Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

Yes, CT State Department of Education Officials’ behavior was rude and appalling!

Last Friday’s Wait, What? article, Incredulous: Watching CT Department of Education officials lecture school administrators on how to mislead parents, reported on the incredible meeting in which public officials from Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education lectured a group of school administrators about how to STOP  parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme and then quickly shut down the meeting when a parent stood up to explain why many people feel so strongly about the significant problems associated with the SBAC testing craze,

As the post explained:

“Just when I thought I had truly seen everything when it comes to the arrogance, elitism, audacity and contemptuousness of those associated with the corporate funded “Education Reform” effort, I witnessed something even more breathtakingly incredible this past Monday at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

It has taken the week to even begin to be able to put into words what I and a handful of other parents and public school advocates witnessed.  In fact, I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.”

Highlighting the utter absurdity of the entire event was the presentation of a 27 slide PowerPoint presentation that these public servants used to “educate” local school officials about how to communicate with students, parents, teachers and their communities.

On one slide, the State Department returned what appears to be their favorite graphic, an upside down Maslow’s Triangle.

However, rather than use the triangle to explain the quintessential hierarchy of needs, the PR oriented State Department of Education officials used it to instruct superintendents how to “tailor your communication to the needs of families regarding annual assessment.”

At the lowest tip of the triangle were, “Families who are strongly opposed to annual assessment and refuse participation.”

The Deputy Commission compared this group to people who don’t want their children to learn about evolution. (A pretty hostile and ignorant statement if I ever head one)

The State Department of Education’s instructions were;

Provide year round factual information

Be respectful of the family’s stance on assessment

Offer large, small or 1:1 group learning opportunities

Be open to ongoing discussion

But then, at end of the meeting, when a parent actually rose to discuss her concerns, it turned out that the last thing these public officials intended was to actually be respectful or open to discussion.

You can watch a clip of the Deputy Commissioner’s response to the parent at: https://youtu.be/XA3cX3Z8Qnk

In a MUST READ commentary piece published in today’s CT Mirror, lawyer and parent advocate Deborah G. Stevenson describes the scene in greater detail,

Parents’ rights group: Education officials’ behavior rude and appalling (By Deborah Stevenson)

As part of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell’s “leadership strategies,” designed to urge superintendents to “encourage” parents to have their children take the SBAC test rather than to opt out, the commissioner called in superintendents from public school districts across the state to the department’s Hartford headquarters for a “training session” on how effectively to communicate with parents.

Facing reduced participation in the SBAC test, the commissioner deemed it necessary to give the superintendents more “tools” to persuade parents to allow their children to take the test.  Among the “tools,” the Commissioner informed the superintendents that if their school district’s participation rate fell below 95 percent, the district would be subject to dire consequences, including the loss of federal funding and the lowering of the ranking of the district moving it closer to a state takeover.

This despite the fact that the Commissioner of Education recently  acknowledged in testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee that parents do have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse to allow their children to take the test. Yet, that right is not being respected when the Commissioner threatens parents, schools, and school districts  with punishment for exercising that right.

When the commissioner called the superintendents for more “training” to increase the participation rates, naturally parents were curious to find out about what the “training” consisted of and sought to find out.

Some noteworthy things happened both before and after the training session about which the public should be aware:

  • Parents politely notified the State Department of Education, days in advance, that they planned to attend the “training session”.
  • While the Freedom of Information Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-225 and Sec. 1-200) states that “meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public,” and defines public agency as “including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official,” and defines “meeting” as “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency…to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power,” nonetheless, the State Department of Education attempted to keep the “training session” for superintendents closed to the public, stating it “is not a venue for members of the general public to participate.”
  • Instead, the State Department of Education referred parents elsewhere, telling them that they could “utilize the public comment section during the State Board of Education meeting to voice opinions, ideas and concerns.”
  • The State Department of Education eventually changed its mind about keeping the meeting closed, but notified only one parent of that decision, and did so only five hours before the meeting was to take place. Consequently, only a few parents got that message upon such short notice and were able to attend.
  • Upon arrival at the meeting, those parents were told that they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, and that they were expected to sit quietly and simply observe.
  • The meeting commenced uneventfully and continued for an hour and a half.
  • Those parents in attendance, dutifully and politely, did as they were requested and sat quietly and simply observed until the presentation to the superintendents ended and the superintendents had no further questions.
  • As the deputy commissioner was stating her last words ending the meeting, one parent stood up and thanked the department for its presentation. That parent was allowed to speak, and the thanks offered was accepted.
  • During the presentation, the deputy commissioner expressed to the superintendents that they were to ask parents why they were refusing to allow their children to take the SBAC test. When the parent who stood up after the meeting ended to thank the department attempted to explain why parents refuse to allow their children to take the test, the deputy commissioner stood up abruptly and abrasively interrupted the speaker calling an immediate halt to the meeting, commenting, “See, this is why we shouldn’t have let them in” and she threatened to call security. At that point, the superintendents turned their backs on the parent and exited the room.
  • In effect, the parents acted with patience and respect, quietly observed and listened intently throughout the entire meeting until it had concluded.
  • The Deputy Commissioner of Education, and the superintendents, on the other hand, after being instructed for an hour and a half on how to effectively communicate with parents, quietly observed and listened only for a matter of seconds to the parent, interrupted her, turned their backs to her, and promptly walked out of the room.

