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

3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Connecticut – Our children are not stupid

33 Comments

However, that is EXACTLY what the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test is designed to tell us.

The shocking, truth is that parents who do not opt their child out of the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing regime this year will “discover” that approximately 70% of the state’s children are failing.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In a CT Mirror commentary piece entitled “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core,” Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Connecticut’s charter school lobbying group goes to great length to actually MISLEAD Connecticut’s parents about the false promise of the Common Core.

This pro-Common Core cheerleader and leading apologist for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda claims that,

…we must continue to implement consistent high standards like the Common Core across every classroom, every school, and every district in our state. It is a necessary step toward our goal of providing a high-quality education for every Connecticut child.

But what Jennifer Alexander, Governor Malloy and the other proponents of the Common Core fail to tell parents, and the public, is that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to ensure that only about one-third of our state’s public school students get passing marks.

How is that possible?

Because the Common Core Test uses what is called the NAEP “proficient” level as its passing grade.  NAEP is The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national testing entity.

According to NAEP, the “proficient” level is a standard that is equivalent to what is deemed “high performance,” rather than what would be considered grade-level performance.

So, in reality, the Common Core Test is not designed to determine whether our children are learning what is expected at that grade level, but is purposely designed to pretend that all students should be “higher performers.”

Of course, as every parent knows, while all children can learn and thrive with the right support, not all students are academic “high performers” each step of the way.

But proponents of the Common Core testing system like Jennifer Alexander and Governor Malloy won’t tell parents that their children will be deemed failing if they don’t score at the “high performer” level.

When New York State implemented the Common Core Test, student scores across the state dropped by nearly 50 percent from the scores those same students had received in previous, more grade level-oriented, standardized tests.

The result of the Common Core Test was that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts  Common Core tests.

Did New York students suddenly become stupid?

No, of course not!

Even worse, the Common Core Test design is particularly unfair to African American and Latino American students.  In New York State, only about one in five Black and Latino students “passed’ and the Common Core test design ensured that only 3% of the English Language Learners achieved passing scores under the new Common Core scheme.

To put it bluntly, the Common Core Test is designed to send students of color, students who have English Language barriers and students with special education needs home with a report that indicates that they are failing.

The underlying problem with the Common Core Testing is not a secret, although many politicians wish that it was.  As has been widely reported, the Common Core Test gives fifth graders questions that are written at an 8th grade level.

The harsh reality is that the “cut score” or passing number on the Common Core Test has been purposely set so that approximately 30 percent of the test takers pass and 70 percent fail.

Jennifer Alexander, who is paid a six-figure income to speak for the charter school industry, doesn’t reveal that the real reason the corporate education reform industry loves the Common Core Testing is because it produces an almost unlimited list of failing schools.

And thanks to Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, federal law provides that failing schools can be handed over to charter school management companies…and with it hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds going to private charter school corporations to run public schools.

For the truth about the Common Core Testing system one need only go back to a 2011 article in the Washington Post in which James Harvey, the executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, explains what the NAEP proficient level really means.

Harvey says,

“Proficiency remains a tough nut to crack for most students, in all subjects, at all grade levels. NAEP reports that only one third of American students are proficient or better, no matter the subject, the age of the students, or their grade level

[…]

NAEP’s benchmarks, including the proficiency standard, evolved out of a process only marginally better than throwing darts at the wall.

That’s a troubling conclusion to reach in light of the expenditure of more than a billion dollars on NAEP over 40-odd years by the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessors. For all that money, one would expect that NAEP could defend its benchmarks of Basic, Proficient, and Advanced by pointing to rock-solid studies of the validity of its benchmarks and the science underlying them. But it can’t.

Instead, NAEP and the National Assessment Governing Board that promulgated the benchmarks have spent the better part of 20 years fending off a consensus in the scientific community that the benchmarks lack validity and don’t make sense. Indeed, the science behind these benchmarks is so weak that Congress insists that every NAEP report include the following disclaimer: “NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] has determined that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

So the Common Core score is tied to a system that even the United States Congress admits should be “used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

Harvey goes on to explain,

“Proficient Doesn’t Mean Proficient.

