Alan Taylor, Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Opt-Out, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education Allan Taylor, Common Core, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Departme
ALSO: Add New Fairfield to school districts engaging in the inappropriate and abusive “Sit and Stay” bullying policies, but West Haven comes off the list after deciding to do the right thing and move students who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC testing program out of the testing rooms
But in a sadly predictable move, Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education continued their incredible record of failure by refusing to step at today’s State Board of Education meeting to protect Connecticut’s public school parents and children.
Despite repeated requests that they use today’s State Board of Education meeting to instruct Interim Commissioner of Education Wentzell and her senior staff to stop misleading parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test, the state board failed to address the issue in any way what-so-ever.
In addition, the State Board failed to use their meeting as a venue to instruct a group of local school superintendents to stop forcing children who have been opted out of the test from being required to stay in the SBAC testing rooms during the testing periods.
As has been reported here at Wait, What? over the past few weeks, a handful of superintendents continue to bully and punish children and violate the SBAC testing protocol by failing to move children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to an alternative location where they can read or do homework.
According to information provided by parents, New Fairfield has now joined the list of towns engaging in bullying and violating the SBAC testing protocol, although parents also report that West Haven has decided to back-off of their indefensible position and are now moving opted out children to an alternative location.
As explained in the following Wait, What? post, the request for action by the State Board was simple and straight forward. See: – Hey – State Board of Education – Tell them to treat parents and students with respect.
The Connecticut State Board of Education, as the state’s primary education policy entity, has the responsibility to ensure that children and parents are treated with the respect and dignity that deserve.
But instead of fulfilling that responsibility, the State Board ducked the issue and turned their backs – again – on Connecticut’s parents and students.
It has become increasingly clear that the members of the State Board of Education lack the commitment and honor necessary to perform their jobs and should be removed and replaced with Connecticut citizens who are actually dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing Connecticut public schools.
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Opt-Out, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing Allan Taylor, Common Core, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, opt out, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education
The Connecticut State Board of Education is meeting Monday, April 6, 2015.
In recent years Governor Dannel Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education have been among the most forceful proponents of the Common Core and the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing program.
Despite their support for the massive changes that are enveloping our public schools, as the primary policy setting body for Connecticut’s public schools, State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and the other members of the State Board have an obligation to ensure that parents, students, teachers and everyone associated with Connecticut’s public education system is treated with respect and dignity.
But when it comes to the issue of opting out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing, it has become increasingly clear that Malloy’s Department of Education leadership, along with a handful of local school superintendents and other school officials, are unwilling or incapable of dealing with parents and students in a respectful and honorable way.
By failing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the State Department of Education has become a co-conspirator, with a group of local school officials, in misleading and harassing parents who are seeking to opt their children out of the SBAC testing.
And as we know, some of these local officials have gone so far as to bully and punish children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by forcing those children to stay in the Common Coe SBAC testing rooms, an action that is not only immoral and unethical but that violates the SBAC Testing Protocol.
Last week the following letter was sent to State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and the other members of the State Board of Education asking that the Board use its meeting to clarify that parents have a right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing and that local school officials MAY NOT force children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing to remain in the testing rooms during the testing periods.
Sadly – but not surprisingly – there was no response to the letter by Chairman Taylor or any other member of the State Board of Education.
However their unresponsiveness does not absolve them of their obligation to ensure that parents and students are treated with the respect that they deserve.
Here is the letter that was sent to the Board of April 2, 2015…
And here is the hope that someone on the State Board of Education will finally step up at their meeting and put an end to the inappropriate actions that are being taken by some school officials.
You can read the State Board of Education with an email to: [email protected]
Allan B. Taylor, Chairman, State Board of Education
Connecticut State Department of Education
165 Capitol Avenue – Room 301, Hartford, CT 06106
Chairman Taylor and members of the State Board of Education,
On behalf of parents of public school students across Connecticut, I am writing to request that you add an agenda item to the April 6, 2015 State Board of Education Committee meeting to review and address the actions taken by your Interim Commissioner of Education and other State Department of Education staff as they relate to the issue of a parent’s fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing program and how local school districts should deal with children whose parents have opted them out of the SBAC testing.
In particular I ask that the Board of Education clarify that while Section 10-14n of the Connecticut State Statutes states that, “each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics,” there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or school districts to punish a child (or parents) who opts out (refuses) to participate in the testing program.
While it is perfectly reasonable that the State Board of Education has a policy in place that seeks to ensure that all children enrolled in public schools take the Mastery Test, the Board and the agency it manages has an even greater obligation to provide parents, students, teachers and the public with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
However, in written communications, press statements and conversations the Commissioner and her staff have had they have failed to be completely honest and that failure has helped create an environment in which some superintendents and local school officials have been misleading and lying to parents about their opt out rights and harassing those parents who have decided to opt their children out of the testing.
Many local superintendents and their representatives have used the “There is not opt out provision” directive from the State Department of Education to mislead and harass parents into thinking they do not have the right to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.
Equally troubling are school officials who have threatened children (and parents) with dire consequences if they do opt out of the SBAC tests.
In two central Connecticut communities, juniors were told at Common Core SBAC pep-rallies that they would not graduate if they didn’t take the test.
And in Farmington, the Superintendent of Schools told the local school board that juniors that were opted out would be put at the back of the line for choosing courses next year, even if it meant those students were not going to get the AP or honors classes they needed to complete their high school work and enhance their college applications.
Yet, as members of the State Board of Education are aware, the “state mandate” on testing has been on the books for decades, yet thousands of children failed to take the CMT/CAPT tests each year and none of those children or their parents were punished for not taking those tests – because there is no provision in any law, regulation or policy that allows students to be punished for failing to participate in the State’s Master Testing system.
Finally, along with clarifying that although the State Board of Education is committed to full participation in the state’s Mastery Testing program it recognizes the individual rights of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC testing, I am requesting that the State Board of Education take immediate steps to instruct school superintendents that children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing may not be left in the testing rooms during the SBAC testing periods and that these children should be moved to a safe, secure location where they can read, do homework or engage in some other educational activity.
Leaving children in the testing room is an inappropriate form of punishment and bullying. The practice leads to unnecessary anxiety for the child and creates an environment of resentment for those students who are taking the test.
