Connecticut Education Association (CEA) starts TV advertising campaign to promote their legislation

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Following this past weekend’s CEA election, Connecticut’s largest union has begun a new television advertising campaign to push the “less testing, more learning message.”

While the TV ad urges the public to call state legislators in support of the CEA’s bill to phase out the SBAC test, the ad unfortunately fails to support the opt-out movement or even mention that Connecticut parents have a fundamental right to refuse to have their children take the unfair and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

During the recent CEA convention, the delegates did adopt a resolution in support of opt-out, but the message didn’t make it to their TV ad.

According to the CEA blog today,

“A new CEA TV commercial featuring Connecticut students, teachers, and parents is now on the air urging lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring less testing and more learning in our public schools. The commercial asks members of the public to call their legislators and ask them to amend Senate Bill 1095.

Watch the commercial below and then call your legislators and share how SBAC testing is affecting your students.”

You can see the TV ad by clicking the following link;  https://youtu.be/B3K2z5kob7k

Meanwhile, around the nation, parents, students, teachers, teacher unions and elected officials continue the push back against the Common Core testing scheme.  Here are just an example of the hundreds of recent newspaper articles on the opt out movement.

In California, Standardized Testing Sparks Backlash

In Delaware, House Overwhelmingly Supports Opt-Out Rights

In Florida, Citrus County School Board Calls on Governor to Suspend Testing Consequences

In Illinois, Illinois Legislature Still Considering Opt-Out Bill

In Louisiana, Test Overkill Fatigue

In Maine, Maine Testing Opt Out, Assessment Reform Movement Hits Legislature and Maine Moves to End Smarter Balanced Testing

In Minnesota, Minnesota Teachers Want Scores Thrown Out After Repeated Computer Test SNAFUs

In Missouri, Testing Misuses Students to Evaluate Teachers and Schools

In Montana, State Testing Will Not Come Close to 95% Participation

In New Hampshire, Legislature Sends Governor Bill Allowing Test Opt Outs

In New York, English Language Arts Test Opt Outs Topped 205,000 Statewide

In New Jersey, Bill to Restrict Use of Standardized Exams Continues to Advance

In North Dakota, New Smarter Balanced Computerized Testing Has Many Problems

In Ohio, House Overwhelmingly Votes to Reduce State Testing

In Oregon, One in Seven Portland Juniors Skipped Common Core Exams

In Pennsylvania, Students Opt Out of State Keystone Exams

In Texas, Study Finds College Readiness Declines When Public Schools Focus on Test Scores

In Vermont, Testing is Profitable But Not for Students

In Virginia, Virginia Parents Say “”No” to Standardized Tests and Parents Learn How to Keep Their Kids Out of Standardized Tests

In Washington, Students Protest Common Core Exams and Maryville, Washington, Teachers Hold One-Day Strike Over Funding, Testing

In Wisconsin, Assembly Passes Bill to Skip Test-Based School Report Cards

CEA Convention passes Opt-Out Resolution, re-elects incumbents

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Congratulations to Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake on their re-election and a big thank you to Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick for running for and helping to push the CEA forward on the critical opt out issue.

As reported by the CEA Blog,

“Teacher leaders from across the state took decisive action today to strengthen the organization’s position on the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests and re-elect CEA President Sheila Cohen and Vice President Jeff Leake overwhelmingly.

The motion on opting out was unanimously adopted by teachers who were delegates to the CEA Representative Assembly (CEA RA), the highest policymaking body of the Association.

[…]

CEA has long supported the right of parents to make critical decisions about their children’s education. Today’s vote goes a step further by putting the full weight the CEA RA behind that position and providing great detail about teachers’ objectives in ensuring less testing and more learning in Connecticut public schools.

[…]

Essential components of the motion include:

  • Call on state policymakers and local school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to discuss standardized tests with parents and inform them of their ability to exclude children from state and/or district standardized tests.
  • Call on state lawmakers and school districts to formulate and pass legislation and policies that allow school employees to provide parents with their opinions on whether students would benefit from exclusion from a state/and or district standardized test and that no adverse action or discipline would be taken against employees who engage in such discussion.
  • Provide that a school and its employees would not be negatively impacted due to a student not taking a state and/or district-level standardized test, such as by ensuring that students who are opted out of standardized tests by a parent or guardian are excluded from performance calculations for state and local accountability measures and from employee evaluations.
  • Reexamine public school accountability systems throughout the state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment that do not require extensive standardized testing, that more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.