Clearly the State Department of Education, and the superintendents, need much more work on their communication skills.  Certainly, lessons in civility also wouldn’t hurt.

One wonders why the State Department of Education was so fearful of what the parent had to say that it was necessary to cut her off and threaten to call security.

Apparently, communication with parents is only a one way street.

It would be wise for the State Department of Education to remember that its members work for the public, and that parents, not the government, have a fundamental Constitutional right to the upbringing and education of their children.

One would at least hope that the department offers an explanation, or an apology, for its most egregious behavior. If it does not, one can only hope the legislature will conduct a thorough investigation.

Deborah G. Stevenson is counsel for the Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition.

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

Here we go again…

With the Common Core testing frenzy about to begin in public schools across Connecticut [SBAC testing takes place between March 15 – June 10, 2016], parents are once again reporting that some school districts are informing them that if their child is opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core tests they will be required to stay in the testing room and “sit and stare” during the entire testing period.

Such a practice is not only an unethical form of bullying but it violates the State of Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) regulations.  Any superintendent, principal or school administrator who requires or allows a “Sit and Star” policy to exist risks losing their certification to work in a Connecticut school  as a result of Connecticut State Statute 10-145b(i)(1).

Students who are opted out of the SBAC testing scheme must be provided an alternative location and are not allowed to stay in the room where testing is taking place.

According to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s “Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual”

“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 requirements in the SBAC Test Administration Manual are not optional.

If your child is forced to “sit and stare” or you know of a child who is forced to stay in the testing room during the SBAC testing, that is a serious “security” violation and should be reported to your school district and to the State Department of Education.  If you need assistance, please contact Wait, What? at [email protected] and we will help you file a complaint with the appropriate officials.

For additional background see:

Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4)

Security of the Test Environment:  Security requirements for the test environment during various stages of testing. The test environment refers to all aspects of the testing situation while students are testing and includes what a student can see, hear, or access (including access via technology). English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences. Breaches of test security include, but are not limited to, copying of test materials, failing to return test materials, coaching students, giving students answers, and/or changing students’ answers. Such acts may lead to the invalidation of an entire school district’s student test scores, disruption of the test system state-wide, and legal action against the individual(s) committing the breach. A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation. The Connecticut State Department of Education will investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education,* and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law. *See Section 10-145b(i) (1) of the Connecticut General Statutes which reads in relevant part as follows:

The State Board of Education shall revoke any certificate, authorization or permit issued pursuant to said sections if the holder is found to have intentionally disclosed specific questions or answers to students or otherwise improperly breached the security of any administration of a state-wide examination pursuant to Section 10-14n.

Speaking out for decoupling Common Core testing from the teacher evaluation process

In 2012, Governor Dannel Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative included a destructive provision requiring that 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be dependent on how well students did on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme, despite the fact that every major academic study across the nation has proven that standardized test scores are not a proper, accurate or even useful tool for measuring a particular teacher’s effectiveness.

Over the past four years, the Malloy administration, in conjunction with the testing industry and the corporate funded “education reform” front groups, have spent thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying legislators to keep Malloy’s irresponsible teacher evaluation program unchanged rather than adopt one that uses criteria that actually determines whether a teacher is or is not doing a satisfactory job in the classroom.

On March 7, 2016 one of the bills that the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee held a public hearing on was  Senate Bill 380, AN ACT CONCERNING THE EXCLUSION OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE RESULTS ON THE MASTERY EXAMINATION FROM TEACHER EVALUATIONS.  The bill would “exclude student performance data on the Smarter Balanced Assessment from teacher performance evaluations.”