Forcing children to stay in the testing room also violates that SBAC testing protocol as outlined in the SBAC Test Administration Manual (TAM) and the SBAC Test Coordinator Manual (TCM).
Despite the specific wording om the SBAC protocol, a group of local school administrators are forcing children who have been opted out of the test to remain in the testing rooms and these school officials are defending their action by claiming that specific staff at the Department of Education told them that the SBAC requirement that only children participating in the test may remain in the testing rooms was discretionary.
There is nothing discretionary about the language. Please see: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, in section 3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10) and section 3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)
“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”
The requirement is re-stated in the Test Coordinator Manual, which sates,
“This manual provides Test Coordinators with information needed to complete specific tasks before, during, and after the administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments…”
And then on Page 25 repeats the requirement,
“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”
However despite the clear wording of the SBAC protocol, a handful of superintendents continue to punish students by forcing them to remain in the classroom during the testing periods.
Fairfield’s Superintendent David Title’s letter to parents reads,
“Students who chose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate”
As a result of Superintendent Title’s directive, a number of elementary students were forced to “sit and stay” in the SBAC testing rooms during the first two weeks of testing in Fairfield.
According to parents, other school superintendents allegedly refusing to move students to an alternative location include;
Coventry Superintendent David Petrone 860-742-7317
Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500
West Haven Superintendent Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300
Hamden Superintendent Jody Ian Goeler 203-407-2090
Portland Superintendent Phillip O’Reilly 860-342-6790
Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023
Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110
Woodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453
Parents of Connecticut’s public school students understand and appreciate the role the State Board of Education has in setting policies and goals, but it is also vitally important that the State Board of Education recognize that those goals must include treating parents, students and all members of the education community with dignity and respect.
When it comes to the Common Core SBAC testing, action is needed by the State Board of Education to ensure that all parents and students are actually treated fairly.
Please use your April 6, 2015 meeting to make that happen.
Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Connecticut State Department of Education, Malloy, Maria Pereira, Mayor Bill Finch, State Board of Education Bridgeport, Capital Prep Charter School, Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Malloy, Maria Pereira, Mayor Bill Finch, State Board of Education, Steve Perry
Maria Pereira is a former member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, a leading advocate for Bridgeport Public Schools and served as one of the key plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit in which the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Governor Malloy’s takeover of the Bridgeport School System was illegal.
A year ago, almost to the day, a group of Bridgeport citizens, including Maria Pereira, attended the State Board of Education meeting to request Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees REJECT applications by two more charter school companies to open privately run, but publicly funded facilities in Bridgeport. The Bridgeport Board of Education was so opposed to the charter school plans that it voted against the proposals and the Bridgeport Board of Education’s chairwoman was among those speaking against state approve for the charter school companies. Among the issues discussed was the state law aimed at prohibiting the saturation of charter schools in a particular community.
But in another assault on the role of local control and historic value of local communities running their own school system, Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education approved both applications, including the controversial plan put forward by Steve Perry.
One year later, this commentary piece examines that charter school issues in more detail. It first appeared in the CT Mirror at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/03/30/bridgeport-public-schools-losing-big-money-to-charters/
Bridgeport public schools losing big money to charters by Maria Pereira
As a graduate of the Bridgeport Public Schools, a parent of a recent graduate of the school system, a former Bridgeport Board of Education member, and an active unpaid advocate for the public schools in my hometown, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read the recent editorial “CEA rhetoric not helping kids, public schools are” by Jeremiah Grace.
He is the Connecticut state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network which was co-founded by the disgraced Michael Sharpe from the now-defunct Family for Urban Schools of Excellence.
Full disclosure: I have never been a member of any union; and, I have never been compensated for my advocacy work on behalf of true public education.
Mr. Grace’s claim that the CEA’s “rhetoric” is “false, dishonest and insulting to parents” would be funny if it weren’t so incorrect. After all, isn’t it these millionaire-, billionaire-, Wall Street-backed charter school organizations that run ads depicting Connecticut school students as “trapped in failing schools” and advertise that “40,000 children are falling through the cracks?” [One of these ads appears at the bottom of this commentary — Ed.]
I think most of us would not only describe that as “rhetoric,” but also as deliberate “propaganda.”
Mr. Grace tries to discredit a recent CEA statewide poll because 78 percent of the participants were white; therefore, according to him, the poll was “marginalizing” the opinions of minorities. The latest available U.S. census on Connecticut classifies 81.6 percent of our state population as “white alone.”
I would like Mr. Grace to share with us how many of the millionaires and billionaires that invest and/or founded the 22 Connecticut charter schools are “minorities?” One must ask who is really treating minorities like “puppets,” as Grace characterizes it.
I attended and provided testimony at the March 19 Education Committee hearing in Hartford. At 11:00 p.m., with testimony continuing late into the night, I took a moment to count how many charter school lobbyists, paid staff and charter school-compensated advocates were still in the room. Of the 27 I counted, I noted that just 4, or 15 percent, were minorities. Therefore 85 percent of those present were white.
In his willful distortion of the facts, Mr. Grace states that when a child leaves the public schools to enroll in a charter school, the district gets to keep that child’s state Education Cost Sharing allocation and “distribute most of that surplus among their other schools.”
A close examination of the findings of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Taskforce indicates that the Bridgeport Public Schools is the most underfunded district in Connecticut — to the tune of approximately $43 million each year. Even worse, the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding has found that the state underfunds the Bridgeport Public Schools by $5,446 per student or approximately $119 million each year.
Meanwhile, each year our state spends $11,000 per charter-school student and $8,600 per Bridgeport Public School student. What “surplus” is Mr. Grace possibly referring to? What credibility does he hope to establish with the people of Bridgeport and of our state? How uneducated does he think we are?
The chief financial officer for the Bridgeport Public Schools, a highly experienced and educated Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Barnard in mathematics and education, conducted an in-depth analysis of how much real money the charter schools in Bridgeport will siphon away from the Bridgeport Public Schools budget. In addition, she provided an in-depth analysis of the loss of federal Title I funding that follows children who enroll in a charter school located in Bridgeport.
In total, the CFO forecast that the charter schools operating in our city, including the sixth charter school planned to open this fall, all told will siphon away over $26 million dollars from our school system over the next five years —already the most underfunded school district in Connecticut.
