Child abuse in the form of Common Core Testing

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Driving to the meeting with a group of teachers, I couldn’t help but notice that the back roads of Connecticut are particularly beautiful this time of year.

The story that these elementary teachers told darkened the return trip.

Last week, in an elementary school not far from where you live, the school day started with the 4th graders beginning the next installment of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a Test.

The students were busy writing their essays when the system crashed and the computers went blank.

The IT staff person assured the teachers and students that no one should worry since the Common Core Testing software automatically backs up the students work.

But alas, it turns out that the program only performs backups at scheduled intervals, so a fair amount of the work was lost.

Most of the children took the news bravely, a few whimpered, and at least one of the students who require special education services got so upset that she had to be removed from the room.

The remaining students returned to work.

Despite multiple “training sessions” on how to use the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test software, students were having significant problems going back and forth between the passage they were reading and the area in which they were supposed to be typing their answers.  (That doesn’t even count the students who didn’t have enough typing skills to complete the task).

Some youngsters managed to use the scratch paper, as instructed, before typing out their responses.  Others just typed away without first structuring their response.

And, as the teachers reported, still others simply sat randomly punching at the keys.

Teachers were instructed not to help the students, even if the question exclusively related to how to make the computer function correctly.

In one classroom, a student’s tears were too much and a staff member stepped forward to help the child get to the correct screen.

Across the hall, rules were followed meaning that some children never managed to figure out how to complete their essays.

According to the company that created the Common Core Testing software, children are allowed to log off and on during the test.  Good news if a break is needed, especially for children who need a bathroom break.  But other children were apparently so worried that they might lose their information and kept working despite the need to go to the bathroom.

Since this year’s test of the test isn’t timed, students were allowed to take as much time as they needed.  A number finished quickly and were told to sit and wait for the next scheduled break.  Others just kept at it.  But for a lunch break, one child stayed at their desk for close to five hours.

Making the situation even more complex was the fact that some 4th graders took the test in the computer lab using desktops.  Others stayed in their classroom and used laptops.  Teachers reported the students using desktops had a much easier time navigating the test.

Oh, and the child with special needs who was removed from the classroom?

She never made it back to finish the test.

After the school day was over, the buses were loaded, and teachers returned to the classroom they found an email from the school’s administrator congratulating the teachers and support staff for a job well done.

The email explained that things will go smoother next year because the district has recently signed a contract to purchase special software that will allow teachers to run 4 to 6 Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment pre-tests before next spring’s “real test.”

At a loss for words on what to say, I responded…. Let’s file this one under the heading, the abuse of children and teachers come in a variety of forms.

Let Teachers Teach

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Teresa M. Pelham is the co-blogger for the Hartford Courant’s Mommy Minute blog and a well-known children’s book writer.

In recent Courant column entitled, Let’s Ditch Those Tests And Let Teachers Teach, Pelham eloquently put into words what many of us are thinking.

More Testing, Less Learning is not what prepares our children for the challenges and opportunities of life.  In fact, it doesn’t even make better workers for the 21st Century economy.

While many issues influence any particular child’s ability to rise to their true potential, we all recognize that teachers, not tests, were defining factors in each of our lives.

As Pelham writes,

It’s springtime, and that means it’s time to test the kids.

This spring, as our children endure Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing —- a test of the test —- much has been written about how we measure the effectiveness of our teachers.

Think about your own best teachers. They probably did things a little differently. Maybe they played loud rock music while you dissected something. Or maybe they taught you about clouds by going outside and actually looking at clouds.

[…]

A few years ago one of my son’s teachers asked if I could come to the classroom and talk to the kids about writing. Of course, I said, how about next week? No way, she said, laughing. Connecticut Mastery Tests were coming up in a month. They had no time to do anything other than prepare for the test (including learning how to write.)

That was the year I saw one of my kid’s third-grade classmates crying as her mom dropped her off at school. She was anxious that she might not do well on The Test.

In that same school, kindergartners are no longer let outside for recess. For real. There’s too much material to cover to prepare them for The Test, parents have been told.