Also at the Convention,

The 2015 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Cara Quinn, said that poverty is a problem that cannot be ignored. “Collectively we have the power to advocate for real and tangible things that will make a difference for our poorest students and families. First, we can insist that the state’s educational cost sharing grant is completely funded. We can push for universal, free, pre-K programs for all of our children living in priority school districts.”

She continued that teachers should work to protect funding for wrap-around services that meet the social, emotional, and medical needs of our students. She emphasized, “We can make phone calls, send emails, and meet with our legislators and tell them that we demand action on these issues. These are simple things that will make a profound difference for our kids.”

She concluded, “As teachers, we are the champions of equity and justice. As teachers, as citizens who vote, we can make these things a reality.

A new president for AFT-CT? 

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Connecticut’s two major teacher unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter are meeting tomorrow to elect officers.

Word is spreading that the American Federation of Teachers will finally get a president who is actually an educator and will speak up and fight for the interests of the teachers who are members of the AFT-CT, in addition to the union’s health care affiliated members.

Multiple sources confirm that Jan Hochadel, who presently serves as the President of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, appears poised to become the AFT-CT next president at tomorrow – May 15, 2015 – AFT-CT convention which will be taking place in Southington, Connecticut.

The selection of an educator to lead the AFT-CT would be a major leadership shift for the AFT-CT, a union that has been one of the loudest apologists for Governor Dannel Malloy, despite Malloy’s unprecedented and ongoing assault on teachers, the teaching profession and Connecticut’s public schools.

In particular, the news means former state senator and Malloy ally Melodie Peters would be out of the job.

Jan Hochadel’s career has been dedicated to the Connecticut Technical High School System, its teachers and 11,000 students who annually attend Vo-Tech high schools in the state.  The State Vocation Federation of Teachers is the union that represents teachers as these state run high schools.

The change in leadership would certainly send a strong message to government officials, not only about the importance of teachers and teaching, but the value of Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools which have been reeling as a result of budget cuts and abusive initiatives implemented by recent Republican and Democratic governors.

In his first term, Governor Malloy actually proposed disbanding Connecticut’s historic Vo-Tech system and farming the individuals schools out to local school districts.

In her present capacity as president of the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, Jan Hochadel is known as a leading advocate for vo-tech education at both the state and federal level.

In addition to fighting for better state funding and support for Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools, she recently served as a featured speaker at a major Washington D.C. Capitol Hill briefing last month about strategies to improve Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the United States.

The change in leadership would come as especially good news to the students at Connecticut’s Vo-Tech high schools who have been particularly hard hit by the negative aspects of the rapid move to the Common Core and the implementation of the unfair Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Not only have the Vo-Tech schools been required to implement the new Common Core standards without the appropriate resources to make it happen, but the system’s state administrators have been among the worst offenders when it comes to misleading students and parents about the Common Core SBAC testing requirement.

In recent weeks numerous Vo-Tech high school students or their parents have reported that they have been misled, harassed and told that they must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate, a requirement that clearly violates state law.

A new leader for AFT-CT would provide the nationally renowned union with a unique opportunity to return to a leadership position on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

More on this breaking story as it develops.

The CEA convention starts this evening with an election for officers tomorrow.  Challengers Martin Walsh and Scott Minnick are challenging the incumbent slate of Sheila Cohen and Jeff Leake for the position of President and Vice President.  Walsh and  Minnick have been especially vocal on behalf of the Common Core SBAC opt-out movement and have been pushing the CEA to join the opt-out effort here in Connecticut.

Do you know a high school junior who is being told they MUST take the SBAC Test to graduate?

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This is an EMERGENCY request for information;

Connecticut law specifically prohibits school districts from requiring students to take the state “Mastery Test” in order to graduate.

However, in unethical, immoral and unprofessional attempt to stop students from opting out or being opted out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme, a number of Connecticut schools are telling students that the SBAC test is a graduation requirement.

