Parents can (and should) consider opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests

FACT #1:

Connecticut parents and guardians have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Standardized Testing Program

FACT #2:

In addition to all myriad of problems associated with the Common Core Standards, including the concerns that some of those expectations are not developmentally appropriate, the Common Core SBAC Standardized Test is literally designed [rigged] to ensure that the vast majority of students are deemed “failures.”

Late last year, the Malloy administration joined with the other members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and voted to define the “proficient levels” on the SBAC tests.  The “Cut Scores” were set at a level where about 38 to 44 percent of  elementary and middle school children will meet the so-called “proficiency mark” in English/Language Arts and only 32 -39 percent will reach that mark in Math.

At the same time, SBAC set the cut score for the 11th grade SBAC Common Core Test so that approximately 41 percent will show “proficiency” in English/Language Arts and 33 percent will do so in Math.

This means that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to deem as many as 6 in 10 – and potentially as many as 7 in 10 – children as failures.

The scoring system is nothing short of child abuse.  (For details read: Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!)

FACT #3:   

While the overall waste of taxpayer money and student instructional time associated with the Common Core SBAC Testing disaster undermines the educational opportunities of every public school student, the testing scheme is particularly discriminatory against children who face English Language barriers, children who have special education needs and children who aren’t “excelling” at one to two grade levels ahead of their classmates.

FACT#4:

The only thing that will stop the Common Core and Common Core Testing scam from completely destroying our system of public education will be if our elected officials stand up and fight back against the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

For that to happen, parents need to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and send a loud and powerful message to our elected officials that the time has come to put the word “PUBLIC” back in Public Education.

[More on the legislative effort and legislative heroes in an upcoming post]

Here are the other FACTS Connecticut’s school parents and guardians need to know;

According to Connecticut State law, all public schools must administer the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  This year the Common Core SBAC test will be given to all students in Grades 3 through 8, and those in Grade 11.

However, there is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests.

To repeat:  There is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests AND there is no law that allows the government or local school districts to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing program.

Last year, a directive issued by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, instructed local school superintendents and principals that Connecticut parents COULD NOT opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC tests and his memo even provided districts with step by step instructions on how to pressure parents into not utilizing their rights to opt their children out of the tests.

According to the CT Mirror, in an interview with John Dankosky, last spring, on WNPR’s public radio show, “Where We Live” Governor Malloy said that, “federal law restricts students from opting out of taking standardized tests, and if the state were to give students that option, it would put the state at risk of losing millions of federal dollars.”

Malloy’s statement was simply untrue.

When the Chairman of the State Board of Education and Commissioner Pryor were finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 1014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

The Chairman of the State Board of Education agreed that there was no legal action that the state or school district could take to punish a parent or child who opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

While a law clarifying that parents can opt their children out would be helpful, and has been introduced into this year’s General Assembly (more on that soon), a parent’s right to opt their children out cannot be denied.

However, in response to Commissioner Pryor’s directive to local school superintendents, the majority of local schools inappropriately informed parents (and teachers) that students could not opt out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

But regardless of the false information and rhetoric coming from the Malloy administration, parents not only have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair testing program, they should strongly consider doing just that as a way to protect their children, Connecticut’s teachers and our state’s historic commitment to local control of public education.

Finally, after speaking with many local school superintendents and reviewing the correspondence that they sent out to teachers and parents last spring, it is clear that Malloy’s Department of Education also tried to scare local officials into believing that any widespread opt-out or  boycott of the Common Core SBAC test would jeopardize funding for the local school district.

Again, the state government used misinformation in their misplaced and ongoing attempt to mislead local superintendents.

The issue in question is called the “95% Rule”

According to President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), school districts are required to show, every year, that their tests scores are improving and that 95% of all students have taken the standardized tests.

But according the nationally-respected nonprofit, non-partisan, Fair Test organization,

 “No school or district anywhere in the country has ever been penalized for failing to test enough (95%) of its students.

Even more importantly, at least 41 states, including Connecticut, have been given federal waivers that supersede and preempt those provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Instead, Connecticut has chosen to go with a system of categorizing schools based on test scores and a number of other criteria.  According to Connecticut law and regulations, Connecticut categorizes its schools as being (1) Turnaround Schools, (2) Review Schools, (3) Transition Schools, (4) Progressing Schools and (5) Excelling Schools.