Although Bridgeport is allowed to seek state reimbursement for all transportation costs associated with the charter schools in the city, in all the years it has applied for such, in fact, the Bridgeport Public Schools has never received a single dollar of reimbursement for this. Although $20 million dollars of this money will be counted in the Bridgeport Public School’s state Education Cost Sharing grant, not a dime will go to the academic or socio-emotional needs of a single Bridgeport Public Schools student.
Highly compensated charter school advocates such as Mr. Grace consistently perpetuate the “waiting list” myth. Last year 6,000 children applied to gain entry to our Bridgeport magnet schools. Only 1,200 gained admission through a blind, randomized lottery; 4,800 students were placed on a “waiting list.
In this accounting, each student is counted only once. In contrast, charter school proponents often double or triple count, claiming that there are 3,600 students on waiting lists in Connecticut. If a child applies to three different charter schools, the charter school lobbyists count one student three times for their waiting-list story. That leaves us with an important question for our legislators: If there are 3,600 or perhaps more likely 1,200 students in the entire state waiting to enter a charter school, why should that be more important than the fact that there are truly 4,800 individual students on one waiting list for a magnet school in Bridgeport? Shouldn’t the state focus its limited resources on magnet school options? After all, in Bridgeport, every single magnet school outperforms every charter school.
In closing, Mr. Grace claims that the CEA’s statements were “patently false” and that they were choosing to “ignore the facts.” In fact, as it pertains to Bridgeport and its public schools, the “patently false” statements were made entirely by Mr. Grace, not the CEA.
Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Opt-Out, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education Common Core, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, opt out, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education
Today brought additional reports that a small group of Connecticut superintendents, principals and other school administrators continue to mislead and lie to parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test or are engaging in bullying and harassment of students and parents who have decided to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme.
Rather than intervene on behalf of students and parents who are being abused, Governor Malloy’s administration, the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education have remained silent, or worse, have allowed the environment of bullying to continue.
The code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators is laid out in detail in Section 10-145d-400b of Connecticut’s State Regulations.
Administrators must know, understand and adhere to these regulations in order to get and keep the administrative certification that is granted to them by the State Board of Education and State Department of Education.
The code of professional responsibility for school administrators requires that among the responsibility to the students,
“The professional school administrator, in full recognition of obligations to the student, shall: (1) Make the well-being of students the fundamental value in all decision making and actions; (2) Recognize, respect and uphold the dignity and worth of students as individuals and deal justly and considerately with students;…”
In addition, the school administrators’ code for the responsibility to the student’s family states that,
“The professional school administrator, in full recognition of the responsibility to the student’s family, shall: (1) Respect the dignity of each family, its culture, customs and beliefs; (2) Promote and maintain appropriate, ongoing and timely written and oral communications with the family; (3) Respond in a timely fashion to families’ concerns; (4) Consider the family’s perspective on issues involving its children; (5) Encourage participation of the family in the educational process; and (6) Foster open communication among the family, staff and administrators.”
Despite the clear, concise and specific language contained in the code of professional responsibility for school administrators, a handful of superintendents and other certified school administrators have engaged in behavior and actions that clearly violate their sworn duties to perform their jobs in an ethical fashion.
As outlined in state law and the associated regulations, a school administrator’s state certification may be revoked by the State Board of Education for cause. Neglecting to correctly perform the duties for which the certification was granted, such as the persistent failure to follow the code of responsibility to students and parents, is just such a cause.
As the regulations state,
“A request for revocation of a certificate may be made by a board of education, by a superintendent of schools, or by any person with a legitimate interest, hereinafter called “the requesting party.” Such request shall be in writing, signed and notarized and shall state in reasonable detail the facts upon which revocation is requested, which shall include but not be limited to, relevant names of persons, dates and places. Any such request shall be filed with the Commissioner.”
The actions being taken by some superintendents and other school officials against parents and students who are seeking to opt out of the Common Core SBAC testing have been so egregious that loss of certification should be strongly considered.
If local school boards will not stand up for students and parents who are unfairly abused by the administrators within their district, then the broader community will have no option but to step forward and file complaints to revoke the certification of these administrators.
It is truly shameful what is going on in some Connecticut school districts.
The abuse of power on the part of a select group of superintendents and other school officials cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
Superintendents have been asked to treat their students and parents with the respect, dignity and maturity that they deserve. When requests for fair treatment failed, demands have been made that the abuse and bullying stop.
Yet some superintendents and school administrators continue to mislead, lie or harass parents who are trying to opt their children out of the SBAC testing or are engaging in bullying by forcing children who have been opted out to stay in the testing rooms.
These actions violate their duties as school administrators and rightfully put their certification at jeopardy.
When parents and public school advocates say enough is enough we mean it!
Administrators bullying or harassing students or parents about the Common Core SBAC test or forcing children to stay in the testing rooms deserve to lose their certification and they have left us no option but to purse that recourse.
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Education Reform, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education. The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.
Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.
Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”
Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…
Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.
The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.
However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.
Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.
But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.
Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text. Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.
Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.
Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.
And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.
Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.
TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078
AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today
afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.
I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our
schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.
I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.
With this being said, I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that we have made in Connecticut and in particularly, in East Hartford Public Schools , specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment , and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children, and making sure that we are “doing right” by Connecticut’s future.
Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010. Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.” The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens. As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.
Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.
Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of our children, I ask you to think of the second grader who will only have second grade one time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.
When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better. While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact. When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.
Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.
Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy,
in the past to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.
I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.
Common Core, Malloy, Opt-Out, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Wendy Lecker Common Core, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education, Wendy Lecker
Fellow Connecticut education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker has yet another MUST READ piece about the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s attack on public education and how Connecticut’s leaders are failing to protect our state’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.
Lecker’s column is entitled, The truth about the SBACs, and it can be found in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and on-line at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php
Wendy Lecker writes;
A New England state is leading the way on sane testing policy. Unfortunately for us Nutmeggers, that state is Vermont, not Connecticut.
There is a growing national consensus that standardized testing has deleterious effects on education. The National Research Councilconcluded that test-based accountability under the No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) had “zero to little effect” on achievement. Evidence from around the nation proves the focus on standardized testing has narrowed curricula and resulted in significant losses in learning time. Anxiety is prevalent among public school students, as more and higher stakes are attached to these standardized tests.
