No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

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The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is designed to ensure that the vast majority of Connecticut public school students are deemed failures after taking this year’s Common Core SBAC tests.

Here are the projected results for this year’s SBAC test for 6th graders.  [The information comes from the SBAC organization’s own report.]

Projected Common Core SBAC Results for 6th Graders

English/ Language Arts  6th Grade Percent failing to reach goal
All 6th Graders 60% Fail Rate
African American 6th Graders 75% Fail Rate
Latino 6th Graders 74% Fail Rate
6th Graders (Special Education) 90% Fail Rate
6th Graders (English Language Learners 95% Fail Rate

 

The Common Core SBAC test is designed to ensure failure because it is testing children at 2-3 grade levels above their present curriculum and because it requires significant computer skills just to get through the test.

The Common Core SBAC test is also extraordinarily expensive, in part because all children must take the test on updated computers, using updated software and utilizing expanded internet bandwidth.

In California, another state that is using the Common Core SBAC test, cost data that is part of a major lawsuit being brought by local school districts reveal that the total cost of the Common Core SBAC Testing farce could be $250 – $500 dollars per child, per year.

Here in Connecticut, the Malloy administration is providing significantly less than 20 percent of the cost of implementing the SBAC testing program, meaning local property taxpayers are literally shelling out tens of millions of dollars for a test that is designed to fail their children.

But rather than tell the truth about the Common Core SBAC testing scam, the corporate education reform industry and their allies are engaged in an unprecedented effort to mislead student, parents, teachers and the public about the SBAC test.

Equally offensive, these corporate funded lobbyists have joined with the Malloy administration and some school superintendents to try and stop parents from opting their children out of these tests and punishing children whose parents have opted them out.

In what may well be the  most incredible and absurd defense of the Common Core SBAC test written to date, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded front group for the Common Core and Charter Schools recently published an article entitled, “For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity.”

Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, is a registered lobbyist whose compensation package is in excess of $150,000 a year.  His job is to promote the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.

In a truly bizarre defense of the unfair and discriminatory SBAC test, the front man for the Common Core and Charter School front group writes,

For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity

I have my annual physical this week. It’s not something I look forward to, and I particularly dislike the associated blood test. Nonetheless, the test provides my doctor and me with important information about my health, and we use that data to make decisions that help me live a healthier life. It makes me think: there are some interesting parallels to the standardized assessment that my own children, and all Connecticut children in grades 3-8 and 11, take annually.

[…]

I appreciate the value of the SBAC test because I know firsthand that grades don’t provide parents with enough information. In my experience within the public education system, grading practices from teacher to teacher and school to school vary enormously. That’s why I rely upon standardized assessments to accurately understand where my own children stand. If any of my children are behind in school, knowing that early is an opportunity; it gives me time to prepare them before they graduate high school, rather than finding out they’re behind once they’re enrolled in expensive remedial classes in college.

[…]

The comparability of the data among students, schools, and districts is also important. Since I am divorced, my children attend schools in two different towns, and I want to be sure that both school systems are preparing them equally for the future. Absent a comparable measure such as the SBAC, it would be hard for me to know.

Despite these benefits, many parents are still concerned about over-testing. Some expend an incredible amount of energy trying to opt their children out of the SBAC. I want to alert these parents to the important benefits of having access to standardized assessment data. Also, my unsolicited advice to concerned parents is this: consider speaking with a principal about your district’s high school graduation requirements. In your earnest efforts to do what is right for your children, you may be inadvertently creating problems; under Connecticut law, districts are generally required to incorporate test results into graduation requirements. There are some exceptions, but you should confirm that your children can still graduate if they miss the test.

[…]

Some parents have inadvertently pushed their children into more testing by choosing to enroll them in the Advanced Placement (AP) courses that impress the most prestigious colleges and universities. It’s hard to argue against demonstrating mastery in these advanced courses. However, when stacked on top of SAT and ACT tests in high school, these additional exams may contribute to the notion that there’s too much testing these days.

And Villar concludes,

It’s also possible that when parents talk about schools over-testing their kids, they’re referring to their districts “prepping” kids for the state test. This ill-fated attempt to quickly improve testing results simply doesn’t work, and it does not come from a faulty state-testing system.

Seasoned educators know that the best ways to prepare children to succeed on tests are to engage them in a curriculum that is challenging, to give teachers enough time and resources, and to encourage students to do their best. Somewhat similarly, there is little that I can do to prepare for the blood test at my annual physical in the short term. Only long-term efforts at exercising regularly and eating well will help me pass the test.

