Connecticut Legislators – Now is the time to act on the inappropriate SBAC testing program!

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Anne Manusky is a Connecticut parent, education advocate and trained academic researcher.  In this commentary piece she lays out why the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC) testing system fails to provide accurate and useable information about student performance, why it should not be used as part of an effective teacher evaluation system and why Connecticut’s elected officials should defund the SBAC testing madness and use those funds to help address Connecticut’s budget crisis.

Anne Manusky writes;

As a parent and former psychological research assistant, I have had great concerns with education reform:  Common Core implementation and their reportedly ‘innovative’ tests – CT’s choice, the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

The concerns have become real, and as our elected officials review and make legislative decisions, a critical element must be reviewed: credibility of the state test, statutorily the “state Mastery test”, as well as the questionable Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s interstate compact.

Currently there are two CT General Assembly bills which consider the Smarter Balanced Assessments the state “Mastery Test” (requirement of state statute):

SB 380 ‘An Act Concerning the Exclusion of Student Performance Results on the Mastery Examination on Teacher Evaluations – https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB380

And,

HB 5555 ‘ An Act Concerning the Minimum Budget Requirement and Prohibiting the Inclusion of Participation Rates for the State Wide Mastery Examination in the Calculation of a School District’s Accountability Index Score – https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB5555

The Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) has no psychometric analyses providing the validity and reliability of the assessment; no independent verification of this assessment exists.

These analyses are necessary to determine credibility of this test.

An FOIA request was recently submitted to the CT State Department of Education for

1) Any and all materials providing validity and reliability of the Smarter Balanced Assessments; and 2) the “deep psychometric study” the State claims to have completed.

Commissioner Wentzel made a point to provide that the Smarter Balanced testing was being reduced due to a said “deep psychometric study”.  Top state officials lop off almost two hours off the ‘Smarter Balanced’ test. Hartford Courant   http://www.courant.com/education/hc-state-officials-cutback-smarter-balanced-test-20160225-story.html.

Materials provided from the State Department of Education to substantiate these questions did not provide validation or of further psychometric testing to determine a “deep psychometric study” had been conducted.

On the other hand, 100 education researchers from California provide “The assessments have been carefully examined by independent examiners of the test content who concluded that they lack validity, reliability, and fairness, and should not be administered, much less be considered a basis for high-stakes decision making.”  Common Core State Standards Assessments in California: Concerns and Recommendations, CARE-ED, Feb 2016,  (See http://media.wix.com/ugd/1e0c79_2718a7f68da642a09e9244d50c727e40.pdf)

Testing which has no credible basis should not be used to assess children in California, or anywhere else for that matter. It then becomes even more of an issue that these tests were believed to be suitable for assessing children, it has no credibility in use for the evaluation of classroom teachers.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Wentzel even acknowledges in her CGA HB 5555 Testimony:

“…Without reliable measurements….. it would be difficult to “measure improvement and growth among our students from one year to the next.”

Why wouldn’t the State Department of  Education’s highest officer and/or staff review the validity, reliability and construct validity of what is being considered the “state Mastery test”?

How much time have CT’s children wasted on taking this “test”?

At this time, the state of CT is under a 3-year SBAC compact. This compact was found in the state of Missouri to be an unlawful interstate compact, never was approved by Congress. .https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/26/judge-rules-missouris-membership-in-common-core-testing-group-is-illegal/

The current fiscal issues for the testing include the Smarter Balanced Consortium Membership fee is $8,080,331 for 3 years, as well as fees for the American Institutes of Research (AIR – which gives the Smarter Balanced) – $13,555,173 for 3 years.

These are serious issues which need to be addressed by our Connecticut Legislature.

Defund the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium compact, cut the unproven, invalid Smarter Balanced testing saving the CT taxpayers over 7 million in one year alone.

Also, an investigation into the State Department of Education as well as the State Board of Education’s decisions to use this “test” without review of basic statistical significance should be completed.

Anne Manusky is absolutely correct.  As Connecticut’s elected officials grapple with Connecticut’s ongoing budget crisis, they can make a significant and positive difference for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers by passing Senate Bill 380 and requiring that the Malloy administration stop using the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test as part of the state’s mandated teacher evaluation program.

In addition, as Anne Manusky points out, the Connecticut legislature should stop funding the failed SBAC testing program and use those funds to preserve some of the vital services that Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens need and deserve.

