Connecticut remains committed to unfair SBAC Testing Scam in new federal plan

Earlier this month, with no legislative oversight and limited public input, the Connecticut State Department of Education become one of a handful of states to submit its proposed action plan under the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

Although the Trump administration has postponed the date states must submit plans until September 2017, the Malloy administration decided – for reasons that remain unclear – to jump the gun and submit a plan that fails to adequately utilize much of the flexibility contained in the new federal law.

One of the most noticeable and absurd aspects of Connecticut’s new ESSA plan is despite proposing record cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the Malloy administration claims that it will ensure that 100 percent of all students will be proficient on the state’s standardized tests by 2029-2030.

The truth is that while the Every Student Succeeds Act continues much of the test and punish elements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Race to the Top Program, the federal law does provide states with greater flexibility when it comes to how it relies on the use of unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

However, Connecticut, one of only 12 states to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education, informed federal officials that it remains committed to the use of the poorly constructed and blatantly unfair Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scam.

In a recent new report, Education Week Explains;

Under ESSA, states are required to pick both long-term and interim goals for student achievement and graduation rates.

And

States are supposed to give separate, “substantial weight” to student achievement, graduation rates, English-language proficiency and another academic indicator, as well as an indicator of school quality or student success. Academic indicators—like test scores and graduation rates—are supposed to weigh “much more” as a group than the indicator of school quality or student success.

Education Week goes on to note that;

Connecticut hasn’t set student achievement goals, although it has set growth goals for elementary and middle schools. The state considers its targets as setting “growth to proficiency.” 

and,

Connecticut is still working on its English-language proficiency indicator, which it plans to attach to student growth, rather than consider separately. Peer reviewers may question the fact that the state won’t be measuring English-language proficiency right from the start, and the fact that ELP won’t be a standalone indicator.

In addition to 100 percent achievement by 2029-30, the Connecticut plan claims that it will reach 94 percent graduation rates for all students, and all subgroups of students. In 2014-15, the graduation rate in Connecticut was 87.2 percent.

It is a sad commentary that the Malloy administration and his political appointees on the State Board of Education remain unnecessarily and inappropriately committed to the unfair SBAC testing system.

You can read more about Connecticut’s plan in Education Week via – http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2017/04/academic_goals_states_ESSA_plans.html

Connecticut will no longer use SBAC and SAT as part of teacher performance evaluations.

As the CT Mirror reports,

The state Board of Education voted late Wednesday afternoon to adopt new usage standards for state mastery test data, explicitly prohibiting the use of those test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

[…]

State education board Chairman Allan B. Taylor and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell both praised the board’s approval of the plan as an important clarification of the role state tests should play: a goal-setting tool for teachers, not part of a formula for rating an individual teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.

While state mastery tests – which include the Smarter Balanced assessments, SAT, CMT and CAPT science – are no longer an option, school districts are still required to measure teachers in part on their students’ testing success, which makes up 22.5 percent of the teacher evaluation rating. Now, school districts will have to choose from a number of non-state exams to evaluate teachers in that category.

In a written response, the Connecticut Education Association posted;

This is a big victory for students, teachers, and public education,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “The voices and expertise of teachers were heard and addressed by policymakers who did the right thing by putting the focus back where it belongs: on teaching, learning, and student achievement.”

[…]

Cohen concluded, “We feel confident that these new guidelines will have positive outcomes for everyone—students, teachers, and administrators—and will allow us to continue to move forward to improve the educational opportunities for all public school students in Connecticut.”

While the state’s action is an important and positive step, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test and the SAT will still be used for the unfair and discriminatory labeling of students, teachers and schools.

The State Board of Education Action means the SBAC and SAT will be used for the following inappropriate purposes;

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

The complete CT Mirror story can be found via the following link: https://ctmirror.org/2017/04/06/ct-scraps-using-state-test-scores-to-compute-teacher-ratings/

Progress made on making Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system fairer

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

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

As the Connecticut Education Assocation is reporting,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back for more on this developing story

Say NO to the unfair Common Core SBAC testing scam

SBAC testing season is, once again, taking shape across Connecticut.  Rather than focus on lessons and learning, Connecticut’s public schools will be wasting massive amounts of time and resources on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.  It is a scheme that not only wastes time and money but damages education by artificially labeling and judging children, teachers and public schools.

