In a stark reminder that action speaks louder than words, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy's administration has dropped a stunningly anti-union, anti-faculty, anti-Connecticut State University proposal on the table as it begins its contract negotiations with the CSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the union that represents faculty and a variety of education professionals at the four universities of CSU.
This development comes on top of the news that Malloy's political appointees on the University of Connecticut's Board of Trustees have authorized a contract with an extremely controversial, high profile, anti-union, Governor Chris Christie affiliated New Jersey law firm to lead the negotiations against the UConn Chapter of the AAUP. That contract could cost taxpayers and students as much as $500,000 or more.
The Malloy administration's approach to the faculty who teach at Connecticut's State Universities is particularly troubling since there has already been a growing recognition that Malloy's initiative to merge the Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Community College System into the Board of Regents has been an utter failure.
In just three years, the first two presidents of the Board of Regents were forced to leave under a cloud and Malloy's political appointees on the Board of Regents have wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer funds on out-of-state consultants and some of those contracts apparently violated state law.
Earlier this fall, in an effort to put his Board of Regents program back on track, Malloy had his chief-of-staff, Mark Ojakian, appointed as the [Interim] President of the Board of Regents.
However, if the move was an attempt to turn over a new leaf and bring stability to Connecticut's state universities and community colleges, that notion was blown away by the unbelievable anti-union, anti-professor, anti-Connecticut State University contract proposal that Malloy's administration recently submitted.
The proposal also includes language that will be of concern to Connecticut's other public employee unions.
For starters, it is safe to say that by proposing to insert a major new "agency fee" section into the CSU union contract, reducing release time for union activities and adding language that states, "Use of the Employer's email system by CSU-AAUP staff or members for the purpose of transacting union business is strictly prohibited," the Malloy administration's proposal would be better suited to the likes of right-wing Republican Governor Bruce Rauner who is infamously working to destroy public employee unions in Illinois or Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker.
The issue of Agency Fees are well settled in law and the unwarranted inclusion of such language in a Connecticut State Employee contract is not only unprecedented but mirrors a broader effort that is taking place across the country as corporate and conservative-funded anti-union front groups work to undermine collective bargaining rights in the United States.
A key strategy that these groups are using is to try and pass laws that limit a union's ability to communicate with its members. In this environment, suggesting that the new contract outlaw AAUP-CSU's ability to use their university's email system to share information with faculty who are represented by the union is appalling.
In fact, having studied the history of public employee unions in Connecticut and reviewed nearly every contract since public employees were given the right to collectively bargain in 1970s, Malloy's CSU-AAUP contract proposal may very well be the most anti-union plan ever dropped on the bargaining table.
And making matters worse, the anti-union provisions of Malloy's proposed contract pales by comparison to the other proposals related to the Connecticut State Universities and its faculty.
This includes eliminating all funds for faculty research, community service and professional development. If adopted, the Malloy administration's contract proposal would dramatically reduce the ability of CSU's faculty to conduct the research and community service the state needs in order to grow and prosper.
It is disturbing to say the least that Malloy, who spends much of his time claiming to be an advocate for Connecticut's economy, would seek to destroy the important contributions that the Connecticut State Universities are making to Connecticut and its economic future.
Equally troubling for faculty and students is that while tuition and fees have been skyrocketing due to Malloy's record budget cuts to Connecticut's public institutions of higher education, his new proposed contract for CSU would actually allow far more part-time faculty to be used when it comes to teaching courses.
There is widespread recognition that Connecticut's public institutions are already relying on too many part-time faculty when, in fact, university students need and deserve to learn from full-time faculty who can provide the knowledge, expertise, training and support that students will need in this increasing complex world. The General Assembly has actually been very proactive on this issue, making Malloy's maneuver all that more inappropriate.
The Malloy administration's plan suggests other extraordinary changes in the contract, changes that would immediately be thrown out of any reputable university or college in the nation.
