Catch up on the Holiday Week Posts

If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s Wait, What? Posts….  Here are the major pieces.

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

“Thanksgiving Thanks to Teachers We Remember Who Didn’t Teach Common Core” By Alan Singer

Public Good or Private Gain – the story behind the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s Data Mining Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The superintendents wrote;

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opt Out growing – Now decouple Common Core test from Teacher Evaluation Program

Parents across the nation are rising up against the Common Core testing scheme.  More than 200,000 parents in New York State have already stepped up and refused to allow their children to be abused by the unfair Common Core tests.  The number of opt-outs in New York could easily exceed a quarter of a million by next week.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy, his State Board of Education, most state legislators and the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions are refusing to step forward and support Connecticut’s parents and children, the opt out effort is growing here as well.

As in New York, the Connecticut opt out effort will skyrocket after parents receive their children’s scores next summer and learn, first hand, just how inappropriate and discriminatory the Common Core test really is.

As parents are slowly coming understand, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing program is intentionally designed to fail the vast majority of children, including a projected failure rate of over 90 percent for students requiring special education services and those that aren’t fluent in the English language.

The Common Core SBAC pass/fail rate is so rigged that 3 in 4 African American and Latino children will likely fail the 8th grade English/Language Arts portion of the SBAC test and the failure rate for 8th grade math will exceed 80 percent for African American and Latino children.

What most parents still don’t understand is that the gross absurdity of the Common Core SBAC test is the fact that not only is it designed to fail students but under Governor Malloy’s “Teacher Evaluation Program,” the twisted results are to be used to “judge’ teachers.

Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiative included a new mandated teacher evaluation program.  According to the propaganda produced by Malloy’s State Department of Education;

“Excellent schools begin with great school leaders and teachers. The importance of highly-skilled educators is beyond dispute…”

[…]

“The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) is committed to raising the overall quality of our schools’ workforce….”

[…]

“Educator evaluation is the cornerstone of this holistic approach and contributes to the improvement of individual and collective practice. High-quality evaluations are necessary to inform the individualized professional development and support that an educator may require. Such evaluations also identify professional strengths which should form the basis of new professional opportunities. High-quality evaluations are also necessary to make fair employment decisions based on teacher and leader effectiveness. Used in this way, high-quality evaluations will bring greater accountability and transparency to schools and instill greater confidence in employment decisions across the state…”

The term “high-quality” evaluation is repeated over and over and over again by Connecticut’s State Department of Education.

But in reality the Connecticut State Department of Education’s “Teacher Evaluation Program” is anything but high quality.

The Connecticut State Department of Education explains,

“Informed by research, including the Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study … [The Gates Foundation is the major force behind the Common Core and Common Core testing]… Connecticut’s System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) is a model evaluation and support system that is aligned to the Connecticut Guidelines for Educator Evaluation (Core Requirements), which were adopted by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) in 2012 and revised in 2014…”

However, what the rhetoric skips over is that reality that foundation of Connecticut teacher evaluation system actually uses the faulty Common Core SBAC test scores.

The Malloy administration’s “teacher evaluation program” is based on the following factors:

Student learning (45%),

Teacher performance and practice (40%),

Parent feedback (10%)

School-wide student learning or student feedback (5%)

The formula looks reasonable enough until one learns that half of the “Student Learning” portion of the evaluation system is derived from the Common Core SBAC tests meaning that all Connecticut teachers, no matter how good they are, will be punished because the Common Core tests intentionally define the majority of students as failure.

Teachers who work in urban and poorer communities, those that work with students of color, those that work with English language learners and those that teach students with special education needs will be especially punished under the new teacher evaluation system.

Imagine, instead of developing a teacher evaluation program that is actually designed to evaluate teachers, Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials have concocted a bureaucratic nightmare that relies on the untried, untested and faulty Common Cores SBAC tests results.

The new teacher evaluation program is only absurd and unfair but counterproductive because it will produce a disincentive to work in more challenging districts and with more challenging student populations.

The fact is Connecticut’s elected officials; the teacher unions and all who believe in public education should be doing far more to support parents who are opting their children out of the Common Core testing.

And equally important, those same people and groups should be de-couple the teacher evaluation program from the Common Core tests and demand that the Connecticut State Department of Education develop a fair, appropriate and effective teacher evaluation programs.

Good teacher evaluation programs exist; there are even experts in Connecticut who have developed outstanding models that could and should be utilized in Connecticut’s school districts.

The powers that be need to stop the Common Core testing madness before they do even more damage to our children, our teachers and our public education system.