The responsible course of action it to refuse to allow your children to be used by the corporate education reform industry and those that are committed to their destructive strategies.

Opt your students out by telling your school that your child will not be taking the Common Core SBAC test this year.

Change the Stakes, a New York based pro-public education advocacy group, provides Eight Reasons to Opt Out of SBAC testing.  Change the Stakes explains;

  1. When students, teachers and schools are rewarded for high test scores and punished for low ones, the tests themselves become the focus of education. Class time is devoted to test prep, which robs children of their natural desire to learn.
  2. The state exams test only two subjects: English and math. That encourages schools to give less time to social studies, music, art, world languages, physical education, and even science.
  3. High-stakes testing undermines important learning. In its 2011 report to Congress, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed America’s test-based accountability systems and concluded, “There are little to no positive effects of these systems overall on student learning and educational progress.”
  4. State exams are loaded with poorly written, ambiguous questions. For example, a statement signed by 545 New York State Principals noted that many teachers and principals could not agree on the correct answers.
  5. While states are paying private test contractors millions of dollars, our public schools do not have the resources they need to ensure every child gets a quality education. This is part of a national trend: states cut funding to public schools while pouring millions into new computer systems designed for Common Core tests.
  6. High-stakes tests don’t help students learn or teachers teach. The results come too late for that. The tests are largely punitive: they punish teachers, students, and schools that don’t perform. Low test scores can be used to hold good students back and rate strong teachers as “ineffective” despite high ratings by their principals.
  7. High-stakes testing undermines teacher collaboration. The teacher evaluation system is undermining teamwork and cooperatives activities between teachers.
  8. One-size-fits-all tests punish and discourage students who are already vulnerable, including students of color, English-Language Learners, children with special needs, and students from families living in poverty.

Change the Stakes adds:

We strongly reject the way high-stakes standardized tests are hurting our children and denying them high-quality teaching in a healthy atmosphere that fosters the full development of their capabilities.

The Department of Education and the State Education Department have made testing a substitute for education. Testing has come to dominate school activity, dimming children’s natural enthusiasm for learning.  It has made 8-year olds anxious about what could happen if they don’t do well on the tests.

So much time is spent preparing students to take the annual statewide exams, field tests and an endless number of other tests that history, music, art and gym have been squeezed out of the school day.

Testing has been used to bully teachers, turning them into drill instructors who must follow stifling classroom routines to generate high test scores.  It has made teachers fear for their jobs, knowing they will be rated ineffective if their students don’t do well on unreliable exams.  It has made them compete against each other in an effort to survive, rather than work cooperatively.

And it has forced principals to intensify pressure to produce good-looking results, no matter what, because they are being threatened with the reorganization or possible closure of their schools if they fail to do so.

These different forms of punishment inflicted upon the public school system by high stakes testing have been called accountability.  The end result has been to create hundreds and hundreds of elementary and middle schools in which disruption and instability are the norm.

Students, teachers and principals are held accountable, but the low quality of the tests themselves is never accounted for.

Still there is another equally troubling and unacceptable aspect of all the testing.  As more and more testing has been piled on every child—parents have been left out of the discussion.

We are offended by the lack of respect shown to parents who have been kept in the dark by the federal and state officials about all the testing that is taking place and we demand immediate and specific answers to basic questions.  We are entitled to a complete test inventory—a matter of accountability on the part of the city and state officials responsible for approving, organizing and implementing the various testing programs.

Connecticut parents, now is the time to stand up for our children, their teachers and our public schools.

Like tens of thousands of parents are doing in New York State, opt your children out of the Common Core testing frenzy.

Begin by writing to your child’s teacher and principal telling them that your child is not to participate in the SBAC test.

And remember, there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that prevents an individual parent from refusing to have their child participate in the annual testing program.

The law requires schools to conduct the tests, it does not prevent parents from opting their children out of them.