A number of parents, students and community members have already forwarded evidence about the bullying and harassment that is taking place in particular schools and districts.

Your assistance in determining the extent of the abusive tactic is critically important.

If you know of a high school or school district that is misinforming students that must take the Common Core SBAC test in order to graduate or are otherwise misleading or lying to students or parents about the SBAC test, please send the details immediately to [email protected]

Please provide as many details as possible, including, any emails, documents or other evidence of the abuse.

The name of the principal, assistant principal or other school official engaged in this unethical action is also requested.

The source of any information will be kept strictly confidential.  The actual documents can be kept confidential, if requested, but please do send along the information so that a master list can be put together of schools, school districts and school administrators who are failing to perform their duties in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Rich do better, poor do worse – Step right up and try your luck at the SBAC Test….

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Guess what?  When it comes to the Common Core SBAC test and other unfair and discriminatory standardized tests, students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse.    

The following assessment of what influences standardized test scores comes from education researcher Christopher Tienken via education blogger Peter Greene.

Peter Greene is a fellow education advocate, an educator and one of the country’s leading education bloggers. His blog is called Curmudgucation.   Christopher Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University, a former school administrator and teacher and an expert on the factors that influence standardized test scores. His work can be found at http://christienken.com/

Being that the information presented below is academic, fact-based and intellectual, some elected officials won’t take the time to read it or perhaps understand it, but the information confirms what has been understood and discussed by opponents of the Common Core SBAC testing and other inappropriate standardized testing schemes.

The information proves – yet again – that standardized test scores are driven primarily by factors far beyond the control of the classroom teacher.  Poverty, English Language proficiency and unmet special education needs are all key factors in producing lower test scores.

As Green and Tienken explain –  Standardized Test Scores ARE NOT related to grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style or curriculum evaluation….  They are a product of the socio-economic characteristics of the students taking the test.

Thanks to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing scam, while raising taxes and cutting education programs, Connecticut will spend approximately $100 million on the SBAC testing this year to tell us that the rich do well and the poor do poorly on the fraud of a test.

Just take a look at the following;

Good News! We Can Cancel The Tests Now! (By Peter Greene)

Christopher Tienken is a name you should know. Tienken is an associate professor of Education Administration at Seton Hall University in the College of Education and Human Services, Department of Education Leadership, Management, & Policy. Tienken started out his career as an elementary school teacher; he now edits American Association of School Administrators Journal of Scholarship and Practice and the Kappa Delta Pi Record.He and his colleagues have done some of the most devastating research out there on the Big Standardized Tests.

Tienken’s research hasn’t just shown the Big Standardized Tests to be frauds; he’s shown that they are unnecessary.

In “Predictable Results,” one of his most recent posts, he lays out again what his team has managed to do over the past few years. Using US Census data linked to social capital and demographics, Tienken has been able to predict the percentage of students who will score proficient or better on the tests.

Let me repeat that. Using data that has nothing to do with grades, teaching techniques, pedagogical approaches, teacher training, textbook series, administrative style, curriculum evaluation— in short, data that has nothing to do with what goes on inside the school building– Tiemken has been able to predict the proficiency rate for a school.

“For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.”

Tiemken’s work is one more powerful indicator that the BS Tests do not measure the educational effectiveness of a school– not even sort of. That wonderful data that supposedly tells us how students are doing and provides the measurements that give us actionable information– it’s not telling us a damn thing. Or more specifically, it’s not telling us a damn thing that we didn’t already know (Look! Lower Poorperson High School serves mostly low-income students!!)

In fact, Tiemken’s work is great news– states can cut out the middle man and simply give schools scores based on the demographic and social data. We don’t need the tests at all.

Of course, that would be bad business for test suppliers, and it would require leaders to focus on what’s going on in the world outside the school building, so the folks who don’t want to deal with the issues of poverty and race will probably not back the idea. And the test manufacturers would lose a huge revenue steam, so they’d lobby hard against it. But we could still do it– we could stop testing tomorrow and still generate pretty much the same data. Let’s see our government embrace this more efficient approach!!
And for the original source of information read – Predictable Results (by Christopher Tiemken)

Colleagues and I used US Census data to predict state test results in mathematics and language arts as part of various research projects we have been conducting over the last three years. Specifically, we predicted the percentage of students at the district and school levels who score proficient or above on their state’s mandated standardized tests, without using any school-specific information such as length of school day, teacher mobility, computer-to-student ratio, etc.

