Archives for category: Connecticut

Civil right attorney Wendy Lecker chastises education leaders in Connecticut for their whole-hearted embrace of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. She contrasts her home state with the wisdom of Vermont.

Vermont’s State Board deminstrated independent judgement:

“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.”

Conclusion: Vermont puts children first. Connecticut doesn’t.

Hooray! Jonathan Pelto reports that parents in Connecticut have the right to opt their child out of Common Core testing!

“In a published report today in the CTMirror, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Joeseph Ciracoulo, has announced that superintendents in Connecticut will now recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Testing AND that students who opt out will be provided with an alternative location where they can read a book, do homework or engage in some other educational activity for the eight to eight and a half hours of the SBAC Testing.”

Eight (8) hours of testing! This is nuts!

Opt out!

A dozen superintendents in Connecticut issued a manifesto for real reform. It is one that parents and teachers–and students too!–would happily embrace in place of the current stale and test-driven juggernaut that crushes learning and creativity.

They say, in part:

“Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence. In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.

“The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise.

“One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:

“What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?

“Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?

“Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?

“To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?

“The answers to these questions imply the need to foster the cognitive, social/emotional and interpersonal student capacities for work, citizenship and life. Additionally, they demand a deep analysis of the systemic efforts to continuously improve. Confronting these questions, and others, will require:

“A redefinition of the role of testing,

“An accountability model (mandatory in the NCLB waiver) matched to a clarified vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut

“Statewide systems that incentivize innovation and a broad sharing of innovative programs…”

“Districts and teachers are suffocating from a “one size fits all”, compliance-based approach to schooling. One size does not fit all in education, no more than it does in medicine, social work or any other endeavor in which human beings are at the core of the enterprise. In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization. As a result, energy is drained, a passion for teaching and learning evaporates, and many teachers and leaders question the lack of purpose to their work. Some ways to foster innovation include:

“Creating a “Districts of Innovation” program through which the State Department of Education would administer a rigorous process identifying various district approaches to current challenges faced by schools, such as, reducing bullying, improving school climate, evaluating the performance of individual teachers and administrators, etc. These districts would apply for a waiver or modification from state requirements in order to innovate their practices, while analyzing the impact. These districts could be required to partner with a university, commit to sharing their results, and, if successful, serve as a provider of professional development for other districts. The incubation of fresh, innovative ideas, by classroom teachers and administrators would exponentially grow the capacity of educators in the state.

“Working with Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) to develop an “expert in residence” program with area districts. Districts could grant a yearlong sabbatical to individual teachers to share their innovative work and provide professional development to schools across the state.
Pairing schools to work across different districts to collaboratively confront professional challenges. These partnerships could foster such promising practices as “lesson study”, peer to peer observations, and collaborative analysis of student work.”

These are but a few of the good ideas, grounded in experience and research, that these thoughtful superintendents propose. It is a vision for positive reform that should replace the sterile strategy of carrots and sticks.

The superintendent in affluent Néw Canaan, Bryan Luizzi, changed his mind. A few days ago, he said that students were not allowed to refuse to take the Common Core tests. After parents objected and signed a petition, he realized that students have the right to opt out.

Protests work.

Remember the Néw York Times story about the tech executives in California who send their own children to a no-tech Waldorf school?

Look at this:

“Please comment on this and help stop before it starts. This has to be stopped before these are turned into laws. This is how bad it is getting in Connecticut.

“HIGH-STAKES testing BEFORE Kindergarten…..Keyboarding instruction in Kindergarten. God help these children:

“AN ACT CONCERNING THE KINDERGARTEN ASSESSMENT TOOL. (given in preschool!!)

http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB00339&which_year=2015″

AN ACT CONCERNING COMPUTER KEYBOARDING INSTRUCTION IN KINDERGARTEN AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB05015&which_year=2015

Kevin G. Basmadjian, Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, wrote a powerful article in the Hartford Courant in collaboration with other deans from across the state.

