Washington – First mandate annual testing, then allocate $9 Million to reduce the “Assessment Burden.”

Call it the American Way!

President Obama and a bi-partisan coalition of Republican and Democratic members of Congress used the Every Child Succeeds Act to mandated that no child go untested each and every year, despite the overwhelming evidence that the Common Core standardized testing scheme is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory, not to mention a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But now, in a yet another blatant effort to be as two-faced as possible, the Obama administration has announced a new $9 million “Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program” to assist states in efforts to “reduce the assessment burden.”

Mandate everyone gets tested, then allocate a few dollars to promote alternatives…

The school technology publication called, The Journal, reports that,

The Enhanced Assessment Instruments Grant program is the next step in the president’s action plan to improve the quality of academic assessments.”

The article adds;

The grant program builds on President Obama’s Testing Action Plan released last year. The plan aims to reform redundant standardized tests that are administered too frequently and fail to effectively measure student outcomes. As the next step in the plan, the Enhanced Assessment Instruments grant program, also called the Enhanced Assessment Grants (EAG) program, offers financial support for states to develop and use more effective assessments.

“The President’s Testing Action Plan encourages thoughtful approaches to assessments that will help to restore the balance on testing in America’s classrooms by reducing unnecessary assessments while promoting equity and innovation,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a news release. “This grant competition is the next step as part of that plan, and will help states and districts improve tests to allow for better depiction of student and school progress so that parents, teachers and communities have the vital information they need on academic achievement.”

The press release goes on to inform State education agencies and state education consortiums that;

Applicants that address these program objectives “by producing significant research methodologies products or tools, regarding assessment systems, or assessments,” will be chosen to receive funding for their projects, according to the department’s website.

Applications are available on Aug. 8. Applicants must submit proposals for the EAG competition by Sept. 22 and winners will be announced in January.

Chauk one more up for the greed and deceptiveness of the education testing industry and their corporate education reform allies in and of government.

How can Donald Trump be so wrong (and yet so right about middle class anger)

“With all due respect” to Donald Trump’s supporters, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump is a sociopath, psychopathic, lunatic who would quickly destroy what is left of the fundamental ideals that produced what we nostalgically refer to as The Great United States of America.

That said, for a clue about the Trump juggernaut, one need only read the Washington Post’s article entitled, Charting Trump’s rise through the decline of the middle class.  The Post wrote,

“For anyone trying to understand the emergence of Donald Trump as a force in this pre-election year, the Pew Research Center this past week provided some valuable insight. There’s little doubt that what has happened to America’s middle class has helped to create the climate that has fueled Trump’s sudden rise.”

The entire political dynamic is, of course, more complex than can be explained by a single circumstance but there is a disturbing truism about Trump and the Middle Class that can’t be denied.

Trump taps into the bitterness about what can best be described as people’s hatred of “politics as usual.

It is a form of politics we know well here in Connecticut.

Eight years ago, in April 2008, before Barak Obama upended Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President, I wrote a “controversial” commentary piece in the Hartford Courant that led the editorial section that day and generated a good deal of backlash from the power elite.

At the time I was actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, having had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down with her on two occasions to talk policy and politics.  Then, as now, there are few that can deny she is extraordinarily prepared to serve as our nation’s President.

But in April 2008, in comment that turned out to be surprisingly controversial, candidate Obama observed that “economically frustrated people in small towns are bitter…”

The comment generated harsh attacks from Hillary Clinton, John McCain and the political establishment.

For her part, Clinton blasted Obama saying, “Sen. Obama’s remarks are elitist, and they are out of touch.”  The attacks continued and Obama ended up “walking back” his comments.

As we now know, Obama went on to win and has done a pretty good job keeping the status quo intact.

At the time, I found the whole political debate bizarre considering there were, in fact, lots of middle class people who were angry and bitter about the way the way the rich were getting richer at the Middle Class’s expense and that some of those people, like myself, lived in small towns.

The commentary piece I wrote may be as “timely” today as the day it was published – April 20, 2008.

The editorial was entitled, BITTER? YOU BET!

It read,

OUR POLITICAL LEADERS SEEM UNABLE TO GRASP, LET ALONE SOLVE, THE ECONOMIC PROBLEMS CONFRONTING CONNECTICUT AND THE NATION.