There is also a growing realization of what experts have known for years — that the federal government demands that states overuse and misuse standardized tests. Experts know that standardized tests are of limited value, because they are unstable, unreliable and most importantly, do not measure the breadth of skills and experience that are the goals of education. Despite the well-known limitations of standardized tests, federal officials insist test scores be used to rank and rate schools, students and teachers, and impose real-life consequences, including sanctions on schools and possible school closures, firing teachers and even decisions regarding student placement and graduation.
When federal policy conflicts with a solid body of evidence, one would expect our state education officials, those charged with safeguarding the educational rights and welfare of our children, to provide guidance on sound testing policy.
Unfortunately, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s top education officials have failed to provide any useful guidance whatsoever. To the contrary, Connecticut officials willingly participate in damaging testing practices. Connecticut rushed to sign on to the federal NCLB waiver in 2012, without analyzing the costs or consequences. As part of the waiver, then Education CommissionerStefan Pryor committed the state to implementing the common core tests known as the Smarter Balanced, or SBACs. These tests are longer than the CMTs, and must be taken on a computer or tablet, requiring a certain level of computer skill and literacy. Commissioner Pryor also agreed to “cut scores,” proficiency levels, guaranteeing that a vast majority of Connecticut students will fail the new tests. By agreeing to the waiver, Pryor also committed the state to evaluating teachers based on standardized test scores, even though the weight of evidence demonstrates that evaluating teachers on student these test scores is invalid and major organizations such as the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association oppose this practice.
Contrast Connecticut’s complete lack of leadership with Vermont’s. Because the NCLB waiver called for mandates that were contrary to good educational practices, Vermont refused to apply for an NCLB waiver in 2012. In an August 2014 resolution, Vermont’s State Board of Education called on the federal government to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states.”
Last week, Vermont’s State Board of Education unanimously approved a new resolution on the SBAC tests, which gives strong and informed guidance that Connecticut’s education leaders are unwilling to provide.
Vermont’s resolution declares that while the SBAC tests “purport to measure progress towards `college and career readiness . . . the tests have not been externally validated as measuring these important attributes.”
Accordingly, the state board resolved “until empirical studies confirm a sound relationship between performance on the SBAC and critical and valued life outcomes (“college and career-ready”), test results should not be used to make normative and consequential judgments about schools and students.”
Vermont’s state board also resolved that until Vermont has more experience with evidence from the SBACs, “the results of the SBAC assessment will not support reliable and valid inferences about student performance, and thus should not be used as the basis for any consequential purpose.”
Finally, honest education officials admit the SBACs have never been proven to measure “college readiness” or progress toward “college readiness,” and in fact are unreliable to measure student learning. In other words, the foundation upon which the Common Core rests is an artifice, and our children are being subjected to unproven tests. Connecticut districts have been diverting resources and time toward a testing regime without any proof that it would improve our children’s education.
In its thoughtful articulation of its policy stance, Vermont’s educational leaders demonstrated their dedication to the educational welfare of Vermont’s children. It is shameful that Connecticut’s so-called leaders cannot muster the same concern for ours.
Again, the full article can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-truth-about-the-SBACs-6149232.php
Hartford, Hartford Board of Education, Malloy, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Capital Prep Charter School, Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Hartford, Hartford Board of Education, Malloy, Mayor Pedro Segarra, State Board of Education, Steve Perry
Steve Perry, the man who claims to be America’s Most Trusted Educator, also says he owns a “boutique” Charter School Management Company.
Steve Perry has even created a website to show off his private company:
The website can be found via http://wearecapitalprep.org/
According to the website, Steve Perry’s “family of schools” includes Capital Preparatory Harbor School, Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School, and Capital Preparatory Magnet School.
Of course, Capital Preparatory Magnet School is the ONLY one of the three schools that actually exists and it is technically and legally owned by the people of Hartford and not by Steve Perry or Steve Perry’s private company.
Perry’s website goes on to brag about another member of his family of schools – “Capital Prep Harbor School, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, provides grades 6–12 with a year-round, college-preparatory education that encourages students to become scholars and agents of change.”
Although to be honest, Capital Preparatory Harbor School doesn’t actually exist.
True Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved Perry’s application to open a charter school in Bridgeport, but there is presently no funding allocated for the privately owned but publicly funded school and there is certainly no “Capital Prep Harbor School, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut” that is providing children in grades 6–12 with a year-round, college-preparatory education.
It is worth noting though that while Governor Dannel Malloy has proposed cutting state funding for Connecticut’s public schools by more than $70 million, Malloy is has also asked the Connecticut General Assembly to approve a new state budget that would increase the amount of taxpayer funds diverted to charter schools by more than 25 percent over the next two years. More
Common Core, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education Common Core, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education
Last year Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education sent out an inappropriate, offensive and disrespectful memo to local school superintendents instructing them on how to mislead and hassle parents into falsely believing that they did not have the right to protect their children from the new Common Core SBAC testing scheme.
After the memo received media attention here at Wait, What? and elsewhere, the memo disappeared from the State Department of Education’s website (You can find it here: State Department of Education SBAC Memo)
This year, Malloy’s Education Department is ducking the issue but it continues to communicate with superintendents through the director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS).
Using last year’s memo and information provided by CAPPS, some Connecticut school superintendents continue to mislead students, parents, teachers and the public about parents’ fundamental right to opt their children out of the inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing program.
Superintendents who are claiming that parents cannot opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test because there is, “No opt out provision in Connecticut law,” are intentionally overlooking the fact that parents have the fundamental right to remove their children from the Common Core SBAC testing program and that there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school district to punish a child (or parent) who decides to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test.
Superintendents who continue to mislead parents are placing themselves and their local Boards of Education in significant legal jeopardy.
Any attempts to place inappropriate barriers in the way of parents implementing their legal right to opt their children out of the test will be met with swift legal action, including the potential use of lawsuits alleging that superintendents are intentionally violating the constitutionally protected civil rights of parents.
