Forget what we said; forget the law; Malloy and Pryor lie their way through another meeting

Last year Governor Malloy said that he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores improved… 

 

Today, with 2014 gubernatorial election 14 months away, Malloy told a statewide meeting of Connecticut superintendents, “We don’t want to be any more test-bound than we need to be. We hear, we listen, and understand how confusing this is for our teachers, and we want to work together.”

Not to be outdone, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor told the superintendents that despite what he and Malloy had said in the past and despite federal and state laws to the contrary, he was authorizing greater flexibility when it came to the amount of testing during the coming school year and whether school districts had to include test results in their teacher evaluation program.

Although Pryor doesn’t actually have the authority to order such “flexibility,” Pryor explained that he is “optimistic” that the federal government will grant Connecticut’s request for a waiver from the federal law.

As Pryor put it, “We need to move ahead as if we’ve been approved and set forth guidelines for flexibility…The school year is upon us. It’s time to proceed. So we are going to proceed as if approved.”

Back in July, the Connecticut State Board of Education authorized the state to seek a waiver from the federal government that would allow towns to administer just one standardized test during the coming school year; the CMT or the Smarter Balanced Assessment which is supposed to track the Common Core.  The waiver also sought permission to allow school districts to decide on their own whether to include standardized test results as part of teacher evaluations during the coming year.

However, neither Malloy nor Pryor bothered to remind the superintendents that regardless of whether or not the federal government approved the waiver, Malloy’s state mandates on testing would return during the 2014-1015 school year.

Just in case the point is lost on readers, Malloy and Pryor’s plan would push the new massive testing regimen till after the next gubernatorial election is safely over.

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor adds his own “Great Education Quote” of all time…

Contributing a Great Quote is a step toward immortality…here is a leading contender for the list of Great Education Quotes from Connecticut’s own Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

“…after-school programming needs to play a significant role in raising Connecticut Mastery Test scores in Windham.” – Stefan Pryor, Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Norwich Bulletin 4/4/13

Add that one to other Great Education Quotes like;

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Life doesn’t come with four choices.”Linda Darling-Hammond

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  – Aristotle

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.”Maya Angelou

“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” Plato

Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” – W. B. Yeats 

Twenty Miles: The impact of poverty and language barriers on educational performance

A recent story in the Weston-Redding-Easton patch explained that Weston, Connecticut “is the second wealthiest school district in the United States.”

The story is a reminder that just a few months ago, one of the corporate organizations supporting Governor Malloy’s “education reform” package claimed that poverty was not a factor in school performance.

Instead of recognizing the impact poverty and language barriers actually have on educational outcomes, the “education reformers” claimed that if we just hold teachers accountable, test scores will go up and students will succeed.

Leaving out the significant under-funding that exists for Connecticut’s poorer districts, the “reformers” are convinced that the focus on standardized test scores can take the place of dealing with the barriers students face and the lack of adequate resources that are being devoted to our children’s education.

Governor Malloy went so far as to make it clear that he doesn’t mind a policy of teaching to the test, as long as test scores go up.

As a result of this type of thinking, instead of dealing with the under-funding, Connecticut’s new “education reform” law leads with a new teacher evaluation program.  Further, it’s a teacher evaluation system that relies on standardized test scores as a key measurement of whether a teacher should be allowed to keep teaching or whether they should be fired.

But the reformers can’t dismiss the fact that test scores are driven by factors well beyond the control of the teachers.

According to the Connecticut Department of Education, Weston spends a total of $45,503 per pupil, per year, with $24,471 of that going for “direct instructional expenditures.”

Twenty miles down the road, Bridgeport, Connecticut spends $13, 101 per student, per year, of which $8,037 goes for “direct instructional expenditures.”

$45,500 per student in Weston versus $13,101 per student in Bridgeport… (number corrected as of 2pm)

And what challenges do these children bring with them into the classroom?

In Weston, 1.3 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced lunch compared to 98.4 percent in Bridgeport

And in Weston, more than 99.4 percent of the students are fluent in English and less than 1 percent goes to home to households that don’t speak English.

In Bridgeport, 14 percent of the students don’t speak English and 40% go home to households that don’t use English as their primary language.

And the impacts all of these issues have on standardized test scores?

Weston

Bridgeport

Grade 4 Reading

81.5%

26%

Grade 4 Writing

81%

35.6%

Grade 4 Mathematics

91.9%

32.3%

Grade 8 Reading

94.9%

38.7%

Grade 8 Writing

88.9%

28.1%

Grade 8 Mathematics

90.9%

30.4%

Grade 8 Science

89.4%

25.2%

 

Imagine if Connecticut’s leaders were actually committed to dealing with the real problems facing education rather than pretending that more standardized tests and dumping teachers who don’t raise local test scores is somehow the answer.

PS… For those who were wondering, in addition to Weston, New Canaan and Darien made the nation’s top ten list of school districts that dedicate the most resources to their children’s education.