Pelham adds,

So, what’s the point here? What’s our goal? We want to prepare our kids to compete globally in the workplace with kids who are somehow doing better than ours. So we test them. We compare them with children in other towns, in other states, and in other countries, such as Finland.

Yet everything we’ve learned about Finland’s wildly-successful educational system is pretty much the opposite of what we’re doing here in the U.S.

[…]

I’m confident that if my kids’ teachers are awesome enough to want to be teachers, they’re passionate about wanting kids to learn. I know I’m not alone in saying that I’d be willing to ditch the tests and trust teachers to do what they do best, even with Led Zeppelin playing in the background.

Please take a moment to read Teresa Pelham’s full commentary piece in the Hartford Courant at: http://www.courant.com/features/parenting/hc-common-core-testing-parenting-20140425,0,2684706.story.

And even better, share it with a teacher and your elected representatives… As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Let’s Ditch Those Tests And Let Teachers Teach!

Malloy lies to parents about their right to opt their children out of the Common Core Tests

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This morning, on WNPR’s Where We Live radio program, Governor Malloy was asked about whether parents had a right to opt their children out of the inappropriate, absurd and unfair Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a Test.

Governor Malloy’s responded with one his most misleading statements to date.

As reported in the CT Mirror,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday 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.

His statement is simply untrue on a number of levels.

#1:  THERE IS NO LAW THAT PREVENTS PARENTS FROM OPTING THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TEST!

#2:  The requirement that 95% of students in a school take the standardized tests is but one of many criteria contained in the No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top federal laws and regulations.

Every year, schools across the nation fail to meet that 95% goal.

In Syracuse, 30,000 parents opted their children out of the tests just this year.

The federal government has not withheld funding simply because a school did not meet their 95% goal.

But rather than side with Connecticut parents and their children, Malloy stayed true to his corporate education reform industry advisers and campaign contributors.

And not only did Malloy fail to tell the truth about the right parents have to opt their children out of the Common Core testing, he lied about his own administration’s role in the implementation of the Common Core.

As the CT Mirror went on to report,

But Malloy said he has no choice but to require students to be tested.

“I didn’t adopt Common Core. My predecessor did. Like handling the deficit, I was also handed the problem of seeing this implemented. Some districts are far ahead of other districts. Some districts folded their arms and said we’ll wait and see,” he said.

While former Gov. M. Jodi Rell entered the state into an agreement with other states to implement Common Core, the Malloy administration signed an agreement in 2012 with the federal government to implement the new standards and tests in order to receive a federal waiver to the No Child Left Behind law.

With each passing day it becomes increasingly clearer that Malloy is unwilling to stand up to protect and defend Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers, school administrators and public school advocates from the corporate education reform industry that is hell-bent on destroying Connecticut public education system.

You can read the CT Mirror story here: http://ctmirror.org/malloy-ct-could-lose-money-if-many-students-opt-out-of-standardized-tests/

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

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Here we go again!

Instead of fulfilling their legal, moral and ethical duty as a superintendent of a public school system in Connecticut, yet another public school superintendent has decided to join the Malloy’s administration’s ongoing efforts to mislead Connecticut parents into thinking that they do not have a right to opt their children out of the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test.

This time it is Greenwich Superintendent William McKersie.

Yesterday, April 24, 2014, Superintendent McKersie sent a letter to Greenwich parents, students and teachers saying;

Over the past several days, there has been discussion about students being able to “opt out” of the Smarter Balanced Field Test.  One or more unofficial flyers…have been circulating in the district and at Greenwich High School.

Let me be crystal clear:  Per Federal and State regulations, students do not have an “opt out” option with the Smarter Balanced Field Test.

With that letter, Greenwich’s superintendent of schools has decided to knowingly and intentionally mislead the parents that are paying his salary and the students that he is obligated to protect.

In response to Superintendent Mckersie’s outrageous letter, public education advocate, award-winning columnist, and Greenwich parent, Sarah Darer Littman, wrote a letter to the members of the Greenwich Board of Education that stated,

I would like to draw your attention to the underlined phrases in Superintendent McKersie’s email, which was sent to parents of Greenwich Public School students earlier today. I assume you are aware of this memo. Are you also aware that the information Supt. McKersie gave out to parents is patently untrue?