Among those speaking in favor of decoupling student’s standardized testing scores from the teacher evaluation process was Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice.

As a result of Superintendent Scarice’s leadership, the democratically elected members of the Madison School board, with the participation of teachers, parents and the community, developed a model teacher evaluation system that did not include the use of standardized tests scores.

However, rather than embrace a teacher evaluation program based on best practices, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education torpedoed the proposal.

Superintendent Scarice used his testimony at the Education Committee Public Hearing to lay out the reality about why the SBAC Common Core test is not an appropriate measure for evaluating teachers.

While Scarice’s testimony was short in length, its honest approach to the issue was in stark contrast to the “know-nothing” approach being spewed by the corporate education reform industry, their lobbyists and their allies.

Legislators, along with parents, teachers and Connecticut citizens should take the time to watch Superintendent Scarice’s testimony which can be found via the following link:

Video Testimony by Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice

http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=12572&jump=7:42:53

Incredulous: Watching CT Department of Education officials lecture school administrators on how to mislead parents

Just when I thought I had truly seen everything when it comes to the arrogance, elitism, audacity and contemptuousness of those associated with the corporate funded “Education Reform” effort, I witnessed something even more breathtakingly incredible this past Monday at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

It has taken the week to even begin to be able to put into words what I and a handful of other parents and public school advocates witnessed.  In fact, I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.

As was initially reported in the Wait, What? blog post entitled, “Malloy-Wyman Administration ramp-up attack on parents who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco,” a group of targeted Connecticut public school superintendents and principals were ordered to attend a mandatory meeting at the Department of Education to discuss their failure last sprin, to stop enough parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Thanks to the anti-local control, authoritarian policies being pushed by Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and their Commissioner of Education, the Connecticut State Department of Education summoned a group of local school administrators to a “roundtable discussion on family and community engagement strategies” on Monday, February 29, 2016 from 3:00 – 4:30 at the State Office Building in Hartford. The session was presented as a mechanism to enhance the communication skills of school administrators so that they could do a better job of ensuring that no more than 4.9 percent of public school parents opt their children out of the Common Cores testing mania.

After claiming that the meeting was actually a workshop, the State Department of Education told numerous parents and members of the public that they could not participate or even attend the “roundtable discussion on family and community engagement strategies.”

The state agency was clear – family and community were not welcome to attend or participate in a discussion about how to promote family and community engagement.

Finally, hours before the meeting was to begin, the State Department of Education reversed course or “clarified” its position saying that the public could come and watch, but would not be allowed to participate.

To call the event a roundtable would be … well more than a bit disingenuous.

There was nothing roundtable-ish about the session.

Instead of discussing parental concerns and how to address them, senior staff from the Department of Education lectured, instructed, talked-down-to and berated the local school administrators for an hour and a half about the need to “improve” communication with parents and their communities, thereby stopping parents from utilizing their legal and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core testing frenzy.

One of the State Department of Education’s recommendations was to co-opt students to serve as ambassadors and promote the benefits of standardized testing.

In another example, SDE staff cheered about a YouTube video of teachers singing about how great the standardized testing opportunity was for students.

But the “pièce de la résistance” occurred as the meeting came to an end and a parent respectfully stood up to address the participants and explain why we oppose the mandated Common Core testing system.

And at that point, all Hell broke loose.

Parents’ rights lawyer Deborah G. Stevenson was among those in the audience watching the proceedings and today issued a statement in response to the events at the State Department of Education on Monday.

The communication leads with the headline – “State Department of Education Refuses to Allow Parents to Talk Immediately after the Close of a Training Session Held to Teach Superintendents How to Communicate Effectively with Parents!” 

Attorney Stevenson explained,

The Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition is appalled at the Behavior of the State Department of Education and Demands an Explanation or an Investigation.

As part of Education Commissioner Wentzell’s “leadership strategies”, designed to urge superintendents to “encourage” parents to have their children take the SBAC test rather than to opt out, the Commissioner called in Superintendents from public school districts across the state to the Department’s Hartford headquarters for a “training session” on how effectively to communicate with parents.

Facing reduced participation in the SBAC test, the Commissioner deemed it necessary to give the superintendents more “tools” to persuade parents to allow their children to take the test.

Among the “tools”, the Commissioner informed the Superintendents that if their school district’s participation rate fell below 95%, the district would be subject to dire consequences, including the loss of federal funding and the lowering of the ranking of the district moving it closer to a state takeover.