The proposed contract strips the provisions that the Board of Regents would need to declare financial exigency before firing tenured faculty and removes the Board's duties to notify and work with the union on how to avoid financial exigency in times of extraordinary economic problems. This change alone would ensure Connecticut State University's national ranking and reputation would drop significantly considering the issues related to financial exigency and cooperation with faculty are deemed among the most important elements of a high quality institution of higher education in the United States.
Eliminating the right to a termination hearing in cases of reprimand, suspension and termination is also among the proposals. Such a change would not only be unfair to existing faculty, but open the state up to extraordinary lawsuits since there would be no mechanism to guard against politically motivated attempts by "management" to unfairly fire particular professors.
The plan also calls for the implementation of an evaluation system worthy of George Orwell's 1984, in which the measure of professional duty shifts from "productive service" to service that is also "collegial" (a term that is undefined) and one that requires faculty to adhere to "official policy statements," which are not only undefined, but downright scary considering what such a phrase could possibly mean in a community built on the notion of academic freedom.
The proposal also eliminates important job protection language for librarians, counselors and coaches.
And, in a move that should worry all of the state's public employee unions, the proposed contract would terminate any and all side-letters to the contract, a traditional and important mechanism that is used to make contract changes that are separate from the day to day contract or deal with special issues that arise.
And the list goes on and on...
With perhaps the most mean-spirited award going to the Malloy administration's proposal that would change how the Board of Regents would deal with the children of long-time faculty who have died while employed.
For the last twenty-five years, the State's contract with AAUP-CSU has provided that, like other faculty dependents, children of professors who have worked at least ten years and passed away while employed by the institution could take classes tuition free, although those students would still have to pay for all fees related to course work, dormitories, meal plans, etc.
The new proposal states that only students who are already enrolled as matriculated students could continue to take those courses. If the faculty parent dies before the child is enrolled at the college, for example if they are still in high school, then that child is, as the saying goes is , "s**t out of luck."
While few rank and file union members actually believed Dannel Malloy when he said he would be a "friend of labor" in a second term, many voted for him out of fear of what his opponent Tom Foley might do if elected.
Now with Malloy proposing anti-union, anti-faculty contract language and pushing the need for public employee concessions as a way to balance the budget - a budget Malloy promised would not need new taxes, cuts or concessions - Connecticut's public employees are getting a taste of what they feared most.
"Current 11th graders are strongly encouraged to take the CURRENT SAT before the NEW SAT comes out in March. Colleges will continue to accept SAT scores earned prior to the NEW SAT rollout. In this way, students may also take the NEW SAT and compare scores, submitting the set of scores that is more favorable. This option (using the current SAT scores) will not be available to younger students. In other words, students in the Class of 2017 will be the last to have the option of using scores earned on the current SAT." (Recommendation from the Guidance Department of E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, CT.)
Starting in March 2016 the College Board, which owns the lucrative PSAT and SAT testing systems, will be rolling out a NEW SAT which it claims is aligned to the "Common Core Standards"
The "primary author" of those Common Core Standards - a system that is causing so much controversy - took over as President of the College Board and immediately announced that he would do for the SAT what he did for the nation's education standards.
And many of the same problems and issues that have arisen with the Common Core SBAC and Common Core PARCC tests are likely to appear with the new SAT.
Remember that the Common Core testing scheme was designed to fail the vast majority of public school students, and it did, because the tests included a significant amount of content that students had not learned prior to taking the tests.
In Connecticut, for example, the Common Core SBAC testing scam proclaimed that that only 30% of high school students were "proficient" in Math, while the Connecticut Mastery Test had been reporting that that 78% - 82% of all high students had been scoring at a proficient level in Math for decades.
How did the education reform's testing industry engineer a system in which Connecticut's high school students suddenly got stupid, dropping from 80% proficient to 30% proficient?
The answer lies in the fact that students were tested on Math content they had not been given the opportunity to learn... a sure why of "proving" that students were "failing."
And now the NEW SAT is going to do the same thing.
Based on the recent Common Core SBAC test results, Students facing challenges will likely be hit the hardest by the shift to the NEW SAT
In Connecticut, the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test determined that only 16.4 percent of poor children where "proficient" in Math, only 8.2 percent of students with special education needs scored at the "proficient" level and only 7 percent of English Language Leaners (those not fluent in the English Language) scored at a "proficient" level.