Let me be crystal clear: There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests. If you would like confirmation of this, please watch the video below, in which State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor confirmed this point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY

I question why the superintendent, who is being paid with our taxpayer dollars, is lying to parents, and my question to you is: Did the Greenwich Board of Education condone this dissemination of false information?

 

Sarah Darer Littman is absolutely correct…There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests.

As many readers know having read the following Wait, What? posts,

Pryor: Enough! Read the statute and back off the lie that students must take the common core test

Malloy, Pryor, Superintendents – Stop lying about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field!

Connecticut parents – Don’t let them lie to you on opting your children out of the Standardized Testing frenzy

And Who on earth would require HS juniors to take the Common Core Field Test in the spring?

Here are the facts;

First, as Littman explains, the chairman of the State Board of Education admitted – on tape – that parents have the right top opt their children out of the Common Core test.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY.)

Second, Commissioner Pryor office sent out a memo late last year instructing superintendents on how to mislead parents into thinking they could not opt their children out, but even that memo ended with the instruction that;

[IF] “Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.”

[THEN] “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing)…”

(See http://www.scribd.com/doc/206539705/Connecticut-State-Department-of-Education-on-Opt-Out-State-Testing-Requests-2014.)

 

Third, the law that Pryor and now Greenwich Superintendent McKersie are claiming requires that public schools conduct the “Mastery Test” is Section 10-14n of the Connecticut State Statutes.  However, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a tests is, by its own definition, not a Mastery Test as defined under the law so under no circumstance does that law apply to this year’s Common Core testing scheme.  [And even if it did, the law fails to give school districts any authority to punish parents of students for opting out].

Fourth, the reference to federal law limiting parental rights is totally inaccurate.  There is absolutely nothing in federal law preventing parents from opting their children out of standardized test.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and superintendents like William McKersie need to stop lying to Connecticut’s parents and students about the Common Core and its related testing.

In this case, Greenwich Superintendent McKersie needs to issue an apology and inform Greenwich parents and students that his recent letter was wrong.

If he fails to take that appropriate step, then on behalf of the parents and students of Greenwich, the town’s elected representatives should demand McKersie’s resignation.

Education Advocate Maria Naughton on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment Test

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Here are two new more contributions from public education advocate Maria Naughton.  Maria Naughton is an educational consultant, former teacher and mother of four children in New Canaan Public Schools. She writes a column for the News of New Canaan.

The first is a link to a radio show in which Maria Naughton discusses the Common Core with Stephen Wright, a member of Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education.  Although 30 minutes in length, it is a “MUST LISTEN” because it reveals how little this State Board of Education member understands about the Common Core and the associated Common Core testing scheme.

https://soundcloud.com/hersam-acorn-radio/2014-0418-behind-the-news

The second is a recent column Maria Naughton wrote for the New of New Canaan entitled, “How do we guard our children’s digital footprint?.  Naughton wrote,

This week concluded the second week of the Smarter Balanced field-testing in New Canaan. As we started this testing, more than 20 other states were also instructed by the Smarter Balanced Consortium to give this field test.

Despite the fallacies perpetuated by our state Department of Education, these are not mandated mastery tests; this is product development. Statewide, the frustration of the test was heightened by inconsistent responses to families which ranged from permission to opt-out, repeated misleading statements about the legality of opting out, and even “community service” credit offered to those participating.

This entire experience has led to confusion, lost educational time and many distressed students, particularly juniors for whom this year is already stressful. Looking beyond all of that, there looms an even bigger issue here: the federally-funded Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium appears to exercise an inordinate level of control over our schools.

After signing the Consortium Memorandum of Understanding in 2010, Gov. Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor agreed to rules set by the Consortium, including the type and timing of assessments, and reporting of data. This agreement imposes an added layer of complexity on our schools, specifically related to testing and reporting, while lessening the ability of families to fully understand the impact on our children’s future.