Oddly, NAEP’s definition of proficiency has little or nothing to do with proficiency as most people understand the term. NAEP experts think of NAEP’s standard as “aspirational.” In 2001, two experts associated with NAEP’s National Assessment Governing…made it clear that:

“[T]he proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”

Despite the mountains of evidence about the problems with the Common Core and Common Core testing, corporate elitists like ConnCAN have the chutzpah to say we should implement the Common Core and the unfair Common Cores tests because, “many national studies that show wide support for clear, high standards to help ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, are ready for the challenges of college and career.”

As parents of public school children, we all recognize that there is nothing wrong having “clear, high standards.” Standards are good and Connecticut has its own process for updating and enhancing our state’s academic standards.

Yet rather than using Connecticut’s process and respecting the values inherent in the local control of education, the Common Core was developed using a system that did not include the full involvement of teachers, parents and the community.

Governor Malloy, ConnCAN and the corporate education reform industry have thrown their support behind an inappropriate set of national standards that were not developed by teachers, parents or those who know what is developmentally appropriate for children.

Furthermore, had the proponents of the Common Core been genuinely interested in enhancing educational standards in the United States they would have developed those standards using the appropriate people and then phased in those goals over a period of ten years, thereby allowing our schools to ramp up what we expect of our children and our public education system.

Instead, in a grotesque effort to grab as much public funding as possible for the testing companies and the rest of the education reform industry, these people, with the help of our government officials, mandated the Common Core standards and then mandated that our children be tested against those standards immediately.

So what have we been given?

Connecticut has been served up a system that is designed to tell 70 percent of our students that they are failures.

And that is nothing short of child abuse.

Rather than pushing the flawed Common Core testing program on our students, teachers and public schools, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Pryor, and Connecticut’s public school superintendents and principals should be standing up and protecting our children from this unwarranted abuse.

But since they won’t, it is up to parents to take on the task of stopping this abuse by opting our children out of the absurd Common Core Standardized Testing program.

And if your school district tells you that you can’t opt out your child, remind them that this is America and that there is absolutely no federal or state law that revokes your parental rights when it comes to standardized testing in our public schools!

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.

In this case, the Malloy administration and the proponents of the Common Core and its related testing apparatus are nothing short of bullies —– and they must be stopped before they do any more damage to our children and our public schools.

The charter school industry’s commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a clear reminder.

The time is now to tell your school district that your children will not be participating in this year’s Common Core Testing.

Important candidate question for tonight’s Hartford Courant and FOX CT gubernatorial debate

9 Comments

The Hartford Courant and FOX CT, along with the University of Connecticut, will be hosting a gubernatorial debate at 7 p.m. with Democrat Dannel “Dan’ Malloy and Republican Tom Foley. The debate will be televised on Fox61 and live-streamed at www.courant.com.

In a disturbing statement about the health of our democracy, the debate press release announced that, “only candidates who receive at least 10 percent of support in independent statewide polls are participating in the debate.” Therefore the organizers, in conjunction with Malloy and Foley are banning 3rd party candidate Joe Visconti from the debate.

There is a fundamental question that parents across Connecticut would like to have asked;

Mr. Malloy and Mr. Foley, with a simple yes or no answer, can you tell us whether Connecticut’s public school parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test?

If you too want this question asked, please send it to – [email protected] and Tweet it to @CarolynLumsden using the hashtag #ctpolitics.  [ Q: Do parents have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test? .]

Common Core Testing – Will Foley or Malloy join Visconti in protecting parental rights?

27 Comments

ed12The only Connecticut gubernatorial candidate on the November 2014 ballot that is publicly committed to protecting the right of parents to opt their children out of the inappropriate and unfair Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAC) is petitioning candidate Joe Visconti.

With Connecticut public schools wasting more and more taxpayer funds and instructional time on “preparing” children for the Common Core Testing Scheme and taking the Common Core tests, the silence from Foley (and Malloy) on this important issue is extremely disturbing.

Last year, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, spent months engaged in a campaign to mislead parents into thinking that they do not have the right to opt-out their children from the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test.

Governor Malloy and Commission Pryor repeatedly claimed that federal and state laws trump parental rights when it comes to taking the Common Core standardized tests.

