that Connecticut’s education leaders are unwilling to provide.

Vermont’s resolution declares that while the SBAC tests “purport to measure progress towards `college and career readiness . . . the tests have not been externally validated as measuring these important attributes.”

Accordingly, the state board resolved “until empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (“college and career-ready”), test results should not be used to make normative and consequential judgments about schools and students.”

Vermont’s state board also resolved that until Vermont has more experience with evidence from the SBACs, “the results of the SBAC assessment will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance, and thus should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose.”

Finally, honest education officials admit the SBACs have never been proven to measure “college readiness” or progress toward “college readiness,” and in fact are unreliable to measure student learning. In other words, the foundation upon which the Common Core rests is an artifice, and our children are being subjected to unproven tests. Connecticut districts have been diverting resources and time toward a testing regime without any proof that it would improve our children’s education.

In its thoughtful articulation of its policy stance, Vermont’s educational leaders demonstrated their dedication to the educational welfare of Vermont’s children. It is shameful that Connecticut’s so-called leaders cannot muster the same concern for ours.

Again, the full article can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

The Press Conference that never happened but should have! (Submitted Anonymously)

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With the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Scheme having started this week, a regular Wait, What? reader sent in the following brilliant post for publication.

For those who thought Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast was real, please note that this article reports on a “faux news conference.”  This news conference did not actually take place, although the more we learn about the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam, the more we wish that this press conference had actually taken place….but alas it did not.

                                 Connecticut State Department of Education  

Faux News Conference

March 11, 2015

Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education begins the Press Conference:

On the eve of the administration of SBAC testing in our State, it has become clear to me, as interim Commissioner of Education, that there is much validity embedded in the much-heated controversy surrounding Common Core State Standards, mandated standardized testing to measure progress on those standards, and the intended practice of evaluating teacher effectiveness based on those student test results.  At this time, I have concluded that it is in the best interest of our students and their parents, our much-maligned yet highly accomplished teachers, and the tax-paying public that we suspend mandated “high-stakes” standardized testing for this year and until we have had a reasoned and fair public debate on the on-going controversial education issues that were never properly vetted and reviewed in the first place.

As your interim Commissioner, my roots are in the classroom, teaching students how to analyze and research the materials necessary to acquire the information they need to learn.  It is clear to me that we have lost our way.  The education of the next generation is not a partisan issue and must be de-coupled from highly-charged and rancorous political theater.  There are simply too many vested interests vying for pieces of the lucrative educational pie to pass any kind of “smell test” here.  It is not the common core, but rather common sense that brings me to this conclusion.  It is time to take a break – to allow our teachers to get back to what they do best and to enable our students to, once again, relish the joy and excitement of being turned on to learning as they become immersed in subject matter that engages their interests and consumes their every waking moment.

In our mission to solve the inequities that exist across our State and Nation, we have tried to apply solutions without fully evaluating the underlying systemic causes.  It is a noble undertaking.  However, we have attempted to apply business principles of incentivization, data analysis, fiscal management, and accountability to a highly varied and differentiated educational practice that we do not fully understand and does not work the same way for each individual.  We must respect that premise as we seek a course correction after several years of misdirection.

I have been particularly dismayed by the intransigence and unwillingness of state agencies to consider new information in light of the mountain of evidence supporting the success of American public education, especially when the lack of oversight and transparency in our privatized charter schools became glaringly evident this past year.  In hindsight, it must be said that the former commissioner came up through the ranks of policy development and, lacking classroom teaching experience, was unable to recognize and see the damage his privatization agenda was doing to public education.  On the other hand, as I have said, my roots are in the classroom and I know in my gut that it is time to stop the madness and get back to what we have always done best: educate young minds for the future.

Addendum:  The anonymous writer of this article closes with a note of apology for borrowing heavily from Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) and urges Wait,What? readers to follow up by reading Swift’s famous treatise, A Modest Proposal.

Please note, however, that you will have a difficult time finding Swift’s essay in school libraries that have been aligned to the Common Core because the proponents of the Common Core seem to think that so-called non-fiction is more important than fiction… which is why I am spending much of my time running between libraries and book stores moving George Orwell’s 1984 from the fiction to the non-fiction section.

VICTORY in CT!  Parents can opt students out of SBAC Tests – Students will be provided alternative location.

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The battle to ensure that local school districts recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test ends in victory.