We have already seen the impact of this “shared-decision model” after the Consortium informed states that the testing would be delayed a week. In a unilateral move, this organization sent districts around the country scrambling to reschedule events in a week already disrupted by testing, further dictating how our resources had to be used to accommodate the online testing.

Privacy concerns

After testing, it will be the Consortium and their test vendors who will have performance data on New Canaan students. This puts the privacy of our students at risk, as plans for future data aggregation for tracking and profit continue to develop. For this year’s field test, parents have been told we will not receive student results from this “no-stakes” test. But these tests are not anonymous. Once students hit “submit,” someone will know how he or she performed. Educational data has been shared in the past, but there were laws protecting privacy. Now, the federal privacy law (FERPA) that protected student information has been changed. Being “FERPA-compliant” means nothing for families, as the change in the law actually expands the definition of who may access the data, giving parents no control whatsoever as to who sees their child’s data profile, or even the ability to challenge inaccuracies.

As these tests become more refined and profit incentives emerge, data-sharing concerns will grow. Corporations have spent billions to support education reform. Bill Gates clarified that intent, saying that once curriculum and assessments are fully aligned, it will “unleash a powerful market for people providing services.” Those services may be in the form of online, personalized learning, delivered as part of the New Canaan’s K-12 one-to-one device initiative, which naturally would be dependent on academic and behavioral response data from our children.

Most parents no longer have a clear-cut understanding of the rationale behind all this testing, or the intentions for the increased need for data beyond our town borders. New Canaan has been highly successful for years, guiding generations to post-high school success. Yet the Consortium maintains that annual testing and powerful data analysis is critical to evaluate student readiness for college or career. That statement should give us all pause. How many of us are comfortable with our children receiving any indication of college readiness starting in third grade? Do we believe that anyone other than our child or their teacher should know their progress and performance, especially if it includes predictive indicators about future potential? How many of us are comfortable with personal and assessment information being shared with this consortium? Who are they and why do they want my child’s data profile? How does a parent protect their child from this?

This entire effort is truly creating a hardship for many families. The unknowns and the growing digital portfolio on our children is troubling. The possibilities for use and misuse are real. The actions of the Smarter Balanced Consortium are putting our children squarely in the middle of the families trying to protect their future and the desires and demands of the schools and state. Families should make their feelings known to members of the Board of Education, and insist that our children’s “digital footprint” is guarded with the same level of care afforded to our children themselves.

Thecolumn can be found at: http://www.ncadvertiser.com/31519/how-do-we-guard-our-childrens-digital-footprint/?fb_action_ids=1490924381126490&fb_action_types=og.likes

 

Why Common Core tests are bad (By Nicholas Tampio)

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Fellow education blogger Nicholas Tampio has a commentary piece on today’s CNN website.  Tampio is an assistant professor of political science at Fordham University.

Speaking to New Yorkers, Tampio delivers a message that will resonate here in Connecticut.

Looking to the guidance of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Tampio does an extraordinary job explaining why the “common core test are bad.”

Tapio writes,

In a few weeks, the New York State Education Department will begin the second round of Common Core tests. Earlier this spring, thousands of students refused to take the Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) exams. In New York, as in states across the country, parents are telling administrators that their children will not sit for exams that pressure teachers to teach to the test and drain school budgets.

Ignore the baseless charge that families don’t want high academic standards for their kids or are afraid their kids won’t live up to higher standards. Parents and students want schools that offer a well-rounded curriculum and a sensible amount and way of testing. But the Common Core seems to focus too much on testing.

According to the 2014 New York Testing Program School Administrator’s Manual, parents may eventually review students’ responses to open-ended questions, but they are not allowed to look at the test itself. Although educators are under a gag order from New York State and Pearson that prohibits them from discussing specifics of the tests, Principal Elizabeth Phillips of PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and other educators across the state have decried the ELA exams as confusing and developmentally inappropriate.

The situation may be the same in mathematics. Stanford professor James Milgram argues that the Common Core math standards do not command international respect and will not prepare students for STEM careers. If the state keeps hiding the exams from public scrutiny, then parents and educators have a right to doubt their pedagogical value.