Villar’s incredible statements are so misleading that they cross the line into outright lies.

What is worse is that as a former superintendent of schools, Villar knows that he is not providing his readers with the truth.

For starters, here is one important bit of information for Connecticut parents.

It is against state law for a Connecticut school district to require a student to take or pass the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test in order to graduate.  The district cannot make passing the SBAC test a required element for graduation, in fact, a school district can’t even require a student take the SBAC test in order to graduate.

Furthermore, there is no federal or state law that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Even the Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, told a legislative hearing that neither the state nor a school district could punish a child who is opted out of the test.

But like others spokesmen for the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Mr. Villar apparently believes he is not bounded by any moral or ethical duty to tell the truth.

It is a shockingly sad statement, and a powerful commentary on our times, that a leading proponent of the Common Core and the Common Core SBAC testing would engage in blatant lying in order to try and mislead students, parents, teachers and the public.

I have challenged Mr. Villar to debate these issues three times over the past few weeks and each time he has failed to respond.

Rather than spew indefensible statements, the corporate education reform industry should release their talking heads to come out here into the real word and debate their positions in a public forum that would allow the media and citizens to finally learn the truth.

Oh, and if the actions being taken by Mr. Villar and Connecticut Council on Education Reform aren’t offensive enough, check back with Wait, What? this coming week to find out just who is funding these anti-teacher, anti-parent, anti-student, and anti-public school tactics.

Sound Familiar?  The Opt-Out Battle in New York makes Washington Post

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Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss covers education and runs Washington Post’s, “The Answer Sheet blog.”

Today the Washington Post focused on the opt out movement in New York.  The unethical and abusive techniques being used by the New York State Department of Education and some local New York school officials sound eerily similar to the problems Connecticut parents are facing in some local school districts here.

The Washington post explains,

New York state has been at the forefront of the opt-out movement, with some 60,000 parents last year deciding not to allow their children to take these tests. Activists say they expect more this year, and as activity around this issue grows, so too does pushback from some school officials. This post, by Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis, explains what is going on right now in New York.

By Carol Burris and Bianca Tanis

New York is on the leading edge of a growing national Opt Out movement—a movement that galvanizes the energy of parents, teachers and administrators who are pushing back against the Common Core tests and standardized test-based reforms. Support for such practices has plummeted, with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education reforms dragging his approval ratings down to their lowest level ever. By more than a 2 to 1 margin, New Yorkers trust the teachers union more than the governor, and less than 30 percent want test scores to determine teacher pay and tenure.

Last year the parents of approximately 60,000 New York students in Grades 3-8 refused to have their children take the English Language Arts and mathematics exams. This year, the New York State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of pro-public school, anti-testing advocates, are sponsoring more than 40 forums across the state, and parents are coming out in droves to express their dislike of Common Core test-based reform. One forum on Long Island, featuring Diane Ravitch, had nearly 1,500 attendees.  Other forums have drawn hundreds of parents and teachers who applaud Opt Out as the strategy to stop the attacks on public schools and teachers.

Opt Out has captured the attention of New York legislators as well. Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is infuriated by what he considers to be obfuscation on the part of the New York State Education Department, as well as some school districts, in order to discourage test refusals. During a recent interview with ABC affiliate, News 10, he said, “They [NYSED and districts] should be providing parents with the truths and the facts and their rights. And their rights are yes, they can opt out of something they haven’t opted into. They can refuse something for their kids they’ve never opted into.”

Tedisco, a former teacher, recently introduced a bill that would not only make it easier for parents to opt students out, but would also make any repercussions on students or teachers illegal. He describes the purpose of his bill as means “to starve the beast of testing.” Democratic Assemblywoman and chair of the Education Committee, Cathy Nolan, publicly announced that she would probably opt her son out if he were subjected to these tests. She describes testing as “a mania” and announced that she is working on her own bill to reaffirm a parent’s right to refuse.

Teacher associations are becoming more vocal in their opposition to Common Core testing. Over 70 local teacher associations have signed the “I Refuse” resolution, which not only decries high-stakes testing, but encourages teachers to opt their own children out of the tests. Teachers have spoken in opposition to the Common Core tests at board meetings as well.

The Ken-Ton School Board is threatening to not give the tests, and to not use test scores in teacher evaluations. The school board of Fairport, New York is considering doing the same.