We use basic multiple linear regression models along with factors in the US Census data that relate to community social capital and family human capital to create predictive algorithms. For example, the percentage of lone parent households in a community and percentage of people in a community with a high school diploma are two examples of community social capital indicators that seem to be strong predictors of the percentage of students in a district or school that will score proficient or above. The percentage of families in a community with incomes under $25,000 a year is an example of a family human capital indicator that has a lot of predictive power.

In all, our regression models begin with about 18-21 different indicators. We clean the models and usually end up with 2-4 indicators that demonstrate the greatest predictive power. Then we enter those indicators into an algorithm that most fourth-graders, with an understanding of order or operations, could construct and calculate. Not complicated stuff.

Our initial work at the 3rd-8th and 11th grade levels in NJ, and grades 3-8 in CT and Iowa have proven fairly accurate. Our prediction accuracy ranges from 62% to over 80% of districts in a state, depending on the grade level and subject tested.

In one study soon to be published in an education policy textbook co-edited with Carol Mullen, Education Policy Perils: Tackling the Tough Issues, I report on a study in which I predicted the percentage of students in grade 5, at the district level, who scored proficient or above on New Jersey’s former standardized tests, NJASK, in mathematics language arts for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 school years for the almost 400 school districts that met the sampling criteria to be included in the study.

For example, I predicted accurately the percentage of students at the district level who scored proficient or above on the 2011 grade 5 mathematics test in 76% of the 397 school districts and predicted accurately in 80% of the districts for the 2012 language arts tests. The percentage of families in poverty and lone parent households in a community were the two strongest predictors in the six models I created for grade 5 for the years 2010-2012.

Colleagues and I predicted the percentages of students scoring proficient or above for grades 6,7,8 during the 2009-2012 school years as well. For example, we predicted accurately for approximately 70% of the districts on the 2009 NJ mathematics and language arts tests. Recently, another colleague and I predicted the grade 8 NJ mathematics and language percentages proficient or above for over 85% of the almost 400 districts in our 2012 sample.

The results from Connecticut and Iowa are similar, with accurate predictions in CT on all tests grades 3-8 ranging from approximately 70% to over 80%. The Iowa predictions were accurate in approximately 70% of the districts.

Being a “rich” district or a “poor” district had no bearing on the results. We accurately predicted scores for “rich” and “poor” alike. The details will be published in upcoming books and journals so stay tuned.

The findings from these and other studies raise some serious questions about using results from state standardized tests to rank schools or compare them to other schools in terms of standardized test performance. Our forthcoming results from a series of school level studies at the middle school level produced similar results and raise questions about the appropriateness of using state test results to rank or evaluate teachers or make any potentially life-impacting decisions about educators or children.

So Connecticut parents and taxpayers;

When you are being abused or hearing about children and parents being abused and harassed for opting out of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test or when you are paying more in taxes and watching important school programs and services cut, now that thanks to our elected and appointed  officials we are pissing away $100,000,000.00 a year forcing children to take a test that will tell us that students from rich families tend to do better and student from poor families tend to do worse on standardized tests.

 

Lacking evidence, Malloy and CT legislator say Common Core SBAC is good and valid

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Vermont, like Connecticut, is a member of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

However, while Connecticut officials charge forward with the Common Core SBAC test program; officials in Vermont are applying the brakes having recognized that there is NO evidence that the test scores from the SBAC test will be a statistically valid measure of student performance.

On March 17, 2015 the Vermont State Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution suspending the use of the SBAC test results.  The resolution explained.

“[U]nless empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (‘college and career-ready’), test results should not be used to make consequential judgments about schools and students.”

-Vermont State Board of Education March 20, 2015

But 199 miles to the south, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and the House Chair of the legislature’s Education Committee, Andy Fleischmann, don’t need to hear about studies or facts that would tell them that the test is designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut’s children, they are confident that the test is good, useful and valid.