Opt Out FACT – SBAC test will be unfairly used in Connecticut’s teacher-evaluation process

As more and more parents understand, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing program unfairly discriminates against poor students, students who aren’t fluent in the English language and students who require special education services.  It serves no useful purpose in today’s classrooms and certainly should not be used as a “high-stakes” test and punish program.

To make matters worse, as part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” initiative, the SBAC test will be used as part of Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system despite the fact that the test is developmentally inappropriate for many students and fails to adequately measure what is really being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

As Teacher Development Specialist, Kate Field, explained in a an April 2016 CT Mirror article,

Even the best standardized test is unable to measure the sizable domain of knowledge acquired over a year of study, and contains only a small sample of questions. Selection bias may unintentionally skew the sample of test items, which could result in some students scoring lower than others, not necessarily because they know less, but because they did not understand the way a question was worded.

Standardized tests also do a poor job of measuring important skills like creative problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Standardized tests tend, to varying degrees, to be culturally and linguistically biased against English language learners and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Field added,

Using SBAC [to evaluate teachers] undermines the integrity of teacher evaluation, because the test was not designed to measure teacher effectiveness. In addition, once a test becomes high stakes, teachers and administrators may feel pressured to sacrifice valuable learning time to teach test-taking strategies, and narrow their instruction to focus on the small sample of questions likely to appear on the test.

The truth is that the SBAC is a colossal waste of time and scarce resources and it should be dropped as a vehicle to label and punish students, teachers and public schools.

While Connecticut’s policymakers should simply do away with this terrible testing scheme, the best way for parents to have an immediate impact is to refuse to allow their child to be part of this unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory testing system.

Opting one’s children out of the SBAC test not only protects those students from the negative aspects of the testing program but it sends a powerful message to the state’s elected and appointed officials that parents will not stand idly by as the SBAC testing scam is used to undermine public education in Connecticut.

For a more about opting out including a draft opt out letter go to: Parents – Just say NO to the 2017 SBAC Testing Scheme

Parents – Just say NO to the 2017 SBAC Testing Scheme

SBAC  testing will begin soon in Connecticut’s schools.

FACT:  Parents have a fundamental and inalienable right to REFUSE to have their children take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test – Period, End of Story.

Do not be bullied into believing that you have lost your right to protect your children from the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “test and punish” SBAC testing system.

When considering the refusal (opt-out) issue it is critically important that parents understand that there is no federal or state law that eliminates a parent’s right to refuse to allow their children to take the SBAC test.

While there are federal and state laws that direct states and school districts to try and achieve a 95 percent participation rate for the standardized tests, the State Department of Education’s own instruction on the matter makes the truth clear.

In a February 29, 2016 PowerPoint presentation entitled “Improving Participation Rates on State Assessments,” the Connecticut State Department of Education states;

There are no penalties for students and families for not participating, however, there may be unintended consequences that have an effect on students and families in the school district

As to these consequences, the Connecticut the State Department of Education has informed districts that they will take action if a school district falls below 90 percent two years in a row.  However, no district has ever lost funds due to a high opt out rate.

And in New York, where opt out rates exceed 25 percent of all students, no district has ever lost money or been punished due to its failure to get students to take the unfair tests.

So remember, while federal law continues to “expect” participation rates of greater than 95%, there is no legal requirement – what-so-ever – that any individual student must take the SBAC test.

The following is a template letter that parents may want to use when opting their children out of the SBAC test:

Student:           _________________________          School: ___________________________

Teacher:          _________________________          Grade: ____________________________

Date:  ___________________________

Dear ____________________,

We are writing today to formally inform the district of our decision to refuse to allow our child __________________, to participate in the 2017 Connecticut Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test for grades 3-8

Our refusal should in no way reflect on the teachers, administration, or school board. This was not an easy decision for us, but we feel that we have no other choice. We simply see these tests as harmful, expensive, and a waste of time and valuable resources.

We refuse to allow any data to be used for purposes other than the individual teacher’s own formative or cumulative assessment. We are opposed to assessments whose data is used to determine school ranking, teacher effectiveness, or any other purpose other than for the individual classroom teacher’s own use to improve his or her instruction.