Meanwhile, the reactions of New York school districts to Opt Out have ranged from tacit approval, to discouragement and outright threats. Reactions are a result, in part, of the mixed, unclear messages sent by the State Education Department, which has insisted that Opt Out doesn’t exist because the tests are required by federal law. Although Deputy Commissioner Wagner told the press that parents do not have the right to refuse, he admitted, when pressed, that there is nothing that forbids parent refusal.

The Patchogue Medford School District firmly believes that parents should be the decision makers when it comes to Grades 3-8 state tests. The district website affirms a parent’s right to refuse and makes it clear that there will be no consequences for the student if they opt out. Southold Schools, like the majority of districts around the state, including New York City, will allow opt outers to read during the test. The Southold PTA has posted information on how parents can refuse the test on its Facebook page. Even the Williamsville School District, which took a “hardline” approach last year and required opt outers to “sit and stare” during the test, will now allow students to sit at their desks and quietly read.

Still others are attempting to stop Opt Out, using a combination of shaming, threats and misinformation. Some superintendents suggested that schools will lose state funding if they fall below 95 percent participation even though the New York State Education Department has stated that test refusal will have no effect on state aid. The Dobbs Ferry School District, while objecting to testing, claims that opt outers “diminish the excellent work of teachers” and unfairly penalize teacher evaluations, a claim that is blatantly untrue. There is no evidence that the much maligned “growth scores” are adversely affected by the exclusion of some scores, and if the number of test takers drops enough, the teacher does not receive a growth score at all.

In order to discourage Opt Outs, the superintendent of the Otselic Valley Schools made the claim that if fewer than 95 percent of students take the test, “the state comes in, runs the day to day activities of a school, and sends the district a bill for doing it.” However not only would it take three years before a school in good standing could be labeled a Local Assistance Plan (LAP) School, that designation would not result in a takeover by the state. Rather the school would be required to craft a plan to encourage greater test participation and there would be no loss in funding.

Otselic went even further in its quest to prevent Opt Outs. According to Charlene Smith, a parent in that district, when she sent an email to school staff politely informing them that her children would not take the Common Core tests, she received an email from the superintendent threatening to block her email address and informing her that he will not allow staff to respond to her email without his inspection and approval.

The Phoenix School District is using a “we’ll fix your wagon” strategy to discourage parents’ from opting out. Parents are told that if they refuse to have their children take the Common Core tests, the school will give their kids a “rigorous” alternative test during the state testing time and the test make-up time.

Whether superintendents tell their communities that they are just following orders, punish children with “sit and stare,” or promulgate false information about state takeovers and loss of funding, it is clear that the Opt Out movement is here to stay. The tactics of pressure, threats and obfuscation are infuriating legislators who are receiving parent complaints. Corporate reformers have overplayed their hand.   Parents and teachers have had enough and they are saying it loudly and clearly through Opt Out.

You can read the full blog at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/27/as-testing-opt-out-movement-grows-so-does-pushback-from-schools/

Pelto calls for investigation and disciplinary action into violations of the SBAC Testing Protocol and the related bullying of children

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Education advocate Jonathan Pelto is calling on Attorney General George Jepsen, the Connecticut State Auditors and the General Assembly’s Education Committee to investigate the inappropriate and potentially illegal actions being taken by Governor Malloy’s administration and a group of public school superintendents in violation of prescribed testing protocols for the Common Core SBAC testing.  Pelto is also asking the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the State’s Child Advocate to step in and stop the abusive bullying and punishment that is being perpetrated by some school superintendents and local school officials against children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing.

“For weeks the Malloy administration, led by Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and a group of school superintendents including Fairfield Superintendent David Title have been engaged in an unethical and immoral effort to prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and punishing children whose parents have opted them out of the testing.”  Pelto said

“In direct violation of the SBAC Testing Protocol and their own professional code of conduct, school superintendents in Fairfield, Enfield, West Haven, Hamden, Shelton, Woodstock and a handful of other towns are punishing, or have said they will be punishing, children including third graders, who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by requiring those children to sit and stay in the SBAC testing rooms. These parents have specifically requested providing them with an alternative location in which to read a book or do homework during the eight plus hours of SBAC testing which would ensure that schools are not violating SBAC Testing Protocols which clearly state that only students taking the SBAC tests should be in the rooms where the test is being administered.”

Pelto explained that forcing children who have been opted out of the testing to remain in the testing room is nothing short of bullying and abuse because it creates unnecessary anxiety, embarrassment and a potential sense of humiliation, while fostering an environment of resentment as remaining students are forced to take the unfair tests while the students who have been opted out are forced to sit in the testing room for more than 8 hours.