In addition, superintendents who fail to adhere to Connecticut’s Code of Professional Responsibility for School Administrators (Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies Section 10-145d-400b) will face extremely serious complaints that their behavior violates their legal duty to follow the code associated with their state certification and that disciplinary action is needed against those individuals
As every Connecticut school superintendent knows, according to state regulation, that superintendents and other professional school administrators must;
- Respect the dignity of each family, its culture, customs and beliefs;
- Promote and maintain appropriate, ongoing and timely written and oral communications with the family;
- Respond in a timely fashion to families’ concerns;
- Consider the family’s perspective on issues involving its children;
- Encourage participation of the family in the educational process; and
- Foster open communication among the family, staff and administrators
In addition, the code requires that professional school administrators, in full recognition of obligation to the student, shall;
- Make the well-being of students the value in all decision making and actions;
- Recognize, respect and uphold the dignity and worth of students as individuals and deal justly and considerately with students
Lying and misleading students and parents is not only immoral and unethical but it is illegal and violates the laws and regulations that guide the conduct of Connecticut’s superintendents.
Connecticut’s superintendents have been put on notice.
Continued efforts to prevent parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing scam will be met with any and all potential legal, administrative and political actions.
When it comes to opting out of Common Core SBAC testing, Connecticut superintendents must stop misleading parents and must start helping them achieve their goal of protecting their children from these inappropriate and harmful tests.
Enough is enough!
[Finally, superintendents know the truth – both the former Commissioner of Education and the Chairman of the State Board of Education have made it clear that parents can opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.]
Charter Schools, Connecticut State Department of Education, Education Reform, Robert Cotto Jr., State Board of Education Charter Schools, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Robert Cotto Jr., State Board of Education, State Department of Education
Robert Cotto Jr. is the Director of Urban Educational Initiatives and Lecturer in the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College. He is also an elected member of the Hartford Board of Education and he writes for the blog; The Cities, Suburbs & Schools Project.
For the original of this post go to http://commons.trincoll.edu/cssp/2015/02/21/charter-school-renewal-in-ct-the-accountability-is-flexible/
Charter School Renewal in CT: The Accountability Is Flexible (By Robert Cotto Jr.)
Over the next few months, the public and Legislature will debate whether charter schools in Connecticut are sufficiently regulated or not. The State Department of Education and Board of Education will also decide whether or not to renew six (6) existing charter schools in Connecticut.
Already this legislative session, there is a bill for a moratorium on new charter schools and a review of existing ones. There are also proposals for more charter schools in CT. A missing aspect of this debate has been the existing charter school renewal process. This process merits more scrutiny because the firm “accountability” it promises is actually more flexible than advertised and it stands in contrast with how other public schools are treated by the State.
When Connecticut lawmakers initially allowed charter schools to operate in 1997, a major guiding principle was an exchange of “flexibility” for “accountability”. In other words, private non-profit “entities” receive public funds to operate public charter schools with permission to operate outside of various state and local laws, such as limited or no requirements for teacher certification and collective bargaining; but only if they met State educational goals. Charter school laws and guiding principles are similar around the country.
In 2014, the State’s charter school report claimed that, “Connecticut’s charter school law and accountability plan administered by CSDE require charter schools to demonstrate their success and compliance with the law in exchange for their charters.” In 2010, the report put it more directly as success and compliance, “in exchange for autonomy from local boards of education.”
This concept suggests that if charter schools don’t meet defined goals or state educational interests, they will face concrete, firm, and predictable consequences. The case of charter schools renewals, past and present, shows that the concept of “accountability” for “flexibility” is more theory than practice. Instead, when it comes to charter schools, the “accountability” is “flexible” and consequences do not come their way in a regular or predictable fashion.
For other public schools, the concrete goals usually mean some test-score target defined each year; and the firm, predictable consequences for not meeting those targets can mean mandatory state or local intervention in managing the school, firing most of the staff, or converting the school to a private management company, or a charter school. Examples of this “test and punish” approach throughout Connecticut include, but aren’t limited to:
- Lewis Fox Middle School in Hartford was closed and later replaced with an Achievement First Charter School
- Milner Elementary School in Hartford and Paul L. Dunbar School in Bridgeport were reconstituted and then operated by Jumoke/FUSE charter management corporation through the controversial “commissioner’s network”. This experiment ended with the demise of FUSE/Jumoke.
- Last year the State of CT and Hartford Public Schools attempted to close Clark Elementary and replace it with an Achievement First-managed charter school, but that effort failed.
There is a different approach for charter school renewal and evaluation. Depending on the particular charter, the non-profit, private organizations that operate a public charter school must go through a process to determine whether they can keep their charter or lose permission from the state to operate the school. This process happens every three to five years for each charter school. The process is a way to regulate all charter schools and make sure they are serving the goals of public education.
The process to renew a charter has multiple parts and extends over several months. The charter operator must first submit an application to the State Department of Education explaining their work, including areas such as students’ academic progress (interpreted by the state as standardized test results), curriculum, staff development, finances, and governance (management & administration) of the school.
Six schools will go through the charter renewal process this school year (2014/2015). Those schools include: (click on the school name link for the 2014/15 renewal applications.)
These aren’t new charter schools, but have enrolled children for ten to twenty years at this point. Having opened in 1997, Odyssey, Common Ground, and ISAAC were among the first state charter schools created in Connecticut.
Here’s a list from The CT Mirror for future charter school renewal years.
The next step is that the State Department of Education reviews the application and conducts a site visit to observe how a school operates compared to the description in their renewal application. A look into this process can be seen in this letter from CT SDE’s charter school program manager to administrators at the Common Ground High School in 2009, when the school was last up for a review. The letter shows some of the criteria for the charter renewal, which includes categories listed above, such as finance, test results, etc. If the school is meeting its goals and the educational interests of the state, then the State Board of Education can renew the school’s charter.
The state’s charter school law, specifically Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-66bb(g), outlines basic criteria that should guide the State Board of Education in deciding whether or not to renew a school’s charter. The criteria include, but are not limited to:
- “student progress”,
- administrative irresponsibility or misuse of public funds,
- non-compliance with applicable state laws,
- and failure to attract, enroll, and retain certain demographic groups such as students with disabilities and emerging bilingual children, identified as “English Language Learners.
It’s worth reading the CT charter school renewal law here.
