The lies in the new SAT (by Wendy Lecker)

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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and his State Department of Education are engaged in an unethical effort to spin their new “mandate” that every Connecticut High School Junior (11th grader) MUST take the NEW SAT test on March 2, 2016.

Driven by their support for the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and their desire to use the test scores to rate students and evaluate teachers, the state is on a mission.

However, parents, students, teachers and the public should be aware that their effort is a disgrace and that their lies will not go unchallenged.

To repeat a common refrain here at Wait, What? – There is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core testing program – and that includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests for grades 3-8 and the new SAT for grade 11.

Even Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman has admitted to parents that they have the right to opt their children out of the test, although she remains silent in public about this fundamental issue.

Local school superintendents and school administrators also know the truth.  If they are telling students and parents that children must take the SBAC or SAT in order to graduate or move on to the next grade they are lying!

The SBAC test is designed to fail students, in part because it includes content that the majority of students have not be taught.  Proponents of the NEW SAT claim that it too is aligned to the Common Core, but it isn’t even being released until March 2016 so those Connecticut students who do take it on March 2, 2016 are nothing short of guinea pigs for the corporate testing industry.

It is parents – not the state – that have the inalienable right to decide whether their child should take a test that is designed to label tens of thousands of students as failures when they are not failing by any honest definition of that word.

My next Wait, What? column here will be entitled;

 “Why my daughter will not be taking the NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.”

As a prerequisite to that piece and to better understand the under-handed action that is being taken by the Malloy administration, please take the time to read fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker’s expose entitled, The lies in the new SAT.

This article was first published in this past weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Connecticut’s political and educational leaders have sold us a bill of goods with the new SAT. Last spring the legislature and the State Board of Education hastily decided to replace the 11th-grade SBAC with the newly designed SAT. The move was in response to outcry about the invalidity of the SBAC and about the addition of another standardized test for juniors.

As I wrote previously (http://bit.ly/1Kv8TXk), our leaders did not wait for the SAT to be validated, nor did they validate any accommodations that English Language Learners (ELL) or students with disabilities would need.

Instead, they misrepresented the facts to parents and students.

In December, the State Department of Education (SDE) sent districts a sample letter intended for parents. In it, SDE claimed that “(b) y adopting the SAT, we are eliminating duplicate testing.”

That assertion is false for many Connecticut students and SDE knew that when it wrote this letter. In a separate document sent at the same time but addressed to district leaders, not parents, SDE acknowledged that the vast majority of ELL students taking the SAT with accommodations will be unable to report their scores to colleges, because the College Board does not accept ELL accommodations. Similarly, many students with disabilities using accommodations will not be able to report scores either, as the College Board has more stringent criteria for disability accommodations. For those students, the SAT will only count for state accountability purposes.

In other words, for thousands of students, the state-mandated SAT will not count for college applications and they will have to take another test — either the SAT or ACT without accommodations.

Our state leaders also misled us by claiming that the new SAT is appropriate as an accountability exam aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Connecticut law requires that, for the current graduating class until the class of 2020, students must complete three credits of mathematics. Algebra II is not required nor is trigonometry or precalculus. Beginning with the class of 2021, the law specifies that students must take Algebra I and geometry, and either Algebra II or probability and statistics. Algebra II is not a requirement and trigonometry and precalculus are not even mentioned.

Yet the new SAT has a significant amount of Algebra II, and has trigonometry and precalculus. Almost half the math SAT is composed of “advanced math” and “additional topics” both of which have these advanced subjects. By contrast, there is very little geometry.

The new SAT is not aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements. Moreover, choosing this test sets students who have not taken Algebra II before 11th grade up for failure, along with their districts.

The SAT is designed to be a test with winners and losers. It is a comparative, scaled test. As one top SAT tutor recently wrote to the Business Insider, “(i) f everyone got a 1,600, there would be no point to this test at all. This test is designed to show colleges who is better and who is worse — not who is good.” A test with this goal should not be used as an accountability test, which is supposed to confirm who has met state academic goals for high school — i.e. who is “good.”

The final lie our state leaders are selling is that the new SAT will tell us who is ready for college success. As I have written before, the evidence — something our leaders rarely examine — shows that the best predictor of college cumulative GPA and graduation, i.e. college success, is the high school GPA. This is true over time, across the entire nation, in all types of colleges and universities. By contrast neither the SAT nor the ACT is a good predictor of college success.

The same top SAT tutor notes that the College Board’s claim that the new SAT will accurately reflect the demands of the American high school curriculum has a major flaw, namely “this is exactly what they said about the last version that they launched”— the one the College Board has now abandoned. He declared that anyone who takes the new SAT is merely “a guinea pig for the College Board’s marketing machine.” He recommends that none of his students take the new SAT until other guinea pigs prove its validity.

Those other guinea pigs? Connecticut’s students, thanks to our political leaders, who served them up merely to satisfy College Board’s data needs. It is time that parents demand that leaders make education policy that is in the best interests of students, not testing companies.  

You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-lies-in-the-new-SAT-6777613.php

Wendy Lecker is absolutely right!

 Parents and students;

 Do not be bullied by the Malloy administration or your local school administrators.

 If our other elected officials, state legislators and board of education members, were really committed to the well-being of the parents, students, teachers and residents of their communities they would be taking action – now – to stop this abuse of power.

For more about the NEW SAT read;

Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT

Big Changes with the SAT and why juniors should take the old SAT at least once before March 2016

PSAT score delay spells more bad news for Connecticut SAT mandate

Educator and Education Blogger Steven Singer’s MUST READ commentary piece

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Pennsylvania educator and public school advocate Steven Singer is one of the most powerful voices in the nation when it comes to speaking out for students, parents, teachers and our public schools.