Turnaround Schools are defined as the 5% of the lowest performing schools and are subject to state intervention, state takeover, and even a state determination to close them and hand them over to a private charter school company. (The disgraced policy of giving Jumoke Academy control of the Milner School in Hartford and the Dunbar School in Bridgeport)

The next category, according to the State Department of Education, are “Review Schools” and this is where the so-called “95% Rule” might come into play….but not the way the Malloy administration has explained.

Review Schools are, “All schools with [Standardized Test] participation rates less than 95 percent, four-year cohort graduation rates below 60 percent, three-year baseline School Performance Indexes (SPIs) below 64…”

There is no financial punishment for being a “Review School.” In fact, there might even be some financial benefit if the state was actually allocated its funds appropriately.  But even more importantly, a school with a graduation rate of 60% or more has successful proven that it is making progress and no state official would have the audacity to define a school as failing simply because its participate rate fell below 95%, but it was successfully meeting all the other criteria for being a “transitioning school” or “progressing school.”

If parents take the time to examine graduate rates for their schools they will quickly see that the so-called “95% Rule,” is nothing more than a red herring.

As parents look around the nation they will discover that Common Core Testing opt-out and boycott efforts are taking place from sea to shining sea.

In New York States, entire school districts are refusing to even offer the test, a number of courageous teachers in various states are actually refusing to give the unfair and inappropriate Common Core Tests and tens of thousands of parents are stepping up to protect their children by opting them out of the tests.

Connecticut parents should certainly consider doing the same.

In the coming weeks, Wait, What? will be posting more information about how to opt your child out of the Common Core test and the issues surrounding the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco.

For now, here are the primary steps are protecting your children:

Submit a letter to your school principal and your child’s teachers indicating that your child will not be taking the test.

Let them know that you are aware that you are not required to keep your child at home during the testing windows and that your child should be provided with appropriate instructional activities while the Common Core Testing is taking place.

Ask them what arrangements they will make for your child during that time.

Also, here is a sample Opt Out letter follows:

Dear Principal _____________,

Thank you for all you do for my child, ___________ (child’s full name), and for our school.

I am writing to respectfully and formally inform you that ________ is not to take any tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC).

Please note that this is not a “request” to be excused from the tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC).

I am aware of Connecticut State Statute 10-14n which mandates that students take a statewide mastery examination. However, as you know, I have the legal right to refuse to allow my child to participate in these tests and neither the state nor the school district has any legal right to punish me or my child for taking this action.

Furthermore, please note that a “refusal” is not the same as “absent” as they are defined differently. As such,   _______ will not be required to participate in any makeup tests.

I will be informing ________ that he/she is not to take any tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC), and that if he/she is given one he/she is not to work on it in any way.

I would ask that the school please provide him/her with an alternative, instructionally appropriate activity during any and call SBAC related testing.

Please confirm your receipt and understanding of this letter.

Respectfully,

______________________

Parent’s name and contact information

Finally, you can also get more information about these issues from a variety of websites including the following:

United Opt Out: Connecticut Page

Truth in America Opt Out Form

Connecticut Against Common Core (and its Facebook counterpart Stop Common Core in CT )

You and Your Children Cannot Be Punished For Opting Out in Connecticut (Common Core in CT Blog)

Fair Test Memo: “WHY YOU CAN BOYCOTT STANDARDIZED TESTS WITHOUT FEAR OF FEDERAL PENALITES TO YOUR SCHOOL

And here are some of the previous Wait, What? Blogs on the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

Another reader speaks truth to power about the Common Core SBAC Test

Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

An Open Letter to Parents from a Connecticut Parent

How much time and money can Malloy and Pryor Waste on the Common Core Test of a Test

The Malloy Administration’s Big Lie: Parents Can’t Opt Out.

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

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

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

Will Malloy decouple Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair Common Core SBAC Test?

Last January, facing a tough re-election campaign, Governor Dannel Malloy and his pro-corporate education reform industry allies threw teachers a bone by postponing – for one year –the requirement that towns use the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test results as part of the state’s mandatory teacher evaluation program.