But the fact is that according to the reports provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), only about 32 percent of Connecticut’s 8th graders will “pass” this year’s SBAC math test.  The projected number of African American children who will receive passing grades on the SBAC math test is only 15 percent, while the number of Latino expected to receive a passing grade is 19%.  Less than 8 percent of students who require special education services are projected to get passing grades and for children who are not proficient in English, only 5 percent are expected to pass the math portion of the 8th grade SBAC test.  The pass/fail rate is similar for students in grades 3-8, as well as for high school juniors who are taking the SBAC test this year.

But despite having clear and stark evidence that proves the SBAC test is unfair and discriminatory, Connecticut’s Democratic governor and one of the leading Democratic state legislators responsible for education policy in Connecticut are actually applauding the value and appropriateness of the SBAC test.

According to a today’s article, here is what the two told the CT Mirror,

“I think the Smarter Balanced test is the right test. A lot of work has gone into developing that and, you know, I think that we are actually seeing success with it being given and making real progress.”

– Governor Dannel Malloy May 13, 2015

“That test does show to be robust and valid.”

– State Representative Andy Fleischmann, Chair CT Education Committee 5/13/2015

Imagine…

State officials saying that a test designed to fail the vast majority of our child and clearly discriminates against children of color and children who require special education services is the “right test” and shows to be “robust and valid.”

The level of ignorance and stupidity would almost be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that these two individuals play such a major role in deciding education policy in Connecticut and therefore, the fate of our children.

Forcing children to take the Common Core SBAC test is nothing short of child abuse.

But none of these “public servants” — or their colleagues and allies —- are willing to step forward to protect Connecticut’s children or even to publicly recognize and support a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test.

Not Malloy, not Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, not Democratic state legislators, not the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut Chapter.

But really – intentionally, inappropriately and repeatedly labeling children as failures when they are not is an insidious and disgusting form of child abuse and yet these officials simply turn their heads away and allow the abuse to go on unchecked.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

For those who want to read more about Vermont’s approach start with fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s recent piece entitled The truth about the SBACs.

TAKE NOTE – Real Educators don’t punish AND bully students and parents for opting out!

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The Testing Opt-Out Movement Explodes, and the Empire Strikes Back is the title of the latest article written by fellow education advocate and blogger Lisa Guisbond.

Published in the Huffington Post, it is almost like Guisbond has been reading the emails that I’ve been receiving here in Connecticut, when she observed,

“Unable to dismiss the opt-out movement, some officials seek to bully test resisters into compliance.”

With many Connecticut school districts beginning to give the Common Core SBAC test to high school juniors next week, examples are mounting quickly of the number of Connecticut school administrators who have been engaging in inappropriate, unprofessional and unethical attacks on Connecticut’s High School Juniors who have been opted out or wan to opt out of the destructive SBAC testing scheme.

As Wait, What? readers know —- There is absolutely no law, regulation or policy that allows the state or a school district to punish a child (or parent) who has opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

In addition, neither the state nor a school district may require that a student pass (or even take) the SBAC test in order to graduate!

Period, end of story.

School officials who are telling students that they MUST TAKE THE SBAC TEST IN ORDER TO GRADUATE are lying or so misinformed that they shouldn’t be allowed to hold on to the certification needed to keep their jobs.

Yet despite the undeniable fact, a growing number of school administrators are actually telling high school juniors (and their parents) that failure to take the test will keep them from graduating or are threatening students with a variety of punishments including telling them they will need to take “remedial” courses, hand in special projects or take additional tests in their senior year if they fail to take the SBAC test this year.

Prompted by the misleading information and out-right lies coming from the Connecticut State Department of Education, a stunning number of school districts are attempting to force high school juniors to waste their time on the SBAC test now – at the very time – they should be working to improve their grade point average and focus on the tests that will actually help them get into college, such as the SATs, ACTs and AP tests.

It is simply beyond comprehension that a number of school administrators, who wish to be called educators, would take steps that literally jeopardize the ability for their students to get into the college of their choice – all in the name of making students college and career ready.

It is not as if school administrators don’t know or can’t read the wording the Connecticut State Law that specifically prohibits school district from using the passage of the SBAC test as THE criteria for graduation or promotion to the next grade.

Connecticut State Statutes Sec. 10-14n. Mastery examination states;

(e) No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.