Hey, over here – I’m bitter!

The presidential candidates, political pundits and media have plunged themselves into a fevered debate about Barack Obama’s recent comments observing that some hardworking Americans are bitter.

Although I can’t speak for the small-town people of Pennsylvania, I can certainly report that as far as I’m concerned, I’m bitter and getting more bitter by the day.

In fact, as a middle-income American, I’m not only bitter, I’m angry and disappointed as well. Political pandering, mediocrity and incompetence on the national and state levels are undermining many of the fundamental values that we middle-income Americans hold dear, while threatening the economic vitality and viability of our country and our state and undermining the economic health of many of our families.

The damage from failed leadership is evident throughout the political process and across the political spectrum. Perhaps most clearly of all, it can be seen right here in Connecticut, where our state is losing its competitive edge while our leaders are unable or unwilling to confront the challenges of the 21st century.

Take the Connecticut economy. For the 40 years leading up to 1990, Connecticut’s job growth was impressive, but since then, the complete failure of our state to develop a coherent and effective economic development strategy has had devastating consequences.

From 1989 to 2005, while the nation witnessed job growth of 24 percent, the number of jobs in Connecticut dropped by 0.2 percent, placing us dead last – 50th – in the nation in job growth.

As of late 2006, the number of nonfarm jobs in Connecticut was only about 5,400 more than in 1988. Incredibly, according to the Connecticut Economic Resources Center, “Connecticut is notable as the only state in the nation with negative business growth between 1989 and 2004.”

The state’s failure has damaged families across the economic scale. Over the past 15 years, the income gain for Connecticut’s middle-income families (the middle 20 percent) was barely half the national average, which ranked us 49th worst in the country as measured by the change in average real income.

Although it’s true that some of Connecticut’s wealthiest families have done just fine over the past decade and a half, the level of income inequality between Connecticut’s top- and middle-income families, as well as the income disparity between Connecticut’s top and bottom families, increased more than in any other state in the country.

Rather than step forward with vision and courage, Connecticut has responded to these economic challenges with an extraordinary and mind-numbing failure to make the right policy decisions. Instead of addressing the unfairness of Connecticut’s tax structure, state leaders have made our tax system even more regressive, which in turn has placed an even greater burden on hardworking families.

Lest we forget, the state has raised the gross receipts tax on gasoline four times over the past four years. In addition to the 25 cents per gallon state tax on gasoline, the state charges an additional 7 percent (which equals about 21 cents a gallon).

Then, to add insult to injury, more than half a billion dollars of the revenue from that expanded gross receipts tax that has been raised since 2000 wasn’t even used to upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, but was dumped into the state’s general fund.

However, it is hard to imagine anything more troubling then the state’s decision to saddle our state, our taxpayers and our children with an extraordinary level of irresponsible and crippling state debt.

Today, Connecticut’s state government faces long-term obligations and indebtedness of more than $54 billion.

Excessive borrowing and the failure to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future costs associated with state employee and teacher pensions, as well as health and retirement benefits, means that a future bill of unimaginable proportions awaits us all. The cost, as of now, is about $15,500 for every man, woman and child in our state.

Imagine that in addition to all of their other troubles, the average middle-income family of four in Connecticut has an “outstanding debt” to the state exceeding $60,000 – on top of their existing annual tax obligations.

Regardless of what Sen. Obama really meant by his recent comments, it strikes me as quite obvious that many families, lower- and middle-income alike, are undoubtedly bitter.

Let’s face it: In addition to the challenges associated with our sub-rate economy, Connecticut families are struggling to pay mortgage and health care bills, while trying to figure out how to pay for the increased costs of gasoline, home heating, electricity and local property taxes (not to mention the problems associated with having to cope with the obscene costs of getting their children a college education).

It’s enough to make anyone bitter.

Jonathan Pelto is a former state representative from Storrs.

Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff becomes President of the education reform industry’s Broad Foundation

As if it wasn’t clear enough where President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stand on when it comes to the corporate education reform industry, moments ago, it was announced that “Bruce Reed, assistant to President Barack Obama and chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was named president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation

According to the Broad Foundation’s press release, “As the foundation’s first president, Reed, 53, will oversee the activities and investments of The Broad Foundation’s work to improve America’s public

President Obama, along with his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have been leading supporters of the effort to increase standardized testing, dramatically expand the number of charter schools and push the Common Core standards, curriculum and testing scheme on the nation’s children, parents and teachers.

In addition, Vice President Biden’s relationship with the expansion of charter schools has been particularly controversial considering Biden’s brother owns a charter school management company.

Bruce Reed, Biden’s Chief of Staff is quoted as saying, “I have long been impressed by the visionary philanthropy of Eli and Edye Broad, and it is an honor to work with them to continue their legacy.”

The Broad Foundation press release adds, “Reed and then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel co-authored The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.”

You can read more about the Broad Foundation’s role in public education in an article I wrote for Public School Shakedown entitled “Funding “Education Reform”: The Big Three Foundations.”

Sarah Darer Littman among renowned authors to call out Obama on failure of corporate education reform laws

Sarah Darer Littman, a fellow public education advocate, blogger and regular commentator here at Wait,What? is also an award-winning author of books for young people.

Last week she and a number of other leading authors and illustrators wrote a powerful letter to President Obama about the inappropriate use of standardized testing and the failings of the corporate education reform movement.

In a commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, Sarah Darer Littman explains why she and the authors took this important step;

“I am proud to have been a signatory to a letter sent to President Obama last week, along with over 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including luminaries of the field such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.

We signed on to the letter because we know that lighting the fire of literacy is critical to our nation’s future, and we’re deeply concerned that current educational policy is dousing that fire. When one receives letters from young people telling them how reading your book has changed their life, it creates a special responsibility to advocate for change.

As you ponder who to vote for in your local Board of Education elections, please consider carefully each candidate’s position on excessive standardized testing.

Party label is no indication of position, alas — over-testing insanity might have started under a Republican administration with No Child Left Behind, but rather than correcting the problem, the Obama administration’s policies have reinforced it. Here in Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy even went so far as to state that he’d “settle for teaching to the test” as long as it meant raising test scores.

In many of the schools in Connecticut that need them the most, we don’t have full-time librarians, or libraries filled with books that appeal to young people. Yet we’re spending a fortune on consultants, and on technology to implement what — more testing. Author Neil Gaiman summed it up in a recent lecture, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”:

“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”

Test scores don’t matter as much as raising a nation of life-long readers — because reading fiction is a key to imagination and creativity. It is both a mirror, where we can see that we are not alone in our experiences, and a window, where we can learn to empathize with the experiences of others whose lives might be very different from our own.

A friend of mine in New York state called me, upset, after receiving the results of the tests this fall. Her son’s reading scores weren’t what she’d expected, and she wondered if she should worry. I know her son well — he loves reading and we have lively discussions about the latest book. I sent her links to numerous articles about the flawed Pearson ELA tests and told her that there was nothing the matter with her son — that he’s a bright kid who loves reading and that it borders on criminal that these tests would even create a doubt in her mind about the truth of this.

Please consider this carefully when voting for Board of Education. Vote for literacy, not test score-driven “readicide.”

You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-vote-for-literacy-not-testing-4933218.php.

You can read the author’s letter to Obama and additional background on Valerie Strauss’ blog at the Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/22/top-authors-including-maya-angelou-urge-obama-to-curb-standardized-testing/

Conservatives and Education Reformers: When in doubt, make sh*t up

The verbal assault on teachers has reached a fevered pitch as conservatives and “education reformers” push to make it look like the Chicago Teacher Strike is about money and the demands of greedy teachers and their greedy unions, rather than the fact that Chicago teachers are actually standing up to the “education reform” industry and the politicians that support it.

Yesterday, Leonie Haimson, a leader of Parents Across America, the country’s primary public education parent group, was on CNBC.

In typical fashion, as Haimson laid out the facts about what is going on in Chicago, Larry Kudlow, the commentator asking the questions, was literally left screaming that they only fact that mattered was that “only 15 percent of fourth graders” in the Chicago public schools can read.

Of course, such a claim is completely false, but facts never seem of importance to the right-wing or those who claim to be dedicated to “reforming” education.