“As if engaging in bullying and abuse wasn’t bad enough, these superintendents and school administrators know, or should know, that the SBAC Testing protocol prohibits children who have opted out of the test from remaining in the testing room,” Pelto said.

Pelto pointed out that the requirement that children who are not taking the test must be removed from the testing room is unequivocal.  According Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, in section 3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10) and section 3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)

Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered

The SBAC Test Administration Manual clearly states only students who log-in to the SBAC Test are participantsTherefore, if a child has been opted out of the test and is not signing in to the test is not participating and cannot remain in the testing room.

Pelto urged appropriate officials to intervene and investigate these violations noting, “As long as the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Connecticut remain intact, parents have the fundamental and inalienable right to refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.  Furthermore there is no federal or state law that allows the state or local school districts to punish a child (or parent) who has opted their child out of these destructive tests. The unwarranted and outrageous attack on parental rights by Governor Malloy’s administration and some school superintendents must be stopped”

An example of a local school district’s bullying behavior can be seen in the recent letter from Fairfield Superintendent David Title who wrote the following to parents seeking to opt their children out of the SBAC tests;

“Students who chose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate”

In Enfield, Superintendent Schumann informed parents seeking to opt their children out that their children would be required to stay in the classroom with their fellow students during the testing periods and that, “His hands are tied and that their rules come from the state.”

In West Haven teachers were instructed to tell parents that children opted out would be required to sit quietly in their testing room during the eight plus hours of testing.

School officials in at least three towns reported that when they called the State Department of Education for guidance about the sit and stay policy they were told that the mandatory SBAC Test Administration Manual was a set of guidelines and it was up to the town to decide whether to require children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to sit and stay in the classroom or whether to relocate students to the library or some other safe location where they could read or do homework.

Superintendents allegedly violating the SBAC Testing Protocol and engaging in bullying include:

Fairfield Superintendent David Title 203-255-8277

Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500

West Haven Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300

Hamden Jody Ian Goeler (203) 407-2090

Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110

Wooodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453

No really… Students who aren’t taking SBAC Test MUST be removed from testing rooms

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  • Forcing children, who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test to remain in the classroom for the 8-12 hours of Common Core Testing is an immoral and unethical form of bullying and punishment.
  • The reality is that there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) who has decided that their student will not be taking the Common Core SBAC test.

And yet a number of towns, with Fairfield, Connecticut leading the list, are actually refusing to relocate children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to a safe, secure alternative location where they can read and do homework during the testing periods.

So as special note to school administrators who are not being guided by their moral and ethical duty to treat their students and parents with respect and dignity let’s restate a key point…

The SBAC Test Administration Manual makes it abundantly clear that children who are not taking the SBAC test CANNOT be left in the testing room during the test.

Some school officials are either unwilling or unable to actually read the primary document that they must follow when administering the Common Core SBAC test.

In an attempt to finally persuade this group of vengeful “professionals” to treat their parents and students appropriately….here is the specific wording of the SBAC test Administration Manual that requires school officials to relocate students to a different location if they have been opted out of the testing scheme.

If this doesn’t work, we’ll have no recourse but to notify the SBAC organization of these violations of test security, we will file complaints with the appropriate authorities and we will demand that the State Department of Education pursue the matter as required in the SBAC Test Administration Manual.

School officials should be aware that the SBAC Test Administration Manual also explains that when it comes to violating the rules outlined in the that manual, “The Connecticut State Department of Education will investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education…”

So School Administrators now is the time to understand that The SBAC TESTING PROTOCOL PROHIBITS CHLDREN WHO HAVE BEEN OPTED OUT OF THE TEST FROM REMAINING IN THE TESTING ROOM

The information is provided in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium: Online Summative, Test Administration Manual Test of English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics [TAM] (Can be located via Connecticut State Department of Education website at http://ct.portal.airast.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CT_Test-Administration-Manual_FINAL_030915.pdf)

3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10)

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences. Breaches of test security include, but are not limited to, copying of test materials, failing to return test materials, coaching students, giving students answers, and/or changing students’ answers. Such acts may lead to the invalidation of an entire school district’s student test scores, disruption of the test system state-wide, and legal action against the individual(s) committing the breach….

3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)

From Table 6:  Access to assessments

Only students who are testing can view items. Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered

If that is not clear enough, then please turn to Page 15 of the Test Administration Manual.  Section: Attemptedness Rules for Participation

A student counts as a participant and is assigned the lowest achievement level if, at minimum, the student logs in to the computer adaptive test (CAT) and performance task (PT).