This, despite the fact that the Commissioner of Education recently acknowledged in testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee that parents do have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse to allow their children to take the test.

Yet, that right is not being respected when the Commissioner threatens parents, schools, and school districts with punishment for exercising that right.

When the Commissioner called the superintendents for more “training” to increase the participation rates, naturally parents were curious to find out about what the “training” consisted and sought to find out.

As Attorney Stevenson reports, truly amazing things happened both before and after the training session.  She added;

  • Parents politely notified the State Department of Education, days in advance that they planned to attend the “training session.”
  • While the Freedom of Information Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-225 and Sec. 1-200) states that “meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public”, and defines public agency as “including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official”, and defines “meeting” as “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency…to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power”, nonetheless, the State Department of Education attempted to keep the “training session” for superintendents closed to the public, stating it “is not a venue for members of the general public to participate.”
  • Instead, the State Department of Education referred parents elsewhere, telling them that they could “utilize the public comment section during the State Board of Education meeting to voice opinions, ideas and concerns.”
  • The State Department of Education eventually changed its mind about keeping the meeting closed, but notified only one parent of that decision, and did so only five hours before the meeting was to take place. Consequently, only a few parents got that message upon such short notice and were able to attend.
  • Upon arrival at the meeting, those parents were told that they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, and that they were expected to sit quietly and simply observe.

Then later,  as the Deputy Commissioner of Education was announcing that the “roundtable” meeting was over, a parent diplomatically and respectfully stood up, thanked the Department for its presentation and began to explain why parents were understandably concerned about the Common Core SBAC and NEW SAT testing and our accurate concern that that our public schools are being turned into little more than testing factories.

The attempt to address the group seemed especially fitting since during the lecture to local school officials that same Deputy Commissioner instructed the superintendents and principals that they were to ask parents directly why they were refusing to allow their children to take the SBAC test.

However, as the parent began to explain our concerns, the Deputy Commissioner stood up abruptly and abrasively interrupted the speaker calling for an immediate halt raging,

“See, this is why we shouldn’t have let them in.”

It appeared that she or another SDE employee also demanded that security be called.

At that point, the State Department of Education employees and the local officials turned their backs on the parents in the room and, what could only be described as “scurrying,” exited the room as if fire and smoke was about to consume them.

Attorney Steven notes,

“In effect, the parents acted with patience and respect, quietly observed and listened intently throughout the entire meeting until it had concluded.”

The Deputy Commissioner of Education, and the superintendents, on the other hand, after being instructed for an hour and a half on how to effectively communicate with parents, quietly observed and listened only for a matter of seconds to the parent, interrupted her, turned their backs to her, and promptly walked out of the room.”

***

As a witness, I have to say that the whole event was beyond belief.

Having participated and watched government in action at the national, state and local level for more than four decades, I can safely say that I have never, ever, seen an meeting as unbelievably insulting as the “presentation” (PowerPoint and all) that those targeted local school administrators were forced to sit through or the even more incredible way in which public employees responded to a member of the public trying to raise important and legitimate concerns about the very issue that the school officials were summoned to the meeting to discuss.

To be honest, the word incredulous doesn’t even begin to address the sense of shock and dismay as I watched the horrendous and grossly inappropriate behavior of the individuals who are supposed to be working on behalf of public education in Connecticut and who receive generous salaries and benefits courtesy of the taxpayers of Connecticut.

In her letter today, Attorney Stevens understandably asks for an investigation into the abusive and insulting actions taken by these state officials.

I would go one step further, if I was governor of Connecticut, these people who have already been asked to leave and replaced with public servants who recognize the importance of serving the public.

More about the meeting will be forthcoming since we were able to collect both audio and video of the debacle.

You can watch a clip of the Deputy Commissioner’s response to the parent at: https://youtu.be/XA3cX3Z8Qnk

Those who would like to contact Attorney Stevenson, who serves as Counsel for the Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition, can reach her at [email protected]firm.com

 

STOP Malloy/Wyman from punishing students, parents, teachers and taxpayers on testing opt out!

A bill that would – at least partially – prohibit the Malloy administration from punishing students, parents, teachers and taxpayers when parents utilize their inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC) testing scheme will be coming up for a public hearing before the Legislature’s Education Committee on MONDAY, MARCH 7, 2016.

House Bill 5555 would prevent the Malloy administration from using SBAC and the New SAT participation rates as part of the state’s absurd School Accountability System.

