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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

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

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

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

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

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

The CEA article adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OMG, What the____?????

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

As the CEA post adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

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Thanks to Governor Malloy, his out-going Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry, well over 300,000 Connecticut public school students will be taking the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test in just a couple of months.

Not only will it cost Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and mean thousands of hours of lost instructional time, but the Common Core SBAC test is literally designed to ensure than almost seven out of ten students are told that they have failed.

Yes….the Common Core SBAC test is designed in such a way as make sure that nearly 70 percent of public school students are told they are failures.

As part of the ongoing effort to inform students, parents, teacher and Connecticut citizens about the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core testing scheme, the Wait, What? blog post of January 2, 2015 is being re-posted below.

The fact is that while Stefan Pryor will be gone by the end of the week, Malloy and his political appointees on the State Board of Education are charging forward with their Common Core Testing strategy and, to further that effort, have decided to appoint Dianna Roberge-Wentzell as Connecticut’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

Dianna Roberge-Wentzell has been serving as the Department of Education’s chief academic officer for about two years.  When appointed to that position, it was explained that her role would be to “lead the Common Core curriculum development work at the state level.”

And Roberge-Wentzell has proven to be a stellar cheerleader for the Common Core and its related Standardized Testing Program.

In a Connecticut Association of Boards of Education meeting last year, Roberge-Wentzell proclaimed, “There is some anxiety about content readiness, like, ‘Will our kids really be ready?’ ‘Have we fully made that transition in our curriculum and instruction?’ And I think that people need to recognize that this is a multi-year transition.”

But for Connecticut’s public school students and teachers, there is no “multi-year” transition.

The guaranteed failing test rates are a part of THIS YEAR’S Common Core Test!

And those corrupt results will then be used to “evaluate” and punish Connecticut’s public school teachers.

While many of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and neither Connecticut’s public school teachers nor our public school students have been given the appropriate time and materials to “transition” to these new standards, the punishing Common Core test will occur starting in March unless the Connecticut General Assembly moves quickly to dismantle the massive testing apparatus or parents take matters into their own hands and opt their children out of taking the inappropriate tests.

But as if to reiterate her fidelity to the corporate education reform industry and their Common Core testing scheme, Roberge-Wentzell told the audience at that CABE meeting that everything was moving forward nicely and there was no need to even worry about the technological problems that have plagued the Common Core testing program in Connecticut and around the nation.

The person who will now take over management of the Connecticut State Department of Education told the group at CABE last year that it was full steam ahead, that the State Department had been using the “technology readiness tool” that has been provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and that “Our districts input all of their data and then we are able to constantly monitor kind of a dashboard of tech readiness for the state…And we are very close to 100 percent tech readiness in Connecticut—we are lucky. But some communities still have some investments that need to be made and this will help us support them in bridging that gap.”

The truth is Connecticut’s public school students have become guinea pigs for the Corporate Education Reform Industry and implementing a test that is designed to ensure failure for the vast majority of our children is nothing short of child abuse.

For more of the background about the Common Core testing, read the following;

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

This initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

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

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The initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

 COMMON CORE IS A LEMON (Guest Post by Joseph A. Ricciotti)

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Governor “Dan” Malloy says it is too late to turn back on the Common Core and its associated unfair, ineffective and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme.  In fact, he has repeatedly said he will “stay the course” on his corporate education reform Industry agenda.

The following is a guest commentary piece submitted by educator Joseph Ricciotti.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were dealt a major setback when two states, New York and Massachusetts, decided to slow down its implementation. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has distanced himself from Common Core citing that it is “problematic” as well as “very controversial” in New York State. Hence, Gov .Cuomo now wants to ask the New York State legislature to “slow down the Common Core’s implementation” and not have any tests aligned with the new standards administered for  five years.

Likewise, Massachusetts also decided to slow down the implementation of Common Core for two years while it investigates how well the tests aligned with Common Core, referred to as PARCC, compare with the state’s existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam.

The Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, unlike Connecticut’s Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, believes “that fully adopting the new testing deadline by the 2014-2015 school year is “too precipitous” for his state’s schools.” Massachusetts and New York will now join 15 other states that have decided to reconsider their involvement with the Common Core while Connecticut’s Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor plan to stay the course and do not plan to make any changes in the implementation of Common Core.

Undoubtedly, the uprising against Common Core (often referred to as “the Core) in the country has not gone unnoticed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Moreover, they also realize they are losing the public opinion battle as new strategies are being developed by the Obama administration and their Common Core allies to counteract resistance to the new standards. One of the staunchest proponents of Common Core is Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think-tank, who has also received Gates Foundation funding for the support of Common Core. Petrilli is of the belief that if the Core proponents want to win the battle, they have to “get Americans angry about the current state of public education.”  In regard to the Core’s implementation, Petrilli is also responsible for the statement “ the chaos in the classroom will be great” so it appears that logic has not distinguished either Arne Duncan or Mike Petrilli.

In other words, as the corporate education reformers who have unsuccessfully attempted to do with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT) by falsely highlighting so-called “failing” public schools, now want more of the same medicine with Common Core. In essence, they are trying to convince parents of public school children in the nation that their schools are failing. Needless to say, the “failing schools” strategy is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the general public in the history of American public education. It has failed to change the general public’s opinion in the past with NCLB and RTTT as parents and the general public continue to hold their public schools in high esteem. Petrilli believes that if parents can be made angry and convinced that public education and public schools are “failing”, it will then pave the way for acceptance and a smooth implementation of Common Core.

One of the leading opponents of Common Core in the nation is Dr. Carol C. Burris, an awards winning high school principal on Long Island who received her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has researched and written extensively on the Core but perhaps her most famous and memorable quote is “ the Common Core is a lemon and no amount of professional development will make it right.” We have also heard from Barbara Madeloni, newly elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) , a warrior against the corporatization of public education and a fierce critic of Common Core, cite that what is needed in public education today is a new vision “that must replace the dehumanizing data-driven madness that is choking the life from our schools.” One would have to think in light of these developments that the tide is turning for Common Core.

You can read more of Carol Burris’ assessment at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/10/06/how-to-start-cleaning-up-the-common-core/.

 

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

 

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