We believe in and trust our highly qualified and dedicated teachers and administrators. We believe in the high quality of teaching and learning that occur in our child’s school. We hope our efforts will be understood in the context in which they are intended: to support the quality of instruction promoted by the school, and to advocate for what is best for all children. Our schools will not suffer when these tests are finally gone, they will flourish.

We do apologize in advance for the inconvenience or scrutiny that this decision may cause the administration, the school, and staff.

Sincerely,

Steps to opting your child out of the SBAC test: 

STEP 1:  SEND A TEST REFUSAL/Opt-Out LETTER TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL

STEP 2: THE SCHOOL WILL USUALLY RESPOND WITH A LETTER STATING THERE IS NO PROVISION TO ‘OPT OUT’ OF CONNECTICUT’S SBAC EXAM. This is true, but the lack of a provision specifically providing for an opt-out does not negate the fact that parents have a fundamental right to refuse to have their children participate in the test.

In Connecticut, thousands of students were opted out of the testing in 2015 and 2016.  In New York, over 230,000 students refused to participate in that state’s annual standardized testing program.

If you’re being told that opting out isn’t an option, you’re being lied to.

STEP 3:  SEND FOLLOW UP LETTER AS NECESSARY 
Depending on the response you receive from your school district, you may need to reiterate your decision.  Opting your child out – that is refusing to allow them to participate – is your fundamental right.  The school district can make it difficult or bully you but they do not have the right to prevent you from protecting your children from this testing scheme.

STEP 4: CLARIFY TEST DAY ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL AND TEACHER.  PREPARE YOUR CHILD Depending on your school’s policy/procedure, prepare your child for what will happen on test day.  Be certain to keep in touch with your child’s teacher so that details are worked out in advance.

And remember – you have the right to instruct your school district that you want your child removed to a safe area during the testing periods where they can do school work or read a book.

The official SBAC requirements specifically dictate that only students taking the test may be in the testing room.  The SBAC manual states;

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

Connecticut Comprehensive Assessment Program Test Coordinator’s Manual For Summative Testing 2016–2017 Published January 3, 2017

Please share your questions, concerns or experience via [email protected]

Time to protect your children by opting them out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme

We are once again coming up on the time of year that Connecticut public school students will be told to stop learning and start testing.

Students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors will have their time and attention diverted from instructional activities in order to prepare for and take the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) test and the SAT.

These tests are useless and unscientific.  They fail to provide teachers and parents with any usable information about how to improve teaching or  student’s academic performance in relation to what is actually being taught in Connecticut’s classrooms.

Equally disturbing, these unfair and discriminatory tests are being used to categorize, rank and punish students, teachers and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker explained her in her recent piece, Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker,

Neither the SBAC nor the SAT is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC and SAT are not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

They are a worthless measure of how students are doing with what is actually taught in Connecticut classrooms.

And most troubling of all, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is literally designed to fail many Connecticut’s children.

As academic studies have clearly proven, although standardized tests are fraught with discriminatory elements, the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) was at least intended – more or less – to measure how Connecticut’s children were doing on the curriculum that was being taught in Connecticut’s schools.

On the other hand, the SBAC test is aligned to the Common Core, a set of developmentally inappropriate standards created by the corporate education reform industry and forced upon the states by those who seek to privatize our schools and turn our classrooms into little more than testing factories and profit centers for the massive testing industry.

Costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, the SBAC test is worse than a colossal waste of time and money because it is being used in an underhanded attempt to tell students, especially those who utilize special education services, those who need help learning the English language and those who come from poor households that they are failures.

Connecticut’s children deserve much better…

And Connecticut’s parents can have a profound impact on this situation by telling their child’s teacher and principal that their son or daughter will not be participating in this year’s SBAC testing farce nor will they be allowed to waste their time in the SBAC preparation lessons.

Now is the time to do what is right for Connecticut’s children….Opt them out of the Common Core testing scam.

A simple letter to your child’s teacher and principal refusing to allow your child to participate in the SBAC tests is the best way to stand up for Connecticut’s public school students.