  • People who believe in public education;
  • People who believe that our schools are spending too much time on standardized testing and test prep;
  • People who believe our children need and deserve a comprehensive education and not one driven by testing;
  • People who believe that teaching should be done by teachers and not by for-profit software companies
  • People who believe in a parent’s right to make decisions on what is best for their child;

Should submit testimony, letters or comments about these issues to the Education Committee by Monday Morning – March 7, 2016. Emails should be sent to [email protected] and clearly state that they are related to House Bill 5555

For those who can attend the public hearing, it will take place in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.  The hearing actually starts at 11 AM but speakers will be determined by a lottery system. Lottery numbers will be drawn from 8:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB. Speakers arriving after the completion of the lottery should report to Room 3100 of the LOB and will have their names placed at the end of the speaker list.

The Education Committee is also taking testimony on Senate Bill 380 which would change Malloy’s disastrous teacher evaluation program by removing student performance results on the Common Core tests (SBAC and NEW SAT) from the way teachers are rated. This would also be a critically important step in creating a teacher evaluation system that has a positive rather than a detrimental impact on public education.

Again, comments about these bills should be emailed to the Education Committee by Monday morning via [email protected]

Please Note:  Comment function is not presently working – trying to get it fixed ASAP

Very Important Warning for Connecticut High School Juniors and their parents

Last spring Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation mandating that the 40,000+ high school juniors who attend Connecticut’s public schools take the New SAT – Tomorrow – March 2, 2016, despite the fact that the NEW SAT has not been publicly released, has not been statistically validated and includes a significant number of questions that are related to content that most high school juniors have not been taught.

Like the Common Core SBAC testing scheme that is being inflicted upon children in grades 3-8, the New SAT has been “aligned to the Common Core” and is intentionally designed to fail a large number of students.

After considering the issues involved, I have opted my daughter out of the New SAT and she will be using tomorrow to learn rather than serve as a guinea pig for the testing industry and the Connecticut State Department of Education.

One thing is extremely clear.

The attempt to force Connecticut’s 11th graders to take the NEW SAT is not about helping students, improving graduation rates or expanding the number of people who go to college.

Instead, the new “mandate” is part of the broader corporate education reform agenda that is successfully diverting scarce public funds away from teacher-student instruction to private companies.

The College Board, the conglomerate that owns the SAT, collects nearly $1 billion a year in revenue and the Malloy administration will be adding to that amount thanks to a multi-year, multi-million dollar contact signed by the State Department of Education.

While dismissing the legitimate concerns that are being raised about the New SAT, a primary argument coming from the Malloy administration and other proponents of the testing mania is that, at the very least, the New SAT is a good “practice exam” for students who plan to take the SAT later this year as part of their college application effort.

Such a strategy, however, could be particularly devastating for students who are trying to get into an institution of higher education that requires applicants to submit all of their SAT test results, rather than just their best scores.

The major national SAT tutoring organization, PrepScholar, notes this serious issue explaining,

If you’re applying to schools that require all scores, you need to be very careful each time you take the SAT, because you will have to send any scores you get, even if they’re low.

Prepscholar adds;

Don’t take the SAT the first time “for practice” to get used to the test. Colleges will see that “practice score.”

Not surprisingly, the Malloy administration has not only tried to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory New SAT, but they have failed to inform students and parents that they CAN CANCEL the score associated with the mandated New SAT if they believe that keeping that score could be detrimental.

According to the College Board;

The SAT Scores can be canceled – and will not become part of the student’s record – if the College Board receives a written, signed request to cancel the score no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on the Wednesday after the test date.

Students and parents can Download and Print the Form via SAT request to cancel test scores form (.pdf/496KB) or they can sent their own letter however it must include the following information to cancel the score:

  • Test date
  • Test center number
  • Name of test you are canceling — either the SAT or SAT Subject Test(s)
  • Name, address, sex, birth date and registration number
  • Signature (required or the cancellation will not be processed)

The Form must then be faxed to 610-290-8978

Or sent overnight delivery to:

SAT Score Cancellation

1425 Lower Ferry Road

Ewing, NJ 08618

The mailing or fax label should read: “Attention: SAT Score Cancellation.”

Again, the written request to cancel the scores must reach the College Board by 11:59 PM EST on the Wednesday after the test.

Students and parents with questions about this issue should contact their school guidance counselor.

And please pass this important information on to other families with 11th graders.