However, there are no federal or state laws that prohibit parents from opting their children out of the unfair Common Core tests and there is no law that allows schools to punish parents or students for opting out of the tests.

Rather than protecting the rights of parents, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent out a memo to Connecticut’s school superintendents explaining how they should go about misleading, scaring and lying to Connecticut parents in an immoral effort to stop parents from opting-out their children.

Pryor’s memo was posted on the State Department of Education website, until it was highlighted here and elsewhere, then it disappeared.

The one thing that has become increasingly clear is that the statements made by Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor were completely wrong.

In fact, when confronted about the issue at a legislative hearing last spring, Connecticut’s State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor admitted that there was no law that prevents parents from opting their children out of these Common Core Tests. (See - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY).

But with the new school years comes fresh reports that superintendents are, once again, engaged in efforts to persuade parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the standardized testing.

All of this means that the question for the candidates for governor becomes that much more important.

So to Tom Foley, when are you going to make your position clear on the right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core testing?

And to Governor Malloy, have you changed your position on the right of parents to opt their children out of the standardized tests or will you continue to use the power of your office and the State Department of Education to mislead parents about this issue?

For more information about the opt-out movement, check out the following websites:  United Opt Out: http://unitedoptout.com/ and Fair Test: http://www.fairtest.org/.

The pro-Common Core Standardized Testing governor throws students, parents and teachers a bone.

19 Comments

With election day in sight, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, one the of country’s leading corporate education reform supporters, recently issued a press release announcing that he was writing a letter to Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to “explore” reducing the use of the Common Core standardized testing for 11th graders.  (Malloy’s pro-corporate education reform industry initiatives have earned him more than a quarter of a million dollars in campaign donations from the state and national education reformers so far this year).

Pro-public education advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker takes on Governor Malloy’s standardized testing ploy in an commentary piece entitled, “Malloy’s empty words about testing

Wendy Lecker writes,

Throughout his administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s education policies have been characterized by a disdain for evidence of what helps children learn, and a refusal to listen to those closest to students — parents and teachers. While it has been proven that test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning, and has increased stress in children of all ages, Malloy callously maintained, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores.”

Now, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the governor has suddenly declared an interest in the welfare of children — or some children. In a self-congratulatory news release, the governor announced that he wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to begin a “dialogue” about how to reduce one standardized test for 11th graders.

Malloy’s newly discovered concern for over-testing for one grade must be understood against his record on standardized testing. Just two years ago, the Malloy administration rushed through an application for an NCLB “waiver,” which exchanged some of NCLB’s mandates for many other mandates — including massively increasing standardized testing. The waiver obligated the state to administer the Common Core tests, including moving the high school test from 10th to 11th grade, and to use the widely discredited method of including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Recognizing the potential for an explosion in standardized testing, parents, school board members and teachers implored the Malloy administration not to apply for the NCLB waiver until it assessed the impact on our children and the cost to taxpayers. Yet, the Malloy administration ignored these warnings and submitted the application.

A year before the administration of the SBAC field tests statewide, I and others wrote about the lunacy of moving the high school test to 11th grade, a year when most students have a heavy course-load, AP tests, ACTs and SATs. Again, the Malloy administration disregarded the public and charged ahead.

When the statewide SBAC pilot tests were to be administered last year, parents expressed reluctance to state and local officials about subjecting their children to this experiment. Rather than consider their genuine concern, the Malloy administration employed a strategy to intimidate parents. It called for presenting parents with threatening letters and half-truths. Finally, if a parent persisted through the gauntlet of misrepresentations and insisted on opting her child out, the Malloy administration would relent and admit there is no penalty for doing so.

Some parents defied the Malloy administration’s bullying and sat their children out of the field tests. Eleventh graders sat out in the largest numbers. Hence Malloy’s new-found concern for over-testing — for 11th graders only.

Though Malloy professes concern about over-testing 11th graders, in reality he plans to increase testing for everyone. In May, his PEAC commission announced a plan to use multiple standardized tests in teacher evaluations going forward. Not only does this plan double down on the flawed practice of using standardized tests to measure a teacher’s performance, it also vastly increases testing for children. The SBAC interim tests, which the Malloy administration recommends, will likely double the standardized testing that already exists.