The law strictly prohibits Connecticut school districts from using a student’s passing score on the Common SBAC test as THE criteria that must achieve in order to graduate.

If a School District cannot use a passing score as THE criteria, then it certainly can’t use failure to get a passing score as THE criteria to graduate or not to graduate.

And if a School District cannot use a passing score or a failing score as THE criteria to graduate or not graduate then obviously can’t use a student’s lack of a score as THE criteria to graduate or not graduate

The concept is simple.  The SBAC test CANNOT BE REQUIRED IN ORDER TO GRADUATE.

Compounding the immediate problem for high school juniors is that taking the test this year sets up a potentially disastrous result for any highs school junior planning to apply for college next fall.

According to the SBAC organization’s own report, the SBAC test is DESIGNED TO FAIL 67% of high school juniors on the math portion of the test and 60% of high school juniors on the English/Language Arts portion of the test.

A good grade-point average, good SAT Scores and good scores on ACT and AP exams will all help a student get into the college of their choice.

To take a test that is designed to fail the vast majority of students is to set up a scenario in which a student is undermined by a test that is rigged to produce failure.

Every high school junior and their parent should review the following data which comes from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  The chart identifies the projected results for this year’s SBAC test and it shows the percent of high school juniors, in each category, that are expected to fail.

Considering the massive number of students who are opting out across the nation, and therefore will not have Common Core tests on their academic records, Connecticut high school juniors need and deserve school administrators who will be honest and help them through this difficult process rather than intentionally undermining their commitment to pursue a college degree.

For the vast majority of high school juniors the reality is that “no grade” on the unfair Common Core SBAC test is better than having a failing grade that will become part of their academic record as the apply to colleges.

11TH Grade SBAC Math Test – PERCENT PROJECTED TO FAIL

Student Grouping % Projected to Fail
   
All Students 67%
   
African American Students 83%
   
Latino Students 80%
   
Special Education Students 93%
   
English Language Learners 94%

 

11th Grade SBAC English/Language Arts Test  – PERCENT PROJECTED TO FAIL

Student Grouping % Projected to Fail
   
All Students 60%
   
African American Students 79%
   
Latino Students 68%
   
Special Education Students 91%
   
English Language Learners 94%

 

Students (and their parents) need to do what is best for their particular situation.  However determining what is best becomes virtually impossible when school administrators resort to abusive bullying.

The bulling and harassment of high school juniors by some school administrators has got to stop!

Say No to SBAC (by Ann P. Cronin)

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If you don’t follow Ann Cronin’s new blog entitled Real Learning CT you need to go bookmark the site and make a daily stop to read her latest pieces.  Ann is a Connecticut educator and has posted a number of guest columns here at Wait, What?  She now has her own education blog and today she has a MUST READ commentary piece titled Say No to SBAC.

Ann Cronin writes;

Say No to SBAC.

Connecticut currently mandates the testing of public school students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 with standardized tests produced by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). I am opposed to SBAC testing for English language arts because those tests neither measure authentic achievement nor foster students’ growth as readers, writers, and thinkers. Here are 10 reasons to STOP the harmful SBAC testing.

  1. SBAC tests are not rigorous.

The tests do not demand complex thinking. The tests are aligned to the Common Core standards, and the content of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts is inferior content which does not serve to develop students as motivated, engaged readers and effective writers.

  1. SBAC tests are not field-tested for college and career readiness.

No one knows if a good score indicates that a student will be successful in college or careers or if a poor score indicates that a student will struggle in college or careers. According to Joseph Willholt, executive director of SBAC, there is a “large validity question “ about the tests in regard to college readiness.

The SBAC tests do not measure the skills students will need for the global workforce. Those needed skills are: to pose and shape critical questions, to collaborate with others of different cultures and points of view, to communicate effectively orally and in writing, and to use meta-cognitive skills (learning how to learn skills) when facing new problems. Other countries with which we compare ourselves measure those skills because they have standards for them, but we have neither the standards to teach those skills nor the SBAC tests to measure them.