In a published report today in the CTMirror, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Joeseph Cirasuolo, has announced that superintendents in Connecticut will now recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Testing AND that students who opt out will be provided with an alternative location where they can read a book, do homework or engage in some other educational activity for the eight to eight and a half hours of the SBAC testing.

Mr. Cirasuolo is quoted as saying;

“You can’t force someone to take a test they will not take…They will be sent someplace else.”

This important development should close the book on what appeared to be an unending effort by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and some local school superintendents who have been working to mislead and harass parents into believing that they did not have the fundamental right to opt their students out of the destructive Common Core SBAC testing.

The position being taken by the head of Connecticut’s superintendent association also makes clear that local school districts cannot use the “Sit and Stare” policy to punish or bully students who have opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

With the SBAC testing starting in some schools today, and running through June, it is a tremendous step forward that parents will finally be treated with the respect and maturity that they deserve.

The lingering question, however, is why did it take so long for Governor Malloy’s Department of Education and some of Connecticut’s school superintendents to call off their unethical, immoral, and I believe, illegal effort to mislead and harass Connecticut’s public school students and parents.

At this point it is unclear whether the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents has actually informed all superintendents of this important shift in policy.

Parents should know that no school superintendent, principal or school official should now be telling parents that they cannot opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test.

Furthermore, since the “Sit and Stare” policy violates the SBAC Testing Protocol, let alone the fact that the approach is nothing short of bullying, Connecticut public school students who opt out must be moved to a safe, secure, alternative location and may not be left sitting in the testing room during the Common Core SBAC test.

If any school administrators continues to fight a parent’s directive to opt their child out or seeks to punish a child who is opting out, please provide them with a copy of this blog post or point them to Mr.  Cirasuolo’s statement which can be found at: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/16/what-you-should-know-about-this-years-standardized-testing/.

Also, parents, students and teachers, please continue to report your experiences related to the Common Core SBAC testing.  Send information to [email protected]

Malloy Administration’s “Secret Memo” on Opting Out of Common Core SBAC Tests

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The question that still hangs in the air is why has the State of Connecticut and local school officials been making it so hard for parents of public school students to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC tests when there is simply no question that parents have the fundamental right to tell their local school that their child will not be participating in the testing.

The answer begins with a not very well hidden memo written and sent out by Governor Malloy’s administration in 2013.

Today it appears that school superintendents are finally accepting the fact that parents have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test and that school districts must provide children who have been opted them out with an alternative location, such as the school library or resource room, where they can read, do homework or engage in other educational activities during the Common Core SBAC testing periods.

Newer Wait, What? readers may not fully appreciate how the whole SBAC Opt Out debacle began.

The story starts back in 2013 when Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent out a directive to all Connecticut school superintendents providing them with a step-by-step process on how to mislead and harass parents into thinking that they did not have the right to remove their children from the destructive Common Core SBAC testing.

The Malloy administration’s memo was entitled, “…Suggested Protocols for Addressing Parent Requests for Students to “Opt-Out” of Mandated State Testing.”

The memo failed to acknowledge that parents had the inalienable and constitutionally protected right to remove their children from the Common Core SBAC testing.

The memo failed to remind local superintendents that neither the state nor the local school district had any authority to punish a child (or parents) that opted their child out of the Common Core SBAC testing.

And the memo further failed to report that the language “mandating” that students must participate in the Common Core SBAC testing was the same language that had been in place for decades as part of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) system and that no student or parents had every been punished for failing to take the “mandated” test.

Instead, the State Department of Education directive laid out, in detail, how superintendents were to unethically and immorally mislead and harass parents.

According to the memo:

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

Then:  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.

Then:  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.

Then:  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 (attached), 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.

Then:  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.  

After Wait, What? and other media outlets reported on the memo, it was removed from the State Department of Education website and from other various on-line sources.

But many of Connecticut’s superintendents continued to use the outrageous memo as their game plan for trying to derail Connecticut’s parents.

Copies of the Malloy administration memo survived and for those who would like to review the actual document that started Connecticut’s “opt out battle,” one of the following links should do the trick;

http://issuu.com/jonpelto/docs/connecticut-department-of-education

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5PDZpOuzPFVOHpzcjV6VGJaU0U/view?usp=sharing

https://www.scribd.com/doc/258918003/Connecticut-Department-of-Education-Memo-on-Optng-Out-of-Common-Core-SBAC-Testing-2013

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