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Thursday roundup

by: ctblogger

Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 11:02:51 AM EDT

  • MIDDLETOWN PRESS: "Sen. Chris Murphy: 'Iran cannot be trusted' on nuclear inspections"
    U.S Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he will vote for the controversial Iran deal next month.

    In a telephone interview on Monday with The Middletown Press, the junior senator from Connecticut said he will support the agreement because of its import.

    "This is one of the most important votes I'll take during my time in Congress," he said. "You've got to make sure you'll sleep at night depending on the way you voted."


  • COURANT: Hartford Teachers Union Rescinds Bronin Endorsement
    he Hartford Federation of Teachers has rescinded its endorsement of mayoral challenger Luke Bronin after he refused to return campaign donations from charter school advocates, the union said Wednesday.

    Just three weeks ago, union President Andrea Johnson told The Courant that the 2,250-member union was backing Bronin after he expressed robust support of neighborhood schools, and "the need to have monies being pumped into those community schools."

    On Wednesday, Johnson said the union's executive board, which picked Bronin over Mayor Pedro Segarra after interviewing five candidates this summer, decided to pull the endorsement after confronting Bronin and asking him in a face-to-face meeting on Monday to return the campaign money.

    "He chose not to do so," said Johnson, a vocal opponent of publicly funded charter schools. "We just couldn't in good conscience - we didn't want to be hypocrites and say, 'Well, it's OK, you can believe in something and you could be part of something'" that the union stands against.

    "We are just so far away from charter schools and what they do to public education," Johnson said. "Money is lost to our regular public schools because monies are going from the state to these charter schools."


  • COURANT: Prosecutors Want Prison For Former Top GOP Strategist George Gallo
    GGeorge Gallo, former top Republican staff member in the state House of Representatives, could be imprisoned for 15 months on Thursday when he is sentenced in federal court in Hartford for collecting $117,000 in kickbacks by steering political business to a direct-mail consultant.

    Federal prosecutors accused Gallo, 47, of using his position as a senior Republican campaign adviser to subvert the state's toughest-in-the-nation clean-election law and to use it as a secret source of illicit income. The reform law, written to clean up the electoral process, gives substantial public campaign grants to candidates, some of whom are first-time office seekers with little notion of running for office.

    As chief of staff to the House minority leader, Gallo advised novice candidates on the law, the Citizens Election Program. Prosecutors said he steered candidates to a Florida direct-mail company in return for 10 percent of whatever the Florida firm collected from Connecticut candidates.


  • Q Poll: Biden Runs Better Than Clinton Against Top Republicans
    Vice President Joseph Biden runs slightly better than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against leading Republican contenders in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes, and has the best favorability rating among top Republican and Democratic candidates, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.

    [...]

    Clinton leads the Democratic field with 45 percent, down from 55 percent July 30, with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 22 percent and Biden at 18 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent with 11 percent undecided. This is Sanders' highest tally and closest margin.

    Clinton tops the Democrats' "no way" list with 11 percent.

    "Liar" is the first word that comes to mind more than others in an open-ended question when voters think of Clinton. "Arrogant" is the word for Trump and voters say "Bush" when they think of Bush.

    [...]

    "On the Democratic side, Secretary Hillary Clinton continues her slide while Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to narrow the gap," Malloy added. "But the real news is the man who isn't there - yet. Vice President Joseph Biden has the best appeal in general election matchups against top Republicans.

    "Note to Biden: They like you, they really like you, or they like you more than the others.

    "If he is sitting on the fence, his scores in the matchups and his favorability ratings may compel him to say, 'Let's do this.'"


  • ONLY IN BRIDGEPORT: Finch, Ganim And Foster Trade Barbs And Ideas In Spirited Debate
    Three former allies now political enemies on Wednesday night squared off with some sharp elbows and barbs in the first mayoral forum in a packed Holiday Inn ballroom fronting the hotly contested September 16 Democratic primary.

    [...]