Failed common core SBAC/SAT tests punish students by Wendy Lecker

In a weekend commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate entitled, Failed common core tests punish students, education advocate Wendy Lecker writes,

Across the country, states are re-examining their embrace of the hastily implemented common core tests. Membership in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has dwindled from 31 to 14 states. West Virginia is the latest state to consider dropping the test for all grades.

Last year, Connecticut convened a committee to review Connecticut’s standardized tests, the SBAC and SAT. However, the committee’s final report ignored serious validity problems and concluded Connecticut should plow ahead with these expensive and questionable standardized tests.

Connecticut’s teachers’ unions, CEA and AFT, dissented from this report, because these committee members did their homework. Their enlightening minority report is based on an examination of the evidence on the SBAC, as well as surveys of teachers, administrators, parents and students conducted across Connecticut.

The minority report highlights the evidence ignored by the Mastery Committee. It notes that experts across the country admit that computer adaptive tests such as the SBAC are “in their infancy” and their validity cannot yet be established. Compounding the validity problems is the inconsistency in computer skills among different populations in Connecticut, with poor kids at a particular disadvantage; and the inconsistency in devices used. Shockingly, the minority report emphasizes Connecticut has not proven alignment between the SBAC and our state standards. There is also no evidence that the SBAC is valid to measure student “growth.”

Administrators overwhelmingly agree that the SBAC is not user-friendly for students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

The SBAC is a bust. But, though recent federal law allows Connecticut to explore other types of assessments, Connecticut remains wedded to the SBAC.

The Mastery Committee report itself reveals the problems with the SAT. The technical report on which the committee relied to “prove” validity for use in Connecticut does not mention Connecticut once. It is worthless for determining the validity of the SAT as Connecticut’s high school accountability test. Moreover, the report the committee cited to show alignment between the SAT and Connecticut high school standards revealed only a 71-percent match to Connecticut English standards, with entire categories having no strong alignment or none whatsoever. Math had an abysmal 43 percent strong alignment between the SAT and Connecticut Standards. We know what would be in 100-alignment: a teacher’s end-of-year test and what students learned in that class. And since a high school GPA is a much stronger predictor of college success than the SAT, Connecticut would do well to explore high school tests that match what students actually learn.

But instead the Mastery Committee recommends blind adherence to the SAT.

Continuing these invalid tests comes at a steep price. As the minority report noted, 90 percent of teachers stated that testing and test prep has resulted in lost learning time and restricted access to computer labs. The impact is particularly devastating in our poorest districts. A majority of districts reported technical problems during testing, again with poorest districts suffering the most.

Contrary to Connecticut’s goals, these tests drive instruction, especially in poor schools. Disadvantaged districts are most vulnerable to sanctions such as school or district takeover based on poor test results. Thus, they have resorted to interim computerized tests for test prep. Children in Bridgeport and other districts suffer through multiple administrations of i-Ready tests and/or MAP tests, and prep for these tests. They lose additional weeks of learning time. Some of these districts have direct pressure from the state to use these tests, as their Alliance District funding depends on student improvement on these measures.

Yet, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins, there is a complete “lack of a research base on i-Ready and MAP as means for improving student learning” which they find “both surprising and disappointing given their widespread use as well as their cost.”

These same districts are deprived of proven interventions that actually help students learn. For example, the judge in the CCJEF school funding case found a lack of reading and math intervention staff throughout the CCJEF districts, as well as shortages of space, time and supplies for reading and math intervention. While districts cannot afford to provide real help for kids, they are forced to spend money and time on invalid measures of student performance.

It has been three years since Connecticut implemented the SBAC and there is still no evidence that it is valid. And Connecticut implemented the SAT knowing it was invalid for use as an accountability test. As long as our leaders keep failing to learn this expensive lesson, our neediest children will continue to pay the price.

This commentary pieces was first published in the Stamford Advocate.  You can read and comment on it at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failed-common-core-tests-punish-10906971.php

When you ask the wrong questions, you can’t possibly get the right answers. (By Ann P. Cronin)

The Mastery Examination Task Force, whose report about student assessment in our public schools is due to come out soon, has asked all the wrong questions. We, therefore, can’t have any confidence in the findings of the Task Force.