Malloy’s 2014 announcement maintained the requirement that the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test results be counted for nearly a quarter of each teacher’s evaluation, but he agreed to postpone the requirement that the test results be used as part of a teacher’s evaluation until the 2015-16 school year.

However, as was reported at the time, Malloy went out of his way to make sure that everyone understood that he was not “backing off his support for the teacher evaluation system or the Common Core.”

Those supporting Malloy’s education reform initiative were quick to add that the delay in using the corrupt Common Core standardized tests scores shouldn’t be for more than a year.

Jeffrey Villar, the executive director of the corporate-funded Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) was quoted by the Hartford Courant saying that standardized test scores needed to be part of any program that measured teacher performance starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

Villar explained, “Moving backward would be detrimental to our students and we want to make sure that we are globally competitive…”

Malloy’s action also received praise from the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions who heralded the move as an important step in the right direction.

In fact, the press release issued by the State Department of Education announcing the one year delay even included quotes from CEA President Sheila Cohen and AFT-CT President Melodie Peters.

CEA President Cohen was quoted as saying, “Today’s PEAC changes will foster a new climate that moves away from the rigidity and moves toward the healthy flexibility that our schools communities sorely need…,” while AFT-CT President Peters added, “With PEAC’s approval of new flexibility options, our state’s children will be the primary beneficiaries of this course correction.”

But the one year delay is quickly coming to an end and the unfairness of the Common Core SBAC test has become even clearer with the disturbing news that the Malloy administration supported setting the Common Core SBAC test “goal level,” at a point that is designed to ensure that approximately 70 percent of students fail to reach goal.

If the Governor or legislature do not move quickly to eliminate the expensive Common Core SBAC testing scam or decouple the use of the SBAC results from the state’s teacher evaluation system, Connecticut’s public schools will be forced to give the inappropriate Common Core SBAC test this spring and towns will be mandated to use the results from that unfair test to measure the “effectiveness” of their teachers.

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

Teachers, Parents, Public School Advocates, it is probably best to sit down for this one….

That bizarre and disturbing statement was the headline in a piece recently posted by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) following this week’s meeting of a Connecticut State Department of Education Working Group.

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

“Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.”

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

The Common Core Standardized Testing Scam, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium (SBAC), is actually designed to ensure that about 70 percent of Connecticut students fail. [Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! and Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster and A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker]

Not only is the Common Core testing system created to generate the false impression that Connecticut and the nation’s public education system is failing, but by tying the Common Core SBAC test results to the new inept, illogical and counter-productive Connecticut Teacher Evaluation System, the incredibly expensive “golden nugget” of the corporate education reform industry aims to denigrate teachers and blow apart what is left of the teaching profession.

But despite this truth, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration remain wedded to the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core standardized testing program and a teacher evaluation process based on the results of those tests.

As the CEA’s January 21 2014 blog post explains,

“Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May.

[…]

This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.”

The CEA goes on to report that at this week’s Working Group Meeting,

“Members of the working group [said they] are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.”

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

It was Governor Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education who joined the other state education chiefs who voted to set the “cut score” so that 70 percent of Connecticut’s public school students would be deemed failures.

It was Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education that remain committed to linking the unfair test to the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

And it is because Malloy’s complete unwillingness to de-couple the Common Core SBAC test results from the teacher evaluation system that teachers across Connecticut are being coerced to teach to the very Common Cores Standardized SBAC test that their students will fail – and those failing scores will be used to “evaluate” the teachers.

The CEA article adds,

“Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.”

The article also noted that Joseph Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and one the most vocal supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiative, said the results from the Common Core SBAC tests could, “scare the hell out of parents.” He apparently added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

“The new testing program is still in “the developmental stage”???

“A level of precision that it does not have”????

These two individuals and everyone else involved in the discussions surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing debacle know perfectly well that the SBAC test is designed to fail 70 percent of the students and that the SBAC test will be used as a significant factor in determining which Connecticut teachers are deemed to be “good’ and which will be deemed “not good.”