If Connecticut’s state senators and state representatives are committed to doing the right thing for Connecticut, they should start by reading this commentary piece and acting on its recommendations.

With money from Walmart’s Walton Foundation – They call themselves Democrats for Education Reform

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Today’s CT Mirror includes a deceitful and extraordinarily misleading commentary piece entitled, “This legislative session, let Connecticut children win for a change.”

Shavar Jeffries, the mouthpiece for a corporate funded, New York based, charter school advocacy group that calls itself “Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)” uses the space to urge Connecticut legislators to DEFEAT a bill that, if passed, would require Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration to develop an honest and effective teacher evaluation system rather than continue with Malloy’s present program that is dependent on the results of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Jeffries, who is the founding Board President of Newark’s Team Academy Charter Schools, a board member of the charter school front called Students for Education Reform (SFER) and a Director for Eva Moskowitz’s infamous Success Academy charter school chain, instructs Connecticut’s elected officials to “stay the course” with Dannel Malloy’s failed anti-student, anti-parent, anti-teacher and anti-public school agenda.

In the face of overwhelming evidence that reveals that the SBAC testing scam is not an appropriate measure of student academic achievement or an effective tool for evaluating teachers, the highly paid spokesman for the charter school industry opines,

“Will Connecticut beat back the progress it made in adopting a modern educator evaluation system in 2012? That system recognizes great teachers for a job well done, while providing support to struggling teachers. Or will lawmakers cave to a power structure that wants to keep things the same?”

The charter school fan’s incredible statement speaks volumes. 

The truth is that it is Malloy’s shameful corporate education reform initiative of 2012, and his utter failure to properly fund public education that is taking Connecticut in the wrong direction.

Malloy, who has proposed record-breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools while diverting more and more scarce taxpayer funds to privately owned and operated charter schools has become a poster-boy for the insidious and devastating impact that the education reform and privatization effort is having on public education in Connecticut.

The negative consequences of Malloy’s actions are particularly evident when it comes to the absurd teacher evaluation system that he has championed.  To better understand the problems with Malloy’s teacher evaluation program start with the following Wait, What? posts;

Wendy Lecker explains – Again – Why the Malloy-Wyman teacher evaluation system is a terrible farce

Speaking out for decoupling Common Core testing from the teacher evaluation process

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

New York Superintendents call for an end to evaluating teachers on standardized test results

However, when it comes to DFER and its allies, the truth has no value.

In fact, it is the truth that serves as the most serious impediment to their goals.

DFER and their plan to “transform” public education by handing it over to Wall Street investors, the elite hedge fund owners, and the private companies that seek to make money off the backs of our children, teachers and public schools require a political and public policy environment in which the truth is not allowed to get in the way.

Speaking of that dystopian approach to governance, George Orwell summed it up sixty-seven years ago writing in his once fiction – now non-fiction – epic titled 1984;

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Of course, when it comes to the real actors behind the effort to undermine public education, Shavar Jeffries is but a two-bit player.  His commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a reminder that he is just someone who will carry the water for those that would prefer to remain hidden in the dark.

It is the dark and it’s associated “dark-money” where DFER flourishes.

Much has been written here at Wait, What? and elsewhere about DFER and those behind the charter industry.

An early description of the group appeared in December 2010, when the UFT’s Michael Hisrch wrote;

Among the group’s eight-person board is hedge-fund manager John Petry of Gotham Capital, who with Eva Moskowitz co-founded the Harlem Success Academy Charter School. The board also includes Tony Davis of Anchorage Capital, the board chair of Brooklyn’s Achievement First East New York school; Charles Ledley of Highfields Capital Management; and Whitney Tilson, chief of T2 Partners and Tilson Funds and vice chairman of New York’s KIPP Academy Charter Schools.

[…]

Of DFER’s seven-person advisory board, five manage hedge funds: David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, LLC; Joel Greenblatt, founder and managing partner of Gotham Capital and past protégé of fallen junk-bond icon Michael Milliken; Vincent Mai, who chairs AEA Investors, LP; Michael Novogratz, president of Fortress Investment Group; and Rafael Mayer, the Khronos LLC managing partner and KIPP AMP charter school director.