The tag line for Steven Singer’s blog is – “To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.”  In his latest commentary piece, Don’t Blame My Students For Society’s Ills, Singer provides a stunning assessment of the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s assault on public education.

Re-posted in its entirety below to ensure it is read by a broad audience,  you can also read and comment on the article at Singer’s blog: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/

Don’t Blame My Students For Society’s Ills

As a public school teacher, I see many things – a multiplicity of the untold and obscure.

On a daily basis, I see the effects of rampant poverty, ignorance and child abuse. I see prejudice, racism and classism. I see sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance.

And hardly any of it comes from my students.

Despite what some people might say in the media, on Facebook or at the local watering hole, the kids are all right. It’s what we, the adults, are doing to them that’s messed up.

It’s always been in fashion for grown-ups to trash the next generation. At least since Hesiod bemoaned the loss of the Golden Age, we’ve been looking at the current crop of youngsters waiting in the wings to replace us and found them lacking. They just don’t have our drive and motivation. In my day, we had to work harder than they do. If only they’d apply themselves more.

It’s all untrue. In fact, today’s children have it harder than children of the ‘70s and ‘80s did when we were their age! Much harder!

For one thing, we didn’t have high stakes standardized tests hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles to the degree these youngsters do. Sure we took standardized assessments but not nearly as many nor did any of them mean as much. In Pennsylvania, the legislature is threatening to withhold my students’ diplomas if they don’t pass all of their Keystone Exams. No one blackmailed me with anything like that when I was a middle schooler. All I had to do was pass my classes. I worried about getting a high score on the SAT to get into college, but it didn’t affect whether I got to graduate. Nowadays, kids could ace every course for all 13-years of grade school (counting Kindergarten) and still conceivably only earn a certificate of attendance! Try using that for anything!

Moreover, my teachers back in the day didn’t rely on me so they could  continue being gainfully employed. The principal would evaluate them based on classroom observations from time-to-time to assess their effectiveness based on what he or she saw them doing. But if I was having a bad day during the assessment or if I just couldn’t grasp fractions or if I was feeling too depressed to concentrate – none of that would affect my teacher’s job rating. None of it would contribute to whether my teacher still had an income.

Think of how that changes the student-teacher relationship. Now kids as early as elementary school who love their teachers feel guilty on test day if they don’t understand how to answer some of the questions. Not only might their score and future academic success suffer, but their teacher might be hurt. That’s a lot of pressure for people who’ve just learned how to tie their shoes. They’re just kids! In many cases, the educator might be one of the only people they see all day who gives them a reassuring smile and listens to them. And now being unready to grasp high-level concepts that are being hurled at kids at increasingly younger ages may make them feel responsible for hurting the very people who have been there for them. It’s like putting a gun to a beloved adult’s head and saying, “Score well or your teacher gets it!” THAT’S not a good learning environment.

Finally, child poverty and segregation weren’t nearly as problematic as they are today. Sure when I went to school there were poor kids, but not nearly as many. Today more than half of all public school children live below the poverty line. Likewise, in my day public policy was to do away with segregation. Lawmakers were doing everything they could to make sure all my classes had increasing diversity. I met so many different kinds of people in my community school who I never would have known if I’d only talked with the kids on my street. But today our schools have reverted to the kind of separate but equal mentality that was supposed to be eradicated by Brown vs. Board of Education. Today we have schools for the rich and schools for the poor. We have schools for whites and schools for blacks. And the current obsession with charter schools and privatization has only exacerbated this situation. Efforts to increase school choice have merely resulted in more opportunities for white flight and fractured communities.

These are problems I didn’t face as a teenager. Yet so many adults describe this current generation as “entitled.” Entitled to what!? Less opportunity!? Entitled to paying more for college at higher interest for jobs that don’t exist!?

And don’t get me started on police shootings of young people. How anyone can blame an unarmed black kid for being shot or killed by law enforcement is beyond me.

Children today are different. Every few years their collective character changes.  Today’s kids love digital devices. They love things fast-paced, multi-tasked and self-referential. But they don’t expect anything they haven’t earned. They aren’t violent criminals. As a whole they aren’t spoiled or unfeeling or bratty. They’re just kids.

In fact, if I look around at my classes of 8th graders, I see a great many bright, creative and hard-working young people. I’m not kidding.

I teach the regular academic track Language Arts classes. I don’t teach the advanced students. My courses are filled with kids in the special education program, kids from various racial, cultural and religious backgrounds. Most of them come from impoverished families. Some live in foster homes. Some have probation officers, councilors or psychologists.

They don’t always turn in their homework. Sometimes they’re too sleepy to make it through class. Some don’t attend regularly. But I can honestly say that most of them are trying their best. How can I ask for more?

The same goes for their parents. It can be quite a challenge to get mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister or other guardians on the phone. Parent-teacher conferences are very lonely in my room while the advanced teacher is mobbed. But I don’t generally blame the parents. In my experience, most moms and dads are doing the best they can for their kids. Many of my student’s have fathers and mothers working multiple jobs and are out of the home for the majority of the day. Many of my kids watch over their younger brothers and sisters after school, cooking meals, cleaning house and even putting themselves to bed.

I wish it wasn’t like that, but these are the fruits of our economy. When the recession hit, it took most of the well-paying jobs. What we got back was predominantly minimum wage work. Moreover, people of color have always had difficulty getting meaningful employment because of our government sanctioned racial caste system. Getting a home loan, getting an education, getting a job – all of these are harder to achieve if your skin is black or brown – the same hue as most of my students and their families.