And now those students will be required to take the NEW SAT.
But the unfair assault on Connecticut's public school students should come as no surprise considering the NEW SAT is just another piece of the Corporate Education Reform Industry's agenda to undermine public education.
While this year's high school juniors can take the old SAT and submit it with their college applications, as long as they take it before March, the State of Connecticut is one of the state's that have signed a deal with the College Board to "require" that every high school junior take the NEW SAT next spring. The requirement was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy earlier this year.
As for the elements of the NEW SAT, the College Board is reporting that the NEW PSAT, a standardized test that many high school juniors are taking this fall, is similar in scope to the NEW SAT that will be forthcoming. However, since the NEW SAT has not be used or validated, students will flying blind when taking the NEW SAT starting in March.
According to the propaganda coming from the College Board, the NEW SAT will be made up of 4 parts; Math, Reading, Writing/Language Arts and a new optional SAT Essay that is taking the place of the required essay that has been the cornerstone of the old SAT testing system.
Apparently some of the biggest differences with the NEW SAT will show up in the Math section which will focus, as they put it, on the following:
Heart of Algebra, which focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems.
Problem Solving and Data Analysis, which is about being quantitatively literate.
Passport to Advanced Math, which features questions that require the manipulation of complex equations.
However the NEW SAT Math test will also contain what the College Board is calling "Additional Topics in Math," which will include "trigonometry."
The inclusion of "advanced" and "additional" topics in math will mean that the NEW SAT will include content that most high school juniors will not have been taught.
While some students who are particularly proficient in math may actually do better with the NEW SAT system, the vast majority of students will probably face greater problems as a result of the "enhancement" to the SAT.
AS for the "optional SAT essay," the College Board reports that the essays will be scored "using a carefully designed process" in which, "Two different people will read and score your essay, Each scorer awards 1-4 points for each dimension: reading, analysis, and writing, The two scores for each dimension are added" and "You'll receive three scores for the SAT Essay - one for each dimension - ranging from 2-8 points."
First, "current 11th graders are strongly encouraged to take the CURRENT SAT before the NEW SAT comes out in March. Colleges will continue to accept SAT scores earned prior to the NEW SAT rollout. In this way, students may also take the NEW SAT and compare scores, submitting the set of scores that is more favorable." This option (using the current SAT scores) will not be available to younger students. In other words, students in the Class of 2017 will be the last to have the option of using scores earned on the current SAT."
Second, why Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly would mandate that all Connecticut 11th graders take the NEW SAT is a sad commentary on their on-going failure to stand up for Connecticut's students and parents. The NEW SAT, like the Common Core SBAC test is designed to fail students, especially students who are already face challenges when it comes to getting into college.
Starting in March 2016, students taking the SAT College Admission Exam will be given the NEW Common Core aligned SAT test rather than the version that students have been taking over the years.
David Coleman, who was the primary "author" of the Common Core, is now the President of the College Board, the organization that develops and overseas the SAT. Last Spring, Coleman announced that a new SAT would be introduced in 2016. According to Coleman and the College Board,
"The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support, and scholarships, in a way that's fair to all students. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests keep pace with what colleges are looking for today, measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century."
In other words, according to this gigantic standardized testing company that collects hundreds of millions of dollars a year from students, parents, schools, school districts and state and local governments, getting a high score on the SAT is the key to getting into and paying for college.
What Coleman and the Education Reform Industry is not telling parents is that the NEW Common Core aligned SAT, like the Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium SBAC test and other Common Core Testing schemes will include content that most students have not been taught.
The truth is that many students who take the NEW SAT may be stunned when they receive SAT scores that are far lower than they would have otherwise expected.
The impact could be will be especially significant and unfair for this year's high school juniors who are taking the SAT's this spring as part of their college application process.