Therefore, if a child has been opted out of the test or does not sign into the Common Core SBAC Test they are not a participant in the SBAC.

If they are not participating – that is – they are not taking the SBAC test – then they cannot remain in the testing room.

This is not complex, it is not difficult to understand, it is not hard to grasp.

Children who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC test MUST be moved to an safe, secure, alternate location where they can read, or homework or engage in some other educational activity.

Martin Walsh – A CT teacher stands up for CT parents and their right to opt-out

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Teachers all across Connecticut understand just how unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment SBAC Test is for their students.

Some teachers, at risk of retribution from the Malloy administration, are even helping parents understand that they have an inalienable and constitutionally guaranteed right to opt their children out of these destructive tests and that there is no law, regulation or policy that allows the state or local school districts to punish a child or parent who instructs their school that their child will not be taking the SBAC Test.

However, while many teachers are quietly doing their best to help parents, Connecticut’s two statewide teachers unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut Chapter, have been virtually silent when it comes to supporting parents and their right to opt out of the Common Core SBAC test.

In nearby New York, the statewide New York State United Teachers Unions (NYSUT), the Rochester Teachers Union and a number of local teacher unions has voted to stand up and speak out in support of their students and parents.

The Chicago Teachers Union, under the leadership of Karen Lewis, has been one of the most outspoken voices in the nation in support of parents and their right to refuse to have their children forced into taking the absurd Common Core tests.

The truth is that teachers unions that are supporting parents and their fundamental right to opt their children out of Common Core testing include unions from Washington State and Oregon, all the way across the country to New Jersey and Massachusetts.

But from Connecticut’s two state teachers unions….nothing

The lack of action on the part of Connecticut’s two teachers unions is one of the reasons the voice of Connecticut teacher Martin Walsh has become so important to parents across Connecticut.

Martin Walsh is a Glastonbury school teacher and a candidate for the president of the Connecticut Education Association in this spring’s union election.

In a recent commentary piece that was first published in the CT Mirror, Walsh laid out the undeniable facts about the Common Core SBAC testing scam and eloquently called on the Malloy administration and local school districts to stop harassing parents and demanding that they start treating parents with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Here is what Martin Walsh wrote:

School officials should not interfere with opting out of SBAC tests by Martin Walsh

During the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) field test period last year, then-Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor sent a guideline to superintendents of schools instructing them to direct parents who desired to opt out of testing through a series of obstacles before granting their request.

Parents who persisted through all the steps were permitted to opt their children out. The idea was that most parents would give up and allow their children to be tested. Most did.

This year, after several commentators across the state noted that parents had the right to opt out of the SBAC, Connecticut interim Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell sent a memo to superintendents stating that “These [CT] laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests.” And that, “These mandates have been in effect for many years…”

Several superintendents used this memo to inform parents that they had no right to opt their children out of testing. That was wrong. Fortunately, Joseph Cirasuolo, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) has now acknowledged parental opt-out rights.

The statutes themselves are silent on parental rights. True, there is no opt-out provision, but neither is there a non-opt out provision nor any parental penalty for opting out. Additionally, many parents have opted out of testing over the life of this “mandate” without government interference.

The state may be denied Title I funding if the statewide participation rate falls below 95 percent, but no state has ever been punished in that manner. Government officials should provide citizens with facts, not misleading information designed to deprive them of their rights.

The actions of Gov. Dannel Malloy, his interim commissioner of education and many superintendents of schools in this matter are inexcusable and do violence to the basic tenet of representative democracy that governments exist to protect the rights of the people.

Enter Pearson Education and American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), the corporations responsible for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and SBAC respectively. Already free to use their tests for the purpose of data mining thanks to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s unilateral amendment of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), these companies demand more.

They are monitoring student use of social media in order to determine what is being said about them and their tests and attempting to punish students who run afoul of their rules. That’s right; Pearson and A.I.R. are spying on school children. Wow. Are we living in the United States or North Korea? What about First Amendment Rights?

If the state board of education and local school officials support this policy, I will no longer have to refer to the Pentagon Papers case to explain prior restraint; I will merely have to read students the SBAC test rules. These rules and practices constitute a “clear and present danger” to our children.

Who knew so many Constitutional rights would have to be trampled upon in order to accommodate the corporate for-profit testing juggernaut? But data collection and tracking are more than worth the trade-off, right?