  1. SBAC tests are not developmentally appropriate.

The Common Core English Language Arts Common Standards were not written by educators or those with knowledge of child and adolescent development. They were written by employees of testing companies. The content of the standards and of the SBAC tests is simply what test makers determined could be measured on standardized tests, not what is appropriate for students to learn or what fosters student growth as readers, writers, and thinkers. The National Council of Teachers of English did not endorse the Common Core because of the content of those standards,  the content SBAC tests measure.

  1. SBAC tests are capriciously graded.

The passing grade on the tests is arbitrarily set. On the high school SBAC tests, the passing grade is set such that 70% of students will be labeled as failing the math portion and 60% labeled as failing the English portion. The passing grade on SBAC has been set at what the highly respected National Assessment of Educational Progress considers a B+/ A- performance. SBAC labels all those who score a B or lower as failures.

  1. SBAC tests serve to widen the achievement gap.

The more time students spend preparing for SBAC tests, the less education they will have in authentic literacy learning. Time spent in test prep for SBAC robs students of reading, writing, and collaborating experiences which develop literacy skills. Schools with a history of low test scores spend concentrated time on test prep; schools with traditionally high test scores do not spend time on test prep. Therefore, the gap between those graduates with genuine skills in reading, writing, and collaborating will widen with students of privilege receiving a notably better education than students in schools with historically low test scores.

  1. SBAC tests discriminate against Connecticut’s neediest students.

Since all standardized test scores correlate with family income, many children of poverty will fail. How long will students be motivated to learn and how long will they stay in school if they fail tests in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5thgrade, 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade? Not only are impoverished students receiving a poor education with Common Core but their dropout rate will also increase.

  1. SBAC tests narrow the curriculum.

Preparing students for SBAC tests requires a high school English curriculum that strictly adheres  to the Common Core. That adherence severely limits what students read, what thinking skills they learn as readers, what students write, and what kind of thinking skills they learn as writers.

Common Core limits the amount of literature read and totally eliminates teaching students the skills of questioning, making text connections to themselves and their world, and analyzing multiple and divergent interpretations  that reading literature offers. None of those skills are assessed on the SBAC test so are not part of the test prep curriculum many schools have adopted.

Similarly, that test prep curriculum does not develop students as writers and thinkers. High school students are tested only on how they write formulaic arguments, graded either by computers or hourly employees hired through Craig’s List and not required to have knowledge about the craft of writing.   Therefore, students do not have a curriculum rich in writing experiences which develop their inductive, explorative,  and narrative thinking – all keys to success in higher education and the workplace.

  1. SBAC tests encourage poor pedagogy.

Because of the high stakes of the SBAC tests, English teachers, especially in schools with a history of low standardized test scores,, prepare students for the test by adhering to the pedagogy prescribed by the Common Core. It, however, is a flawed and discredited pedagogy prevalent in the 1940’s and 50’s and does nor prepare students to think complexly. Not only does that pedagogy severely restrict students’ development as readers and writers, it discourages many of them from even wanting to become readers and writers.

  1. SBAC tests will not “level the playing field”.

Connecticut is already doing well with literacy education.

Connecticut ranks higher than 62 nations in the reading performance of 15 year olds (according to the 2012 PISA- Program of International Student Assessment) and ranks highest in the country in reading performance of high school seniors (according to NAEP, the nation’s most authoritative measure of academic performance in reading and math). If standardized tests are thought to give us useful information, we already have that information.

We know that affluent areas of Connecticut provide an unparalleled education for their students, and we know that where students are impacted by poverty and racism, those students suffer. To level the playing filed, we need to provide for impoverished students what their more privileged peers have been given and standardize opportunities for learning for all students.

  1. SBAC tests teach the wrong values.

The tests teach children that competition, beating out other schools and other students, is what matters instead of the student’s own learning, the student’s own passion for ideas, the student’s own growth as a thinker, a reader, and a writer.

Connecticut educators can design assessments which measure the achievements students really need for their future. I have done considerable work with teachers in both affluent and impoverished districts to design assessments that measure critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, and oral and written communication for students of all abilities. Student achievement always exceeds original expectations when teachers are invited to do this work.

We CAN improve achievement in Connecticut for ALL of our students but not with SBAC tests.

You can find this article and Ann Cronin’s other pieces at: http://reallearningct.com/

Will anything convince Connecticut’s teacher unions to join the Common Core Opt-Out Movement?