Orbiting the group is billionaire “venture philanthropist” and charter school funder Eli Broad, whose foundation gave upwards of $500,000 to plug advocacy related to the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” and another charter-touting film, “The Lottery.” Though not himself a DFER board member, Broad is a major funder of Education Reform Now, DFER’s nonprofit sister organization, also headed by Joe Williams.

Meanwhile, Andrew Rotherman, recently retired DFER director and EduWonk blogger, is co-founder of and a partner in for-profit Bellwether Education, described as “offering specialized professional services and thoughtful leadership to the entrepreneurial education reform field.” Rotherman sits on the Broad Prize Review Board, while DFER board member Sara Mead is a senior associate partner at his Bellwether Education and sits on the Washington, D.C., Public Charter School Board.

DFER is actually part of a much larger multi-headed beast that also includes Education Reform Now and Education Reform Now Advocacy, two tax-exempt entities that allow the billionaires and corporate elite behind the charter school industry to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into political, lobbying and advocacy efforts.  (For an example of their approach see Wait What? post, Figures that the super-rich would turn privatization of public schools into a game)

As noted previously, DFER is also a key player behind SFER – Students for Education Reform.  The SFER story explains a lot about just how far the corporate education reformers are willing to go to corrupt the system.

For more on SFER read;

SFER – The $7 million+ “student run” Corporate Education Reform Industry Front Group

MORE ON SFER – Corporate Money in the 2015 Denver Board of Education Election

Perhaps most telling of all is that when it comes to Malloy’s disastrous SBAC tests and his dangerously warped teacher evaluation program, the only entities supporting it are the groups and individuals funded, directed or at the beckon call of these hedge fund managers and corporate elite.

NOTE:  Who else has taken Walton money?

Governor Dannel Malloy and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Are school administrators bullying and abusing your child over the SBAC testing frenzy?

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There is an extremely serious problem taking place in some school districts across Connecticut and parents, teachers, child advocates and elected officials must act immediately to protect our children from the corporate education reform industry and their lackeys.

With the state-sponsored Common Core SBAC testing scheme now in full-swing throughout the state, parents and guardians in numerous schools districts are reporting that Connecticut public school children continue to be abused by local school administrators, who are following orders from Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Education Commissioner Wentzell and the State Department of Education.

In addition to lying and misleading parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests, a disturbing number of school districts are unethically and immorally punishing students who have been opted out of the tests, while some districts are ordering students to “log-in” to the SBAC tests before the schools will honor the parents’ directive that their child is not to participate in the tests.

As previously reported, some school districts are bullying children who have been opted out by forcing them to stay in the testing rooms despite the fact that the SBAC testing regulations clearly and strictly prohibit students who are not taking the test from remaining in the testing locations.

The practice of forcing students to stay in the testing room, despite having been opted out of the SBAC program by their parents, is an ugly strategy to embarrass, humiliate and ostracize children who are inappropriately being required to sit in the testing room for hours while their peers are taking the defective and high-stakes SBAC tests that are designed to unfairly fail a significant number of the state’s children.

School administrators who refuse to place children in an alternative safe and appropriate environment (such as the school library) during the testing period are not only engaging in an unethical form of bullying, but they are violating the State of Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) regulations.

The SBAC protocol reads;

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

See:  Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4) which notes;

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences… A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation.

Under the law, regulations and SBAC protocol, the Connecticut State Department of Education is required to 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, and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law.

In addition, superintendents, principals or other school administrators who require or permit students who have been opted out of the SBAC tests, to remain in the testing room risk not only losing their certification to work in Connecticut pursuant to Connecticut State Statute 10-145b(i)(1), but they have violated their duties under Connecticut State regulations that require school administrators to adhere to a Professional Code of Conduct.

As if forcing students who have been opted out to remain in the testing rooms during the testing period wasn’t serious enough, some school districts are actually using an additional technique to make it appear that they are achieving extremely high participation rates.  These school districts have taken the despicable step of telling children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by their parents that they must first sign-in (log-in) to the SBAC test program before the school will honor their parent’s directive that they are not to take the SBAC test.

This strategy is a direct result of the Malloy administration threat that any school district that allows more than 5 percent of their parents to opt out, will lose money – in this case – federal funds that are supposed to be used to provide extra support to the poorest child in the local school system.

IMPORTANT:

If your child or a child that you know is being forced to remain in the testing room during the SBAC testing, you are asked to provide that information, as soon as possible, so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the continuation of the child abuse and to hold local school officials accountable for their reprehensible actions.