Instead of raising these “concerns” at a State Department of Education Working Group, the CEA, AFT and the other Connecticut organization purportedly committed to Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools – such as CABE and CAPSS – should be demanding that the Common Core be halted, the Common Core Tests eliminated that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system should be fully de-coupled from the SBAC test or any other standardized tests.

As if all of this wasn’t clear enough, in what is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and shocking comments to come out of the Malloy administration yet, the representative of the State Department of Education told the SDE working group,  “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

OMG, What the____?????

Malloy, with the support of the Connecticut legislature is the one that MANDATED the expensive and wasteful Common Core SBAC tests be given and MANDATED that the Common Core SBAC test scores be used to evaluate teachers.

As the CEA post adds,

“Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores)…”

The real problem is that the Common Core Standards were developed without the proper participation of educators and experts in child development.

Furthermore, as has been widely reported, some of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and the foundation of the Common Cores Standards are demanding that students immediately perform at a level that is at least two grade levels above what students have been learning.

The Common Core Test (SBAC) also discriminates against English Language Learners and students who require special education services…not to mention, as noted, that the absurd and warped system is actually designed with a pass/fail rate that will ensure that nearly 7 in 10 students fail.

The real problem with the entire situation lies with the Common Core itself and the way in which the Common Core standardized tests have been designed to undermine the stability of public education in America.

The solution is that the leadership of the two major teacher unions, and all of the others committed to public education, should be retreating from their support of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Yet even now, while the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers raise concerns and call for action, their fundamental position of support for the Common Core remains intact.

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

“NEA believes the Common Core State Standards have the potential to provide access to a complete and challenging education for all children. Broad range cooperation in developing these voluntary standards provides educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”

At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers says,

That if implemented carefully and with the needed supports and resources, these new standards will help improve education for all students.  At last July’s  AFT Convention, “AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. “

But the Common Core Standards are inappropriate, unfair, and discriminatory.  The Common Core standardized tests are inexorably linked to those Common Core Standards, and until we set aside the Common Core and the Common Core testing, our nation’s children, teachers and our entire system of public education system will remain the primary target for those who seek to destroy public education for their own financial and political gain.

And when it comes to the relationship between the Common Core, Common Core testing and the teacher evaluation systems, those who are responsible for speaking up for our children, our teachers and our schools simply say enough is enough and corporate education reform initiatives need to be dismissed and real action taken to reduce the barriers to academic success – poverty, language barriers, and unmet special education needs to name a few.

Perhaps the leaders of the CEA, AFT, CABE and CAPSS should also read or re-read the commentary piece published last year by Wendy Lecker, one of the state’s leading public education advocates.

Wendy Lecker’s piece entitled, “Solution to failed tests is not more tests,” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, and she wrote;

Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”

Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.

However, there is an even larger issue at play. Will the addition of more tests in a teacher’s evaluation help us measure whether a teacher is effective?

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Connecticut’s public schools must prepare children “to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

Thus, we want our children to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in college and in life. We want teachers who will help our children develop these skills.

Standardized tests have no bearing on college success. Moreover, although standardized tests are supposed to measure cognitive skills, research from MIT has shown that increasing test scores does not increase cognitive skills.

Even more striking is that cognitive skills, while important, are not the most important skills in determining success either in college or in life after college. Research has shown again and again that non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, taking responsibility, and listening skills are more critical.

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than two percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under ten percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.

Jackson also found that a teacher’s supposed effect on test scores is not related to how well that teacher can improve non-cognitive skills.

Moreover, a new statement by the American Statistical Association reminds us that ranking teachers based on test scores does not even work for measuring their effect on cognitive skills.

ASA notes that teachers account for 1-14 percent of the variability in student standardized test scores. The majority of variability in test scores results from “system-level conditions”; meaning everything affecting a student outside the teacher’s control: the child’s socio-economic status, parental background, language barriers, medical issues, student mobility, etc. Rating systems cannot eliminate the “noise” caused by these other factors.

ASA further states that test scores at best “predict only performance on the test.” This conclusion confirms Jackson’s results, i.e that tests cannot predict how well a student will succeed in school or life.

In the context of this evidence, what does the PEAC change mean?

By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.

Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school.

Meaningful evaluations systems can be developed, but relying on faulty measures is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

YES!  Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.