Will Malloy decouple Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system from the unfair Common Core SBAC Test?

Last January, facing a tough re-election campaign, Governor Dannel Malloy and his pro-corporate education reform industry allies threw teachers a bone by postponing – for one year –the requirement that towns use the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test results as part of the state’s mandatory teacher evaluation program.

Malloy’s 2014 announcement maintained the requirement that the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test results be counted for nearly a quarter of each teacher’s evaluation, but he agreed to postpone the requirement that the test results be used as part of a teacher’s evaluation until the 2015-16 school year.

However, as was reported at the time, Malloy went out of his way to make sure that everyone understood that he was not “backing off his support for the teacher evaluation system or the Common Core.”

Those supporting Malloy’s education reform initiative were quick to add that the delay in using the corrupt Common Core standardized tests scores shouldn’t be for more than a year.

Jeffrey Villar, the executive director of the corporate-funded Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) was quoted by the Hartford Courant saying that standardized test scores needed to be part of any program that measured teacher performance starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

Villar explained, “Moving backward would be detrimental to our students and we want to make sure that we are globally competitive…”

Malloy’s action also received praise from the leadership of Connecticut’s two teacher unions who heralded the move as an important step in the right direction.

In fact, the press release issued by the State Department of Education announcing the one year delay even included quotes from CEA President Sheila Cohen and AFT-CT President Melodie Peters.

CEA President Cohen was quoted as saying, “Today’s PEAC changes will foster a new climate that moves away from the rigidity and moves toward the healthy flexibility that our schools communities sorely need…,” while AFT-CT President Peters added, “With PEAC’s approval of new flexibility options, our state’s children will be the primary beneficiaries of this course correction.”

But the one year delay is quickly coming to an end and the unfairness of the Common Core SBAC test has become even clearer with the disturbing news that the Malloy administration supported setting the Common Core SBAC test “goal level,” at a point that is designed to ensure that approximately 70 percent of students fail to reach goal.

If the Governor or legislature do not move quickly to eliminate the expensive Common Core SBAC testing scam or decouple the use of the SBAC results from the state’s teacher evaluation system, Connecticut’s public schools will be forced to give the inappropriate Common Core SBAC test this spring and towns will be mandated to use the results from that unfair test to measure the “effectiveness” of their teachers.

Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

Thanks to Governor Malloy, his out-going Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry, well over 300,000 Connecticut public school students will be taking the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test in just a couple of months.

Not only will it cost Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and mean thousands of hours of lost instructional time, but the Common Core SBAC test is literally designed to ensure than almost seven out of ten students are told that they have failed.

Yes….the Common Core SBAC test is designed in such a way as make sure that nearly 70 percent of public school students are told they are failures.

As part of the ongoing effort to inform students, parents, teacher and Connecticut citizens about the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core testing scheme, the Wait, What? blog post of January 2, 2015 is being re-posted below.

The fact is that while Stefan Pryor will be gone by the end of the week, Malloy and his political appointees on the State Board of Education are charging forward with their Common Core Testing strategy and, to further that effort, have decided to appoint Dianna Roberge-Wentzell as Connecticut’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

Dianna Roberge-Wentzell has been serving as the Department of Education’s chief academic officer for about two years.  When appointed to that position, it was explained that her role would be to “lead the Common Core curriculum development work at the state level.”

And Roberge-Wentzell has proven to be a stellar cheerleader for the Common Core and its related Standardized Testing Program.

In a Connecticut Association of Boards of Education meeting last year, Roberge-Wentzell proclaimed, “There is some anxiety about content readiness, like, ‘Will our kids really be ready?’ ‘Have we fully made that transition in our curriculum and instruction?’ And I think that people need to recognize that this is a multi-year transition.”

But for Connecticut’s public school students and teachers, there is no “multi-year” transition.

The guaranteed failing test rates are a part of THIS YEAR’S Common Core Test!

And those corrupt results will then be used to “evaluate” and punish Connecticut’s public school teachers.

While many of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and neither Connecticut’s public school teachers nor our public school students have been given the appropriate time and materials to “transition” to these new standards, the punishing Common Core test will occur starting in March unless the Connecticut General Assembly moves quickly to dismantle the massive testing apparatus or parents take matters into their own hands and opt their children out of taking the inappropriate tests.

But as if to reiterate her fidelity to the corporate education reform industry and their Common Core testing scheme, Roberge-Wentzell told the audience at that CABE meeting that everything was moving forward nicely and there was no need to even worry about the technological problems that have plagued the Common Core testing program in Connecticut and around the nation.