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All across the nation, teacher unions at the state and local level are joining parents, students and teachers in an unprecedented uprising against the massive unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme.

Here in Connecticut, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing craze began on March 27, 2015.

Yet six weeks have gone by and there is still no public sign of support for the opt out movement from Connecticut’s two teacher unions – the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter (AFT-Connecticut).

At this point, Connecticut’s teacher unions have forever lost the opportunity to help lead the charge.  But even running to jump on the opt-out train would be an important and appreciated gesture of support for Connecticut’s public school students, parents and teachers.

What is so incredibly strange, even bizarre, about the utter lack of action by Connecticut’s teacher unions is that it is in such stark contrast to what other teacher unions are doing around the country.

In New Jersey, the headline on the New Jersey Education Association website demands that Republican Governor Chris Christie and his administration, “Stop attacking parents…” for opting out of the Common Core Tests. 

And the pushback against New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is just as strong, as  NYSUT, the union that represents more than 600,000 New York State teachers, school-related professionals and academic and professional faculty in higher education continues its full-fledged campaign to help educate and support parents who are opting out of that state’s Common Core Testing.

In New York, the union’s well-funded program has provided needed support for parents and students, which, in turn, has helped to boost the number of students opting out from around  40,000 last year to as many as a quarter of a million this year.

Numerous public high schools in New York State are reporting more than 50 percent of high school juniors have been opted out of the destructive Common Core test and many high schools are seeing opt-out rates exceeding 80 percent.

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy’s administration’s goes unchecked as it continues to lie and mislead parents about their right to opt their children out of the testing scam and some local school superintendents go unchallenged as they inappropriately tell highs school juniors that they cannot graduate unless they take the SBAC test – a policy that would be illegal if true.

In state after state, teacher unions have stepped up to leverage their political power and visibility on behalf of the opt-out effort.

This weekend, the Massachusetts Teachers Association joined the effort endorsing the fundamental right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core testing.

The MTA’s resolution states;

That parents in Massachusetts deserve the choice to opt their public school students out of high-stakes standardized assessments.

That districts should be required to provide all parents with yearly written information explaining their right to opt students out of assessments.

That students who opt out should not be included in data used by state or federal entities in “grading” schools.

That no parent or student should be penalized because of a parental decision to opt out.

That no educator should be disciplined for discussing with students, parents or community members the options for opting students out of high-stakes tests.

Barbara Madeloni, who as a challenger became president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association last year wrote,

 “Supporting the right to opt out is one of the strongest statements we can make as educators against standardized testing.”

Madeloni added,

“The MTA will vigorously defend any educator who is disciplined for supporting the right of parents and students to opt out. The more people step up and speak out, the clearer will be the message to our legislators that the people of Massachusetts want to put a stop to the madness of standardized testing.

Standardized testing is distorting the goals of public education and choking the creativity and joy that should be at the center of teaching and learning.”

Even now at this late date Connecticut’s teacher unions can and should step up and join the opt-out battle.

Just as Connecticut’s public school teachers need and deserve the support of the state’s students and parents…

Connecticut’s students, parents and teachers need and deserve the help and support of Connecticut’s teacher unions in this historic battle against the corporate education reform and testing industry and those like Governor Dannel Malloy who continue their anti-teacher, anti-student, anti-parent, anti-public education initiatives.

Please send in your SBAC testing stories

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Wait, What? is putting together a compendium of stories about the experiences teachers, parents and students have had or are having with the administration of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing.

Information should be sent to [email protected] – all information will remain anonymous unless otherwise noted.

Where possible, please include the name of the school, town and grade level, but if that causes a problem, please send along the information without that identification.

Any and all stories are appreciated including;

  • How students handled the testing process, including emotional impacts
  • Technological issues with the test
  • Time spent on test prep and testing
  • The impact resulting from the loss of rooms, computers due to the testing
  • Observations about the tests including age and developmental inappropriateness of questions.
  • Accommodations or lack thereof for English Language Learners and special education students
  • Information about any additional software purchased for test prep activities.

Comments can posted here at Wait, What? or sent to [email protected]

Thank you for helping with this important project.

Jonathan Pelto

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