The law leaves the door open for flexibility in this process. The text states that the State Board of Education “shall” (must) take into account the findings of a holistic, independent appraisal, but “may” (can) deny the application based on criteria in four categories, but not necessarily others. In short, the law does not require the State Board of Education to deny a charter renewal application for any particular reason, although it may do so.
In this way, lawmakers created loose rules in the charter renewal process. Like a judge may have discretion on a legal matter, or a psychologist uses clinical judgement, the CT State Department of Education reviews charter schools on a case by case basis and has a wide range of options in responding to their strengths and weaknesses. This provides administrative leeway or flexibility for state charter schools in Connecticut in the charter renewal process, but is contrary to this apparently strict mantra of “more accountability for more flexibility.”
Not included in the above section of charter school renewal law or the checklist are requirements to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation or other state laws. To that point, the very next section of the charter school law states:
(h) The Commissioner of Education may at any time place a charter school on probation if (1) the school has failed to
(A) adequately demonstrate student progress, as determined by the commissioner,
(B) comply with the terms of its charter or with applicable laws and regulations,
(C) achieve measurable progress in reducing racial, ethnic and economic isolation, (continued…)
Finally, the state can revoke a charter at any time in cases of an emergency, or with written notice for failure in any of the areas listed above. The commissioner has to provide notice in writing about why she/he moved to revoke the charter. The law states:
(i) The State Board of Education may revoke a charter if a charter school has failed to:
(1) Comply with the terms of probation, including the failure to file or implement a corrective action plan;
(2) demonstrate satisfactory student progress, as determined by the commissioner;
(3) comply with the terms of its charter or applicable laws and regulations; or
(4) manage its public funds in a prudent or legal manner.
Even if the State Board of Education moves to revoke a charter, the “governing council”, or a charter school’s managing board, can provide an oral or written presentation to contest the State’s decision to revoke the charter and demonstrate compliance in areas deemed deficient.
Perhaps because of the flexibility in the charter renewal law, there have been times when charter schools have been renewed despite apparent examples of not meeting specified goals, the listed criteria in statute, or educational interests of the State. Another possibility is that the implementation of the policy has not been sufficiently discerning to identify major problems such as financial malfeasance or the mistreatment of children.
As a result of this flexibility, the state Board nearly always renews charters. Between 2010-2013, all 17 charter schools in the state obtained a renewed charter from the State Board of Education, according to this list from the CT Mirror. (excluding one that became an interdistrict magnet school) Non-charter public schools have not been so fortunate as they have had to follow strict federal and state rules and consequences, primarily on the basis of standardized test results. Since 2007, at least ten non-charter schools in Hartford, CT alone were closed or the staff fired on the basis of rigid test-based targets and subsequent punishments as outlined in state, federal, and local policy.
(Note: To my knowledge, there isn’t a list of all CT schools that have been closed, reconstituted, converted to charters, turn(ed) around, or restarted as a result of NCLB/RttT test-based accountability. If you know of a list, please share!)
Take the charter schools requirements to enroll representative populations of emerging bilingual students and students with disabilities and the reduction of racial and ethnic isolation. In my report with Kenny Feder, “Choice Watch,” over at CT Voices for Children, we reported that charter schools in CT tend to have smaller proportions of emerging bilingual children and children with disabilities when compared to local school districts, and are often more racially segregated than local school districts. Yet, no charter school was revoked because it didn’t include emerging bilingual students, children with disabilities, or because it was racially segregated, as state law would suggest.
When problems are found, the State Board of Education has often allowed schools to keep their charters rather than closing the school through a non-renewal. In some cases, the State board required more frequent review of charter schools, such as a renewal process after three years rather than five, for example. This scenario happened in 2007 with Common Ground and Odyssey Community School (due to poor test data) and Achievement First-Hartford in 2013 (due to excessive suspensions/special education/civil rights complaints). In other cases, schools received “probation” by the State Board of Education before a charter was revoked or non-renewed. Examples of this action included Highville/Mustard Seed (due to financial malfeasance) and Jumoke (due to financial malfeasance).
According to past and recent State Department of Education reports on the operation of charter schools, only five charter schools closed their doors since 1999. Three closed because of insufficient funds, despite the fact that the State Dept. of Education was required to review their financial plans before a charter was granted. Additionally, the CT State Board of Education shut down one charter school for health/safety violations and closed one charter school because of lack of academic progress.
Even relatively low test scores haven’t been a sufficient reason to deny a charter renewal. When its charter was renewed in 2012, Trailblazers Academy charter school had among the lowest aggregate test results in CT. By the rules of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Trailblazers had not met “Annual Yearly Progress” for six years.
Stamford Academy, which had among the lowest aggregate test results in 2013 is now in a similar situation this year as it faces a charter renewal process. (They are up for a renewal after only three years.) By 2010-11, Stamford Academy hadn’t made “Annual Yearly Progress” for five years.
(Note: Annual Yearly Progress was such a problematic measure that it was abandoned by the CT State and U.S. Federal Departments of Education in Connecticut’s 2012 waiver to parts of the NCLB Act.)
According to the logic of more “accountability” for more “flexibility”, shouldn’t these schools have lost their charters?
Despite not making AYP (the goal back then) and the State reporting this negative status, it is still unclear why these charter schools never faced the same sorts of clear, strict punishments as other public schools under NCLB. While the CT State Department of Education and State Board of Education delegated the responsibility of implementing NCLB sanctions to local districts for schools under local control, they apparently haven’t assumed that responsibility for schools under their own supervision in recent years.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, if these schools had been non-charter public schools, they would have been targeted for punishments such as firing the entire staff, notifying parents that they could choose to go to another school, closing the school, state takeover, conversion to charter schools, or taking away public governance in favor of private management. Ironically, Stamford Academy and Trailblazers were the end goal of No Child Left Behind – privately managed, publicly-financed state charter schools that parents chose to enroll their children, ostensibly to produce higher test scores. Yet, they were still amongst the most struggling academically and the state renewed their charters in 2012.
In defense of these schools, (Trailblazers, Stamford Academy, and others) perhaps they are offering educational benefits not captured by overall low test results. Stamford Academy and Trailblazers Academy enrolled high proportions of children that struggled in school. These schools also served a much more historically under-served group of children, mostly Black, Latino, low-income, and many more students with disabilities when compared to the more affluent Stamford Public Schools, which also have higher proportions of white students.