Connecticut’s students are among the highest on the NAEP, yet its policymakers insist that its schools and teachers are unsuccessful. The politicians want more charter schools and Teach for America.

He writes:

“As a nation and a state, we have clearly failed to address the inequalities that disproportionally impact many urban school districts where kids are poor and segregated. Sadly, for the first time in 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students now come from low-income families. But instead of addressing this crisis, we have demonized teachers for failing to solve problems our government cannot, or will not, solve. Poverty, homelessness and the dangerously high levels of emotional and psychological stress experienced by low-income students — these are the problems many of our nation’s public school teachers face every day.

“Our nation’s obsession with standardized test scores will not solve these problems, and they put our country at great risk intellectually as well as economically. As educational researcher Yong Zhao writes, countries with which we are often compared — such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea — are moving away from a focus on testing in their public schools. Why? Because they have learned from the history of the United States that a great education and nation is one that rewards creativity, originality, imagination and innovation….

“The most recent scapegoat for our nation’s shameful achievement gap is teacher preparation programs, for failing to produce a steady stream of what the U.S. Department of Education abstractly calls “great teachers” to work in our neediest public schools. By blaming teacher preparation programs, the department can yet again divert public attention from the most crucial barrier to achieving educational equality: poverty.

There is a need for more “great teachers” who will commit themselves to our state’s neediest public schools. But achieving this goal will take more than naive slogans or punitive measures levied against teacher preparation programs that do not successfully persuade graduates to teach in these schools. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher preparation — with its emphasis on standardized test scores — work against this goal because of the overly technical, anti-intellectual portrait of teaching they endorse. We in Connecticut need to make these jobs more attractive to prospective teachers through increased respect, support and autonomy rather than criticism, disdain and surveillance.”

Jonathan Pelto, a former legislator and now Connecticut’s premier blogger, warns that a money grab for charters is on the horizon, while the state’s neediest schools are ignored.

 

This Wednesday, February 18, 2015, Governor Malloy will play his hand as to whether he will insert taxpayer funds into next year’s state budget in order to fund Steve Perry’s dream of opening a privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport. An out-of-state company is also counting on Malloy to come through with the cash needed to expand their charter school chain into Stamford, Connecticut.

 

Both charter school applications were vehemently opposed by the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education.

 

However, despite that opposition from the local officials responsible for education policy and despite the fact that Connecticut doesn’t even fund its existing public schools adequately and the fact that the State of Connecticut is facing a massive $1.4 billion projected budget deficit next year, Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved four new charter school proposals last spring.

 

Initial funding for two of the four applications was included in this year’s state budget, New Haven’s Booker T. Washington charter school and yet another charter school for Bridgeport.

 

Now the charter school industry is counting on Malloy to divert even more scarce public funds away from the state’s public schools so that Steve Perry can start pulling in a $2.5 million management fee from a charter school in Bridgeport and the out-of-state company can open up a revenue stream from a new charter school in Stamford.

 

While most public education advocates are focused on the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to privatize public education via policies at the state level, the politically connected Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain is using a completely different approach as it seeks to pull off a deal in New Haven that would shift existing funds away from New Haven’s public schools and into the coffers of the Achievement First operation.

 

Of course, Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s former commissioner of education.

 

Achievement First Inc. is also the charter school chain that gets the lion’s share of the $100 million in public funds that are already diverted to charter schools in Connecticut.

 

New Haven is the only district in the state with a mayoral controlled board.

 

The New Haven Board of Education is not democratically elected by the citizens of New Haven. It is one of the only boards of education in Connecticut to be appointed by the mayor of the community.

 

In this case, the New Haven Board of Education is appointed by Mayor Toni Harp – who, thanks to an earlier sweetheart deal – happens to sit on the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors for the Amistad Academy schools.

 

Wonder what will happen there? Read on.

 

 

Jonathan Pelto reports that some school officials have warned parents that they do not have the right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced test of Common Core. Pelto says they are wrong.