Information about any abusive practices related to the SBAC testing should be sent to Wait, What? via [email protected]or mailed to Wait, What? at PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Bullying and abuse have no place in Connecticut’s public schools.

Please help ensure that those engaged in these abusive tactics are held accountable.

No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’

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In a commentary piece entitled, No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’, and first published in the CT Mirror, Connecticut educator and public education advocate James Mulholland took on the absurd rhetoric that is being spewed by the corporate funded education reform industry.

Collecting their six figure incomes, these lobbyists for the Common Core, Common Core testing scam and the effort to privatize public education in the United States claim that more standardized testing is the key to improving educational achievement.

Rather than focus on poverty, language barriers, unmet special education needs and inadequate funding of public schools, the charter school proponents and Malloy apologists want students, parents, teachers and the public to believe that a pre-occupation with standardized testing, a focus on math and English, “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies for students and undermining the teaching profession will force students to “succeed” while solving society’s problems.

Rather than rely on evidence, or even the truth, these mouthpieces for the ongoing corporatization of public education are convinced that if they simply say an untruth long enough, it will become the truth.

In his recent article, James Mullholland takes them on – writing;

In a recent commentary piece, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, praises the Connecticut State Board of Education’s support for using student SBAC results in teacher evaluations. He claims, “The absence of such objective data has left our evaluation system light on accountability.” He further contends, “Connecticut continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, the SBE appears committed to continuing to take this issue on.”

Contrary to Mr. Villar’s assertion, there is little, if any, evidence to support the idea that including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations will close the so-called achievement gap.

In some ways, it is a solution looking for a problem. Mr. Villar writes, “recently released evaluation results rated almost all Connecticut teachers as either proficient or exemplary. That outcome doesn’t make much sense.”

Other education reform groups express similar disbelief that there are so many good teachers in the state. In her public testimony during Connecticut’s 2012 education reform bill, Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN testified that too few teachers were being dismissed for poor performance: “When you look at the distribution of ratings in those systems, you again see only about two percent of teachers, maybe five max, falling at that bottom rating category.” (Transcript of legislative testimony, March 21, 2012, p. 178.)

Education reform groups seem dismayed that they have been unable to uncover an adequate number of teachers who are bad at their jobs and continue to search for a method that exposes the boogeyman of bad teachers. But that’s exactly what it is: a boogeyman that simply doesn’t exist.

Regardless of the methodology that’s used, the number of incompetent teachers never satisfies education reform groups. They see this as a flaw in the evaluation system rather than a confirmation of the competency of Connecticut’s teachers.

However, Connecticut isn’t alone. After both Tennessee and Michigan overhauled their teacher evaluation systems, 98 percent of teachers were found to be effective or better; in Florida it was 97 percent. The changes yielded only nominal differences from previous years.

Mr. Vallar believes that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will decrease the achievement gap. There is no evidence to support the belief that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will lessen the differences in learning outcomes between the state’s wealthier and less-advantaged students.

In 2012, the federal Department of Education, led by Secretary Arne Duncan, granted Connecticut a waiver from the draconian requirements of No Child Left Behind. To qualify for the waiver, the results of standardized tests were to be included in teacher evaluations.

However, the policies of the secretary, which he carried with him from his tenure as Superintendent of Schools in Chicago to Washington D.C., never achieved the academic gains that were claimed. A 2010 analysis of Chicago schools by the University of Chicago concluded that after 20 years of reform efforts, which included Mr. Duncan’s tenure, the gap between poor and rich areas had widened.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that, “One of the most striking findings is that elementary school scores in general remained mostly stagnant, contrary to visible improvement on state exams reported by the Illinois State Board of Education.”

Most striking is a letter to President Obama signed by 500 education researchers in 2015, urging Congress and the President to stop test-based reforms. In it, the researchers argue that this approach hasn’t worked. “We strongly urge departing from test-focused reforms that not only have been discredited for high-stakes decisions, but also have shown to widen, not close, gaps and inequities.”

Using standardized test scores to measure teacher effectiveness reminds me of the time I saw a friend at the bookstore. “What are you getting?” I asked. “About 14 pounds worth,” he joked. Judging books by their weight is a measurement, but it doesn’t measure what is valuable in a book. Standardized tests measure something, but it’s not the effectiveness of a teacher.