I am not advocating that Trailblazers and Stamford Academy should close because I don’t have enough information on either one to make a judgement, nor would closing the schools improve them. But I am pointing out that there have been two sets of rules when it comes to state “accountability”. Several years ago, Wendy Lecker also pointed to what appeared to be “double standards” in evaluating charter and other public schools in her column at The Stamford Advocate.
Let’s also consider what the renewal process has looked like for some of Connecticut’s charter schools that look better as measured by test score data. When its charter was renewed in 2012, the State touted Amistad Academy’s high test results compared to New Haven schools in 5th grade, and particularly for 8th grade students.
The state’s resolution on Amistad Academy noted that the school didn’t meet “Annual Yearly Progress” in the elementary grades, but did in the high school grades in 2010-11. But there didn’t appear to be any firm academic goals apart from the AYP metric, just general description of its test results and how they were better than the New Haven Public Schools overall. There was a presentation of test results with some narrative, particularly of the vertical scale scores offered as evidence in the final resolution to approve the charter renewal.
Undiscussed however, was the fact that the test participation data showed massive student attrition at Amistad Academy. In 2008, there were 76 students in grade 5, but there were only 53 students that matched that group in grade 8 in 2011. This was a loss of 30% of the student population from the original 76 students that started 5th grade in 2008.
So the high overall test results in 8th grade only accounted for 70% of the kids that stayed at the school-those students that took the standard CMT in math in both grade 5 and grade 8 at Amistad Academy. This attrition happened in CT and New Haven overall, but not to the same degree. Such attrition impacted the way the test results were interpreted (we are only looking at 70% of an already selected cohort) and the manner in which the test results were obtained (removing low-scoring or undesirable students can inflate results at this school and impact other local schools that later enroll these students). This attrition went unmentioned in the State Board’s renewal resolution despite one of the questions in the State checklist being, “Is there a high turnover of students?”
The State’s resolution, referencing the audit and site visit, also explained that the school lacked curricula in grades 3-8 science, K-12 health, physical education, and the arts. There were also problems with financial controls and safeguards between Achievement First, Inc, the private charter management corporation, and Amistad Academy, the public charter school; and many of the school’s teachers lacked proper state certification. The school was allowed to remedy, or begin fixing these deficiencies before their hearing at the State Board of Education, thus securing a renewed charter.
In Connecticut, there are laws against both excessive suspensions of students and racial/ethnic segregation of students, particularly for charter schools. [see above CGS Sec. 10-66bb(h)] But the renewal process for Amistad Academy ignored its exclusionary disciplinary policies, racial and ethnic segregation, and provided no analysis of representative populations of bilingual children and students with disabilities, among others. To be sure, these issues aren’t specified in the renewal checklist, but the school is required to follow applicable laws and regulations, including laws about students suspensions, special education rights, and racial and ethnic segregation, among others. A year after the Amistad renewal, The CT Mirror and The Hartford Courant reported that Amistad Academy and its Achievement First affiliates had the highest numbers and rates of suspensions of children in CT. As Choice Watch reported, the school was (and still is) racially segregated, as well as most charter schools in CT.
Amistad Academy may be a school that people want their children to attend amidst the relative disinvestment, neglect, and mis-education of children of color in other schools. However, parent and families’ decisions about schools happen in the context of State over-investment and policy in favor of public school choice programs and under-investment in other public schools with high proportions of low income and Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino children. This arrangement is a key feature of Connecticut educational policy, like other states. (See M. Apple, P. Lipman, & K. Buras writing on this issue.)
Regardless of Admistad Academy’s status, the State’s own charter renewal report documented educational concerns and overlooked substantial problems. It was not until then-State Child Advocate Jamey Bell intervened that the suspension information and the depth of the problem became known to the public, particularly throughout the Achievement First charter school chain. As a result of State and public pressure, Achievement First/Amistad has reportedly made improvements to its disciplinary policies; and lately the company has explored the idea of alternative methods in addition to its current “no excuses” schooling.
Like all schools, Amistad Academy has both its strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing this point, the State’s charter renewal process has been flexible in its approach towards renewal and remediation of charter schools, instead of responding with rigid “accountability.” In addition to flexible, the state’s approach has also been selective in valuing particular types of “achievement” data first, and everything else after.
Accountability at Traditional Public Schools
In Connecticut, however, plenty of other non-charter public schools have similar groups of children as Stamford Academy and Trailblazers Academy charter schools, may need more support, and struggled on overall test results. Unlike these two charter schools, other public schools faced crude forms of high-stakes test accountability under federal, state, and local rules.
This flexible “accountability” stands in stark contrast to the regimented consequences that other public schools face under the No Child Left Behind Act, NCLB Waiver, and other high-stakes test accountability systems such as in Hartford, Connecticut. These systems outline firm, test-based numerical targets and emphasize clear punishments when the goals aren’t met, such as school closings, conversion to charter schools or private management. Unlike the charter renewal process, there are rarely second or third chances for other non-charter public schools, and excuses aren’t acceptable when it comes their “accountability” process.
So here’s a dilemma: Carefully implemented, the ability of authorities to have administrative discretion (reviewing each school on a case by case basis) and assess schools holistically may be pragmatic and humane policy in some cases. In other cases, this flexibility can result in vague, selective accountability. It’s worth considering this local administrative judgement and holistic assessment in the context of all public schools. So I will explore this idea in a future post.
In the meantime, let’s watch this charter renewal process. The charter renewal process offers the possibility for people and groups to weigh in through letters to the State Department of Education, a public hearing for people to testify about the school’s work, and, ultimately, people can testify at the CT State Board of Education before a school’s charter is renewed.
The dates, times, and locations for the local public hearings on these charter school renewals are here and the chart is below. So take a look at the charter school applications and the process documents. In the meantime, here are a few questions to consider:
- Is the State of Connecticut exercising sufficient oversight of charter schools through the renewal process? Is the law sufficient?
- Are these charter schools meeting their goals and the educational interests of the State?
- What evidence should be weighed in this process of charter renewal?
- Can the holistic process of reviewing charter schools be applied to other public schools?
(Note: Comments are activated and you can now share this link with a “share it” button.)
