On SBAC – Connecticut’s Best Places for parents and students – Stonington, Madison, Region #19, Danbury

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UPDATED AS DATA ARRIVES

Every year groups like Livability.com release lists of the best places to live in American.  The organization observes that, “Making a Best Places to Live list is part art and part science.”

This year, Connecticut’s public school parents learned the value of living in a school district where the local superintendent and other school administrators treat their public school students and parents with respect, dignity and maturity.

In far too many towns, local school officials, driven by the directives of Governor Malloy’s administration, misled, harassed and abused parents and students who wanted and deserved honest information about their fundamental rights as they related to the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme.

While there were thankfully towns where local administrators did provide parents and students with the truth, far too many families were forced to confront the fact that their community’s school leaders refused to conduct themselves in an honest, ethical and moral fashion.

As a result, mapping where Connecticut parents and students are treated with respect has become particularly easy.

To identify the best communities for parents and students, one need only look at the percentage of high school students who opted out or refused to take the unfair Common Core SBAC test, a test designed to fail the vast majority of students, a test that was particularly dangerous and damaging for high school student who intend to go on to college.

The best places for parents and students to live is where school administrators recognize the importance of treating their community with the respect they deserve.

And based on that vitally important criteria, the communities and school districts that rise to the very top of the list are Stonington, Madison and Regional School District #19 (E.O. Smith High School which includes Mansfield, Ashford and Willington) and Danbury.

Some of the other towns where school administrators deserve praise include Region #9, Westport, Watertown, Groton, New Fairfield, Windsor, Winchester (Gilbert School), Granby, Manchester, Ellington, Darien and New Milford.

When the test scores arrive this summer, more and more parents will learn that the SBAC test is literally designed to label the majority of children as failures.  Parents will wish they lived in a districts led by school administrators who understood their duty to their parents and students.

At the other end of the spectrum are many of Connecticut’s poorest communities and a set of other towns whose school administrators crumbled to the pressure from the Malloy administration.

For a stunning example of arrogance, one need only look to Fairfield, where the superintendent and assistant superintendent saw fit to mislead and lie to parents about their opt out rights and where students who were opted out were forced to sit and stay in the testing rooms despite the despite the fact that the SBAC test protocol required that students who were taking the test were not supposed to be present in the testing room.”

All school districts have been asked to report the number of students, by grade levels, that were opted out of the Common Core SBAC Testing.

The following chart represents the data school districts provided on the number of high school juniors who were opted out or refused to take the Common Core SBAC test.  If your town is not listed it is because they have not provided the requested information to date.  There are towns that achieved high opt out rates. One of West Hartford’s high schools reported  a 52% opt out rate, while the other high school in the town reported 8%

The chart will be updated and republished as more information is made available by the superintendents.

Parents who live in communities where school administrators chose to stand with their parents and students should be commended!

Those who live in communities where school administrators mistreated misled, abused, harassed and lied to parents and students should consider demanding that their local school boards take action to ensure that the district is led by administrators who are willing and able to do their jobs in an appropriate and ethical manner.

Perhaps most disturbing is that some administrators appeared to be pleased that they were able to force a 100% test participation rate, a sad testament to the state’s inappropriate demand that everyone take the poorly designed and unfair Common Core SBAC test… What a sad commentary!

TOWN % OPT OUT
Stonington 93%
Madison 86%
Region #19 EO Smith 85%
Danbury 80%
Bridgeport Magnets (Ferris Wheeler Magnet Programs 77%-35%) 77%
Region #9 (ELA Part 2 66% Math 60%, ELA 51%) 66%
Westport 60%
Watertown 58%
Groton 51%
Weston 41%
New Fairfield 39%
Windsor 39%
Winchester (Gilbert School) 38%
Wethersfield 31%
Granby 30%
Manchester 19%
Ellington 17%
Darien 15%
New Milford 12%
Newtown 9%
Coventry 8%
Region #5 Amity 7%
Region #12 6%
Glastonbury 3%
Simsbury 3%
Old Saybrook 3%
Griswold 2%
Milford 2%
Wilton 2%
Bethel 1%
Chesire 1%
Colchester 1%
Fairfield 1%
Greenwich 1%
Killingly 1%
Lebanon 1%
Monroe 1%
Montville 1%
Putnam 1%
Region #16 1%
Region #17 1%
Shelton 1%
Wolcott 1%
Bloomfield 0%
Bolton 0%
Bridgeport (High Schools) 0%
Cromwell 0%
Norwich 0%
Meriden 0%
Region #8 0%
Region #10 0%
Region #15 0%
Seymour 0%
Westbrook 0%