Yesterday also saw a Heritage Foundation talking head telling the media that the Chicago Teachers Union was demanding a “30 percent pay increase,” even though only 15 percent of the children in Chicago’s public schools can read and only 56 percent of the students graduate.

Again, the statement is completely false.

It turns out the right-wing talking points are coming from the right-wing Heartland Foundation and the right-wing National Review.

For what it is worth, Illinois’ state standardized test scores show that 62 percent of Chicago’s fourth graders meet or exceed the goal in reading and the number of students, at or above goal, in math, science and reading has been increasing.

At no time did the right-wing or the “reformers” admit that poverty, language barriers and the number of students needing special education services are the three biggest predictors of test score results.  (Strange, they forget to admit that in Connecticut as well.)

And as to the reason that they falsely claim that only 15% could read?

Apparently they were “confused” between the meaning of “goal” and “proficiency,” or they knew the difference, and decided that it was just better to lie about it.

But the greatest irony of all is that it was Paul Ryan, the politician who can’t seem to ever tell the truth that actually explained what is happening in Chicago.

Yesterday Ryan proclaimed. “We stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

Adding moments later, he added, “We will stand with education reform…”

The one time Ryan tells the truth is to make it clear, the Chicago Teachers Strike is about our generation’s equivalent of the fight against the Military Industrial Complex.

There is a group of corporations, led by a group of “education reformers,” and backed by a group of Republican and Democratic politicians, all of whom are engaged in an effort to destroy public education, and hand the nation’s education system over to corporations and consultants, who can make a huge amount of money.

Meanwhile,  the President of the United States hasn’t gone beyond having his spokesman say that the President doesn’t have an opinion on this strike.

 

Thanks to Diane Ravitch and Jersey Jazzman for their efforts to get the truth out into the public domain.

Mr. President, I went ahead and upgraded the shipment to next day, priority delivery.

“And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”

 – Senator Barack Obama • Spartanburg SC • November 3, 2007

 

PS, if they don’t show up by 10am, I’ve got the tracking number

I’m sorry; can you run that by me again?

On the day President Obama’s name was put into nomination for a second term, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education addressed the Democratic National Convention.

Duncan, who followed Paul Vallas as the CEO of Chicago’s school system, is another “True Believer” in the “Education/Industrial Complex” reform movement.

As one reporter noted, despite the fact that Duncan has dedicated the last few years to undermining public education, his speech to the delegates, “steered clear of mentioning charter schools expansion, teacher evaluation, and aggressive school turnaround – policies at the heart of the Obama administration’s agenda…”

Instead, Duncan said President Obama, “believes teachers must be respected and paid like the professionals they are,” and added the President believed that, “No teacher should have to teach to the test.”

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s press office issued a press release with the news that Malloy has been named the chair of the National Governor’s Association’s Education and Workforce Committee.

Meaning, within hours of each other, Education Secretary Duncan said the President believes that “No teacher should have to teach to the test,” while the Governor of Connecticut, who said he has no problems with teaching to the test as long as the scores go up, is named chair of the committee developing education policy for governors and their states.

Malloy’s press release bragged that his “education reform bill” invests money in, “struggling schools that embrace much-needed changes – changes that will make sure our kids can compete.”

And what are those changes?

  • More standardized testing
  • More charter schools expansion
  • And an ill-conceived teacher evaluation system that relies significantly on the standardized test scores of students.

Meanwhile, Michelle Rhee, the extremist education reformer, standardized test champion and alleged standardized test cheater, was at the Democratic National Convention to host a screening of a new, anti-teacher film, “Won’t back down”

Last week, at the Republican National Convention, the screening was hosted by Michelle Rhee AND Jeb Bush.  According to published reports at the time, “both Rhee and Bush expressed optimism that Republicans and “reform-minded” Democrats could come together on education policy.”

Either Duncan was the only one to “get the memo.” Or maybe there really is something to this whole quantum physics, parallel universe stuff.

Obama’s heating oil cut indefensible; Okay, what about Malloy’s?

(Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point at the New Haven Advocate)

Today, in an editorial, The Connecticut Post joined the chorus of voices condemning the Obama Administration’s proposed cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Calling it “indefensible.”