Against the reality of his policies, Malloy’s letter to Duncan proves to be nothing more than political posturing.

Contrast Malloy’s empty rhetoric with the actions of Vermont’s state officials. As Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe explained to parents in a letter in August, Vermont chose not to apply for the NCLB waiver because of the voluminous evidence demonstrating that including test scores in teacher evaluations is inaccurate; and the evidence that over-emphasizing standardized tests discourages teaching a rich curriculum.

In this letter, Holcombe explained that Vermont disagrees with federal education policy around standardized testing. She declared that NCLB’s reliance on test scores as the main measure of school quality “does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being.” Noting the failure of test-based accountability to narrow learning gaps between poor and affluent children, Holcombe wrote: “We need a different approach that actually works.”

Vermont’s State Board of Education followed with a resolution carefully reviewing the evidence on testing; calling on the federal government to reduce testing mandates and to stop using tests to evaluate teachers; and calling on state and national organizations to broaden educational goals and ensure adequate resources for schools.

The actions of Vermont’s state government remind us that the purpose of education policies is to benefit children. Sadly, Governor Malloy only seems to acknowledge the welfare of children when he is trying to snag votes.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s full commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Lecker-Malloy-s-empty-words-about-testing-5768147.php

Malloy allocates $500k to figure out how to reduce standardized testing…

18 Comments

After wasting tens of millions of taxpayer funds instituting his massive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC) tests, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has now said that he wants  “to reduce the time Connecticut students spend taking standardized tests” and has even come up with $500,000 in grants to hand out to schools to help them figure out how to undo the very plan he pushed through.

You gotta love election years!

In 2012, Malloy’s education reform industry initiative mandated a huge expansion in standardized testing for public school students, including a new test for high school juniors – this despite the fact that these 11th graders were already taking a number of standardized tests as part  of the college application process.

Now, two years later – and six weeks before Election Day – Malloy has had an epiphany and put out a press release saying, “I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most over-tested: our eleventh-graders.”

In a grandiose attempt to prove his commitment to reducing standardized testing, the Hartford Courant reported,

“Malloy and state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor also announced Friday that school districts can start applying next month for grants to reduce the amount of time students spend taking tests at all grade levels spend taking tests. The total of up to $500,000 in grants will “support local efforts to eliminate tests that are outdated and do not contribute to student learning — thereby increasing classroom time for teaching — and to improve the quality of student assessments already in use, including the tailoring and personalization of assessments to student needs.”

Although the champion of more testing is now saying he wants to “explore” reducing the number of tests for high school juniors, his strong support for the Common Core and Common Core testing charade remains intact.

In addition, although Malloy is apparently trying to throw a bone to students, parents and teachers, he continues to duck the challenge to clarify his position on teacher tenure.

See:  Governor Malloy: Tell the truth about your position on teacher tenure

Governor Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing public schools.

To date, Mr. Malloy has not renounced his anti-tenure proposal.

In response to Malloy’s remark that public school teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy recently told the audience at the Norwich Bulletin Candidate Debate, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Is Governor Dan Malloy now saying that his anti-teacher statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

It is time for Malloy to come clean and tell the truth about his position on tenure.

Add your name to demand that Dannel Malloy either confirm or renounce his 2012 proposal to end tenure for public school teachers and repeal collective bargaining for teachers in selected public schools.

************************************************************************

To sign the petition go to:

https://www.change.org/p/governor-dannel-malloy-governor-malloy-tell-the-truth-about-your-position-on-teacher-tenure#

 

You can read earlier Wait, What? posts about Malloy’s 11th grade testing disaster by clicking on any of the following links:

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

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

Bribing the guinea pigs (aka our students)

Take it from parents; teenagers are people, not data points

 

Step #1 – Dump the Common Core and its testing mania

15 Comments

Step #2 – Focus on properly funding our schools and helping children overcome the educational challenges associated with poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense [or wasteful education reform industry junk] than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

Common Core Opponents Voice Their Opposition (CT Newsjunkie)

 A handful of parents — some of whom were wearing red T-shirts that read “Stop the Common Core in CT” — expressed their opposition to implementation of the Common Core State Standards at the state Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

“We will have wasted billions of dollars on children’s education on an experiment which is not supported by any real evidence that it will succeed,” retired teacher Kathy Cordone said.