The person who will now take over management of the Connecticut State Department of Education told the group at CABE last year that it was full steam ahead, that the State Department had been using the “technology readiness tool” that has been provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and that “Our districts input all of their data and then we are able to constantly monitor kind of a dashboard of tech readiness for the state…And we are very close to 100 percent tech readiness in Connecticut—we are lucky. But some communities still have some investments that need to be made and this will help us support them in bridging that gap.”

The truth is Connecticut’s public school students have become guinea pigs for the Corporate Education Reform Industry and implementing a test that is designed to ensure failure for the vast majority of our children is nothing short of child abuse.

For more of the background about the Common Core testing, read the following;

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

This initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

The initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

Tom Foley’s bizarre move on Education Policy and its potential impact on the CEA endorsement

In what appears to be an ongoing effort to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, has proposed an education policy that looks eerily similar to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.

Over the past four years Governor Malloy has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation and remains the only Democratic governor to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

However, instead of providing Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates with appropriate policies that would support and strengthen public education, Tom Foley has proposed an education plan that appears to be designed by the very same corporate education reform industry groupies that are behind Malloy’s ill-conceived education initiatives.

In fact, elements of Foley’s plan appear to be a virtual copy of the proposals being pushed by Steven Adamowski, one of Malloy’s top advisors who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and formerly worked in the same capacity in Windham.

While Foley’s plan is vague and lacks details, the foundation of his education agenda, according to media coverage, would “mandate that parents in struggling schools be allowed to move their students anywhere within their local school systems, with money following the child.”

It is a system that has been tried and failed repeatedly around the country and is a particular favorite of Steven Adamowski, who previously served as superintendent of schools in Hartford before taking that same inappropriate approach with him to New London and Windham.

Tom Foley is quoted as saying,

“What I’m hoping is that when you have in-district public school choice and money follows the child that the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better…So, right away, that schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to try to make sure this gets passed and implemented, so if they should start trying to be better schools right away, to the extent they can.”

The Foley plan would be a disaster for Connecticut, but in what may be one of the biggest ironies of the entire 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy and his legislative supporters have blasted Foley for announcing his plan…despite the fact that Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly have supported very similar policies.

In a story entitled, Malloy sees, seizes opportunity in Foley’s school plan, the CT Mirror reported,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved quickly Thursday to exploit what Democrats say is an ill-considered and impractical proposal by Republican Tom Foley to allow urban parents to pick the local public school of their choice and strip money from failing schools as their children go elsewhere.

Malloy said the education proposals Foley made Wednesday as part of a larger urban agenda show that the Greenwich businessman has no grasp of current education policies and resources, nor does he appreciate how devastating it would be to urban school systems to begin denying funds to schools that need more resources.

“You can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work,” Malloy said.”

This from the Democratic governor whose “Commissioner’s Network” program has undermined local control, handed public schools over to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain in Hartford and Bridgeport and devastated a number of urban schools by implementing a “money follows the child” system that has left troubled schools without the resources they need to even serve the students that have remained in those schools.

According to the news article, Malloy went on to blast Foley saying,

“It’s a bunch of mush. It’s a mouthful of mush is what it is, except it’s dangerous,” Malloy said of what he called an ill-defined plan. “It’s defeating. It underlies an absolute lack of understanding of how education works in Connecticut. He gets an F for homework. He gets an F for plagiarism. And he gets an F for new ideas.”

Malloy’s quote is truly incredible considering the ideas that Foley is “stealing” come from Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and the gaggle of education reform industry supporters that surround Malloy.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and his campaign operatives are hoping that they can use Foley’s blunder on education to persuade the Connecticut Education Association to endorse Malloy tonight when they meet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for governor or make no endorsement in this year’s election.

The fundamental problem with Malloy’s latest strategy is that it would require the CEA leadership to overlook Malloy’s record of failure and destruction when it comes to his own policies on public education.

To endorse Malloy, the CEA would be throwing their members “under the bus” since Malloy’s record includes the following:

  • Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.
    • To date, Malloy has never publically renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.
  • Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.
    • To date, Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.
  • When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate (even unconstitutional).  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.
    • To date, Malloy has not promised to settle the CCJEF lawsuit and develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.
  • As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Connecticut has learned from the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School debacle that charter schools are not held accountable and it took a raid by the FBI to ensure that charter schools are held responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
    • To date, Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen.
  • And while tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive Common Core Standardized Testing Program, Malloy and his administration have repeatedly lied and misled parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.
    • To date, Malloy and his administration have FAILED to tell parents that they do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing scheme.