This link is a partial list of colleges and universities that report that if a student has taken the SAT then they must provide the college or university with all of their SAT scores, even the problematic one from March 2, 2016. – http://blog.prepscholar.com/colleges-requiring-all-sat-scores-complete-list

Because I love my daughter…Because all of our children are simply that important!

We are opting our children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing craze because our children deserve public schools that are focused on providing all children with a comprehensive, quality and empowering public education.

We are fighting back against the so-called “education reformers” because public education is the foundation upon which fulfilling lives are built.  Its purpose is not to make the corporate elite richer.

We are taking back our public schools because education is more than a standardized test score and our public school teachers should be evaluated on the quality of their work and not on test scores driven by factors beyond their control.

This weekend, the 2016 Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia is bringing together parents, teachers, academics and public education advocates from across the country to discuss developments and share strategies in our ongoing battle to protect our children, teachers and public schools from the corporate education reform industry and the standardized testing companies that are turning our children into guinea pigs and our public schools into little more than testing factories and profit centers.

Steve Singer, a public school teacher, parent and fellow education blogger and advocate, was among those who have been participating in the sessions.

His willingness to be a powerful voice for children, parents, teachers and public schools ranks him as one of the true heroes in the movement to put the fundamental concept of “the public” back into public education.

After the first full day of the conference, Steve Singer wrote the following post.  It not only provides a snapshot of the 2016 Opt-Out Conference but explains why we have and will continue to fight to protect our children, our teachers, our public schools and our nation.

How Radical Must We Be To Get the Schools Our Children Deserve? United Opt Out Musings  (By Steve Singer)

There was a point during Chris Hedges keynote address today when I could barely catch my breath.

My chest was heaving, tears were leaking from my eyes and I wasn’t sure I would be able to stop.

The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist had his audience enraptured at the United Opt Out Conference in Philadelphia Saturday morning.

I’ve read Chris before. We’ve all read Chris before. But I had never seen or heard him speak.

It was kind of like hearing a good sermon by a pastor who felt every word he said. And that really was it – Chris FELT every word.

When I’ve read Hedges’ articles on Truthdig, I’ve found myself getting angry. He stirs me up. He disturbs me, makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I heard him speak today I was surprised that he seemed to be reacting the same way to his own words.

When he talked about teaching teenage prisoners, he was emotionally invested in the story he was telling. When he criticized American neoliberal policies, he was just as angry as his audience.

The only difference was that his sorrow and rage somehow became transformed in his throat into something akin to poetry.

He turned the struggle of the oppressed into something beautiful. He transformed the hurt in my chest into something profound. He mutated my disturbance into a sense of actions-to-be.

I won’t repeat the words he said. I’d never be able to reproduce them with anything resembling his eloquence. But I will remark on one of his closing remarks because it hit me like a splash of cold water.

Rebellion, he said, is not about changing the world. It’s about changing yourself.

When you stand up for what is right, you become a better person – whether you achieve your goal or not. In a sense, it doesn’t matter if we destroy the testocracy. But in trying, we transmute ourselves into something better.

I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d like to think so.

I don’t know if we will ever destroy the system of Test and Punish, but I know I can try. I know I can put myself on the line and damn the consequences.

All weekend at the United Opt Out Conference we’ve been talking about rebellion and revolution. There’s no weak tea here in the City of Brotherly Love. No half measures. We’ve been discussing tearing the system down piece-by-piece.

A timid voice speaks up in the back of mind, “Do we really need to do all that? Do we really need revolution just to keep our public schools and make them into something worthy of our children?”

I think I’ve been trying to answer that question for a while now. Maybe a lot of us have.

In a rational country, our demands wouldn’t be so radical.

We want public schools centered on the good of all, not the profit of some. We want educationally valid curricula for our children. We want some control over the school system – both as parents and teachers.

Is that so much to ask? Is that such a lunatic request?

And as I listened to Hedges and Dr. Antonia Darder, Dave Green, Jonathan Pelto, Dr. Denisha Jones, Ceresta Smith, Yohuru Williams, Aixa Rodriguez and many, many others, I heard another timid voice begin to answer the first.

“Yes.”

The system of standardization and privatization of public education confronts students of color and impoverished students head on. They are in the front lines. Yet few people outside of activists seem willing to admit it.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this conference has been its ability to put issues of human rights at the center of the argument. That’s the essential concept. We’re not just talking about bad education policies. We’re not just talking about schemes for billionaires to make more money. We’re talking about the systematic oppression of a group of people and the widespread complacency and complicity of the majority of the populace.