    One of the highlights of the debate was a crackling exchange between Finch and forum moderator CT Post reporter Ken Dixon who snapped at Finch for the lack of crime information from the police department. Finch shot back "I have three opponents" (Ganim, Foster, Dixon), asserting no such order was given to withhold information. The exchange drew hoots and laughs from the audience of more than 300 that Dixon warned on several occasions to suppress reaction.

    The debate featured three very different personalities that at one time worked together on city projects but also had a falling-out over different issues: Finch the outspoken two-term incumbent, Ganim measured in his approach and Foster the business women and University of Bridgeport executive urging a break from the past and present.

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Malloy - You can't hide the sham 2015 SBAC results forever!

by: ctblogger

Mon Aug 24, 2015 at 13:19:36 PM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

The January 2, 2015 the Wait, What? headline read;

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.

Here we are eight months later and tens of thousands of Connecticut children were given a Common Core test designed to label them as failures.

Two months after other SBAC states like Washington and Oregon have released their Common Core SBAC results, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration continue to play games.

The Common Core Testing scheme is a scam that cost Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions of dollars... And yet the State Department of Education continues to rationalize the disastrous testing program.

Here is another powerful commentary piece from fellow public education advocate and regular Wait, What? commentator Jack Bestor.

It appeared first in the CT Mirror: Whither the elusive Connecticut SBAC results?

Whither the elusive Connecticut SBAC results? (By Jack Bestor)

Those oh-so-elusive SBAC results: after millions of dollars squandered on broadband improvements, tedious test prep, and time diverted from actual learning, our students, parents, and teachers have been prevented from getting the test results because no one in educational leadership today has figured out how to "spin" the results without facing the consequences of this poorly designed, invalid, questionably-standardized assessment that was perpetrated on our public school students.

Despite the reluctance of school administrators to speak up and push back against this ludicrous accountability exercise that has been promoted by politicians and corporate education reformers who have many self-interested reasons for maintaining this misguided testing endeavor, it is well-known that the "standardized" testing mandate only serves to continue the false narrative of failing American public education in order to drive the profit-making agenda of those who seek to privatize education and undermine the public trust.

For an insightful look at the test industry, Todd Farley's under-publicized 2009 chronicle, Making The Grades, recounting his many years working in the test industry would make anyone question why we place any stock whatsoever in our children's "standardized" test results.  Any test that is designed to fail the majority of test takers has no purpose in the education of children.

Rhetorical flourishes citing "rigor" and "higher critical thinking" are nothing but empty words, as repeatedly the test questions have been criticized by both parents and educators and the test answers have been notoriously ambiguous and often wrong.  There is no amount of test industry algorithms that can justify this educational malpractice.

Since the parents of all students in public schools were discouraged from opting their children out of this state-mandated "standardized" test experiment, it should be gratifying to those who saw through the misinformation and controversy associated with the Common Core testing requirement and, with courage and conviction, refused to allow their children to take this unnecessary and unproven test.

When the results are finally reported to your child's school, you can be thankful there will be no "sticky label" to apply on your child's permanent record card and no single data-point to upload into your child's computerized learning profile.  Furthermore, there will be no woefully inadequate measure of your child's reading, writing, and math skills for teachers and school administrators to use in any future planning of your child's school program.

Instead, you can rely on your child's previous teacher - who for a full school year strove to understand and nurture your child's individual learning needs - to share with receiving teachers what was found to work in developing each student's academic skills, confidence, and interpersonal abilities.  You are to be congratulated for advocating for your child against the pressures to conform and I hope you will be able to trust that the teachers working with your child will care and protect him/her from any unfair practice derived from this unproven test experiment.

Although unable to come right out and say it for fear of retribution, most teachers do not believe in the top-down, dictatorial approach of the corporate education reform movement that has a stranglehold on American public education today and hope that it will implode of its own malfeasance.