There are other issues. The Race to the Top program awarded New York $700 million on the condition that the state adopts a value added modeling teacher evaluation system, in this case, APPR. Put plainly — the state may now fire teachers if test scores are low. That creates incredible pressure to teach to the test.

Additionally, English language learners must also take the tests, regardless of how well they can understand them, and teachers in impoverished school districts are more likely to be punished, despite taking on harder assignments. In the words of noted education scholar Diane Ravitch: VAM is a sham.

I recently attended an iRefuse rally held on Long Island. The poster for the event juxtaposes two silhouettes of a child’s head: one, under the title “Learning,” is filled with images of Shakespeare, a guitar, a flower, math equations and plants. The other, under the title “Testing,” is filled with a multiple-choice exam. That is why parents are refusing — they want school to be a place where children’s talents are cultivated and not harmed by tests whose main use is to fire teachers.

In 1849, the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote a classic essay on civil disobedience that has inspired countless activists around the world, including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. According to Thoreau, “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right.”

According to Thoreau, people are too inclined to respect the government rather than question whether the people who lead it are acting justly. Today, a parent inspired by Thoreau would point out that the New York Education Department is led by fallible human beings such as John King, Ken Slentz and Ken Wagner, and the tests are created by Pearson, a corporation that has been found to use its nonprofit foundation to produce curriculum materials and software for its for-profit business.

Such a parent would also object to the School Administrators Manual’s policy that “schools do not have any obligation to provide an alternative location or activities for individual students while the tests are being administered.” This sentence justifies the sit-and-stare policy whereby refusing children are not allowed to read or talk, but are forced to remain at their desks while their peers take the tests. In other words, this manual encourages administrators to employ the “silent treatment” on kids who don’t want their education to become endless test prep. This is bullying pure and simple.

As a parent, what would you do if you wanted to refuse the upcoming math test for your child? Write a letter or e-mail to the board of education, superintendent, principals and teachers in your school district to formally notify them of your decision to refuse to allow your child to participate in any local assessments tied to APPR for the 2013-2014 school year.

Tell them that you want your child to be scored as a “refusal” with a final score of “999″ and a standard achieved code of 96, on all state testing. This ensures that schools and teachers are not impacted by the refusals.

There is a chance that administrators will try to dissuade you. Tell them that you are advocating for your children to receive a well-rounded, personalized education. Tell everyone in your district that you are not fighting him or her, but rather political and corporate forces that are trying to centralize and standardize public education.

The commentary piece can be found at: http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/opinion/tampio-common-core/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_latest+(RSS%3A+Most+Recent)

Malloy administration recruits “Dream Team” to sell Common Core to Connecticut teachers

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The Malloy administration is implementing a new Common Core PR extravaganza.

Initially Malloy and his team wanted to run a $1 million Connecticut taxpayer funded pro-Common Core advertising campaign.

But when a political firestorm forced them to back down, the Malloy team came up with a different publicly funded campaign to sell the Common Core.  This time the brainchild is from an out-of-state company hired by Commissioner Stefan Pryor to manage the effort.

The company hired to lead Connecticut to the Common Core Promised Land is called Learnzillion.com.

Learnzillon.com will train teachers on how to persuade their fellow teachers to better appreciate the Common Core and become proficient at utilizing the Common Core to prepare students from kindergarten to high school to become “college and career ready.”

According to Learnzillion, the Common Core Dream Team is;

 “…a group of extraordinary teachers from around the country. They represent district, charter, and private schools, and bring with them a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. This group is united in their goal to develop themselves and each other, through a collaborative process of creating, curating, and sharing high-quality resources for use with students.

But being on the Dream Team is about more than creating great content—it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

We’re currently recruiting talented teachers of math and ELA in grades 2-12 to join the 2014 Dream Team. Dream Team members are selected through a highly competitive application process. We’re looking for teachers who are not only content-area experts, but also those who are eager to share and collaborate with others, hungry for feedback, and excited about growing their leadership skills.”

Dream Team members will be trained and then paid to bring the Common Core to Connecticut’s public schools.

In this case, 97 Connecticut public school teachers have been recruited.