Life in the PARCC police state or under SBAC (curiously similar to SAVAK, Iran’s secret police under the Shah) will be fine, as long as no one criticizes the regime. Sounds like totalitarianism to me.

I propose a better solution. The best and most effective way to protect the proprietary interests of these corporations, and more importantly our liberty, is to tell Pearson and A.I.R that they can keep their damned tests and opt our children out.

Additionally, I call upon Gov. Malloy, Interim Commissioner Wentzell and all Superintendents of Schools to cease and desist in the obstruction of the rights of parents to decide whether to allow their children to sit for these tests.

Martin Walsh of Wethersfield teaches U.S. History in Glastonbury and is a candidate for CEA President. 

For the original piece go to: http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/20/op-ed-school-officials-should-not-interfere-with-opting-out-of-sbac-tests/

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

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Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education.  The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.

Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”

Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…

Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.

The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.

However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.

Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.

But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.

Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text.  Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.

Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.

Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.

And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.

Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.

TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078

AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is  Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.

I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.

 I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

 With this being said,  I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take  regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that  we have made in Connecticut and  in particularly, in  East Hartford Public Schools, specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment, and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children,  and making sure that we are “doing right” by  Connecticut’s future.

Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010.  Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.”   The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens.  As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.

 Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.

Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of  our  children, I  ask  you  to  think  of  the  second  grader  who  will  only  have  second  grade  one  time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.  When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better.  While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact.  When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy, in the past  to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.

Emergency Request for information from Wait, What? Readers on Common Core SBAC Testing Violation

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Wait, What? readers your help is needed!

This morning parents and teachers in two more Connecticut communities have reported that children who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test are being forced to stay in the SBAC testing rooms with the students who have been left to take the SBAC tests.

As has been repeatedly reported here, such a policy is an unethical and immoral form of bullying since it creates unnecessary anxiety, tension and the very real likelihood of resentment on the part of students who are taking the test while their fellow students, who have been opted out, are sitting in the same room for the 8 or more hours of testing.

In addition, as school administrators know, or should know, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Testing Protocol, as outline in the Test Administrators Manual (TAM), is extremely clear – Only children taking the test may be in the testing room.

Children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing are to be marked absent (for the test only, not for the day) and are not, by definition, taking the test.  If they are not taking the test then they may not be in the testing room.

Appropriate educational policy would require that children opted out of the Common Core SBAC test should be provided with a safe alternative location to read books or do homework during the SBAC testing periods.

Parents in towns where administrators have violated the policy have asked for assistance in filing complaints with the SBAC organization so that they can report that these towns are violating the SBAC Testing Protocol and, in addition to bullying children, have put the district’s results in jeopardy.

I am posting and sending this EMERGENCY NOTE to all Wait, What? readers to ask that if you know of any Connecticut school district or individual school that is forcing children who have opted out of the SBAC testing to remain in the classroom.

School districts that are abusing children and violating the SBAC Testing Protocol must be held accountable with the SBAC entity, the State of Connecticut, their local school boards and with the public.

Please send any specific information on towns that are keeping opted out children in the testing rooms to [email protected]

For those who don’t know about the issue – here are some background pieces to read;

URGENT ALERT – Sit and Stare Policy Violates Common Core SBAC Protocol

ALERT: Opt your children out of the Common Core SBAC Testing that starts this week

Fairfield School Superintendent to go with unethical and prohibited “sit and stare” policy

Sit and Stare Violates Common Core SBAC Protocol

Hello Superintendents – Common Core SBAC Test “Mandate” is not like Connecticut’s truancy laws.

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Reading the misleading letters that Connecticut parents are still receiving from some local school superintendents it remains clear that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and more than a handful of school superintendents need to take a deep breath and actually read Connecticut’s State Statues…and then consider those statutes in the context of their moral and ethical responsibility to Connecticut’s students and their parents.

Parents throughout Connecticut, and across the nation, continue to inform local school officials that they are opting their children out of the Common Core Testing program because they understandably refuse to have their child take the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.

But rather than handle the situation in a professional, dignified and respectful fashion some local school superintendents, using memos provided by Malloy Department of Education, continue to mislead and harass parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental, inalienable and constitutionally protected right to determine what is best for their children.

A typical example of the arrogance of these education autocrats can be found in the recent letter authored by New Haven’s Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries who writes,

“…please understand that federal and state laws require that all public school students be tested, so New Haven Schools has no degree of freedom in this matter.”

As if he has no choice but to “follow orders,” Superintendent Harries adds,

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

A little honesty on the part of Connecticut’s State Department of Education and these local school officials would make a huge difference in this debate about a parent’s right to refuse to have their children participate in the Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme.