Until then - as parents - you must continue to ask probing questions of district administrators who are mandated to adhere to the flawed educational policies developed by politicians, lobbyists, business leaders, and millionaire philanthropists who have strong opinions, but no actual experiential knowledge of how children learn.  It is only when school administrators, elected board of education members, and state legislators hear the anger and frustration of parents (and voters) that there can be meaningful pressure brought to bear on those who promote the continuation of these failed educational policies.

Jack Bestor of Sandy Hook is a recently retired school psychologist who, for 41 years, enjoyed working with students, parents, and his many colleagues.  He is a past recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CT Association of School Psychologists.

You can read the original piece at: http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/0...

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Malloy administration gives towns the Common Core SBAC test results but not the public

by: ctblogger

Thu Aug 20, 2015 at 10:55:03 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

Action violates Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act.

This morning Governor Dannel Malloy's Commissioner of Education, Diana Wentzell, held the state's annual back-to-school meeting for Connecticut superintendents at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford.

Considering his anti-public education agenda, it was not surprising that Malloy was a no-show at the meeting.  Instead, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman attended, despite the fact that both Malloy and Wyman are attending a joint event at 10 a.m. in nearby Middletown.

State Department of Education staff informed school superintendents that starting today they could access their district's 2015 SBAC test results via the State Department of Education's website, but they could not share the information since the results were "embargoed."

Embargoed?

Superintendents were warned that the state will not be making the test results public until the week of August 31st, 2015.

Local school officials were told that they were not allowed to inform parents, teachers, their local Board of Education or the public about the SBAC results until they are released by the state.

In a companion memo provided to superintendents, the State Department of Education wrote;

"It is critical that districts do not make embargoed results public before the embargo is lifted.  Releasing results (including discussing with the press or sharing results at Board of Education meetings) prior to the lift of the embargo jeopardizes your district's access to future embargoed releases."

States such as Washington and Oregon provided their citizens with their statewide Common Core test results nearly eight weeks ago, but the Malloy administration has consistently failed to make Connecticut's results public.

Providing school superintendents with the 2015 SBAC results but claiming those results are "embargoed" is particularly inappropriate and offensive.

"Embargoed" is a PR term used with reporters when issuing selected press releases and has no meaning when it comes to the notion of public access to public information.  Connecticut's Freedom of Information law makes absolutely no exception for "embargoed" information.

Making public information available to a select group of people but withholding it from others is a serious violation of Connecticut's Freedom of Information law.

The Malloy administration should immediately make the 2015 SBAC results public.  If they refuse, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission should force them to release the information and investigate who was behind this effort to keep public information secret.

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Wednesday roundup

by: ctblogger

Wed Aug 19, 2015 at 09:54:23 AM EDT

The latest...

This is how you take on the corporate media machine...the more I hear from Bernie Sanders, the more I like his message.

SANDERS TAKES ON CORPORATE MEDIA IN IOWA

Bernie Sanders takes on reporters for their failure to address the issues. Watch....

Posted by Media Makers for Bernie on Monday, August 17, 2015

  • Hartford mayoral debate will be streamed online today at noon!
    Luke Bronin and Pedro Segarra will debate Wednesday, Aug. 19, live at noon on courant.com. They are likely to be facing off in the Sept. 16 Democratic primary for Hartford mayor.

    The debate will also be broadcast on FOX CT on Sunday, Aug. 23, at 5 a.m.
    Have a question for the candidates? Email questions to opinion@courant.com with your name, hometown and a daytime phone number. Or tweet us at #ctdebate


  • CTNJ: "7,000 Consumers Are In Danger of Losing Health Insurance"
    More than 16,000 households who signed up for private insurance on Connecticut's insurance exchange are waiting for their financial documents to be verified and another 7,000 are in danger of losing their coverage because they have failed to submit required documents, according to Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh.
    There have been about 50 to 75 consumers a week calling Access Health CT in a panic because they have learned they were no longer covered, Wadleigh said Tuesday.