In addition to the taxpayer funds, LearnZillion has been raising funds on Wall Street.  According to Techcrunch.com, just a year ago, “To help it scale and continue to add content to its free resource, [LearnZillion announced] that it has raised $7 million in Series A financing.”

According to the company, “Teachers and parents can get access to the LearnZillion platform for free, while schools and districts are required to subscribe to a paid, enterprise-level plan, which gives them access to premium professional development content, teaching insights and analytics, among other things.” 

So Learnzillion is collecting money from the state taxpayers so it can train public school teachers to better appreciate the Common Core.  Then company, in turn, can then cash in by getting school districts to subscribe to a “paid, enterprise-level plan” to access their information paid for my Wall Street investors.

And what gives Learnzillon.com the skills to take on this herculean task?

Just take look at the classroom experience the company’s Board of Directors brings to the effort…

  • Robert J. Hutter is a Managing Partner of Learn Capital. Rob is chairman of Edmodo, a leading social learning network for K12, and he also serves on the boards of several Learn Capital portfolio companies including Schooltube, BloomBoard, MobLab, and LearnZillion. Rob was co-founder of Edusoft (acquired by Houghton-Mifflin). 

  • Commissioner Pryor not only retained the services of Learnzillion.com but Hutter’s Learn Capital Portfolio Company, BloomBoard, also snagged a lucrative Connecticut contract. 
  • Mark Jacobsen has advised companies and entrepreneurs for over 25 years. According to his website, “He loves working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies.” Mark was a co-founder of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures in 2005. Mark is currently a board member of AMEE, Betabrand, CollabNet, Planet Labs, Fast.ly, LocalDirt, LearnZillion, OpenSignal, O’Reilly Media, Path Intelligence and SeeClickFix. 
  • Andrew Klingenstein has over 15 years of experience investing in and providing legal and business assistance to start-up companies in the DC area.  For many years, he was a principal and co-founder of Fairfax Partners, a Virginia-based venture capital firm specializing in IT and healthcare companies. 
  • Peter Moran currently focuses on Digital Health (Augmedix, Covered, Rayvio) and Tech Enabled Education (LearnZillion). Over the past 15 years, he led DCM into new sectors including interactive Gaming (Trion Worlds), altering Consumer Experience (FreedomPop, Slice), and a diverse array of Enabling Technology including novel energy storage solutions (Enovix), companies focused on improving energy efficiency via LED lighting (Bridgelux), and next gen semiconductors (Analogix). 
  • Joanne Weiss recently resigned her position as United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Chief Staff.  She was in charge of Race to the Top Funding. Before joining the Department of Education, Weiss was Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy firm.   Prior to her work at NewSchools, Weiss was Chief Executive Officer of Claria Corporation, “an e-services recruiting firm that helped emerging-growth companies build their teams quickly and well. 

The whole scam is a dream come true for the corporate education reform industry and they have Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor to thank for the business opportunity.

Check back for  more about Malloy’s use of taxpayer funds to persuade us that the Common Core is the “solution” and the array of out-of-state consultants the Malloy administration has hired to “educate” us about the benefits of the Common Core.

How can we tell if we’re moving forward if our eyes are closed? (by Ed McKeon)

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Ed McKeon is a member of the Middletown Board of Education. The following letter to the editor was published in the Middletown Press and related papers. (See: http://www.middletownpress.com/opinion/20140327/ed-mckeon-how-can-we-tell-if-were-moving-forward-if-our-eyes-are-closed.)

It is another “MUST READ” for the students, parents, teachers and public school advocates fighting to take by out public education system.

How can we tell if we’re moving forward if our eyes are closed? (by Ed McKeon)

Tuesday’s editorial in the Register chain claims that delaying implementation of the Common Core standards would be a step backwards. Considering that the editorial offers no substantiation about what Common Core will accomplish, it’s nothing more than an uninformed suggestion.

The reason the editorial writers, and Common Core supporters themselves, aren’t able to offer evidence that Common Core standards will somehow miraculously raise the achievement levels of American students is that there is no evidence.

Common Core standards were written in secrecy and in a vacuum. These standards have never been used, or tested anywhere.