So, yes, I wish things were different, but, no, I don’t blame my students. They’re trying their best. It’s not their fault our society doesn’t care about them. It’s not their fault that our nation’s laws – including its education policy – create a system where the odds are stacked against them.

As their teacher, it’s not my job to denigrate them. I’m here to lift them up. I offer a helping hand, not a pejorative finger.

And since many of the factors that most deeply affect education come from outside the school, I think my duty goes beyond the confines of the classroom. If I am to really help my students, I must be more than just an educator – I must be a class warrior.

So I will fight to my last breath. I will speak out at every opportunity. Because my students are not to blame for society’s ills. They are the victims of it.

Read more of Steven Singer’s commentary pieces at: https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/

 

PSAT score delay spells more bad news for Connecticut SAT mandate

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Connecticut high school juniors and their parents – LOOK OUT!

The new Connecticut state mandate that all 11th graders take the new SAT this coming March is getting more absurd by the day.

Last spring, in the face of mounting opposition to the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly made decision to drop the Common Core SBAC test mandate for high school juniors (while keeping it in place for grades 3-8), and mandating, instead, that all 11th graders take the new Common Core SAT as part of their junior year requirements.

The decision to use the NEW Common Core SAT was extremely ill-conceived.

The Malloy administration then quickly signed a multi-million deal with the College Board to provide the new Common Core SAT to all high school juniors, promising that this requirement would open the doors for more students to go to college.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

The scam was a farce from the beginning.

The truth is that the NEW SAT is being rolled out for the first time this March.  No student, teacher or school administrator has ever seen the new version of the test and it certainly isn’t aligned to Connecticut’s 11th grade curriculum.

What little is known about the NEW SAT is that it will test and judge students on content that most of them have not had an opportunity to learn.  Furthermore, like the Common Core SBAC test, the NEW SAT test is designed to fail the majority of students.

In addition, while many universities and colleges are dropping the requirement that students take the SAT as part of their college application process, the actual version of the NEW SAT that the state of Connecticut has paid for and will give to 11th graders in less than 80 days DOES NOT include the “optional” essay section of the SAT … this despite the fact that many of the universities and colleges that still require students to submit an SAT score also require that those students take and submit a score for the essay section of that test.

For many Connecticut high school students, taking the NEW SAT is a complete waste of time and for a significant number of students who do want a valid SAT score, the CT State mandated version won’t suffice and they will need to take it again, at their own expense.

But wait, the situation just got worse.

In preparation for the NEW SAT, most Connecticut high school juniors took the new PSAT earlier this fall.

Some students took it so that they could apply early to their college of choice.

Most students were told to take it so that they could get a sense of what the NEW SAT would be like and, based on their results, they could focus their attention on improving in areas in which they scored poorly.

But it turns out the PSAT scores won’t even be provided to students, parents and schools as promised by the College Board.

As the Examiner newspaper wrote this week, PSAT scores delayed as College Board drops the ball—again

Fellow education advocate and blogger Mercedes Schneider highlighted the growing disaster with the PSAT and SAT testing scheme on her blog yesterday writing,

“Students who took the October 14, 2015, NEW PSAT and counted upon the College Board to deliver timely scores for early admissions. Their scores–which were supposed to be delivered using the College Board’s new score reporting system–were delayed for more than three weeks beyond the common November 1st deadline.”

Now, students who took the mid-October NEW PSAT – which includes most high school juniors in Connecticut – will NOT be getting their scores in a timely manner either.

The PSAT scores for students taking the “NEW PSAT” were due by December, but as Schneider explains;

“The College Board initially stated that scores from the mid-October 2015 PSAT would be available in December 2015. However, according to the College Board’s “updated score delivery schedule,” the College Board changed its story, without explanation. Now the scores are supposed to be available in January 2016.”

The Corporate Education Reform Industry is collecting massive amounts of public money by turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

Thanks to politicians like Governor Dannel Malloy, states are even mandating that scarce public funds be spent on standardized testing instead of other educational activities and that student time be spent on test prep and testing rather than instruction.

The debacle with the new mandate that Connecticut’s high school students must take the new SAT is a case study in what is wrong with public education in Connecticut and around the country.

Students, parents, teachers, school administrators and taxpayers need to tell elected officials that enough is enough.

The Connecticut mandate that students take the SAT should be immediately repealed and a moratorium on the inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory Common Core testing should be adopted.

$17 million SBAC testing money should be used to prevent the terrible cuts to programs that actually help children.  (Guest Post by CT Educator James Mulholland)

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A moratorium on the state’s standardized testing frenzy would provide the funding needed to maintain critically important education and human service programs for Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.

As Connecticut policymakers confront a large and growing state budget deficit, veteran Hartford educator James Mulholland correctly recommends that the $17 million in taxpayer funds that are being wasted on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme should be used, instead, to stop the disastrous cuts that will actually hurt and limit opportunities for Connecticut’s poorest children.

James Mulholland writes;

As Connecticut’s lawmakers wrangle with the budget in the coming days, one area of the budget they have not yet considered for cuts is the state’s SBAC testing program.  The state estimates it will spend $17 million developing and administering standardized tests during the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years. Advocates of standardized testing in general, and the SBAC in particular, have provided two primary justifications for the testing.  The first is to identify underserved subgroups and thereby better address their educational needs.  Advocates contend that the disparity in test scores, often referred to as the “achievement gap,” provides political leverage and forces politicians and other stakeholders to respond to the needs of historically underserved subgroups such as African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students.