    They may have lost coverage because they failed to provide the financial documents necessary to verify their income. But another 16,000 consumers are waiting to have their financial documents verified by Xerox, the Department of Social Services vendor that validates consumers' information with the federal government. An applicant has 90 days to provide additional verification documents from the time they enroll or to make a change to their income or family size.


  • Another example of failed leadership from the "Party Girl" Mayor from New Britain.

    Democratic mayoral candidate John McNamara is criticizing Mayor Erin Stewart for allegedly failing to ensure local jobs have been protected and that fair labor practices were followed during construction of the soon-to-open Costco at 405 Hartford Road.

    Contrary to assurances from Costco representatives before the project went forward, the company didn't make a point to hire Connecticut laborers to build the store, which is expected to open Oct. 15, McNamara said.    

    "New Britain taxpayers were told Costco would create jobs for Connecticut workers, but here we are, deep into the construction phase, and the parking lots are full of cars with out-of-state plates," he said. "Jobs for local people have lost in the process."

    David A. Roche, president of the Connecticut State Building and Construction Trades Council, said that he saw crew members on the project arrive in cars with license plates from Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even North Carolina. Out-of-state workers aren't putting much of their earnings back into the local economy, he added.

    "The money leaves New Britain," he said. "They're not spending it in Connecticut."

    McNamara said he is particularly concerned about alleged out-of-state hiring since the city gave Costco a seven-year, $2.1 million tax abatement as part of the deal. The state bond commission also provided $850,000 for the project.

    "If you're gonna give away state money to them, I would like to at least see a requirement that they have to hire local people," Roche added.


  • Remembering Newtown former State Rep. Julia Wasserman

    Former Rep. Julia B. Wasserman, who escaped the Nazis during World War II as a child and went on to serve 18 years in the Connecticut legislature, died Tuesday at 91.

    A low-key Republican with expertise in science and health care, Wasserman spoke quietly but was respected by legislators on both sides of the aisle for her deep knowledge on various subjects.

    [...]

    During her tenure as co-chairwoman of the legislature's bipartisan program review and investigations committee, the committee conducted detailed studies of issues that included homeland security, long-term health care, children, pharmacies, judges and Bradley International Airport.

    "Julia Wasserman had a remarkable life and career and was the consummate public servant,'' said House Republican leader Themis Klarides. "She served her town, state and country in elected life with distinction and defended this nation in war. Julia was so highly respected among all her colleagues in both the House and Senate and on both sides of the aisle for her intellect, hard work and humor.''

    Wasserman told colleagues about her frightening experience as a child, when she escaped the Nazis. Born in Germany, Wasserman and her grandmother spent the night in jail in 1938 as the Nazis were searching for Jews. Her parents were in Italy at the time. She eventually escaped to Switzerland, and the family later went to England before going to the United States.

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Opt-Out Movement Grows as parents fight back against unfair Common Core tests

by: ctblogger

Mon Aug 17, 2015 at 10:14:30 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

New York's Common Core testing madness is one year ahead of Connecticut's, which means parents know more and are taking action to protect their children. Last summer, the majority of parents in New York State were told their children were failures as a result of that state's version of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme. As a result, parents were prepared for this year's testing scam and record numbers of public school students were opted-out of the testing fiasco. Yesterday, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) finally released their test results, admitting that nearly a quarter of a million New York students did not take the test as a result of parental action. The New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE), an anti-common core testing advocacy group which is made up of more than 50 parent and educator groups across New York released a major statement calling on parents to step up the opt out movement by handing in their test refusal letters on the first day of school. The NYSAPE statement;