The authors of Common Core were largely business leaders and textbook and test manufacturers. In fact, two of the most credible, and the only student-learning experts of the Common Core Validation Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky (Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas and the author of the Massachusetts k-12 academic standards) and Dr. James Milgram (Professor Emeritus Stanford University) refused to sign off on the standards. They were outvoted by other members of a committee, many of whom were associates of testing companies.

And the secrecy prevails. Members of the Common Core committees were asked to sign non-disclosure statements, so that the deliberations were not, and are not, open to public inspection or deliberation.

The Register editorial was correct in saying that information about Common Core was unavailable early on, and incomplete or confusing when it finally was released. The Connecticut Department of Education website only became available last month, nearly four years after the state signed onto standards.

The editorial also hints that the backlash to Common Core is some kind of conspiracy fueled by political fury, and fanned by misinformation.

As much as it hurts me to be on the same side of an argument as Glenn Beck, the truth is that the backlash comes as a result of teachers, administrators, students and parents finally getting their hands on the standards, and the testing materials, textbooks and teacher evaluations that go hand-in-hand with Common Core. The backlash comes not from the right, or the left, or Republicans, it comes from teachers, parents and taxpayers who are really concerned that they are being sold a bill of goods.

Before any of us blithely accept the notion that the Common Core rollout continue unabated consider the following:

Common Core is an industry. Advocates will repeat the mantra over and over: “Common Core is not curriculum. It’s a set of standards.” What they won’t admit to is that most school districts do not have the luxury or the money to design custom curricula, create custom learning materials or formulate testing which would be accepted by the national standard-bearers. So, schools will have to pay for off-the-shelf curricula, text books, technology, learning materials and tests. Common Core is not just a set of standards, it’s everything that goes with it.

Common Core, for all it’s demands as an evidence-based system, offers no evidence of it’s efficacy. Common Core has not been vetted, tested, benchmarked, offered for academic review or scrutiny. It has been shoved down the throats of state educators who understood that if you didn’t swallow hard and accept the standards, you were less likely to receive federal dollars. Connecticut has received no Federal Race to the Top Dollars as a result of accepting the standards.

Common Core is going to make some people very, very rich. Because of the demands of the new standards, all new teaching and testing material will have to be created, and then purchased by hard-pressed school districts. But in the process, textbook publishers, test-manufacturers, technology creators are going to make lots of money. What’s more, because Common Core is predicted to show that most public schools are below standard, the Charter School industry, which is working hard to privatize public education, will be working diligently to pry public education dollars from the public schools where those dollars belong.

Common Core, like many state mandates, has not been fully funded. Much of the expense of paying for Common Core, and the tests and materials it has spawned will fall upon the shoulders of city taxpayers. As usual, the state and federal government comes up with a brilliant idea, and expects us to pick up the tab,

We respectfully ask that any editorial writer suggesting that Common Core is the cure for all the problems of public education, spend a few hours trying to figure out what Common Core is, and alleges to do, and then spend another day or two standing in a classroom next to a public school teacher.

Even more students lose as the “cost” of the Common Core Testing grows

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The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test means more testing and less learning.

The Common Core test will cost Connecticut’s students and teachers hundreds of hours of lost instructional time.

The Common Core test will cost schools and taxpayers tens of millions in computer and internet upgrades so that students can take the inappropriate computer-based test.

And reports are coming in from around the state that another major problem is undermining our students, teachers and public schools.

As schools divert their computers and internet to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test, students who take computer related courses are being pushed aside, unable to even complete the courses that require access to those computers.

As everyone but the proponents of the Common Core Smarter Assessment Field Test scheme understand, there are literally dozens of courses that require access to computers.

In addition to classes that teach an array of computer skills, there are a wide variety of business and art classes that require daily access to the computer.

But in the name of getting students “college and career ready,” Connecticut’s school systems are being forced to commandeer the schools’ computers for the Common Core testing; leaving students without the equipment they literally need to become “college and career ready.”

Business teachers, art teachers, and computer teachers have all written to say that access to their computers has been restricted for weeks at a time.  Teachers are being prevented from teaching course content and students are being prevented from completing their coursework.