Questions that the Task Force never asked are:

  • Are the tests that we now use, the SBAC and the SAT, reliable, valid, and fair?
  • What kind of learning do we want to measure and why?
  • How can we assess students so that the assessment itself is a learning experience for them?

The first question is a meat-and-potatoes no brainer. If the SBAC and the SAT lack reliability, validity, or fairness, we shouldn’t keep spending time and money on junk.

The second and third questions tell us about the quality of the education we are giving to our students here in Connecticut.

A fourth question is: Why didn’t the Mastery Examination Task Force ask Questions 1, 2, and 3?

For an answer to that question, see Mastery exam task force report due soon — its findings ‘predetermined’ by John Bestor, written by veteran Connecticut educator, Jack Bestor, and first published in CT Mirror where it can also be read at . http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/01/04/mastery-exam-task-force-report-due-soon-its-findings-predetermined/

You can read Ann Cronin’s blog at: https://reallearningct.com/

Two critical education issues for the Connecticut legislature By Anne Manusky

Education advocate Anne Manusky weighs in in two extremely important issues that the Connecticut General Assembly should address this legislative session.  Her commentary piece originally appeared in the CT Mirror.  You can read and comment on the column at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2017/01/10/two-critical-education-issues-for-the-connecticut-legislature/

Two critical education issues for the Connecticut legislature By Anne Manusky

From my perspective we have two critical points in the current Connecticut education crisis that must be dealt with first during the General Assembly’s 2017 session: One, the Common Core State Standards – they are developmentally inappropriate for many of our children, especially those in the elementary years. And Two: Measuring our children using the new state mastery test, which lacks psychometric test validation and reliability.

It takes time for children to reach certain levels of development  (i.e. vision development is not typically fully acquired until between the age of 8 and 10; and a child’s first baby tooth will typically fall out about the age of 6 or 7). Years of child development theorists’ research,  seem to have been thrown aside when children’s education standards were proposed to be redrawn by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers.

Why this “education” without allowing for typical development? Pushing children to mentally do things they are incapable of is a form of child abuse.  The Connecticut Core Standards are in need of major overhaul and return to developmental appropriateness.

As for measuring academic progress, the Smarter Balanced Assessments are purported to use the Connecticut Core Standards to determine academic mastery levels of our public school children.  So where would factual information be on the analysis of the Smarter Balanced Assessments for Connecticut?

I submitted a freedom of information request in March, 2016, to Commissioner Dianna Wentzel and the State Department of Education for documentation of the validity and reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, as well as for the facts behind Commissioner Wentzel’s statement in a Hartford paper on the “…deep psychometric study…” done to remove a portion of the test to reduce test time.

Staff of the SDE provided Smarter Balanced Field Test materials from 2013, yet did not provide validity or reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) for Connecticut.   Assistant Attorney General Ralph Urban for Commissioner Wentzel and the State Department of Education said at the FOIA hearing they “can’t prove the existence of a negative” and “they don’t exist.”  How did Commissioner Wentzel and her staff make any valid decisions on this without this psychometric testing of the SBA for Connecticut?

The financial cost of this “test?”  It is in the neighborhood of $21 million over three years in Smarter Balanced testing and data collection through the American Institutes for Research.

This is a worrisome concern.  White papers such as Dr. Mary Byrne’s  regarding the validity of the Smarter Balanced Assessments  for Missouri, and the 100 California Education Researchers study (2016) provide details of what is missing to make the Smarter Balanced Assessments valid tests. This information was provided to Commissioner Wentzel, the SDE and the SBE, without response.

Connecticut’s General Assembly, especially the Education Committee, has very serious issues besetting it come this session — the future of our children’s public education.

Connecticut is obligated to its childrens’ public education and to provide developmentally appropriate, valid, and reliable academic testing.  Public education is not an enumerated right of the federal government, as provided in Article 10 of the U.S. Constitution.  Also, the fact the Smarter Balanced Consortium is an interstate compact which was never approved by Congress is another troubling point.

The “work” of the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education bring a great deal into question.

It is time for our state to return to local school district control and have parents and residents involved in education. Cut the CT Core Standards and fraudulent Smarter Balanced tests, which our state cannot afford financially or ethically.