How do you combat such a monster without being revolutionary? How do you fight for your child without being a rebel?

More has happened at this conference than I can adequately put into words. I’ve met so many incredible people. Some of them I knew, some I had met before, some had only been names I had seen on my computer screen.

I will leave here Sunday feeling refreshed and energized, ready for the battles ahead.

Am I a radical?

Am I becoming a better person?

I don’t know.

But I will keep fighting.

Because I love my daughter, I love my students and I love all children everywhere.

For more of Steve Singer’s writing go to: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/

 

Malloy’s Strategy on Common Core SBAC Test – Look busy and make sh*t up

Governor Dannel Malloy’s press office just issued a “major announcement” concerning the Governor’s position on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less unfair.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less inappropriate.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less discriminatory.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL trying to force students to take a test that is designed to fail a  significant percentage of Connecticut’s children because it includes content that has not been taught.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC tests to label children and inaccurately “rank” the quality of education in Connecticut’s schools and school districts.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC test as part of a massive effort to collect data on children without parent’s understanding or permission.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC test results as an inappropriate criteria in Malloy’s teacher evaluation program.

And Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL CONTINUING their unethical, immoral and illegal effort to bully parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the disastrous Common Core SBAC testing scam.

In fact, the mandatory meeting to “instruct” targeted superintendents on how to keep parents from opting their children out of the SBAC tests is still taking place at the State Department of Education on Monday, February 29, 2016 at 4pm

Districts that had higher levels of opt out rates because they were honest with parents about the issue are still being required to submit a “Corrective Action” plan on how those school administrators will ensure parents don’t opt out this year.

The Malloy administration is still going to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of parents opt their children out by withholding federal funds that are intended to pay for extra services that poor children need.

And the Malloy administration is still pushing their new legislative proposal to repeal local budget flexibility for selected school districts that aren’t able to force 95 percent of parents to allow their children to take the absurd SBAC test

So what is Malloy and his administration doing?

The press release speaks for itself.

Malloy and his Commissioner of Education are announcing that they will  eliminate one section of the Common Core SBAC test, thereby leaving some of the worst sections intact, and then using a whole lot of rhetoric to make sh*t up!

Here is Governor Dannel Malloy’s “major” announcement

GOV. MALLOY AND EDUCATION COMMISSIONER WENTZELL ANNOUNCE NEW STEP TO REDUCE STATE TESTING

New Step to Limit Smarter Balanced Exam Builds on Effort to Help Districts Spend Less Time Testing and More Time Teaching

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell today announced the implementation of a new step that will reduce testing time and expand learning time for more than 200,000 Connecticut children across over 800 schools.  Changes to the application of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), impacting every student in grades three through eight, is as part of a broader effort to help districts spend less time testing students and more time teaching.

Currently in grades three through eight, there are two components of the SBAC exam.  The first is a computer adaptive test – the portion of the assessment done electronically with adaptive questions based on student responses – and the second is a performance task, such as essays.  As part of the new steps to reduce state testing, the performance tasks, which are often duplicative with in-class work, will be eliminated.  The change could increase learning time by up to an hour and forty-five minutes for every grade three through eight student.

The change is intended to increase student learning time, decrease student anxiety, assuage family concerns about testing, and limit over testing.

“We are working as hard as possible to be smart about testing, limit anxiety, and boost learning time.  Tests are important – they help us measure ourselves and pinpoint how to improve.  But where we find duplication, we should act.  We’re going to do just that with this new step,” Governor Malloy said.  “When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers, and families.  It’s our goal to be smart about how we test and ensure we find the right balance.  This decision is a step in that direction.”

“By rightsizing the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Connecticut’s needs, we are not only saving time and money, but we are improving the teaching and learning process,” Commissioner Wentzell said.  “Assessments are important tools that help us deliver on our promise to our kids and ensure that we are holding all of our students to high standards.”

SDE has studied the issue extensively and found that the computer only tests remain very reliable without the performance task portion of the grade three through eight English Language Arts exam.

The decision to reduce the length of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the latest move in SDE’s ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of standardized testing for public school students.  Other initiatives include the

decision announced in the summer to eliminate duplicative testing at the high school level by replacing the Smarter Balanced exam with the SAT for eleventh graders.  This particular change is expected to save Connecticut as much as $1 million dollars in test implementation costs.