Despite Tom Foley’s decision to join Malloy in backing the corporate education reform industry’s agenda, any endorsement of Malloy – prior to him publicly reversing course on the issues listed above – would be an insult to every Connecticut teacher and the tens of thousands of parents and public school advocates who are counting on the Connecticut Education Association to stand up for public education in Connecticut.

You can read more about Foley and Malloy’s antics in the following articles:

CT Mirror:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-sees-seizes-opportunity-in-foleys-school-plan/ and http://ctmirror.org/foleys-urban-agenda-something-borrowed-something-new/

CT NewsJunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_stands_his_ground_on_education_policy/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democratic_lawmakers_criticize_foleys_education_policies/

Courant: Malloy, Unions Criticize Foley’s Education Plan

 

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

Questions that teachers (parents, public school advocates and all voters) should be asking…

Over the next week, the leadership of the Connecticut Education Association will be deciding whether to follow the lead of the American Federation of Teachers and endorse Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts or whether they will endorse another candidate or whether they should make no endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Here are some of the issues that Connecticut’s public school teachers should be mulling over;

Issue #1:  As has been noted repeatedly, no other Democratic governor in the nation has proposed doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the poorest and lowest performing public schools.   At a candidate debate earlier this month, Malloy tried to clarify his infamous observation that teachers need only show for four years to get tenure by saying,

I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Wait, What? … Malloy’s comment wasn’t about teachers, “It was about tenure?

If Malloy thought he deserved the support of Connecticut’s teachers, why hasn’t he publicly renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining proposal?

 

Issue #2:  Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation models that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

If Malloy wanted to show he understands the challenges facing teachers and public education why hasn’t he said that, if re-elected, he will decouple the mandated teacher evaluation system from unfair standardized testing?

 

Issue #3:  When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

If Malloy believes he deserves the votes of teachers (and parents and taxpayers), why won’t he simply say that if he gets a second term in office he will settle the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system?

 

Issue #4:   As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 so-called Alliance Districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

If Malloy wants teachers, parents and public school advocates to vote for him, why hasn’t he announced that he will institute a moratorium on additional charter schools and devote scarce public resources to where they belong…Connecticut’s real public schools?

 

Issue #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme have become particularly controversial.  Tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive standardized testing program.  In addition, the Malloy administration has repeatedly lied and mislead parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.

If Malloy wants a second term, why hasn’t he ordered his State Department of Education to be honest with parents (and teachers) and tell parents that they DO HAVE A RIGHT TO OPT THEIR CHILDREN OUT OF THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME and why does he continue to support the implementation of the Common Core and its massive Common Core Testing program?

These and many other important education issues will face the individual who is elected in November.

Before endorsing or supporting or voting for any candidate, Connecticut’s public school teachers (and every other Connecticut voter) should ask why Malloy has failed to adequately address these important issues.

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

Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured (by Wendy Lecker)

Among Governor Malloy’s package of election year gimmicks to win back enough support to get 50 percent of the vote in November’s gubernatorial election are a series of steps to deceive teachers, parents and public school advocates into thinking that he is mending his ways and stepping off the corporate education reform industry gravy train.

In a move that would make any panderer proud, Governor Malloy said he would even delay Connecticut’s unfair, inaccurate and counter-productive teacher evaluation program. In fact, he said he would delay it all the way until January 2015, a full TWO MONTHS after his dreamed of re-election.

What Malloy and his education reform allies refuse to admit is that Connecticut’s Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured.  Delaying its implementation is a worthless political stunt.

As Wendy Lecker writes in her latest commentary piece for the Stamford Advocates and Hearst Media Group newspapers, “The time has come to repeal Malloy’s education reforms and develop proposals that will actually improve our schools.”

In another MUST READ piece, Wendy Lecker writes:

With an election year upon us, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently announced that we should delay his new teacher evaluation system. This comes after his policies wasted millions of dollars and thousands of teacher, administrator and student hours.

The governor claims a delay will solve the glitches in the system, implying that the problems with this unproven teacher evaluation system are only procedural.

The truth is that Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation model, called SEED, is fatally flawed and no amount of delay will cure it. It must be scrapped and replaced by a valid system that will actually work to improve teaching and learning.

As the Malloy administration has been warned repeatedly, the reliance on standardized test scores for 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation renders the entire system unreliable.