Cordone does not agree with the Common Core standards, which were written by the National Governors Association, the Council for Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc. Instead, she would like for the rules to be written by Connecticut teachers.

[…]

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform, pledged his support for the Common Core and said that the Common Core Task Force offered a rubric that will help track implementation of these changes.

Read the CTNewsjunkie story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/common_core_opponents_voice_their_opposition/

 

Common Core? Try common ground for Pelto, Visconti

Coming from the left and right, the paths of two petitioning candidates for governor intersected Wednesday outside a state Board of Education meeting, where a dozen people staged a protest of the Common Core curriculum standards.

“We’re here to make a statement,” said Joe Visconti, a conservative Republican petitioning for a place on the ballot as an independent. “This is probably issue number one in Connecticut.”

Jonathan Pelto, a liberal Democrat also petitioning as an independent, said the concern over Common Core has blurred the standard left-right division in politics, bringing him and Visconti to the same place.

“There’s such frustration with government in Washington and Hartford, the establishment, that it’s redrawing the traditional lines,” Pelto said.

Read the full CT Mirror article at: http://ctmirror.org/common-core-try-common-ground-for-left-right/

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again.

7 Comments

Thomas Scarice, the superintendent of Madison Public Schools in Connecticut, has been identified as a “Public Education Hero” by Diane Ravitch, the nations’leading public education advocate.  Scarice has been a leading Connecticut voice against “high-stakes test-based school reform.”

A few months ago, Thomas Scarice received national attention for a letter he sent to Connecticut State Legislators explaining why these “reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research.”

His latest commentary piece, “The greatest ‘crime’ committed against the teaching profession” was featured on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post’s education blog this week.

Thomas Scarice writes,

On May 25th, 2006, former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in perhaps the most high profile scandal of corruption as a consequence of high stakes measures.  Lay and Skilling fraudulently inflated the company’s stock price to meet the high stakes demands of Wall Street’s expectations.  Not only did Lay and Skilling conspire to inflate stock prices, but they also distorted standard accounting practices to solely meet targets.  The seeds of high stakes schemes yield corruption and distortion.

The Enron case does not stand alone in the history of corruption and distortion amidst high stakes indicators, such as stock prices.  As academic scholars Dr. David Berliner and Dr. Sharon Nichols demonstrate in their work, the annals of corporate history are tattered with similar cases of corruption and distortion driven by high stakes pressures.  High stakes accountability and incentive system failures, as well as blatant fraud, at Dun and Bradstreet, Qwest, the Heinz Company, and Sears auto repair shops, illustrate that such schemes inevitably bring unintended consequences.  As people, we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the intended or unintended consequences of such actions.  As author Steven Covey has written, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end.”

The ubiquity of this principle is evident in the fields of medicine, athletics, higher education, and politics.  Quite simply, as the stakes rise, so do the occurrences of corruption and distortion.  Sadly, education is not immune to this principle.  Over a decade of high stakes accountability schemes thrust upon students, teachers, and schools have yielded sordid tales of outright corruption and cheating scandals.  Although such acts of indignity garner ornate headlines and self-righteous accusations about the lack of moral character, to which there is truth, given the inescapable unintended consequences of high stakes schemes, such corrupt behaviors and distortions of a given professional practice are inevitable and of no surprise.  Yet, we march on in the high stakes test-based accountability era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

Beneath the surface of these obvious problems lies a more insidious threat to the quality of public education for all children.  This threat begins with the redefinition of a quality education and ends with a decimating blow to the professional practice of education.  While frivolous topics related to the common core are debated in the open arena, e.g. whether or not the common core is a curriculum, a redefinition of quality education has destructively taken root.  This redefinition, one that feebly defines quality education as good high stakes test scores, and quality teaching as the efforts to produce good high stakes test scores, leaves well-intended educators consequentially conflating goals with measures.  Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement.  High quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process.  But, measures are not goals.  Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a multibillion dollar corporation to its knees, in this era, the shallowest of thinkers have passively accepted the paradigm that measures are goals.