To read and comment on James Mulholland’s commentary piece go to:  http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/04/20/opinion-james-mulholland/

OPT OUT: What would Kurt Vonnegut do? By Ken Previti

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Ken Previti is a retired Illinois teacher, public education advocate and a fellow education blogger.

Among the most outspoken education advocates in the nation, Ken Previti is known for his hard-hitting, truth-telling blog posts about the ongoing efforts to undermine public education and the issues surrounding the legal and contractual rights of active and retired teachers.

Ken’s blog is titled, “Reclaim Reform,” because, as he puts it, we must “’Reclaim Reform’ from the Corporate Industrial Education Complex which is attempting to dismantle public education and attempting to raid public pension (deferred income) funds for the profits of multinational investors.”

His blog posts are always informative, witty and powerful.  His latest is entitled, OPT OUT: What would Kurt Vonnegut do?.  Ken writes,

Kurt Vonnegut, the writer and seer, was famous for seeing right through the fallacy of blind acceptance. Anything presented as progress that wasn’t actual progress was repeatedly exposed by Vonnegut for the destructive stuff it actually was.

State mandated high stakes tests for children are the latest for-profit craze that monetizes and dehumanizes children.

But, hey, that’s progress and we can’t go backwards, can we?

UnitedOptOut Vonnegut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”  Kurt Vonnegut

How can you opt out for your child?

Go to United Opt Out for sample letters for each state. The letters work, but it’s up to you to take “a step backward, after making a wrong turn” to make “a step in the right direction.” Your children will know that that is true progress for children.

A previous piece Ken asked, Does Don DeLillo support Opting Out ?

You can read Ken Previti’s work at: https://reclaimreform.com/

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

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Educator, poet and fellow education blogger, Poetic Justice, addresses the insidious and damaging impact of the corporate education reform industry’s notion that standardized test results should be a part of a fair, appropriate and effective teacher evaluation system.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the “education reformers” have devoted themselves to ensuring that the children, parents, teachers and public schools of the Constitution State are saddled with an absurd and damaging teacher evaluation system that utilizes the Common Core SBAC testing scam results to evaluate teachers.

More recently, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) has proposed swapping the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test results with the equally inappropriate MAP test which would produce a system equally unfair and discriminatory.  Public Education Advocate, Wendy Lecker, addressed the problems associated with the MAP in Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

The only reasonable approach is a teacher evaluation system that actually appropriates measures and evaluates the impact teachers are having.  Such models exist.

Here Poetic Justice lays out the situation in a way that even Malloy/Wyman and the education reformers could not misunderstand…

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

  1. Are the children safe?
    2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
    3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
    4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
    5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
    6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
    7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
    8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
    9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
    10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
    11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
    12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
    13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
    14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
    15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues’ successful practice?
    16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
    17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
    18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
    19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
    20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is in direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

teachers are most than tests scores

Please join a FaceBook page that Poetic Justice administers with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner.

FB page is located at – Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

 

Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker

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Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests is another MUST READ piece by education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker;

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

Although four years late, the legislature seems to be finally heeding the substantial evidence on teacher evaluation and is considering SB 380, a bill to decouple state standardized tests. This bill, though it only covers state standardized tests, is a step in the right direction.

There are those, however, who cannot seem to let go of the idea that we need standardized tests to measure teachers, even if those tests are wholly inappropriate for this use. They want a measure that looks “objective” no matter how scientifically invalid that measure is.

Thus, some Connecticut groups advocate replacing the invalid use of SBAC and SAT for teacher evaluation with an off-the-shelf, commercially produced test never proven to be valid for teacher evaluation: the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) test.

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

This paper is the only study on the use of MAP in teacher evaluations. And it proves that it is invalid to use MAP for this purpose. It is irresponsible for Connecticut policy makers to accept the use of MAP in teacher evaluations unless and until there is empirical evidence to prove its validity.

Connecticut teachers and children do not deserve an easy, but invalid, solution to the complex task of measuring teacher quality. They deserve the right solution.

Wendy Lecker is a columnist for the Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is senior attorney at the Education Law Center.

You can read and comment on this piece were it was first published in the Stamford Advocate – http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-failed-application-of-7251515.php

Moving The Goal Post (By Ann P. Cronin)

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Educator and education blogger Ann Cronin has a powerful piece on the corporate education reform industry’s fixation on measuring “student achievement.”  She takes on the education reformers’ notion that turning students into data points is the best vehicle for providing children with the comprehensive education they need to live more fulfilling lives.