BUT THERE IS SOMETHING THAT PARENTS CAN AND SHOULD DO;
Hopefully parents of this year's high school juniors have already heard the news from their high school's guidance department, but according to the guidance counselors at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut;
"Current 11th graders are strongly encouraged to take the CURRENT SAT before the NEW SAT comes out in March. Colleges will continue to accept SAT scores earned prior to the NEW SAT rollout. In this way, students may also take the NEW SAT and compare scores, submitting the set of scores that is more favorable. This option (using the current SAT scores) will not be available to younger students. In other words, students in the Class of 2017 will be the last to have the option of using scores earned on the current SAT."
While the existing SAT has more than its share of problems, experts are reporting that by aligning the NEW SAT to the so-called Common Core standards, students will need to have successfully completed Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, as well as Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry or Probability and Statistics in order to get a co-called "college ready" score on the math portion of the new SAT standardized test.
However, as noted, many, if not most, high school juniors will not have taken the "advanced courses" that are needed in order to get a higher school on the NEW SAT.
While some high students are provided the opportunity to take advanced math course, the State of Connecticut requirement that students even have four years of math doesn't take effect until the graduating class of 2018, ensuring that many students who graduate in 2016 and 2017 don't have the necessary background to "succeed" on the NEW SAT and those graduating in 2018 and beyond may have four years of math, but may not have been taught the concepts needed to successfully take the NEW SAT.
The rush to a Test and Punish system of public education is putting today's students at risk and policymakers in Connecticut and across the country are making things far worse, not better, as the Corporate Education Reform Industry laughs all the way to the bank.
In states like Florida and Texas, once proponents of the Common Core, governors and legislatures are actually moving in exactly the opposite direction by eliminating the requirement that students even have to take Algebra 2, let alone study more advanced math courses, in order meet graduate requirements.
While Connecticut is moving toward the requirement that students take four years of math, Governor Dannel Malloy's uncompromising support for the Common Core and Common Core Testing scheme is actually undermining public schools students who are caught during the "transition" to the higher standards.
Just yesterday Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education and a handful of key legislators held a press conference at a West Hartford High School to congratulate themselves on promoting a testing system that will actually hurt many Connecticut students.
Governor Malloy's press release read;
"Governor Dannel P. Malloy today joined State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell, State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), and State Representative Andy Fleischmann (D-West Hartford) at Conard High School in West Hartford, where they highlighted the state's plan to replace the 11th Grade Smarter Balance Assessment - or SBAC exam - with the SAT later this school year. This plan represents an important milestone in Governor Malloy's commitment to reduce the amount of standardized testing for public high school students and ensure that all students are prepared to succeed in college and careers."
The notion that Dannel Malloy, a champion of the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme is committed to reducing the amount of standardized testing for public school students is utterly absurd.
But equally distressing is the fact Malloy and his State Department of Education, along with the help of the Connecticut General Assembly are seeking to force all Connecticut 11th graders to take the NEW, untested and unproven SAT that, like the SBAC Test, is designed to fail huge numbers of Connecticut students.
What isn't clear is whether their headlong rush to mandate the use of the NEW SAT is due to their ignorance, their desire to divert scarce public funds to massive education testing and corporate education reform companies or their complete unwillingness to understand how to help, not hurt, Connecticut's students and parents.
While the NEW SAT will make its appearance in all of Connecticut's high schools in March, the truly unsettling reality is that the Connecticut General Assembly passed and Governor Malloy signed into law a requirement that every high school junior take the NEW SAT next spring and that those students be judged by a test that is being redesigned and aligned to the Common Core, that no one has seen and that will almost certainly test students on content that they haven't even learned.
Furthermore, as result of Governor Malloy's "education reform" initiative, high school teachers in Connecticut will then be "evaluated" on how well their students do on this NEW Common Core aligned SAT.
Early this year, the Atlantic Monthly Magazine highlighted some of the problems with the "NEW" SAT in an article entitled New SAT, New Problems. The piece focused on the fact that the "NEW" SAT's math section would likely put many students at a significant disadvantage when it comes to getting into college.
Why? Because, as the magazine reported, the NEW SAT will include a significant amount of content that many students have not learned.