CMT Scores and Teacher Evaluations – But Wait – That’s Like Comparing Apples and Tomatoes

Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the rest of the “education reformers” continue to claim that Connecticut needs a “one-size-fits-all” approach to teacher evaluations in which teachers are, at least in part, rewarded, promoted or let go based on how well their students do in Connecticut’s standardized tests.

Malloy, now famous for his -” I’d don’t mind if they teach to the test as long as the test scores go up” – statement has been leading the mob mentality that is claiming that it is imperative that 20-40% of a teacher’s annual evaluation be based on their student’s annual test scores.

What is never articulated is what counts as a “good” or a “bad” change in test scores.

Thinking of the following example as if it was a question on a standardized test;

Teacher A is a 4th grade teacher in New Britain.  This year, 25.7 percent of teacher A’s class scored “at goal” on the Connecticut Mastery Test in reading (up from 22 percent last year).

Teacher B is a 4th grade teacher in Hamden.  This year, 56 percent of teacher B’s class scored “at goal” in the CMT in reading (up from 54 percent last year).

Teacher C is a 4th grade teacher in Fairfield.  This year 78 percent of teacher C’s class scored “at goal” in the CMT in reading (down from 79 percent last year).

Presently, in New Britain, 22 percent of 4th graders are at goal in reading and 27 percent are at goal in math.  On the other hand, in Hamden, where poverty and language barriers are not as great as in New Britain, 54 percent of 4th graders are at goal in reading and 58 percent are at goal in math. Finally, in Fairfield, 79 percent of 4th graders are at goal in reading and 84 percent are at goal in Math.

Do any of the three teachers deserve a merit bonus?  Do any of the teachers need some extra professional development support? Do any of the teachers need to be put on the “watch list” for unsatisfactory performance?

If the number of students testing a goal is going up – is that a sign of the teacher’s success?  If a teacher maintains test scores is that good or bad?  What about a teacher whose sees the number of students testing at goal actually drop?

In this case, the New Britain teacher saw a 15 percent increase in the number of students testing at goal, the Hamden teacher had a 5 percent increase and the Fairfield teacher saw a slight decline.  Which teacher is succeeding?  Which is failing?

Of course, without knowing the total number of students taking the test in each class we can’t even be sure the information is statistically significant.  It may be that in all three situations the change is within the standard margin of error and therefore no conclusion can be reached in any of the cases.

Meanwhile, what would we do if one 4th grade class in Meriden has a 7 percent drop in the number of Latino students and sees a 5 percent increase in the number of students at CMT goal, while the same sized class in an elementary school across town has a 10 percent increase in the number of Latino students and the number at goal in that class drops by 2 percent?  Which teacher has done a better job?

These are very real issues.  In New York, the failure to account for these issues has destroyed the entire credibility of their new teacher evaluation effort.

But don’t let the details stand in the way of progress.

While the “reformers” continue to yap about the need to link test scores to teacher evaluations, they still haven’t begun to articulate how including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations are going to help determine who gets a bonus in pay or who gets punished.

What is clear is that among those who profess to know that attaching test scores to teacher evaluations is definitely the way to go is the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

The spokesperson for the Superintendents has repeatedly joined in Malloy’s claim that teachers must be held accountable for their students standardized test scores — despite the fact that test scores are driven by wide range of factors far beyond the teachers’ control.

The logically absurd claims being made by the superintendents, and other reformers, got me wondering about how they could consistently get away with comparing apples and tomatoes without ever admitting that the comparison is fundamentally bogus.

Then again, maybe they are on to something…

These superintendents are paid big bucks to run their local school systems.

True they are supporting legislation that undermines the rights of their own boards of education, local elected officials and taxpayers but they must know what they are doing.  They are all certified to be superintendents (well all but one).

So, perhaps this whole apple vs. tomato approach might also serve as a useful mechanism to judge the effectiveness of Connecticut’s superintendents

Let’s look at the data.

The following chart shows what taxpayers are getting for the money they pay superintendents.

The data measures the superintendents’ cost per student, their cost per school employee, their cost per poor student (that is students who receive free or subsidized lunches) and the cost per students who don’t speak English.

We might say that it is a good way to determine how superintendents are allocating their resources.  There will certainly be differences from town to town, but the fundamental cost per unit has to be somewhat similar, right?

Like mastery tests, these costs per unit measurements will provide the state (and taxpayers) with an opportunity to determine which superintendents are doing well and should be rewarded for their efficient operation of services, which need a dose of professional development to help them get a hold of their financial operation and which need to be removed for their failure to get their job done correctly.