Public Hearings 2014-15
New Beginnings Family Academy
February 24, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||Bridgeport City Hall
Common Council Chambers
45 Lyon Terrace
Bridgeport, CT 06604
February 25, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||Howell Cheney Technical High Multi-Purpose Room
791 W. Middle Turnpike
Manchester, CT 06040
February 26, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||J. M. Wright Technical
120 Bridge St.
Stamford, CT 06905
March 3, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern CT
490 Jefferson Avenue
New London, CT 06320
March 5, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||Winsted Town Hall
P. Francis Hicks Room
338 Main Street
Winsted, CT 06098
March 10, 2015
|6:00 -8:00 pm
||Wilbur Cross High School
181 Mitchell Drive
New Haven, CT 06511
– See more at: http://commons.trincoll.edu/cssp/?p=11615&preview=true#sthash.pXBOv16N.dpuf
Amplify, Education Reform, Malloy, Maria Naughton, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Student Data and Privacy Amplify, Malloy, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education, Student Data and Privacy
Maria Naughton is an educator, educational consultant and public school parent. She is a frequent guest columnist here at Wait, What? and writes commentary pieces for the New Canaan Advertiser where this piece was first posted. See: http://ncadvertiser.com/43686/student-privacy-concerns-continue-to-grow/
It is all about the Data – The uncomfortable truth about teaching in America
Privacy protections for our youngest citizens are undergoing a troubling transformation due to recent policy changes, and requirements in education. As a result, both state and private entities are gaining expanded access and use of individual-level student data. Upon closer examination, it is becoming abundantly clear that greater controls need to be put in place.
To explain further, a key requirement of the education-related Race to the Top program mandated collecting data on students to “ensure” their successful navigation into the workforce. This has resulted in an almost non-stop (and ever-expanding) stream of information being collected and stored on our children, starting as soon as they enter formalized schooling, and possibly sooner.
At the state level, data on children will be aggregated from various state agencies into one system. This personally identifiable information (PII), will be collected from birth and into the workforce, and will be made accessible to Federal agencies. Maintained in federally-funded state repositories (P20WIN in Connecticut), this data, we are told, is necessary to ensure that our children are “college and career ready.”
However, in order to make that PII more accessible than in the past, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA was redefined by the Obama administration, removing longstanding federal protections for children. Most of us would agree that teachers making data-driven decisions to ensure student success make perfect sense. But the lack of insight as to how this state-level digital dossier will be used, or where captured data is stored, is disturbing.
This information gathering will begin early. Nationally, in grant-funded preschools, educators are learning that those much-needed federal dollars come with strings attached. Teachers are finding they have endless reporting requirements about their young students, which cover everything from toileting habits to cooperation skills, to expressions of understanding and “empathy” towards others. Schools are being mandated to use programs like Teaching Strategies Gold, into which teachers spend inordinate amounts of time entering up to ten “domains” of information, even submitting photos and videos to provide what they call evidence, to ensure toddlers are on the track to success.
Behaviors common in preschool, like biting or whining, while just a blip on the radar of child development, may now be logged forever in an electronic student record. And while the appropriate course of action would be for a teacher and parent to discuss the behaviors, entering them into a database will allow unseen analysts to perceive them as indicators of a potential mental health issue, when in fact, a child might just be having a bad day.
Of course, preschool teachers have always monitored the progress of the children in their care. What is disturbing is the submission of this data to unknown entities and the lack of understanding about where it goes. In Connecticut, the Early Childhood Information System (ECIS) is under development, and will be part of the newly-funded Office of Early Childhood. This ECIS system will connect to the P20WIN, ensuring contiguous progress monitoring on children. The P20WIN is overseen by an appointed Data Governance Board, which holds the authority to release that data upon request to organizations meeting the “educational use” requirement. This illustrates just how far removed parents and families have become from how these agencies are using their children’s information.
Data gathering does not stop at preschool. As children move through the public school system, they will continue to generate personal data, often through online programs and third-party vendors not under the direct control of the schools. A key component to education reform involves the concept of “personalized learning.” Parents should familiarize themselves with this term. This involves students using an electronic device, and an online program, with or without teacher instruction, to learn. Theoretically, by using analytics and algorithms, the online instruction is tailored to the student’s individual needs.
Recent online programs in use in the Norwalk public schools include programs like mClass for literacy or Total Motivation, a program meant to teach critical thinking. These programs capture online responses and behaviors, in order to be personalized. While it is easy to appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of the new products flooding the market as a result of the educational reforms, conflicts begin to emerge about who benefits most from the use of these innovative, albeit new teaching methods.
To clarify, using methodologies with a proven track record for students makes sense. However, that proof may not be evident with some new web-based products, which are under continuous development. As an example, a recent Grossman Family Foundation study in Connecticut looked at the impact of using mClass in certain pilot schools, over other reading programs and found the differences in achievement, “statistically insignificant.” Yet, while the benefits to students are negligible, the vendors do benefit from student feedback through use of the product. As a direct result of the FERPA law change, those responses may be used by the organization for future product development, without parental consent, effectively putting students in the position of being unsuspecting, and unpaid, product testers, instead of receiving time-tested and effective instruction.
In addition, the “digital dossier” will grow as more and more students submit to online instruction as part of their public education. As of right now, there is little protection for a child’s online profile, or the sharing of that data with others. Proposals like President Obama’s recently introduced Student Digital Privacy Act, while appearing to protect students, actually only clarifies that personal student data may be shared as long as it is for “educational purposes.” This new act, which does nothing to keep this data out of the hands of the educational product vendors, is a cleverly titled fig leaf which allows States to assuage the growing privacy concerns being raised by parents.
These concerns are real, and state lawmakers, including those in Connecticut, are listening to their constituents. Several bills have been introduced in this legislative session, which will go further to offer privacy protections for students and their families. Additionally, legislators are seeking to understand how students’ time is being used in school with regards to online learning. These are sure to gain bipartisan support. Please stay engaged, and check in at cga.ct.gov/ to learn which Bills have been put forth, and how you can make your voice known to the Committees, which will be discussing them.
Note: Many data collection products are being used by Connecticut public school systems. For example, Norwalk uses mclass (mentioned above) which is a product of Amplify, the massive corporate education reform industry entity owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and education reformers Joel Klein – http://www.amplify.com/assessment/mclass-reading-3d.