As the Atlantic Monthly reported,
"[I]t's the revision of the math section that could have particularly egregious consequences
The new SAT will focus on fewer types of math than the current version does, sacrificing breadth for depth and testing students on the material the College Board believes to be most essential to "college and career success." That might sound like good idea. But with this change in focus comes a change in question style. And that's problematic.
The new version includes fewer questions that deal simply with 'figures and equations' and far more with topics that many, even most, students have not been properly prepared for."
But despite the very real and extremely serious issues with the NEW SAT, Governor Malloy and his allies celebrated Connecticut's decision to mandate that every student take the NEW SAT and that students and teacher be judged by the results of that test.
Malloy press release yesterday added,
"All children deserve a chance to pursue their dreams, go to college, and compete for the best jobs in a global economy. We are no doubt raising a new bar - graduation rates are at record highs while we're preparing children for the future like never before," Governor Malloy said. "But we also believe in testing smartly, and mitigating stress among students and parents. That's why we've taken this step, and I would like to thank Senator Bye, Representative Fleischmann, and all those who worked in the House and Senate on this issue.
Beyond the benefits of reducing duplicative testing, the move has an added benefit of leveling the playing field by ensuring those who otherwise might not be able to afford the SAT - the costs for which typically run more than $50 - will not be precluded from taking the exam, which is often requisite for admission to higher education institutions.
"Our job is to make sure all of our students in Connecticut have access to a top-quality education that prepares them for success in college and career. Tests are an important tool for gauging where we are as a state and where students need additional help to succeed," Commissioner Wentzell said.
"Replacing the Smarter Balanced assessment with the SAT for 11th graders cuts down on the amount of time students spend taking exams and allows high schools to focus on delivering rigorous academic instruction and preparing young people for college. We thank Governor Malloy, our legislators and educational partners for their leadership and support on this important issue."
"I've heard complaints from many parents and students over the past few years about lost learning time and the impact of too much student testing, especially for 11th-graders, who have some of the heaviest testing burdens with the SBAC, SAT and Advanced Placement exams," Senator Bye said. "I believe the changes we have instituted will reduce student stress while still providing them with a proven and valuable college-preparation tool."
"Federal requirements created a bottleneck of testing for high school juniors that we are now fixing," State Representative Fleischmann, House co-chair of the Education Committee, said. "By replacing the 11th Grade SBAC with the new SAT, we not only get rid of a test many students weren't taking seriously - we also make a college entrance exam free for all families. Students who might not have considered college before will start to do so - while their parents get a break on ever-rising test fees."
As the saying goes, with "friends" like these, Connecticut's public schools students, parents and teachers certainly don't need enemies .... They already have them and they are running Connecticut's State Government.
If you weren't at the "Special" Sherman Board of Education meeting last Thursday you missed the "show."
Big Brother is Watching and Big Brother is not Happy!
As Connecticut is swamped by yet another state budget crisis and Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy unilaterally makes deep cuts to some of State Government's most vital services, the Governor's Education Commissioner is finding the resources to engage in a campaign to persuade parents that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scheme is good and they should not be opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory tests.
Last week began with the Connecticut State Department of Education's Deputy Commissioner, Ellen Cohn, telling school superintendents that "correction action plans" will be implemented in towns where too many parents opted their children out the tests and that the Malloy administration would be mobilizing to "help educate" parents and communities where parents had stood up against the SBAC testing program.
Later in the week, Malloy's Commissioner of Education, Diane Wentzell, focused the state's bullseye on the small town of Sherman, Connecticut with its 380 or so elementary school students.
Although Malloy and the Department of Education spent nearly two years lying and misleading Connecticut parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing madness, nearly half of the students in Sherman's school were opted out of the SBAC testing last spring, making it the elementary school with the highest opt out rates in the state and among Connecticut's 25 top schools when it came to the percent of students being opted out.
The notion that parents understand that Common Core SBAC testing is undermining public education was just too much for the State to handle and last Thursday, after communications that the State Department of Education has yet to release a response to a Freedom of Information request, the Sherman Board of Education held a "special meeting" to "focus solely on a presentation to the Board of Education by our superintendent, Don Fiftal, and a panel of educational experts to provide direct and up-to-date information about the Connecticut Common Core Standards and the SBAC Assessments."
