Forget the “Fiscal Cliff,” Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor are hell-bent on forcing Connecticut to utilize something called a District Performance Index (DPI) and worse, they want to use it to determine how much education funding each community will receive.
To put it bluntly, despite the fact that their concept is completely untested, their solution to education funding and property tax relief is to rely on how well children do on various standardized tests, such as the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).
The initial creation of a District Performance Index (DPI) was hidden inside Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill. The Malloy administration’s argument at the time was that the concept was simply one of a number of mechanisms to measure and compare educational achievement. Instead of using the federal government’s flawed “annual yearly progress” system, Malloy’s plan was to develop an alternative, but equally flawed, District Performance Index system.
However, if their latest gambit is allowed to go forward, a community’s “District Performance Index” will have a major impact on local property taxes and could cost property tax payers more than any piece of legislation that has passed the Connecticut General Assembly in the last 25 years.
Think of it this way. Your taxes will go up depending on how well your community’s children do on some expensive set of standardized tests, tests that don’t even reflect the particular curriculum or approach your local school district may be utilizing.
If your students do better, your town gets less state aid and you will face higher property taxes.
The worse your students do, the more the state might send, but along with any additional support will come a renewed effort to mandate how that money must be spent.
There are moments in life when you see that something terrible is about to happen. If you are extraordinarily lucky and quick, intervention can stave off disaster, but most of the time you’re left to watch in horror as the disaster plays out in front of your eyes.
A moment like that is opening up before us. Property tax rates, state aid for education and ensuring Connecticut’s children have access to an appropriate, high quality education rests on whether elected officials handle this proposed legislation correctly.
But the problem is that most legislators don’t have a clue what the District Performance Index is or how much damage could be done if it utilized as a means for distributing state education funding.
Most disturbing of all, failure to do the right thing will change the course of education in our state – and not for the better.
If it all sounds a bit dramatic…it is because the changes that this absurd proposal would have would be dramatic.
Try this…If you run into a state senator or state representative, in the next few days, ask them to explain the advantage or disadvantage of implementing a system that relies on something called a District Performance Index. And ask them to explain just how it works, how it’s calculated. If they say anything other than – “I will never, ever support such a convoluted effort” – you know we’re in trouble.
As we all know, the factors that have the biggest impact on educational outcomes are poverty, language barriers and special education needs. Adequate funding is required to ensure that every child is provided the services and support they need to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.
The easiest way to explain Malloy’s District Performance Index proposal is that instead of weighting all of the key factors that impact the ability of Connecticut schools to help each child reach their potential, Malloy and his education commissioner want to use standardized test scores to create individualized numbers for every child, every grade, every school and every school district and then use that district’s number to determine which schools get more money and which schools get less.
While it would be convenient to have every student take a test and then say their scores explain which schools are good and which are bad, the reality is that there is no scientific evidence that such a simplistic approach reveals any useful information about whether an entire school or district should get more or less public money.
Yet Malloy and Pryor want to do exactly that. As a result of their standardized test scores, each district, school and student would “acquire” a number between 0 and 100, where 100 would be “perfect.”
To get the score, the state would have every student take a series of standardized tests.
Connecticut already spends about $25 million to hire for-profit companies to create and score the CMT and the CAPT.
In addition to the CMT and CAPT, the District Performance Index would include the so-called Modified Assessment Test and apparently other tests that have yet to be defined or developed.
While standardized tests would be mandated in every grade level, the only subjects that would be used for the District Performance Index would be reading, writing, math, and science. Although students would still be required to take other subjects, apparently the state feels that public funds should only be distributed based on how well or how poorly students do in just those selected topics.
In order to come up with the District Performance Index, and allocate the public funds, all the test results would be averaged so that a specific number could be developed for each school district, each school, each grade, and each child and for selected demographic sub-groups.
The state would begin by calculating an Individual Performance Index (IPI) for each student.
According to the State Department of Education, “if a child received a score that was at the goal level, they would receive a rating of 1.0. The proficient level would get them a .67, the basic level a .33 and below basic level wouldn’t get them any points. So a student who got a 1.0 in Reading, a .67 in Writing, a .33 in Science and a .67 in Math would end up with an Individual Performance Index of 67.
The Grade Performance Index would be based on averaging all of the students in that grade, while the School Performance Index would be calculated by averaging all scores for all of the students in the school. Finally, the District Performance Index would be set by averaging all the scores for all the children in the District.
So there we are. No more worrying about poverty or language barriers or special education services. Instead, we shift Connecticut’s school funding system to one that is based on an arbitrary index which is created through a process that is devoid of scientific reasoning, but instead requires a total and complete dependence on how well students perform on standardized tests.
Meanwhile, to make things even more bizarre, we’ve already seen that the Malloy Administration is committed to taking over schools whose performance, which will soon be measured via this absurd District Performance Index, is below par. They tried and failed to take over the Bridgeport schools, but succeeded in Windham and New London, where local citizens have now lost some of their most important rights of self-governance.
And when will this all happen?
It’s happening now.
In addition to facing a billion dollar projected budget deficit, when the legislature convenes in January, legislators are going to have to face Governor Malloy’s nonsensical proposal to corrupt Connecticut’s school funding system even further by inserting this District Performance Index debacle into the funding formula.