Research has demonstrated conclusively that using standardized test to rate teachers is invalid because scores vary widely based on the test, year, class and statistical model used. This overwhelming evidence prompted Tennessee’s State Board of Education, one of the first adopters of the so-called Value Added Model (“VAM”), to now abandon the use of VAM in any decisions to license or fire teachers. A bill is pending in Tennessee to prohibit the use of student standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Connecticut uses an even more inaccurate method called Student Growth Percentiles (“SGP”). While VAM tries but fails to isolate a teacher’s small effect on student test scores, SGP does not even attempt to measure a teacher’s effect.

SGP tells us nothing about a teacher. Yet that is what Connecticut uses for 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Though SGP is a portion of a teacher’s evaluation, it will likely be the determining factor because its volatility will make it the tipping point in a rating.

Delay will not cure the use of SGP. Time cannot magically make unreliable data more reliable — it just gives us more consistently unreliable data.

Delay will also not cure the other fatal flaws in the evaluation system.

The goal of Connecticut’s evaluation system should be to improve teaching and learning. Because they teach human beings, teachers work in a dynamic environment and must be able to adjust their lessons and behavior to each class. A successful teacher evaluation model captures authentic teaching and learning.

Kim Marshall’s admired mini-observation model employs this approach. Since not every aspect of teaching occurs in every class, several mini-observations are required, with conversations after each one. In order not to disrupt teaching, supervision should occur throughout the year, and evaluation at the end.

However, Connecticut’s teacher evaluation program emphasizes so-called measurement, not teaching practice. It is so focused on measurement that it detracts from teaching and learning.

Connecticut’s system is not geared toward improving teaching or learning because it did not emanate from the classroom or classroom practice. Teachers are asked to respond to externally generated jargon-filled questions that have little relationship to their classroom or students. Where they used to use staff meetings to review student work and share ideas for improving lessons, they now spend hours in meetings discussing how to answer these artificial questions and enter them into the computer.

In classroom observations, administrators write down every word a teacher says. One teacher reports having the evaluator interrupt her interactions with students so she could repeat verbatim what she had just said. An experienced counselor described an observed family meeting in which the administrator’s transcribing was so distracting that she focused on every word she said rather than the toxic dynamic developing between the parent and child. A 40-year veteran first-grade teacher recounted how she no longer reads books aloud to her students because she fears an evaluator will say she is off-script.

Waiting a year will not help. As one teacher said “We can all figure out how to fill out the forms more quickly and accurately and nothing will have improved for the student.”

He continued. “A teacher’s most valuable resource is time. I used to spend this time trying to think of ways to make my lessons more engaging, or how to scaffold better.” Now, the teacher reports spending that time answering questions that seem to exist merely to justify an outside consultant’s fee.

The majority of Connecticut teachers agree. UConn’s study of the evaluation pilot found that only 42 percent of teachers believe that with sufficient resources — time and staffing- SEED will improve teacher practice.

The time has come to repeal Malloy’s education reforms and develop proposals that will actually improve our schools.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s latest article and search for her previous commentary pieces at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Ailing-teacher-evaluation-program-can-t-5215123.php

CT Superintendent Thomas Scarice’s letter on “education reform” makes the Washington Post

On Friday, in a piece entitled, “A CT superintendent speaks: Madison’s Thomas Scarice and the Power of Truth”, Wait, What? posted Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice’s letter to legislators about the fundamental flows associated with Connecticut’s “education reform” initiative and what Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools really needed from state government.

Over the weekend, the Scarice’s piece was showing up on blogs around the country and today it is featured on the Washington Post’s website.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss’s features Scarice’s letter in an article is entitled, “Superintendent on school reform: ‘It is not working’.

Strauss writes:

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has just asked for a “pause” in implementation of a controversial new teacher evaluation system that uses student standardized test scores to assess teachers as well creation of a task force to study the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Is “a pause” the answer?

You might think Malloy did this because of the growing opposition to both in his state, but blogger Jonathan Pelto points out here that he did it not because he really believes there is a problem with the school reforms but because he is trying to assure his re-election this November and can read the political tea leaves.

Whatever Malloy’s motives, here’s a powerful letter that Madison Schools Superintendent Tom Scarice wrote to state legislators explaining why Malloy’s “pause” isn’t the answer to the real problems. Incidentally, teachers, parents, community members, educators and others in his district together approved a teacher evaluation plan that does not include the use test scores. The state hasn’t approved it yet but the district is using it anyway.

You can read Superintendent Scarice’s letter in the Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/03/superintendent-on-school-reform-it-is-not-working/

Or at Wait, What?: http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/01/31/ct-superintendent-speaks-madisons-thomas-scarice-power-truth/