Headlining the panel was Commissioner Dianna Wentzell and the Chief Counsel for the Connecticut Boards of Education and former State Board of Education member, Patrice McCarthy, as well as others. Wentzell and McCarthy are among the state's strongest proponents of the Common Core, Common Core testing and Governor Malloy's other "education reforms."
The "panel" to "educate" Sherman about the Common Core tests did not include an opponent of the testing mandate and parents and public education advocates from out-of-town were instructed that they were not allowed to speak or ask questions at the "special meeting."
With no mass media coverage of the event in Sherman, Connecticut parents might never have even known about the Malloy's administration growing PR campaign in favor of the SBAC tests, but thankfully a number of public education advocates attended the meeting and in a piece entitled, "A Different Perspective on the 9/24/15 Sherman "Special" BOE Meeting," Jack Bestor, a recently retired and award winning school psychologist who worked for 41 years with students, parents, and teachers in the Westport Public Schools has provided us with a summary of what the authorities said in Sherman last week.
In addition to receiving the CT Association of School Psychologists Life-Time Achievement Award, Jack Bestor has written numerous commentary pieces about the dangers associated with corporate education reform for the CT Mirror, CT Newsjunkie and Wait, What? Bestor also wrote an opinion piece in the March/April 2014 NASP Communique (the newspaper of the National Association of School Psychologists) entitled: "Common Core Standards Do Not Serve the Educational Needs of Children."
A Different Perspective on the 9/24/15 Sherman "Special" BOE Meeting. By Jack Bestor
The Sherman BOE did itself and the citizens of Sherman a huge disservice at its "special meeting" on September 24, 2015, to discuss the recent SBAC test results. In the bucolic atmosphere of this beautiful country town on the western edge of the State, all the Governor's horses and all the Governor's men (and women) assembled to present a one-sided view on the many attributes of the Common Core and the improved new-generation, computer-adaptive SBAC test. Or, so their propaganda would suggest.
In a highly controlled informational meeting, it was made clear from the beginning that only Sherman residents would be allowed to speak. As a result, the BOE and public in attendance were presented with lengthy series of misleading statements that were marked by their omissions, partial truths that were delivered with a smile and disarming reassurance. The State Education Commissioner (Dr. Dianna Wentzell), RÈSC (Regional Educational Service Center) administrator, and an attorney from CABE (CT Association of Boards of Education) - all steadfast promoters of the education reform agenda in CT - were joined on a panel by two district administrators and a classroom teacher, moderated by the district school Superintendent. Since a large percentage (48% overall, 57% of middle school group, the largest percentage in the State) of Sherman students across this small district refused to take last Spring's SBAC test, it was incumbent on the State Department of Education to convince the parents of these students and the older students themselves that they should comply with federal test accountability requirements. Their presentation was startlingly disingenuous: never referencing the nationwide controversy associated with this testing, misleading those listening as to transparency of privacy policies, and implying that there could be serious financial consequences for future test refusals.
Rather than sitting out the election, the mayor has been calling supporters to express his support for Foster over Democratic nominee Ganim who has been reaching out to Finch political backers as well. An endorsement from the mayor provides fundraising opportunities for Foster against Ganim who should be well financed for November. It could also land Foster boots on the ground in her underdog effort against Ganim.
Putting aside their mutual animosity, allies-turned-rivals Mayor Bill Finch and Mary-Jane Foster will unite today in an effort to block disgraced ex-Mayor Joseph Ganim's return to City Hall.
Finch, sources have said, will drop his embattled bid for a third-term and endorse Foster's independent run for his job.
The Finch campaign has scheduled "a major campaign announcement" at 3:30 p.m. at McLevy Green.
"It's my sense enough smart people decided this was the right move for a whole host of reasons," said one Democratic operative who wished to remain anonymous. "There are enough people concerned about the message it would send to have a convicted felon in that office."