Although the final numbers are still being debated, the state’s recent proposed budget cuts as reported by the CT Mirror include almost $24 million from the Office of Early Childhood and the departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Public Health, and Children and Families.  In addition $16.3 million would be cut from the Department of Education, including a $6 million cut in funding for magnet schools. (http://ctmirror.org/2015/11/16/in-departure-democratic-lawmakers-recommend-cuts-in-social-services-education/)

At the start of November, officials at the State Department of Education proposed eliminating a program that provides about 300 New Haven elementary students from low-income families with after-school homework help and access to extracurricular activities, such as African drumming, cooking and archaeology. Funding for separate after-school and summer camps that focus on engineering would also be eliminated. That cut would affect programs in Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Hartford, Meriden, Milford, Newington, New Britain, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford and Waterbury.  Other programs for which funding would be eliminated include: a family literacy program at John C. Clark Elementary and Middle School in Hartford; the extended day program at Lincoln-Bassett School in New Haven; and funding for reading instructional supports in some of the state’s lowest-performing schools would be cut by $250,000. (http://ctmirror.org/2015/11/04/education-department-reluctantly-identifies-4-5-million-in-cuts/)

What is the purpose of identifying underserved subgroups if the state is then going to turn around and cut funding for programs that address the educational needs of those students?  Would we accept healthcare legislation that maintained spending for medical tests, but cut funding for the treatment of health issues diagnosed by those tests?

The SBAC test hasn’t revealed anything new about the state’s achievement gap.  According to state data on the fourth grade math portion of the CMT in 2006, the gap in proficiency between African American students and their White counterparts was 32%, and the gap between Hispanic and White students was 28%.  In reading, the gap in proficiency was 34% between African American and White students and 38% between White and Hispanic students. http://solutions1.emetric.net/cmtpublic/CMTCode/Report.aspx?data=1419936B4BADB47C8675E81D2E415ADA

Although the scores are lower on the SBAC test and the method of reporting the scores makes it difficult to make accurate comparisons, if we look at the state as a whole, the gap between these three groups hasn’t substantially changed in the past nine years.  If we look at the state averages in math, the gap between African American students and White students is 36% and for Hispanic and White students it is 33%.  In reading, the gap between White and African American students is 37% and between White and Hispanic students is 34%. Why should we continue to fund a testing regimen that year after year gives us the same results? http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/excel/smarterbalanced/settingthebaseline2015.xls>

The second frequently cited justification for the multi-state assessment is to give parents a better understanding of how our children perform academically as compared with their peers in other states. The two testing consortiums, PARCC and SBAC, to which Connecticut belongs, have seen a substantial reduction in the number of participating states.  Roughly half the states that belonged to either SBAC or PARCC have since abandoned the consortiums. As a result, the ability for parents to compare their children’s academic performance by comparing test scores from state to state has been significantly compromised.  Just last week, Massachusetts, which is considered to be the nation’s highest performing state, made the decision to abandon the multi-state PARCC test.

The state also plans to use SBAC scores in teacher evaluations.  Connecticut received a waiver from the Federal Department of Education requirement that standardized testing data be used in evaluations during the 2015-16 school year.  Despite the waiver, Connecticut hasn’t reversed its plan to use state testing data in teacher evaluations, a plan that was part of the sweeping education legislation enacted in 2012.  Standardized testing has come under increasing scrutiny across the nation, particularly in its use for high-stakes decisions such as student promotion, in teacher evaluations, and for other school personnel decisions.  Both the American Statistical Association, which is the largest organization in the United States representing statisticians and related professionals, and the American Educational Research Association have questioned the validity of using standardized test scores to measure teacher effectiveness and cautioned against using them for such purposes. Last week, a judge in New Mexico temporarily barred schools from using that state’s controversial test-based teacher evaluations to make personnel decisions, finding that the system is not as objective and uniform as state law requires. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2015/12/03/new-mexico-judge-hits-pause-on-controversial-test-based-teacher-evaluations/

In the current fiscal crisis, the state of Connecticut has to make some difficult budget-cutting decisions.  Given the state’s budget problems and the evolution of the SBAC test, Connecticut should institute a moratorium on standardized testing.  It has served few, if any, of the purposes its proponents claim. Instead, the state should redirect the money to fund educational programs that have a real and positive effect on the educational outcomes of Connecticut’s children.

Connecticut educator James Mulholland teaches in Hartford.

Editor’s Note:  If legislators were committed to serving the people they are sworn to represent they would do exactly what James Mulholland is suggesting when they meet to vote on a deficit mitigation package at tomorrow’s Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Connecticut Elected Officials – Do the right thing!

A heart wrenching story from a teacher in Tennessee.  Could have been Connecticut or anywhere…

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Read the story posted by a Tennessee teacher yesterday.  Then convert what will undoubtedly be your sadness and anger into action.

Election Day 2016 is just over 11 months away.

This time, use your vote to slap back the testing mania and the unprecedented attack on our students, their teachers, the teaching profession and our public schools.

Before you vote, demand that every incumbent explain what they have done to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the destructive agenda.

Before you vote, demand that every candidate outline what they will do to put the concept of “public” back into public education.

No votes until they reduce the use of inappropriate standardized testing, no votes until they ensure that teacher evaluation program don’t rely on the use of those unfair standardized test results and no votes for those who have become lackeys for the effort to privatize public education.

Voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

The Tennessee teacher’s powerful expose was re-posted by Connecticut educator and fellow bloggerPoetic Justice who is “A poetry teacher defending ALL students and their families.” You can find and comment on the original post at: A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

Yesterday, I quit.  In the middle of the school year, I quit.  After fourteen years in education, I quit.  I.  Quit.  Quitting isn’t something I do, particularly when children are involved, so this is still quite difficult to think or talk about.  It might seem an abrupt decision to some, but for those that know me well, you know this is something I have flirted with for a few years now.  I think it started about five years ago…

I was teaching in an inner-city school in Memphis.  I loved my principal.  I loved my kids.  I loved teaching.  Now, of course, there were issues.  Too much paperwork.  Not enough hours in the day.  Uninvolved parents.  Disobedient children.  District mandates that made no sense.  Still, overall, I was happy being a teacher.  I knew that I would either drop dead teaching or they would have to roll me out in a wheelchair.  It was what I wanted to do forever.  Then, the evaluation process for teachers dramatically changed.  Now, our students’ standardized test scores would become part of our evaluation. As I saw this change coming, I decided that I could help this process along by taking more of a teacher leader role.  So, I applied and became the instructional facilitator for the school where I had taught for the past 6 years.  In this role, I hoped to coach, mentor, and support teachers.  After all, that was a large part of that job description.  In reality, very little of my time was able to be spent doing that.  What did take up a large amount of my time was being my school’s test administrator.  I had experience with testing and the strict guidelines that go along with them, as all teachers do.  However, as test administrator, I was now responsible for reporting my teachers if they did not follow those guidelines.  The stress and worry of that prospect was just too much for me.  I had become an enforcer of a practice I didn’t even believe in.  I couldn’t do this to my teachers, so I left the position after two years and went back to the classroom.

I decided to try a different setting.  Middle school math.  My first year back in the classroom was blissful.  I loved my co-workers.  I loved the diversity of the school.  I loved teaching one subject all day.  Then, we started testing.  And the testing was even more frequent last year.  And now, three months into the school year, I’m certain we have tested more so far than we did all last year combined.

So, I quit.  I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test.  I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.  They can get someone else to do that.  It will kill my teaching soul to do it even one more time.  Like all teachers, I have kids that read below grade level.  I can’t help them though.  I also have students that have only been in the country a few months.  I can’t help them though.  I even have students who don’t know our alphabet because their language is different than ours.  I can’t help them though.  And bless their hearts, they do it because I ask them to.  Most of them would do absolutely anything I asked.  They trust me and believe that what I am asking them to do is what is best for them.  I mean that’s why I spent weeks building connections with them at the beginning of the year.  I want them to trust me.  I rarely have discipline issues.  We are too busy and engaged in the lesson to get off task.  However, after testing kids for two weeks straight, they were done.  You cannot expect struggling students to engage in an activity that is so above their instructional level for an extended amount of time without eventually seeing their behavior change.  It is too frustrating for them!  I could tell that those two weeks broke the bond that I had built with some of my most challenging students.  They just didn’t trust me anymore.  That goes against every single thing inside me that led me to become a teacher in the first place.  And to be quite honest, it broke my heart.  I recently saw a post where someone described teaching as an abusive relationship.  You love it, but it makes you so unhappy.  I get that.  It does feel that way.

So, I quit.  I wrote a resignation letter giving my 30-day notice and gave it to my principal on a Monday morning.  I told him, both of my assistant principals, and my instructional facilitator that day.  With each time I told my story, I cried.  They didn’t try to stop me.  They didn’t make me feel guilty.  They were kind and understanding.  They know.  I’m sure they feel like quitting sometimes, too.  They aren’t the problem.  I slowly told my co-workers, friends, and family.  Everyone that knows me well said to do it.  Every single educator said they understood and would do it too if they could.  Every.  Single.  One.  I’m not married.  I don’t have kids.  I don’t have a mortgage.  I don’t have a car note.  I have more freedom to do this than most.  Because of that, I can’t be quiet about this.  I need to speak for those that don’t have the option to bow out.

My first step was sending the following letter home to all my students’ parents:

November 24, 2015

Dear Parents,

I regret to inform you that today is my last day as your child’s math teacher at #####.

I want you to know that this decision was not easy for me.  I will fill you in on why I am leaving, but first I will tell you what absolutely did not have anything to do with me leaving.  First, your children are not why I’m leaving education.  They are, in fact, the only reason I have any apprehension about this decision.  This, of course, will be most difficult for them.  I have talked to them about this and they handled it like rock stars, but please talk to them about it when they get home.  Adult decisions are often hard for anyone to understand, especially children.

Secondly, the administration at ##### is not why I am leaving.  I have felt nothing but supported by my administrative staff this school year.  I believe they have the best interest of your children in mind.  If I was going to teach anywhere, it would absolutely be at #####.

Finally, the teachers at ##### are not why I am leaving.  I have worked with many teachers over the past 15 years.  The teachers at ##### are some of the best I have ever seen.  In a profession where you are often blamed more than revered, I admire their willingness to keep waking up each day and choosing to keep going for their students.  Please continue to support the teachers at #####.  They need it, but more importantly, they deserve it.

Now…here is why I am leaving.

For the past five years, I have seen the testing of our students become more frequent and more frustrating for all those involved.  I absolutely hate having to stand before my kids and tell them they have to take another test.  It kills a little bit of my teaching soul each time I have to do it.

I spend so much time having to test them that I have little time to teach them, much less listen and talk to them.  So far this year, I have given my students the following tests: iStation Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), iReady Diagnostic (this will be given twice more this year), MAP Test (given in ELA, Math and Science), and the MIST test (given in ELA, Math, and SS).

These are just the tests that are mandated by the district or state.  We also give pre- and post-Common Formative Assessments at the school level.  Why all the testing these days?  The following is a post I saw online that explains it perfectly.  I’m not sure who posted it originally, so I am unable to give credit.  “The feds require annual testing for accountability. This translates into the BIG test that every state has (In Tennessee this is what we refer to as TCAP, now TNReady…more about that later).  However, the stakes are so high for that test, that states require additional “practice” tests.  But, the results of the state tests are used to threaten districts that are “failing”.