Opt Out to Sharply Rise as NYS Continues to Sacrifice Children With Flawed Tests & Policies Yesterday, released the results of the 2015 3-8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) & Math exams. ELA scores were essentially flat, and the small increase in Math scores (less than 2 percentage points) was smaller than last year's modest jump. There was also an increase in the percentage of Level 1 students in ELA, and an unchanged percentage of Level 1 students in Math, suggesting that the ratcheting up of high-stakes is leaving our most struggling students behind. Test refusals, also known as opt outs, rose to a record number of 222,500, surpassing advocates' estimates. More New York parents across the state are informed and have said no to the high-stakes testing regime that is disrupting quality education and harming their children. With no relief in sight, opt out figures are expected to grow significantly again this year until damaging education laws and policies are reversed. Jeanette Deutermann, Nassau County public school parent and founder of Long Island Opt Out said, "How many more children will we sacrifice to a narrow education, excessive testing, and failure, before New York calls a timeout? How many veteran, master teachers will we watch flee the profession before we untie testing from evaluations? How many schools will close before New York State recognizes that public schools are the foundations of every community? Instead of dreaming up sanctions, SED should be working with educators and parents to change course and right this wrong." "Governor Cuomo, the Regents and SED have been quick to judge teachers through a sham accountability system that wrongfully reduces highly effective teachers to an ineffective rating and claims public schools are failing when, in fact, they are not. But they are slow to accept responsibility for the devastating consequences of these flawed testing and evaluation measures on our children, the teaching profession, and our public schools. Threats of sanctions will not deter opt outs. Parents are onto this sham and will continue to opt out children in order to protect them," said Anna Shah, Dutchess County public school parent. "Considering the amount of time, resources and money devoted to the state assessment system, the resulting data does little to help pinpoint specific student, educator or school strengths and weaknesses. The entire testing system is a boondoggle to taxpayers and continues to limit our children's educational opportunities," stated Chris Cerrone, Erie County public school parent, educator, and school board trustee. Bianca Tanis, Ulster County public school parent said "Chancellor Merryl Tisch has publicly stated that she would think twice before allowing a child with special needs to sit through an 'incomprehensible exam' and has called state exams 'cruel and unusual'. Yet neither the Board of Regents nor NYSED leadership has taken action to inform parents of their right to refuse harmful testing, let alone curb the eighteen hours of harmful state testing that disabled students as young as eight are compelled to engage in. Until the abuse stops, opt outs will continue." Marla Kilfoyle, Long Island public school parent, educator, and General Manager of the BATs stated, "As research shows, test scores will not close the achievement gap. We need to begin to invest in proven strategies that close the gap, or we will lose an entire generation of children." "The NY State tests are an illegitimate way to evaluate kids, schools and teachers - as shown by the recent NY Times article, in which questions on the 3rd grade exam stumped the author of the relevant passage. These tests are designed to make it look like the vast majority of our students and schools are failing, when they are not. Until the state provides less flawed exams - and a better teacher evaluation system not linked to them - parents will continue to opt out in growing numbers," said Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters. "Pearson has been fired as the state's test vendor, yet our children will be subjected to their tests for another school year. This is outrageous. If Governor Cuomo and members of the legislature who voted to increase the contribution of test scores to teacher evaluation think this is ok, they should prove it by taking the tests themselves. Let our public officials prove that they are smarter than a 5th grader," said Nancy Cauthen, a NYC public school parent.

The reaction in Connecticut will undoubtedly be similar when the Malloy administration finally releases the results from this year's Common Core SBAC test.
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A Must Read from Ann Policelli Cronin SBAC: Failing most Connecticut children in more ways than one

by: ctblogger

Wed Aug 12, 2015 at 16:20:15 PM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

First published in the CT Mirror, SBAC: Failing most Connecticut children in more ways than one fellow public educator advocate and columnist has a great article that provides important information to parents across Connecticut and should be required reading for Connecticut's elected officials.

SBAC: Failing most Connecticut children in more ways than one by Ann Policelli Cronin

The Connecticut SBAC scores will be released by the State Department of Education any day now. The scores will be low. You will be told that the low scores are because the SBAC tests are rigorous and our students don't measure up.

Don't believe it.