If superintendents would take their blinders off for a moment they’d realize the following:

Their authority to try and force a child to take the SBAC test, or punish a child who does not, is not like the authority they have to deal with the issue of truancy, which is clearly and concisely laid out in state law.

When it comes to the so-called “mandate” that children must take the Common Core SBAC Test, Connecticut State Statue 10-14n. reads,

Mastery examination. (a) As used in this section, “mastery examination” means an examination or examinations, approved by the State Board of Education, that measure essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing, mathematics or science.

10-14n (b) (1) For the school year commencing July 1, 2013, and each school year thereafter, each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics.

Putting aside the fact that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test is not a true mastery exam because it does not measure “grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing…,” the actual truth is that there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or local school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC exam.

Furthermore, this so-called “mandate” has been on the books since 1978 and although thousands of students have failed to take the CMT/CAPT Mastery Tests every year, no child or parent has ever been punished for missing those tests.

Now let us compare the “SBAC Test Mandate” to the very real mandate that parents are responsible for ensuring that their children go to school after the age of five.

Connecticut State Statute Section 10-184 reads,

Duties of parents. School attendance age requirements. All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments… each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.

Connecticut Statute Section 10-198a goes on to require that school boards develop truancy policies and statutes further require that if a child fails to attend school, local schools officials shall mail a notice to the parent and that,

“Such mailed notice shall include a warning that two unexcused absences from school in a month or five unexcused absences in a school year may result in a complaint filed with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

Connecticut State law further states,

“If the parent or other person having control of a child who is a truant fails to attend the meeting held pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section or if such parent or other person otherwise fails to cooperate with the school in attempting to solve the truancy problem, such policies and procedures shall require the superintendent of schools to file, not later than fifteen calendar days after such failure to attend such meeting or such failure to cooperate with the school attempting to solve the truancy problem, for each such truant enrolled in the schools under his jurisdiction a written complaint with the Superior Court pursuant to section 46b-149 alleging the belief that the acts or omissions of the child are such that the child’s family is a family with service needs.

The laws of Connecticut provide the government with a mechanism to punish parents who allow their children to be truants, but Connecticut law specifically fails to provide the government with any power related to punishing a parent or child for refusing to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

As long as the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut remain in place, we remain a nation where government is not all powerful.

As Connecticut law so clearly specifies, neither the state government nor local school districts have the authority to punish a child (or parent) who fails to take the Common Core SBAC Test.

If the Governor Dannel Malloy wants to change that law then he needs to propose that change, the General Assembly needs to adopt that change and then he can sign it into law.

Until then Malloy and his administration, along with the superintendents who are engaged in misleading and harassing parents need to stop what they are doing.

Their actions are not only inappropriate but unethical and immoral.

The time has come for these school officials to remember their fundamental responsibility to serve the students, parents, teachers and public schools of our state.

If they can’t bring themselves to do that then they need to find another job for their presence here is not welcome.

Common Core SBAC Test – Connecticut wrong, Vermont right!

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Fellow Connecticut education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has yet another MUST READ piece about the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s attack on public education and how Connecticut’s leaders are failing to protect our state’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

Lecker’s column is entitled, The truth about the SBACs, and it can be found in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and on-line at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

Wendy Lecker writes;

A New England state is leading the way on sane testing policy. Unfortunately for us Nutmeggers, that state is Vermont, not Connecticut.

There is a growing national consensus that standardized testing has deleterious effects on education. The National Research Councilconcluded that test-based accountability under the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) had “zero to little effect” on achievement. Evidence from around the nation proves the focus on standardized testing has narrowed curricula and resulted in significant losses in learning time. Anxiety is prevalent among public school students, as more and higher stakes are attached to these standardized tests.

There is also a growing realization of what experts have known for years — that the federal government demands that states overuse and misuse standardized tests. Experts know that standardized tests are of limited value, because they are unstable, unreliable and most importantly, do not measure the breadth of skills and experience that are the goals of education. Despite the well-known limitations of standardized tests, federal officials insist test scores be used to rank and rate schools, students and teachers, and impose real-life consequences, including sanctions on schools and possible school closures, firing teachers and even decisions regarding student placement and graduation.

When federal policy conflicts with a solid body of evidence, one would expect our state education officials, those charged with safeguarding the educational rights and welfare of our children, to provide guidance on sound testing policy.

Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s top education officials have failed to provide any useful guidance whatsoever. To the contrary, Connecticut officials willingly participate in damaging testing practices. Connecticut rushed to sign on to the federal NCLB waiver in 2012, without analyzing the costs or consequences. As part of the waiver, then Education CommissionerStefan Pryor committed the state to implementing the common core tests known as the Smarter Balanced, or SBACs. These tests are longer than the CMTs, and must be taken on a computer or tablet, requiring a certain level of computer skill and literacy. Commissioner Pryor also agreed to “cut scores,” proficiency levels, guaranteeing that a vast majority of Connecticut students will fail the new tests. By agreeing to the waiver, Pryor also committed the state to evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, even though the weight of evidence demonstrates that evaluating teachers on student these test scores is invalid and major organizations such as the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association oppose this practice.

Contrast Connecticut’s complete lack of leadership with Vermont’s. Because the NCLB waiver called for mandates that were contrary to good educational practices, Vermont refused to apply for an NCLB waiver in 2012. In an August 2014 resolution, Vermont’s State Board of Education called on the federal government to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states.”

Last week, Vermont’s State Board of Education unanimously approved a new resolution on the SBAC tests, which gives strong and informed guidance that Connecticut’s education leaders are unwilling to provide.

Vermont’s resolution declares that while the SBAC tests “purport to measure progress towards `college and career readiness . . . the tests have not been externally validated as measuring these important attributes.”

Accordingly, the state board resolved “until empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (“college and career-ready”), test results should not be used to make normative and consequential judgments about schools and students.”

Vermont’s state board also resolved that until Vermont has more experience with evidence from the SBACs, “the results of the SBAC assessment will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance, and thus should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose.”

Finally, honest education officials admit the SBACs have never been proven to measure “college readiness” or progress toward “college readiness,” and in fact are unreliable to measure student learning. In other words, the foundation upon which the Common Core rests is an artifice, and our children are being subjected to unproven tests. Connecticut districts have been diverting resources and time toward a testing regime without any proof that it would improve our children’s education.

In its thoughtful articulation of its policy stance, Vermont’s educational leaders demonstrated their dedication to the educational welfare of Vermont’s children. It is shameful that Connecticut’s so-called leaders cannot muster the same concern for ours.

Again, the full article can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php

IMPORTANT HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT FOR WAIT, WHAT? READERS!

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For weeks we’ve been focusing on a parent’s right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scheme and how the state and some local superintendents haven been engaged in an unethical, immoral, and I believe, illegal attempt to harass and mislead parents.

A quick search of the blog will quickly identify that the most common phrase appearing in recent posts has been – “The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC test.”

Unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory because the Common Core SBAC test fails to measure what has actually been taught in the classroom, that the SBAC test is based on materials that is more than two to three levels above grade level, that the SBAC test pass/fail score is calibrated to fail the majority of public schools students and that the SBAC test is particularly unfair because it discriminates against those who face English Language barriers or need special education services.

To ensure that we are all “on the same page” about what the Common Core SBAC test really is, I’m asking – urging – even begging – that Wait What? readers take time out of their busy schedules take the 4th grade Common Core SBAC English Language Arts test.  (Please do at least the first seven questions.  People can go beyond the first seven questions if they want, but if everyone does at least the first seven we will have a common platform to judge the test.)

After completing the homework assignment, please post your thoughts on this blog article or send your comments to [email protected].

For those who want “extra credit,” then after you do the first part of the 4th Grade ELA test try the first four questions of the 10th grade Common Core SBAC math test.  Again, please post your thoughts or send along your comments.

I am going to send this request to all of Connecticut’s school superintendents.  It will be interesting to see how many responses there are from those that are in charge of implementing the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Here are the steps to access the 4th Grade Common Core SBAC English Language Arts test

For those who have time, here are the steps to access the 10th Grade Common Core SBAC math test.

 

  • Go to http://sbac.portal.airast.org/practice-test/
  • Scroll Down and Click on Green Box – Students Interface Practice and Training Tests
  • Click on Sign In
  • Use Pull Down Menu to change to Grade 10, click Yes
  • Go to Right  Column, – 10th grade Math – click
  • Scroll Down and click on Select
  • Scroll Down and click on Yes, Begin  Now
  • Scroll Down and click on Yes, Begin  Now
  • Complete first four Question
  • You can then stop and assess the test or move on
  • Again, please post or send along your thoughts

I assure you that completing this “homework” assignment will be well worth the effort.

Jonathan Pelto (Education Advocate, Education Blogger)

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