So the districts require “benchmark” tests, to make sure the students are ready for practice tests.  Individual schools and administrators are held accountable for their scores on the benchmarks, so they also impose building-level tests.  The result is non-stop testing.”

Back to TNReady.  This is the new state test that students will be taking this year in place of TCAP.  TNReady is a computer-based test and will be given in February and April.  Because it is taken on the computer, testing schedules will disrupt our regular schedule more than just a week like we were accustomed to under TCAP.  If that isn’t bad enough, the test is just down-right confusing.  You can read a blog post about it and take some practice questions here:http://www.mommabears.org/blog/alarming-info-about-tnready-testing-bomb.  Additionally, the blog post by State Representative Andy Holt shows you exactly how this is being handled by those in power in Tennessee: http://www.andyholt4tn.com/holt-what-tn-teachers-parents-should-know-about-standardized-tests/.

I urge you to become familiar with what is going on in education and make your voice heard about what is best for your child.  You can do this by contacting your school board members, representatives and senator.  And vote every single time.  It does make a difference.

So, back to my leaving.  I have to try to fight this somehow.  I’m not sure how I will go about that yet.  I guess this is my first step.  I do know that I can no longer be the messenger of something that I believe is harmful to my students.  That is exactly the opposite of why I became a teacher in the first place.  I am meant to help, support, empower, and praise children.  Under this current testing culture, I am simply helping to hurt them and that just isn’t who I am.

In closing, I am going to miss my kids so much.  I can barely think of it without crying.  However, I hope they eventually look back at this time and realize that I stood up for something I believed in even though it was a very, very difficult choice.  When they are faced with standing up for something they believe is wrong, I hope they are strong enough to do so.  It isn’t easy, but I think we all need a little more of that in our world.

My next step?  Not sure yet.  I do know that it is a disgrace that we are allowing companies from the testing industry to make millions of dollars off the abuse of our public education system.  Not only are we killing the spirits of students who want to learn, but we are also killing the spirits of teachers that want to make a life-long career of this.  I’m not the first one to give up and I certainly won’t be the last.  In 10-20 years, we are going to look back at this time in education and be very ashamed of what we have allowed to happen.

Finally, please hope and pray that my kids get a qualified teacher quickly. One that isn’t jaded by the system, that loves them in spite of their challenges, and has the strength to withstand the foolishness that educators endure.  I couldn’t be that for them anymore and the grief that causes me is suffocating at times.  I will miss them every day.  This quote helps when the feelings become overwhelming, “Be OK with not knowing for sure what might come next, but know that whatever it is…you will be OK”.

Remember, voting is the ultimate weapon we have in a  stable democracy, use your vote with Maximum Force.

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

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Labeling children on the basis of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized tests is bad public policy.  Evaluating teachers on the scores their students get on those tests is equally wrong, yet that is exactly what the policy is in the State of Connecticut.

Last spring, more than 500,000 students across the country were opted out of the standardized testing craze.

This unprecedented development was the direct result of a growing awareness by parents, students, teachers and public education advocates that the standardized testing scheme isn’t useful and that the Corporate Education Reform Industry is turning public schools into little more than testing factories.

While school superintendents and administrators have been a major part of the anti-standardized testing coalitions in New York, far fewer Connecticut school administrators have been willingly to step forward and speak up on behalf of the students, parents, teachers and public schools they are sworn to serve.

In contrast, in the Constitution State Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice has consistently been one of the school leaders who has been willing to provide his students, parents, teachers and community with the appropriate information about the extraordinary problems that come with a public education system that is overly reliant on standardized testing.

(See for example, Superintendent Scarice addresses the powerful and ugly truth about SBAC testing charade and Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again. and Diane Ravitch features Madison Superintendent Tom Scarice’s powerful letter on “education reform”)

With parents increasingly recognizing the inherent negative consequences that stems from the Common Core testing program, attention is now turning to the second major problem with the pro-Common Core, Pro-Common Core testing initiatives that have been sponsored by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the other political allies of the “Education Reformers” — and that is  — the inappropriateness of evaluation of teachers, based, at least in part, on their student’s standardized test results.

Late last week, superintendents in Nassau Country, New York sent a powerful letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for an end to the use of standardized test results as part of that state’s teacher evaluation process.

The superintendents wrote;

It is because of our residents’ deep commitment that we feel a responsibility to protect our education system from misguided policy decisions, however well intended they may be. We understand that building an accountability system to ensure highly effective instruction for all students is a natural extension of the effort to raise expectations for all students. However, the exaggerated use of student test data in that system unfortunately undermined the initial goals.

[…]

We believe our parents understand the value of assessment but stand firmly against the continued distortion of curriculum driven by this flawed accountability system. The well-thought out decision of a significant percentage of our parents to opt their children out of State testing is a reflection of this concern.

Salvaging higher standards will require the State to accomplish three important objectives:

  • Declare a moratorium on the use of student achievement data for educator evaluations
  • Begin work in earnest toward developing a computer adaptive testing system, which will require far less time devoted to testing, ensure questions more appropriate to academic functioning rather than chronological age, and return actionable data in a timely fashion
  • Complete the review of the standards and make adjustments where appropriate.

Connecticut’s superintendents should follow the lead of their New York colleagues and demand that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly repeal the law they developed mandating that student achievement data from standardized tests be used as part of the educator evaluation process.

Numerous models have been developed to evaluate teachers (and administrators) without relying on flawed standardized test results.