Note:  The 1% communities are those in which at least one student was opted out.

Opt-Out movement rolls across CT – with opt out rates in excess of 50% in a number of high schools

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Although most parents of public school students won’t appreciate the disastrous impact of the unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test until the test results arrive at homes this summer, record numbers of parents have stepped up to opt their children out of the inappropriate SBAC testing scheme.

Firm opt out numbers are trickling in from around the state and the number of parents who have refused to have their children abused by the testing process is significant, especially among high school juniors who are particularly at risk of being negatively impacted by the test that is intentionally designed to fail the vast majority of Connecticut students.

Despite a concerted, unethical and immoral effort by Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration and some local school superintendents to mislead, harass and punish students in an effort to convince parents not to opt the child or children out of the Common Core SBAC test, thousands of parents and students have refused to be bullied and refused to take the disastrous test.

In towns where school superintendents handled their duties in a professional and appropriate fashion, the number of students opting out has reached massive proportions with some high schools reporting more than 80 percent of their high school juniors did not take the test.  A  number of high schools have seen opt out rates in excess of 50 percent.

Not surprisingly, where superintendents and school principals failed to fulfill their ethical responsibilities, choosing instead to bully and harass students by claiming that they could not graduate if they failed to take the Common Core SBAC test or telling parents that it was illegal to opt out of the SBAC test, the number of students refusing the test was significantly lower.

However, those schools administrators will discover that misleading and even lying to their schools’ parents will lead to major repercussions.

Check back here at Wait, What? and watch for media reports about the actual opt out numbers as school districts finalize and report on their Common Core testing activities

Also feel free to report any information you’ve heard in the comment section or send that information to [email protected]

Greater transparency needed around standardized testing in schools (By Maria Naughton)

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Maria Naughton is a fellow education advocate, as well as an educational consultant, former teacher and mother of four.  She also writes a column for the New Canaan Advertiser newspaper and is a regular quest columnist here at Wait, What?  Her latest piece can be found at: http://ncadvertiser.com/50468/column-greater-transparency-needed-around-standardized-testing-in-schools/

Greater transparency needed around standardized testing in schools by Maria Naughton

Following last year’s field test, high school juniors have started the new Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA), which has replaced two sections of the former sophomore-year CAPT. Different than the CAPT, this new test aligns to the Common Core standards, which claim to raise the bar for students. Measuring fewer academic topics, the SBA was created to measure, “college and career readiness,” a term referring to the ability to skip remedial coursework in either a post-secondary institution or in a certificate program leading to a “career pathway,” like those in a technical school.

This eight-hour assessment, which ends June 12, is web-based, and adaptive to student ability. The Smarter Balanced Consortium, a multi-state public agency located at UCLA, created the test. Low scores are predicted, but New Canaan may do better than most following many years of preparation. Regardless, perhaps we need to think more deeply about this unproven test and its future impact.

These tests have been inserted into a critical year. As juniors, students are working hard to meet academic demands while making preparations for college. Many are taking AP courses, and studying for other high-stakes tests, such as the AP, SAT and ACT, which help students earn credits and increase their chances for college admissions. SBA testing during this year causes students to miss instructional time, putting both grades and AP credits at risk, and impacts efforts to do well on college entrance exams. Considering many students are already taking college-level coursework, the “college readiness” predictive value of the new test seems redundant. Additionally, in creating this test, the Consortium seems to ignore findings that high school grades are a bigger predictor of college success than any standardized tests.