You can read Ann Cronin’s great columns at http://reallearningct.com/.

In Moving The Goal Post, Cronin writes;

How do we measure student achievement?  By its standardized test scores or by something else? And what is the relationship between student achievement and the economic strength of a nation?

Arne Duncan, when he was Secretary of Education, spoke about the achievement of South Korean students, as measured by standardized tests, and advocated that the United States follow the South Korean approach to education so that our students can achieve as the South Korean students do on those standardized tests. A recent (March 15, 2016) letter to the editor inEducation Week described how the South Korean students achieve those high test scores.

Here is that letter:

South Korea’s ‘Top Performance’ Numbers Should Not Be Applauded

To the Editor:

As a student from South Korea who is now studying in the United States, I find it surprising that many people here applaud the South Korean education system. The Center on International Education Benchmarking lists South Korea as a “top performer,” and even Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education, has asked why the United States can’t be more like South Korea. As a recent Commentary argued, the United States should not blindly applaud and emulate countries that perform well on international assessments.

I want to share what South Korea’s high performance on these assessments is not telling you.

First, beyond South Korea’s impressive scores on international exams, there are unhappy, sleep-deprived, and suicidal South Korean students. South Korean students report levels of happiness that are among the lowest for youths in developed nations. High school students report sleeping an average of 5.5 hours per day in order to study. Alarmingly, slightly more than half of South Korean teenagers reported having suicidal thoughts in response to a 2014 poll conducted by the country’s Korea Health Promotion Foundation; over 40 percent of the respondents listed academic pressure and uncertainty over their futures as their greatest concern.

Second, South Korea’s high scores are a reflection of private tutoring rather than the public education system itself. About 77 percent of South Korean students participate in an average of 10 hours of private tutoring a week. This percentage is more than double the average rate of private tutoring in countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2013, South Korean parents paid the equivalent of $18 billion for private tutoring in order to give their children a competitive advantage.

Moreover, in the education system where high performance is all that matters, struggling students as well as students with disabilities are often neglected and left behind.

Thus, no matter how high the country ranks on international tests, our seemingly impressive test scores come at too high a price.

As a South Korean, I call on the world to see what is beyond my country’s high scores on international assessments. Until South Korea addresses its pressing educational issues, such as student well-being, reliance on private tutoring, and support for students with disabilities, the country should not be considered a model system for the United States.

April B. Choi
Cambridge, Mass.

I would bet that most of us are not willing to pay the price that the South Koreans are paying for their children to get high scores on standardized tests.

The good news for the United States, which never scored at the top of the pack in the 50 years there have been international standardized tests, is that standardized are not important. Standardized tests measure only one thing: the ability to take a standardized test. And that is a skill rapidly going out of vogue because that skill does not equip students for the world of work they will enter. The world of work in our postindustrial era demands other skills. The current time in history and the decades that stretch ahead are described in the report as the Conceptual Age. That age requires skills such as designing, making meaning, creativity, problem-solving, and developing new ideas and artifacts.

The even better news for the United States is that the kind of education that our students need and which will engage their minds and touch their souls is exactly the kind of education that will make our country economically strong in this Conceptual Age. They need to learn to question and to explore those questions. They need to learn how to learn. They need to learn how to collaborate so that they deepen and broaden their individual thinking through interaction with others. They need to learn to tell the stories of their past learning and to tell the stories of what has not yet been imagined. The need to learn to tap into their own creativity and their own passion.

Arne Duncan was wrong. John King is wrong. U.S. education policy is wrong. High standardized test scores are not a worthy goal.  We will harm the minds and deplete the souls of our precious children if we stick with emulating South Korea. We will head for economic peril as a nation if we do not create a different kind of education, one that can never, ever be measured by standardized tests.

It’s time for a change. Let’s get on it.

Malloy and Wyman turn their backs on Connecticut students, parents and teachers – What will legislators do?

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Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman, Commissioner of Education Wentzell – you bring shame to your office and yourselves by denying parents’ fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests.

Legislators who support your lies, bullying and illegal tactics should lose in November 2016.

It’s not too late for state senators and state representatives to do the right thing….