In fact, Superintendent Scarice and the Madison Board of Education have adopted exactly such a model.

Education Reformers and their obsession with Standardized Testing – Even the NY Times can’t get the story right!

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Fellow education blogger Diane Ravitch, the nation’s premier public education advocate, opened the New York Times this morning and noted that even the New York Times has been “snowed” by the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their false narrative that the solution to the challenges facing public education in the United States is to have more standardized testing.

Diane Ravitch writes;

News flash! There is a national test that enables us to compare reading and math scores for every state! It is called NAEP. It reports scores by race, ELLs, poverty, gender, disability status, achievement gaps. This is apparently unknown to the Néw York Times and the Secretary of Education, who has said repeatedly that we need Common Core tests to compare states.

The New York Times, America’s newspaper of record, has a story today about Massachusetts’ decision to abandon PARCC, even though its State Commissioner Mitchell Chrster is chairman of the board of PARCC. True or Memorex? Time will tell.

But the story has a serious problem: the opening sentence.

“It has been one of the most stubborn problems in education: With 50 states, 50 standards and 50 tests, how could anyone really know what American students were learning, or how well?”

Later the story has this sentence:

“The state’s rejection of that test sounded the bell on common assessments, signaling that the future will now look much like the past — with more tests, but almost no ability to compare the difference between one state and another.”

What happened to the National Assessment of Educational Progress? It has been comparing all the states and D.C., as well as many cities, since 1992. Has no one at the New York Times ever heard of NAEP?

It is more than an embarrassment that the “mass media” takes corporate education reform industry propaganda for truth.  In fact, it is a dangerous confirmation that without the truth citizens cannot keep their government and leaders in check.

Of course, here in Connecticut we have a governor who not only dramatically increased the amount of standardized testing, claiming it was necessary in order to determine whether schools are making children “college and career ready” but explained,

“I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores” – Governor Dannel Malloy

[See Wait, What? Post, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test, if it means raising scores” Dan Malloy 4/9/12.]

So to the New York Times and all the other media entities that have become puppets for the “Education Reformers” remember this…

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right. . . and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, and indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” John Adams (1735–1826)

“A Test Score is an approximation, not a precise measure” (George Washington University)

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As the nation’s colleges and universities move away from relying on standardized tests scores to determine whether a student is capable and ready to attending college, public officials in Connecticut and across the country continue their mindless devotion to more standardized testing as the means of determining whether our children our “college and career read.”

In Connecticut this past spring, Governor Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly voted to mandate that every high school junior take the SAT.

The new law was part of Malloy’s larger “education reform” initiative that has been forcing Connecticut public school students and their teachers to devote more and more time preparing for and taking the “Common Core aligned” standardized tests.

Malloy and other proponents of the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme continue to claim that the excessive testing programs are needed in order to determine whether Connecticut students, schools and teachers are succeeding.

Under Malloy’s policy, not only will the state rate schools and students based on standardized test results, but Connecticut’s public school teachers will also be evaluated on how well their students do on these unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.

However, while Malloy and the legislature were mandating that every 11th grader take the SAT, George Washington University in Washington, D.C. was announcing that students applying for their prestigious undergraduate program would no longer be required to even submit SAT or ACT scores with the college applications.

Michael Feuer is a Dean at George Washington University and the elected President of the National Academy of Education, an internationally recognized academic organization that, “works to advance high quality education research and its use in policy formation and practice.”

In a recent GW Magazine article, Dean Michael Feuer explained why George Washington was dropping the SAT requirement,

It is important to remember that a test score is an approximation, not a precise measure of ability or achievement. It provides a snapshot into the complexities of learning and cognition, but it’s a blurry on…The picture has potential value—but it’s not the real thing.”

The public education expert and education school dean added,

There is lots of evidence that students are spending considerable time planning for and preparing for the test at the expense of time they could be spending on real learning. This is one of the factors that led the University of California, for example, to change its testing admissions policy. It’s on the minds of many educators especially in an era of so much testing who want to shift attention back to teaching, learning and achievement…”

A special commission at George Washington University was tasked with the job of determining the value of standardized test scores when it came to “understanding how a student performs at GW.” Their reported concluded that,

“One can predict success at George Washington University based upon a student’s high school record, especially his or her high school GPA.

As a result, George Washington will no longer require an SAT score, relying instead on a policy in which,

High school coursework and grades will continue to be the most important factors in GW’s holistic review process, along with a student’s writing skills, recommendations, involvement in school and community, and personal qualities and character.”

George Washington University joins the long and growing list of major college and universities that are dropping the SAT requirement.  According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), More than 800 four-year colleges and universities, including at least 195 Top Tier academic institutions, no longer require SAT or ACT scores from students applying for their undergraduate programs or have dramatically reduced the use of SAT scores when making admission decisions.

College and universities are making it incredibly clear.  Students need to spend more time learning and less time taking these unnecessary standardized tests.

And here in Connecticut, if the waste of learning time is a persuasive enough reason to reduce the amount of testing, with local public schools trying to cope with inadequate state funding, Governor Malloy’s state budgets devote at least $73 million to the Common Core and Common Core Testing program during fiscal years 2015-2017.

Less testing, more learning is what will provide Connecticut’s children with the knowledge and skills needed to be “college and career ready.” 

It is extremely disturbing that Connecticut officials continue to push schools, teachers, students and Connecticut taxpayers in exactly the wrong direction.