Teachers report that as computer labs and classrooms with computers have been converted to testing factories, students taking courses that require access to those computers have been sent to the library, cafeteria or hallways to wait for the testing periods to come to an end.

As the end of the school year comes into sight, one school reports that rather than having fifteen class periods to work on their semester projects and prepare for their required presentations, students will have less than half that number.

Another school is reporting that as result of the Common Core testing frenzy, business and graphic art students have been prohibited from using their classroom computers for more than a month during the spring Common Core testing period.

As a result of the massive standardized testing program, students are losing out.

College and career skills are NOT being developed, knowledge is NOT being acquired, and precious opportunities ARE being lost.

The Common Core testing debacle is truly undermining our public schools and the students they serve.

It leaves parents, teachers and taxpayers asking… Why won’t Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, or the General Assembly stand up, step forward and put an end to this travesty.

Trumbull postpones Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing for juniors

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Only 26 of Trumbull High School’s 530 juniors showed up to take last Friday’s Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test.  Earlier in the week, only 47 (less than 10 percent) of the town’s high school juniors participated in that day’s portion of the test.

In response, Trumbull has postponed this week’s Common Core testing for juniors.

This comes despite repeated claims by the Malloy administration and its apologists that the implementation of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test is going well.

The truth is the attempt to force students to take the inappropriate Common Core test is an unmitigated disaster, especially when it comes to high school juniors.

The magnitude of the growing problems was laid out last week in a Wait, What? article entitled, “Opt out movement grows amid Common Core testing disasters.”

Despite the Malloy administration’s misguided program to intimidate parents into thinking that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the inappropriate Common Core Test of a test, towns across Connecticut are reporting that many parents aren’t being so easily intimidated.

The opt out or boycott effort is especially strong among parents and students who are in high school.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the other proponents of the Common Core and its associated Common Core Testing scheme continue to claim that the Common Core is the mechanism to ensure students are college and career ready.

However, in a display of their utter ignorance about the college prep and selection process, these non-educators decided try to force high school juniors to take the Common Core Test of a test at exactly the time of year when high school juniors are preparing for and taking the SATs, ACTs, and working to improve their grades, especially if they are taking more advanced AP, honors and other college credit courses.

By this time in the college prep process, high school juniors are well aware that only an idiot would try to require them to focus on the Common Core when they need to be engaged in the activities that will actually get them into college.

In response to the stupidity displayed by the developers and supporters of the Common Core Test, parents are opting their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test or students are simply not showing up for the faulty computer-based exam.

At last week’s State Board of Education meeting, Stephen P. Wright, who is a member of the State Board and the former Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, joined the Malloy administration in voting to re-commit the state and its public schools to the Common Core and Common Core Testing program.

But Malloy’s political appointees failed to even take the time to discuss the opt out issue or address the problems associated with trying to force juniors to take the Common Core test.

It is a telling statement about the State Board of Education’s lack of connection with reality that Trumbull’s own Board of Education Chairman either didn’t know or didn’t tell fellow Board members that parents and students in his community were leading the revolt against the Common Core Test.

Sadly, Trumbull’s Steven Wright isn’t the only official out of touch about the genuine problems and concerns about the Common Core and its testing program.

New Haven’s Superintendent of Schools, Garth Harries, recently joined the Malloy administration’s ongoing efforts to mislead Connecticut’s public school parents.

Parroting the letter supplied by Commissioner Pryor, New Haven’s Superintendent wrote,

 “This letter is in response to your request to have your children out-out of mandated state testing, which will be administered this spring…please understand that federal and state laws required that all public-school students be tested, so New Haven Public Schools has no degree of freedom in matter.”

New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries adds,

 “…state law also does not permit parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment”  

While Harries and the other superintendents who sent out the template letter supplied by Commissioner Pryor can claim they are only following orders, there is absolutely no excuse for their inappropriate and unprofessional effort to mislead the parents and children they are sworn to help.

To restate the obvious, any superintendent, principal or other school administrator who sends out the lies and misleading information provided by the Malloy administration should be held accountable for their decision to disregard their fundamental responsibility to their local schools, students, parents and teachers.

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