Legislators should;

  • Demand that Malloy and Wyman and their administration stop lying and misleading parents about their right to opt their children out of Connecticut’s Common Core SBAC testing program.  As Malloy, Wyman and their top appointees know, there is absolutely NO federal or state law that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the SBAC testing scheme and NO federal or state law that allows the government or local school districts to punish students or parents for opting out.
  • Demand that when it comes to the opt out issue, local school officials must treat their students, parents and teachers with respect and that the ongoing bullying and abuse will not be tolerated.  School administrators who abuse students and parents have violated their duties as educators and public servants and should be removed from their jobs.
  • Stop the Malloy administration’s immoral effort to punish school districts if more than five percent of the students are opted out by their parents.  Withholding federal funds designated for helping poor children and punishing students, teachers, schools and local taxpayers when parents have stood up for their children is beyond unethical – such policies have no place in a civilized, democratic society.
  • Ensure that state law is changed in a way that not only decouples SBAC testing participation rates from the Malloy administration’s absurd school accountability and ranking system, but prohibits the use of the test results in Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system.  Connecticut deserves a teacher evaluation system that provides accurate and relevant information about how public school teachers are doing, not a system that is meaningless because it relies on factors beyond a teacher’s control.
  • And finally, the Connecticut General Assembly should adopt legislation that will protect the privacy rights of students, parents and teachers.  Big data and data mining have no place in our public schools.  The ongoing effort to turn our children into profit centers for private companies must stop.

When it comes to education issues, politicians who align themselves with Malloy, Wyman, so-called “education reformers” and the charter school industry are turning their backs on the students, parents, teachers, public schools and citizens of Connecticut.

These politicians should not be allowed to hold public office.

For more about these issues read:

More shocking and disturbing reports of Connecticut school officials misleading parents and bullying children on Common Core SBAC testing!

What parents don’t know about the massive data collection that is taking place in public schools

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

Why Common Core SBAC results SHOULD NOT be part of the teacher evaluation process

Yes, CT State Department of Education Officials’ behavior was rude and appalling!

 

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Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?

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The Connecticut State Department of Education has decreed that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests will be given between March 15, 2016 and June 10, 2106, for public school students in grades 3-8.

In New York State last year, a massive protest against the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme resulted in approximately 200,000 students (about 1 in 5 students in New York) being opted out of that state’s Common Core testing program.  New York State’s opt out numbers are expected to be very high again this year.

Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo supports the Common Core and the testing frenzy that goes with it, he has publicly recognized that parents have a fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the testing program and his administration has announced that they will NOT be taking any action to punish students, parents or school districts due to the low participation rates in the Common Core tests.

As Wait, What? readers know, however, the story in Connecticut has been the exact opposite.

Under incredible pressure from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration, many Connecticut school districts continue to mislead and lie to parents about their right to opt their children out of the SBAC testing.  Furthermore, in response to large opt out rates in some schools, the Malloy administration has announce that they will begin to punish districts by withholding federal funding that is intended to help poor children and will be taking additional action if school districts fail to stop parents from opting their children out of the SBAC tests.

As a result of the pressure, one school district outside of New Haven, the local superintendent recently sent an email to all the teachers and staff in the district saying,

“Once again, I want to be extremely clear that there will be no opting out of state testing for any student…”

The superintendent is taking this stance despite the fact that there is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent from opting their child out of the test.

As if the state and local effort to undermine parental rights wasn’t outrageous enough, parents are reporting that some school districts are actually going after the children themselves.

In an unbelievable abuse of authority, a school district near Hartford is telling parents and students that any child who is opted out of the unfair SBAC test must remain in the testing room with their classmates for the 7 hours or so of SBAC testing that will be taking place in the coming weeks.

To refuse to relocate a child, some as young as 10 years old, to the library or an alternative location and forcing them to sit silently for seven hours with nothing to do is nothing short of child abuse.

In addition, to leave the child who is not taking the test in the testing room is in direct violation of the SBAC testing regulations.  See:  ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

The SBAC Test Administrators Manual could not be clearer;

 “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 requirements in the SBAC Test Administration Manual are not optional.  See Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4)

So Students, Parents and Teachers:

With the Common Core SBAC testing scam about to begin in Connecticut schools,  please take a moment to report on how you school is handling opt out requests and how the school is dealing with students who have been opted out?

Please send information to [email protected]

All communication will be kept confidential unless permission is given to use some of the information.

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