And finally, we are left with the greatest crime committed against the professional practice of education as a result of the corrosive effect of the high stakes testing era.  In an effort to thrive, and perhaps, just to survive, in a redefined world of quality education, a soft, though sometimes harsh, distortion of pedagogy, has perniciously spread to classrooms, just as the Enron executives distorted sound accounting practices to meet high stakes targets.  This will indeed be our greatest regret.

Corruption and distortion as a result of high stakes schemes sealed the fate of Enron and many other organizations like it.  History will tell the story about the future of the high stakes test-based accountability era and its unintended consequences.  And again, we march on in this era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

You can read the piece on-line at the Washington Post by going to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/20/superintendent-the-greatest-crime-committed-against-the-teaching-profession/

Time for Connecticut to dump the Common Core

23 Comments

Connecticut has wasted enough time and money on the unnecessary and wasteful diversion called the Common Core and its associated Common Core testing scheme.

It is time for Connecticut to scrap the Common Core and re-direct scarce resources to ensuring that all of Connecticut’s public school students get the education they need to lead fulfilling lives.

If elected governor, I’ll do exactly that.

While state standards for academic performance are an important part of a comprehensive public education system, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with working to align standards across the states, the Common Core has become a vehicle for the massive waste of public funds, the loss of true local control of education and a stalking horse for the corporate education reform industry and their effort to make money and privatize public education in the United States..

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a pro-Common Core research and advocacy group, that is not associated with Fordham University, estimates that implementing the Common Core will cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $8 billion.

More neutral experts are predicting the cost of implementing the Common Core will be much higher.

A study in California predicted the cost to taxpayers in that state would be $1.6 billion and an assessment in taxes estimated the cost there would be $3 billion.

While Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education remain staunch supporters of the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme they have never revealed how much it will cost Connecticut to pursue this poor excuse for a public education strategy.

Parents and teachers are learning that in addition to the extraordinary waste of money, the implementation of the Common Core has become a tremendous waste of instruction time as our public schools turn into little more than testing factories, and our teachers waste their energies “teaching to the test” rather than actually educating our students.

While some claim that the Common Core is a federal mandate and must be followed, they fail to recognize that only 44 of the 50 states signed up to participate in the Common Core project and a number of states are quickly backing away from the program that was developed by President George W. Bush and expanded by President Barack Obama.

Just last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed legislation repealing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for her state.

Oklahoma Governor Fallin isn’t alone in recognizing the problems that the Common Core Standards are creating.

In recent months, citizens and organizations across the political spectrum have made it clear that the Common Core is not taking public education in the right direction.

While there has been a lot of publicity that the right-wing opposes the Common Core, the breadth of opposition goes well beyond a single portion of the electorate.

The Chicago Teachers Union recently voted against using the Common Core.   In Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Teachers Association elected anti-Common Core testing champion Barbara Madeloni as their new president and adopted a resolution demanding a moratorium on implementation of the Common Core and its testing program.

And many Connecticut teachers are articulating how the focus on the Common Core is wasting time; money and energy that would be better spent improving the quality of education in the state’s public schools.

As Benjamin Franklin said more than 200 years ago, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The Common Core and its Common Core testing scheme are not about teaching or learning.

We need to throw it out, along with its corporate education reform industry sponsors, and return our public education to the people and those who actually educate our children.

With a win in November, we can dump the Common Core and take back control of our public schools.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Group of New York Teachers refuse to give unfair standardized tests

No Comments

At great risk to their careers, 26 Teachers and Staff of International High School at Prospect Heights in New York City are refusing to give the NYC ELA Performance Assessment Test.  The comes after 3 teachers from the Earth School on the lower east side in Manhattan sent a letter of conscience to the NYC School Chancellor that they would not give the ELA.

In New York City, “Teachers will hold a press conference [Today, May 1, 2014] to announce their refusal to administer the NYC ELA Performance Assessment. 26 teachers and staff at Prospect Heights International High School are refusing to administer a new assessment that is part of the new teacher evaluation system pushed by Bloomberg’s DOE and the UFT last spring.  50% of parents have opted their children out of the test. The high school serves almost exclusively recently arrived English Language Learners.”

Their statement goes on to report,

WHY:  The test was constructed and formatted without any thought for the 14% of New York City students for whom English is not their first language. The level of English used in the pre-test administered in the Fall was so far above the level of our beginner ELLs that it provided little to no information about our students’ language proficiency or the level of their academic skills.