The Connecticut Post states “We’d call the federal budget provision that would literally leave poor people in the cold an outrage, but it is much more than that. It’s yet another confirmation that if you are poor and powerless, the best you can do is hang on, hope for the best, and pray you don’t get crushed by Washington as it dives to kiss the feet of the rich and powerful. “

The editorial writers at the Connecticut Post are absolutely right.

President Obama’s proposed budget for the federal fiscal year starting on October 1, 2011 cuts the federal Energy Assistance from $5.1 billion to $2.5 billion. Connecticut’s share of the funding would drop from $98 million to $41 million.

Representative Rosa DeLauro has pointed out that nearly 80% of the US households that use heating oil are in New England and she has said that while she applauds Obama’s budget plan she has “deep concerns” about his proposed cut to fuel assistance.

Congressman and candidate for the U.S. Senate Chris Murphy has gone even further saying that the “LIHEAP cut is dumb” and pointing out that “It really plays with people’s lives.”

Faced with the criticism, the President has explained his rationale by saying that when energy prices were spiking when he took office he proposed dramatically increasing federal support for LIHEAP but that “Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same” and that is why he has proposed to “go back to a more sustainable level.”

But even if prices have declined some, the need is still great and without the fuel assistance thousands of people will be unable to afford to heat their homes and apartments.

Last week, State Senator Martin Looney led a press conference with Connecticut legislators and advocates calling on Obama to withdraw his proposal.

Senator Looney said that over 110,000 Connecticut families needed heating assistance help last year and that “nearly a third of those who received help were elderly, while 26 percent were disabled, and 24 percent had children under the age of five.”

The Connecticut Post and every newspaper editorial writer should speak out against this mean-spirited, short-sighted and disgusting cut.

But what is so interesting about this issue is that the Connecticut Post and the Democratic legislators who are being so articulate and outspoken in their opposition to the proposed federal cut to low income fuel assistance were silent when, back in May, Governor Malloy announced that his Plan B budget would eliminate funding for Connecticut’s Operation Fuel heating assistance program.

And they were all silent again when Malloy actually moved to implement that budget three weeks ago.

At the time, Senate President Don Williams said “If you talk to any legislator they will tell you they don’t like these cuts…But unless the state employees have a second vote and ratify the concessions, there are few alternatives — and the alternatives aren’t appealing as well”

A Hartford Courant editorial went ever further proclaiming “Don’t Blame Malloy For Deep Budget Cuts.” The Courant added “the scope of the state budget cuts ordered this week by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is breathtaking. But they are made necessary by the failure of the state’s employee unions to make reasonable concessions in their benefits and wages.”

While it may be true that Plan B was Malloy’s “response” to the original failure of the Malloy/SEBAC agreement to get sufficient votes, the Governor (and Legislature) could have and should have proposed alternatives to cutting Connecticut’s fuel assistance program.

The fact is there are plenty of alternatives to making such a drastic cut including requiring the wealthiest in Connecticut to pay their fair share in taxes, closing corporate tax loopholes, reducing municipal aid for the state’s wealthiest communities or identifying some other cut that doesn’t do as much damage as cutting fuel assistance for lower income families.

Instead, the Governor (and the President at the federal level) has put fuel assistance programs on the chopping block.

Here in Connecticut, our state legislators have thrown up their hands saying that there is no alternative and apparently, according to the Harford Courant, we shouldn’t even blame our elected officials but instead should be blaming our public employees.

Meanwhile, back here in reality, cuts to heating oil assistance would be devastating.

That holds true for Obama’s proposal and for Malloy’s proposal.

It would be nice to think that our elected officials and our editorial writers would be consistent when it comes to articulating the need for the most essential government programs and services.

CTnewjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/operation_fuel_calls_on_congress_to_preserve_liheap_funds/

CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/story/13285/malloy-orders-one-largest-budget-cuts-connecticut-history

The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/144167-obama-defends-proposal-to-cut-liheap-funding

The Courant: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-state-cuts-20110716,0,1148722.story

The CT Post: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Heating-oil-cut-indefensible-1712666.php#ixzz1U5BX3vfa