For more about the SAT debacle read;

Once again Connecticut elected officials are wrong to mandate the SAT for all 11th graders

More on CT’s disastrous move to force all high school juniors to take the “NEW” SAT

Madison Superintendent provides Parents with the truth about the Common Core SBAC Test

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As George Orwell wrote in his initially classified book of fiction,

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

To which it is well to remember the words of Winston Churchill who observed,

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

If you had a child in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you’d have a superintendent, school administrators and Board of Education that was committed to telling the truth about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing System and dedicated to putting children, parents, teachers and their public schools above the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s ongoing attempt to undermine public education in the United States.

If you had a children in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you would have received the following a letter from Superintendent Thomas Scarice and Assistant Superintendent Gail Dahling-Hench, a letter that honestly and truthfully explains why the Common Core SBAC test is not an appropriate tool or mechanism to judge our children, their teachers or our public schools.

The letter to Madison Parents states;

Individual Student Reports for the 2015 Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test were mailed this week. This specific report format is provided to the district by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and is a product of the national Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, consisting of 18 states.

Tests are designed with a purpose. The SBAC test was designed to measure the college and career readiness level of students through their achievement on the Connecticut Core educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-8 and 11. In addition, as in prior years, the science CMT/CAPT test was administered in Grades 5, 8, and 10.

One singular test provides an extraordinarily limited view of individual student performance. This particular test is based on an incomplete view of “college and career readiness”. In fact, this test endeavors to provide parents and educators with a predictive measure of an individual student’s college and career readiness by mere achievement of educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The reliability of these predictions is imprecise and suspect at best.

Resources provided by the CSDE clearly state that characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories (levels) is an oversimplification, and that the specific achievement levels should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.

Perhaps most concerning in the student reports is the definitive nature of the claims made about an individual student based on one test. This can be found in the language that declares whether or not your child has “met the achievement level” expected for a specific grade, and whether or not your child will need “substantial support to get back on track for success in the next grade”. These claims are particularly alarming given the inadequacies, imperfections, and lack of reliable evidence on one singular test to make such assertions. A balance of assessment tools at the school level provides a more complete picture of individual student performance, as well as timely and actionable data. We encourage parents to look at student performance over various measures when understanding the academic performance of their child.

You are also invited to review the March 2015 report commissioned by the SBAC entitled, Making Good Use of New Assessments. This report conveys numerous cautions about the use, and most importantly, the misuse of these scores.

When examining your student report, we ask that you refer to the online parent interpretive guide provided by the CSDE.

We hope you find this summary helpful when examining the enclosed results for your student. If you have questions about this report….

You can read the letter at:   http://www.madison.k12.ct.us/page.cfm?p=2723&newsid=1201

When every superintendent, school administrator and Board of Education are willing to speak the truth about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scam we will have taken a gigantic step forward in our battle to put the world “public” back into our nation’s system of public education.

Time to end standardized testing mania by Joseph A. Ricciotti

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Joseph A. Ricciotti is a retired education and fellow public education advocate and commentator.  His latest article, Time to end standardized testing mania first appeared in the CT Post.

Joseph Ricciotti writes;

It took the power of parents in the nation as part of the “opt out” of standardized testing movement to realize that the use of standardized tests in public education is a dismal failure.

Needless to say, to hear the President of the United States shift his views on standardized testing should now prompt other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, to give up the notion that testing can be used to assess students, teachers and schools.

Moreover, the change in the stifling use of standardized tests as a weapon against public school teachers will deal a deadly blow to the corporate education reformers in the country who relied on these tests for denigrating teachers as well as for closing public schools and for the expansion of charter schools.

Hopefully, President Obama’s change of heart concerning testing might also be the catalyst to elevate this issue for the current presidential campaign.

For example, in light of the early endorsement given to Hillary Clinton by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is it too much to ask Hillary Clinton as well as other presidential candidates what their views are on the use of standardized tests in our public schools?

We have had two decades of misguided educational political leadership from Washington, D.C. with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Race to the Top (RTTT) and now Common Core State Standards (CCSS) which has ushered in a plethora of inappropriate standardized high-stakes testing that has taken its toll on public school teachers and public schools, particularly in urban areas.

What is needed now in our schools across the nation is a return to allowing teachers the freedom and autonomy to be the sole determiners of student progress.

Hence, teachers should be allowed and encouraged to use their expertise and judgment and to base their assessments upon teacher made tests that are diagnostic and individualized to help determine student strengths and weaknesses.

Likewise, these teacher made tests will be used primarily to help to improve and strengthen instruction which should be the sole purpose of testing in the classroom.

No other profession has been more demonized over the past 20 years than teaching.

Reformers such as Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and superintendents who did the all the dirty work for these reformers, like the embattled Paul Vallas from Chicago, who came to Bridgeport, has taken its toll on the teaching profession.

However, despite President Obama’s admission that we are “over-testing,” the real challenge facing the teaching profession is a lack of leadership in Washington, D.C.

Hence, it is now up to potential Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if elected, to make the change of new leadership in the nation a reality by appointing a pro-public education advocate and preferably a former educator as the next Secretary of Education.

The newly appointed cabinet secretary’s first legislative act as Education Secretary should be to diminish the role of high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools and to restore the dignity of the teaching profession.

Needless to say, this can only occur if a Democrat becomes the next president as it is not possible to believe that any change in the testing mania will occur if a Republican should be elected as the next president.

Although all public school educators should rejoice in the admission by the president that we are “over-testing,” the real joy will come when we have new pro-public education leadership in Washington, DC as Secretary of Education.

Until then, it is premature to believe there will be any change until we see a fundamental shift in the values and goals that are supportive of public education in which standardized testing plays a diminished role in our nation’s public schools.

Hence, we need organizations such as the NEA and the UFT to challenge the presidential candidates in order to make the necessary changes that will make a positive difference in the education our nation’s children are receiving.

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