 

He writes:

 

Despite repeated posts here at Wait, What? and the work of a number of state-wide efforts to inform state and local officials that they must respect a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test, a significant number of local school superintendents, and their staff, continue to mislead parents, throw up barriers or harass parents into believing that they have lost their right to protect their children from an unfair test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 children fail.

 

So once again, let us be clear!

 

*There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests.

 

*There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school districts to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

 

Not only is there no law, regulation or policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test, but although the Malloy administration issued a memo last year instructing superintendents, principals and local school officials on how to mislead parents, when Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education was finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 2014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

 

“On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

 

The Chairman of the State Board of Education, Attorney Alan Taylor, agreed with the Commissioner and went even further stating that there was no legal action that the state or school district could take to punish a parent or child who opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

 

See his post for the relevant links.

Robert Cotto, Jr., an elected member of the Hartford (CT) board of education, says that the state could save millions of dollars by reducing testing. Annual testing has been a waste of money. Before No Child Left Behind, Connecticut tested children in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10. Now it tests every child in 3-8 every year.

“Reducing the tests that students take in each subject to only grades four, six, eight, and ten could save millions of dollars. The funds saved could help limit any budget cuts that will affect communities across the state, particularly for the most vulnerable children and families. Cutting testing in this way could also result in yearly savings of up to $9.5 million. That’s half of current state spending to administer the tests.

“At best, the evidence is mixed regarding the impact of spending more on testing and ratcheting up punishments. Here are some trends:

“Same data: With the exception of a few new features, the State reports and uses nearly the same type of test information today as it did more than a decade ago.

“Addition through subtraction: Increases in test results over the last decade didn’t happen until students with disabilities (mostly low-income, Black and Latino children) were removed from regular tests.

“Same disparities: The results of the “low-stakes,” sample-based National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have shown high overall test results of children in Connecticut, but little diminishing of race and class-based disparities. This historical pattern remains even after more than a decade of increased testing and punishments.

“Collateral damage: Curriculum hours in Connecticut narrowed to focus on the tested subjects. Students spent more time taking and practicing for tests throughout the year, taking away time for instruction.

“The State now uses the test results to rate students, schools, districts, and teachers.

“This isn’t educational progress.”

What really matters, he writes, is support for students, families, and communities. That’s a far better investment than high-stakes bubble tests.

Journalist Sarah Darrr Littman read the full investigative report about the FUSE charter scandal and here presents some of the seamy details, the fraud, and abuse of public authority.

To begin with, the FUSE charter organization was the favorite of state officials. There was no accountability, transparency, or oversight.

FUSE was invited to take over a school in Bridgeport;

“When questioned by then-Bridgeport school board member Maria Periera about why the same resources couldn’t be devoted to a district school without having to pay an outside organization like FUSE, Paul Vallas’ Chief Administrative Officer, Sandra Kase, said, “it was often not a matter of money but knowing what to do with the money. She said that the Dunbar School was still a district school with a partnership with FUSE, an organization that knows how to use increased funding well.”

I guess that depends on your definition of “well.” Marilyn Taylor, brought in by FUSE from Louisiana as the new Dunbar School principal, was arraigned on larceny charges last Friday, the day the report dropped.

When Taylor started, she and FUSE were lauded by then-Superintendent Paul Vallas, according to a report in the CTPost:

“The transformation will be extraordinary, because this group has done it in the past,” Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas told a large crowd of students, parents, community members, who were treated to a hot dog barbecue, free backpacks, and a chance to meet teachers and other staff members. Before the event was over, state Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor also put in an appearance.”

It appears that Ms. Taylor may not have wanted it to stop at free backpacks. She is alleged to have withdrawn more than $10,000 in school funds for personal expenses, including from ATMs at the Mohegan Sun Casino.”

When FUSE was awarded another school in Néw Haven, the letters of endorsement were filled with praise for the chain’s track record of “success.”

Littman writes:

“That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013, I guess FUSE did have that track record.

“Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 152,768 other followers