Furthermore, the test was a traumatic and demoralizing experience for students. Many students, after asking for help that teachers were not allowed to give, simply put their heads down for the duration.  Some students even cried.

Teachers at Prospect Heights are drawing a line with this test.  Standardized, high stakes test dominate our schools, distort our curriculum and make our students feel like failures.  This test serves no purpose for the students,  and ultimately only hurts them.

More about their effort at: http://standupoptout.wordpress.com/

The New York Teachers action comes on top of the ongoing effort by some teachers in Washington State to stand up and speak out about the flawed, unfair and inappropriate standardized testing system.

As the Washington Post wrote last year,

“Teachers in Seattle protesting a mandated standardized test that they think is useless have scored a victory: The test will, starting next year, no longer be required for high school graduation.

Still, teachers said, the boycott did not win a full victory because district officials are still planning to give the MAP two times a year in elementary and middle schools. “This fight is far from over,” one teacher said.

The boycott of the MAP test started in January at Garfield High School and has spread to a total of six schools in Seattle while earning student support and national attention. The Garfield teachers originally gave these reasons for boycotting the test:

We, the Garfield teachers, respectfully decline to give the MAP test to any of our students. We have had different levels of experiences with MAP in our varied careers, have read about it, and discussed it with our colleagues. After this thorough review, we have all come to the conclusion that we cannot in good conscience subject our students to this test again. This letter is an objection to the MAP test specifically and particularly to its negative impact on our students. Here are our reasons:

*Seattle Public School staff has notified us that the test is not a valid test at the high school level. For these students, the margin of error is greater than the expected gain. We object to spending time, money, and staffing on an assessment even SPS agrees is not valid.

*We are not allowed to see the contents of the test, but an analysis of the alignment between the Common Core and MAP shows little overlap. We object to our students being tested on content we are not expected to teach.

*Ninth graders and students receiving extra support (ELL, SPED, and students in math support) are targets of the MAP test. These students are in desperate need of MORE instructional time. Instead, the MAP test subtracts many hours of class time from students’ schedules each year. If we were to participate this year, we would take 805 students out of class during 112 class periods. The amount of lost instructional time is astounding. On average students would EACH lose 320 minutes of instructional time. This is over 5 hours of CORE class time (language arts and math) that students are losing. We object to participating in stealing instructional time from the neediest students.

[…]

*In addition to students losing class time to take the test, our computer labs are clogged for weeks with test taking and cannot be used for other educational purposes. For example, students who have a research project no longer have access to the computers they need to further their exploration into their research topic. This especially hurts students without computers at home. We object to our educational resources being monopolized by a test we cannot support.

*Even the NWEA itself, the parent company to MAP, has advised districts to carefully restrict the use of the test and its results. NWEA also cautions to ensure 100% random selection of students enrolled in any course if the test is used for evaluation and to take into consideration statistical error in designing evaluation policies. NWEA says that problems become “particularly profound at the high school level.” None of these or other criteria urged by NWEA has been met. We object to being evaluated by a test whose author suggests extreme caution in its use and warns against valid legal action if the test is used in personnel decisions.

*The Seattle Education Association passed a resolution condemning the MAP test that reads, “Whereas testing is not the primary purpose of education…Whereas the MAP was brought into Seattle Schools under suspicious circumstances and conflicts of interest…Whereas the SEA has always had the position of calling for funding to go to classroom and student needs first…Be it Resolved that…the MAP test should be scrapped and/or phased out and the resources saved be returned to the classroom.” We object to having to give it after such an opinion from our collective voice has been registered.

We are not troublemakers nor do we want to impede the high functioning of our school. We are professionals who care deeply about our students and cannot continue to participate in a practice that harms our school and our students. We want to be able to identify student growth and determine if our practice supports student learning. We wish to be evaluated in a way so that we can continue to improve our practice, and we wish for our colleagues who are struggling to be identified and either be supported or removed. The MAP test is not the way to do any of these things. We feel strongly that we must decline to give the MAP test even one more time.

You can read the full document at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/16/seattle-teachers-boycotting-test-score-a-victory/

Older Entries