January 23, 2013: State Board of Education votes to require more standardized testing!

When the Connecticut State Board of Education met yesterday to approve their 2013 legislative agenda, a primary initiative was to expand the state’s mandatory standardized testing program to include all Connecticut students in the 11th grade.

As of now, the state’s absurd mandatory Connecticut Mastery standardized testing extravaganza begins in grade three and runs through the CAPT test in grade 10.

Last year, Governor Malloy’s “education reform” proposal included a new mandatory test for students in the 11th grade.  The Democrats on the General Assembly’s Education Committee quickly quashed the idea recognizing that students are already wasting way too much time being tested when they should be spending time learning.

Well, brace yourselves, the NO Child Left Untested industry is back.

In addition to the state’s mastery test program, school districts are required or are voluntarily engaged in a variety of other standardized testing programs and schemes.  There are the Direct Reading Assessment (DRA) or Degrees of Reading Power (DRP) tests.  There are the Northwest Evaluation Association Measure of Academic Performance (NWEA MAP) tests.

Then there are the LAS, LAU and NOCTI tests.

Add of course the PSAT and SATs for high school students.

And of course, each round of tests requires hours and hours of practice tests.

As parents know, “Reading Prompts” now begin in 1st grade in order to position children correctly for the first round of testing that takes place two years later in 3rd grade.

One seasoned veteran teacher recently reported that from 3rd grade through 12th grade, students and teachers in suburban districts now spend more than six weeks taking standardized tests, and that doesn’t even count the practice tests.

The time wasted on standardized testing is even greater in our urban school districts like Hartford and Bridgeport.  In just the past few years, those districts have shifted from one district wide Connecticut Mastery Test program a year to three rounds of district wide standardized benchmark tests PLUS the Connecticut Mastery Test.

Recently Bridgeport’s massive benchmark testing program crashed their computer system and children spent countless hours sitting around waiting while the information technology people worked with the out-of-state testing companies to try to figure out how to get the testing program back up and running

The Connecticut State Department of Education has estimated that just CMT/CAPT, the mastery test program alone, costs more than $25 million a year and if you add up all the standardized testing efforts, Connecticut and local taxpayers may be shelling out as much as $100 million a year for testing programs.

In nearly every case, the money goes directly to out-of-state, for-profit testing companies.

So here we are.

Cutting essential services to deal with a state budget deficit of more than $400 million this year and looking at a $1.2 billion projected budget deficit next year.

And all this is AFTER the state increased taxes by $1.5 billion during Governor Malloy’s first year in office.

And what do Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut Board of Education decide to do?

They proposed a whole new round of standardized testing for another whole grade, the grade in which college bound students are supposed to be focusing on their grades, as well as the PSATs and SATs, while other students are looking ahead to prepare for work and other post-secondary education opportunities.

It is, as Wait, What? readers like to call – another “you can’t make this sh*t up” moment.

Another day, another six figure state job goes to an out-of-state PR person

Today’s double barreled lesson; (1) There is always room for one more Director of Communications on the ship of state, even in the face of a billion dollar deficit, and (2) there are simply no qualified PR people in Connecticut.

Last week came the news that UConn President Herbst had to go all the way to Iowa to get her $227,000 PR person.

Today comes news that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, is bringing in yet another out-of-state person to help him run Connecticut’s Department of Education.

This time it is a new Communications Director, the third he has had since becoming Commissioner about a year ago.  The first was filling in on a temporary basis and has since returned to his job in the Department of Education.  The second has been transferred to a new task at the Education agency and now Kelly Donnelly will be coming on board at the end of this week.

Although Donnelly apparently has absolutely no background in public education or education policy, she is an experienced political operative, having worked on numerous political campaigns in New Jersey and New York.

Since 2007, the 2002 graduate of Notre Dame worked as a campaign manager for a state assembly race in New Jersey, a city council candidate in Brooklyn, New York, a congressional candidate on Long Island and as a field organizer in Jim Keane’s 2007 gubernatorial campaign in New Jersey.

According to the social networking site, LinkedIn, her most recent job was a six month stint as the Deputy Communications Director for The New Jersey Democratic Legislative Majority, which was a political committee formed by the New Jersey Senate Democratic Majority and the New Jersey Democratic Assembly Campaign Committees.

From 2009 to 2011, Donnelly served as project manager for a California solar energy company where she oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations.

The salary level for the new State Department of Education’s Director of Communication was not immediately available, so check back for that number at a later date.