Additionally, SDE is working with school districts to gather and share innovative strategies for reducing assessment time.  Last year, the state agency awarded $428,253 to 48 districts as part of the Assessment Reduction grant program.  Districts received awards up to $10,000 each.  The grants aimed to help districts comprehensively analyze their tests to ensure that they reflect district priorities, remain aligned to new state standards, provide maximum value, and are not redundant with other assessments, with the ultimate aim of reducing testing time wherever possible.

Governor Malloy and Commissioner Wentzell made today’s announcement during a visit to Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, where they highlighted the district’s effective use of its grant. In Cromwell, utilizing state grants, the district assembled a team to analyze assessments in grades kindergarten through five and were able to reduce duplicative testing by 13 percent.  More importantly, they also strengthened their assessment system for those grades by better aligning assessments to standards.

Under federal law, Connecticut must administer end-of-year tests to all students in grades three to eight and once in high school.  This change does not require Board of Education or legislative approval.

Check back for more details on Governor Malloy’s hollow political gambit on the Common Core SBAC farce.

Criticism of the NEW SAT grows as Connecticut’s 11th grades are told they MUST take it on March 2nd

Thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly, high school juniors attending Connecticut public schools are being told that they MUST take the NEW SAT during the school day on March 2, 2016.

Considering that the NEW SAT isn’t even aligned to Connecticut’s graduation requirements or high school curricula and that the new version of the SAT won’t even be statistically validated on a national level until after Connecticut’s 11th graders take the test, Connecticut’s elected officials have done nothing other than turn our students into guinea pigs for the $1 Billion standardized testing industry.

But of course, that is what the corporate education reform industry is demanding.

42,000 Connecticut students taking a faulty test, all at the expense of Connecticut taxpayers!

The truth is that after realizing that student grades are a better indicator of college readiness than standardized tests, hundreds and hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States are dropping the requirement that students even provide an SAT score with their application.

And as for the mandate, although Malloy’s Commissioner of Education continues to claim that high school juniors “MUST” take the discriminatory NEW SAT, like the SBAC testing scheme for grades 3-8, there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents students and parents from opting out of the test nor is there any law that allows the state or districts to punish students who don’t take the NEW SAT on March 2, 2016.

As I’ve written on Wait, What? “My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

One thing that is clear is that the professionals studying the NEW SAT are reporting that it completely fails to rectify the fundamental flaws that have undermined the credibility of the SAT.  Experts are reporting that the NEW SAT continues to discriminate based on a child’s socio-economic background and the test is inappropriately sensitive to short-term coaching, thereby assuring those who come from wealthier backgrounds can further game the system.

Just this week, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), blasted the NEW SAT warning students, parents, teachers and the public the NEW SAT fails to address the core problems that have made the test a relatively inaccurate predictor of how students will do in college.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s Public Education Director explains;

“Even the College Board admits that the ‘new’ SAT will not provide more accurate forecasts of undergraduate success. It will still under-predict the classroom performance of women, older applicants and students whose first language is not English. The coaching industry is already selling high-priced ‘test prep steroids’ to teenagers whose parents can pay thousands to artificially boost scores on the revised exam.

The ‘new’ SAT may look more consumer-friendly, but is not a better test,” Schaeffer continued. “The facelift is largely marketing bells and whistles. The changes seem designed to compete with the ACT, the most widely used admissions exam. The College Board also appears more interested in trying to slow the test-optional movement than improving the test’s measurement precision.”

Higher education decision-makers increasingly recognize that neither the ‘new’ SAT nor the rival ACT is needed for high-quality admissions.”

Since the College Board announced the SAT redesign, more than 50 schools adopted test-optional policies. This month, a Harvard study encouraged other colleges and universities to follow suit. More than 850 accredited, bachelor degree granting institutions do not require SAT or ACT scores from all or many applicants. That list includes 200 schools ranked in the top tiers of their academic categories.

FairTest also provides students and their families with critically important information about how various schools handle the growing controversy around the use and misuse of standardized tests.

Valuable links posted on the FairTest website included:

Test-optional and test-flexible colleges and universities:

and

List of 200+ top tier schools that do not require admissions test scores from all or many applicants       

For Connecticut readers, if you have a high school juniors, or know of a family with a high school junior, please send them the following links or urge them to search the Wait, What? blog using the term – “SAT”

Yet another warning about taking the state “mandated” NEW SAT on March 2, 2016

The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

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

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT

Connecticut school psychologist John Bestor on the NEW SAT and opting-out