Unlike class grades, these tests currently mean very little for juniors. Results won’t be available until after July, and won’t impact grades or course placement. A quick survey of nine Connecticut colleges and universities found that none are looking at these scores. To fulfill graduation requirements, just like in the past, these scores may be only one of many factors, according to state statute. The NCHS handbook lists these, and students can easily meet with their counselors to clarify.

Students and families may find the scoring parameters unsettling. Despite its lack of validity and untested predictive value, the Consortium has already determined that most students in Connecticut will fail the Spring 2015 test. According to them, 60-90% of test-takers won’t pass, with sub-groups doing the worst. A score of one through four will become part of a student’s academic record, yet the implications of scores are unclear. However, according to a draft Consortium Policy Framework, low scores may result in additional coursework and remediation in grade 12 to prove college-readiness.

And in what ostensibly seems to be a clinical trial, the Consortium, in partnership with UCLA, will analyze these results, to be used for research, development and future recommendations. Clearly, the Consortium wields much control over our local schools, yet we know little about them. This group, consisting of 17 states, is federally funded, and is supported by the Gates Foundation among others, but it isn’t clear to whom they are accountable. Their assessments, they claim, will ensure our children are, “productive, engaged and ethical citizens” but how that is accomplished is unclear. Their goal is to, “improve educational outcomes” for millions, yet their governance authority is not transparent to families and taxpayers, and the data sharing remains a mystery.

Many families who are aware of the testing/standards flaws, the scoring problems, and the questionable data practices are refusing the test. Following state guidance, local district administrators had been telling parents that opting-out was not possible, because 95% participation was needed to ensure federal funding. Administrators have since reversed that decision, but even if that were true, in communities like New Canaan, that amount is negligible. In truth, no district should be coerced into accepting this murky and experimental plan, certain to fail most children, at the risk of losing funding for their neediest students.

It’s time for all of us to take a serious look at the role of standardized testing in our schools, paying extra attention to this new assessment. Greater transparency is needed around all those involved, including the Consortium, to better understand the impact on our students, the ongoing quality of our schools and the allocation of future resources. State law requires districts to give annual assessments, but there is no law forcing a child to take them. Parents can, as in the past, refuse the test. Parents should refuse to accept the results if children have already been tested. This is the only means by which a parent will have a voice in this process. Let’s restore control of education to the towns, school districts, and to the families they serve.

 

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

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

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

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

According to the CEA blog today,

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

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

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

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

In California, Standardized Testing Sparks Backlash

In Delaware, House Overwhelmingly Supports Opt-Out Rights

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

In Illinois, Illinois Legislature Still Considering Opt-Out Bill

In Louisiana, Test Overkill Fatigue

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

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

In Missouri, Testing Misuses Students to Evaluate Teachers and Schools

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

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

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

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

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

In Ohio, House Overwhelmingly Votes to Reduce State Testing

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

In Pennsylvania, Students Opt Out of State Keystone Exams

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

In Vermont, Testing is Profitable But Not for Students

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

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

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

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

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This is an EMERGENCY request for information;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just take a look at the following;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Connecticut parents and taxpayers;

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

-Vermont State Board of Education March 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

– Governor Dannel Malloy May 13, 2015

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

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

Imagine…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Period, end of story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11TH Grade SBAC Math Test – PERCENT PROJECTED TO FAIL

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Say No to SBAC (by Ann P. Cronin)

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

Ann Cronin writes;

Say No to SBAC.

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

  1. SBAC tests are not rigorous.

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

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

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

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

  1. SBAC tests are not developmentally appropriate.

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

  1. SBAC tests are capriciously graded.

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

  1. SBAC tests serve to widen the achievement gap.

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

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

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

  1. SBAC tests narrow the curriculum.

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

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

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

  1. SBAC tests encourage poor pedagogy.

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

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

Connecticut is already doing well with literacy education.

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

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

  1. SBAC tests teach the wrong values.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The MTA’s resolution states;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madeloni added,

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

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

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

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

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

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