First of all, the test can't possibly be rigorous because the Common Core Standards on which the tests are based are vapid. The Common Core English Standards do not teach students to be thoughtful readers, deep thinkers, or effective writers, so the SBAC exams do not measure those competencies.

Secondly, we have no idea if what is tested has predictability for the students' future success in the next grade or college because no one checked with grade 4-12 teachers or college professors to see what competencies students will need. The Common Core English Standards were written by makers of standardized tests and are comprised of what can be measured by those tests, not comprised of what students need to learn.

Lastly, even though the Common Core has a low intellectual bar, most students will fail the tests because the passing grades have been artificially set. Last November, before any students had taken the 2015 SBAC tests, the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, representing Gov. Dannel Malloy, signed an agreement that the 2015 SBAC tests would fail 59 percent of high school juniors in English, 67 percent of high school juniors in math, 56-62 percent of third through eighth graders in English, and 61-68 percent of third through eighth graders in math       ("Cutoff Scores Set for Common-Core Tests",Education Week, November 17, 2014).

When the majority of Connecticut children are soon told that they are failures, it is not because some absolute measure with objective criteria determined that, but because a test was designed to fail them.

By other criteria, Connecticut students are highly successful. For example, since 1992, Connecticut, along with Massachusetts and New Jersey, has had the highest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in the country, and Connecticut ranks fifth in the world, outranked by only three countries and the state of Massachusetts, in reading scores of 15-year-olds on the international PISA test. And we as a state have accomplished all of that with the highest achievement gap in the country and without excluding our lowest performing students from taking those tests. Somebody, mostly our kids, are doing something right. Yet most of them will be deemed failures next week.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

I have worked with hundreds of Connecticut English teachers and am confident that any of them could design a test that would fail two thirds of their students. But I don't know one teacher who would do it.  That's because they are educators and not politicians using manufactured test results to advance political agendas.

Those English teachers and I know how to design rigorous exams. We also know how to teach students so that those who do what we ask of them and put out good effort each day in class will demonstrate competency on rigorous assessments. We also know that some of those students will perform in truly exceptional ways on the assessments and that an occasional student will exceed even our wildest dreams and thrill us beyond belief.

We teach students the skills and then see how far they go with them. We teach for success.

Last January, I reviewed a midterm English exam with high school students who had just taken it. They had their graded exams on their desks along with a description of the competencies the exam asked of them.  Those competencies were:

Asking their own complex and multi-layered questions as thoughtful inquiry.
Engaging in active and critical reading of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and films.
Thinking analytically as they independently interpreted challenging literary texts.
Thinking imaginatively as they made connections between a historical or fictional character and their own lives and creating a persona to write about that connection.
Engaging in narrative thinking as they told the story of their own learning.
Collaborating with others in order to strengthen their own interpretations and evaluations.
Writing essays which demonstrate their ability to revise and strengthen a piece over time as well as writing essays in a timed classroom setting.
Using correct grammar and usage.
Demonstrating focus, energy, and passion as they prepare for and participate in the two-hour exam.
Those students knew their exam was rigorous. Those students had been taught how to succeed as readers, writers, and thinkers. Those students, therefore, did succeed as readers, writers, and thinkers.

After comparing their exams to the list of competencies, the students ascertained their strengths and determined what they needed to work on in the next semester. And, for sure, these students knew they were not failures.

Not so when the SBAC scores come out. Most students will consider themselves failures. Or, perhaps, the Connecticut State Department of Education will do what the State of Washington did and lower the passing grade to keep educators and parents quiet about the low test scores.

Either way, the message of SBAC hurts kids. Either way, SBAC is not about teaching and learning. The truth is: The SBAC test is political monkey business.

It is our job as citizens and parents to tell students the truth about SBAC. It is our job as educators to keep teaching and assessing students in real and honest ways.

Otherwise, we adults are the failures.


You can read more of Ann Policelli Cronin's pieces at her blog: http://reallearningct.com/
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