The data tells us;

  • A superintendents’ cost per student ranges from a low of $9 in Waterbury and $11 in Hartford to a high of $85 in Weston and $62 in Wilton.
  • A superintendents’ cost per school employee ranges from $60 in Waterbury and $73 in Hartford to $537 in Wilton and $463 in Brookfield.
  • A superintendents’ cost per low-income student ranges from $11 in Hartford and $12 in Bridgeport to $6,396 in Weston and $5,831 in Wilton and.
  • And a superintendent’s cost per non-English Speaking Student ranges from $61 in Hartford and $87 in Waterbury to $16,071 in Darien and $13,591 in Weston.
Town Annual Salary Salary per Student Salary per Employee Salary per Low Income Student Salary per non-English Speaking Student
Avon

181,000

$50

$186

$1,215

$3,694

Brookfield

177,568

$60

$463

$1,032

$7,102

Bridgeport

229,000

$12

$77

$12

$88

Danbury

200,778

$18

$115

$43

$97

Darien

225,000

$47

$302

$4,411

$16,071

Hartford

225,000

$11

$73

$11

$61

Killingly

149,171

$56

$272

$137

$2,528

New Fairfield

170,980

$59

$434

$601

$5,699

New Haven

226,920

$11

$68

$14

$68

New London

148,500

$50

$307

$52

$230

New Milford

188,000

$42

$313

$231

$1,352

Norwalk

200,000

$18

$124

$183

$159

Norwich

136,400

$35

$291

$53

$334

Region #15 (Southbury, Middlebury)

185,000

$43

$308

$740

$5,286

Stamford

215,000

$14

$98

$36

$105

Waterbury

169,580

$9

$60

$12

$87

West Hartford

223,966

$22

$141

$123

$355

West Haven

163,110

$26

$154

$58

$298

Weston

217,484

$85

$537

$6,396

$13,591

Westport

279,487

$49

$254

$1,827

$4,110

Wethersfield

208,677

$55

$342

$342

$1,280

Wilton

268,256

$62

$387

$5,831

$13,413


Now, while it is true that all this may be comparing apples and tomatoes, certainly there is validity in the saying that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

If teacher evaluations are going to be dependent, at least in part, on standardized test scores, then certainly superintendent evaluation should be dependent, at least in part, on how well they do handling standardized per unit expenditures.

Let’s face it, are you really telling me that the Darien superintendent should be spending $16,000 for a student who doesn’t know English when Hartford is only spending $61?

Steven Adamowski, Governor Malloy and Perfecting the Art of Inflating Test Scores

The “moment” of Education Reform is upon us.

The biggest “Education Reform” groups in the nation are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising and lobbying into Connecticut in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.  Maybe you’ve seen their ads or received a phone call from one of their paid phone banks asking you to contact your legislators.

Even Michelle Rhee, the controversial anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-parent spokesperson for those who want to turn America’s schools over to corporations, showed up in Hartford last week. The claim is that business minded people, using standard business practices, will do better job for our children than educators will because they know how to “run things.” Rhee’s performance at a rally supporting Malloy’s legislation was to inform us that “the whole nation is watching what Connecticut does.”

Hartford was their backdrop, not only because it’s the home of the State Capitol, but it is also where Hartford’s former superintendent of schools, Steven Adamowski, instituted some of the “reforms” that Malloy and Rhee claim successfully elevated Hartford’s standardized test scores.

ConnCAN, the “Education Reform” lobby group likes to claim that Hartford has had the “greatest gains on state assessments of any Connecticut City.”

So let’s take a real look at what happened to test scores in Hartford and how Steven Adamowski’s fame was achieved.

First let’s start with an analogy.  Imagine opening up a new deck of 52 cards.

  1. Count the face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings)
  2. Face cards = 12.  Divide the # of face cards by the # of cards.
  3. 12/52 = 23 percent… So face cards make up 23 percent of the deck of cards
  4. Now, with Aces low, take out the cards with the two lowest numbers (Aces and Twos)
  5. How many cards are left  52-8 = 44
  6. Now what is the percent of face cards in your deck?
  7. Divide # face cards by the # of cards
  8. 12/44 cards = 27 percent… take out 8 cards and face cards now make up 27 percent of the deck.

Lesson:  As you take non-face cards out of a deck of cards, the percentage of face cards left in the remaining deck goes up.

Now let’s head to Hartford and see what Steven Adamowski and the education reformers have done there with the Connecticut Masterly Test (CMT).

Adamowski was named Hartford’s Superintendent in November 2006, so the baseline for assessing his success is the 2006-2007 school year. We’ll use the 8th grade CMT Mathematics test to see what happened.

School Year % of students taking standard CMT % Moved to the Modified Assessment Test % at or above proficient % at or above goal
2006-2007 91.7   0 47.8 22.7
2010-2011 84.6 9.8 60.1          +12.3 31.8          +9.1

Adamowski’s and his supporters claim that during his years in Hartford, the percent of students testing at or above the proficient level went up 12.3 (Column 4: 60.1 – 47.8 percent) and that there was a 9.1 percent increase in number who scored at or above goal (Column 5: 31.8-22.7 percent).

But hold on just a minute. Continue reading “Steven Adamowski, Governor Malloy and Perfecting the Art of Inflating Test Scores”