Over the past two years Connecticut taxpayers have dropped $32 million on the Common Core SBAC tests and another $12.4 million for implementation of the Common Core. The Connecticut state budget allocates another $43.1 million for the Common Core and Common Core SBAC tests for this year and next.
Add in the tens of million spent by local school districts on computers and internet expansion so that students can take the on-line tests, along with the substitute teachers who were brought in so that full-time teachers could be pulled out to "learn about the Common Core," and well over $150 - $200 million dollars (or more) in public funds have been diverted from instruction to the Common Core and Common Core testing disaster.
So what has all that money gotten the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Connecticut?
Public education advocate, commentator and educator Ann Policelli Cronin addresses the issue in her latest blog post entitled, SBAC: The Beginning Of The End
So what did we learn from the release of the SBAC scores? ...
We did learn that the achievement gap has not been in any way affected by implementation of the Common Core. I have been in a position to analyze CMT and CAPT scores over many years, and the SBAC scores tell the same story as the CMT and CAPT scores. That story is that students in affluent communities score significantly higher than students in poor communities do. No administration of a test will ever change that fact. No set of national standards or standardized test on those standards will ever "close the achievement gap". First of all, high scores depend on the quality of the lives children have outside of school much more than what happens in school. Secondly, if the national standards and aligned testing did raise scores, then all scores would go up, both those of the students in affluent districts and those in poor cities. So the "gap" would be unchanged.
We did learn that charter schools, even with their cherry-picked student bodies, did not do better than many public school districts which do not restrict their student populations of special education students, English language learners, or students with behavioral issues. For example, SBAC 8th grade math scores for charter schools ranked 63, 67, 71, 74, 100, 103, 107, 119, 123,130, and 133 out of 133 reporting districts and schools. Of course, many of those charter schools had better scores than the districts from which their students came and should be expected to have better scores than the students' originating public school districts because the charter schools have siphoned off some students with drive and potential from those districts.
We did learn that the SBAC scores tell us nothing about the learning going on in Connecticut schools. We can't tell what schools just paid lip service to Common Core Standards and what ones focused almost exclusively on the Common Core. Without a doubt, the schools with scores demonstrating under 20% proficiency on the SBAC spent more time on test prep than the schools in affluent districts with higher SBAC scores. Yet we are told that schools must limit their curriculum to Common Core so that the school's test scores will improve. It makes no sense. Some districts which had curriculum dedicated to the Common Core and teachers who taught to it diligently had low test scores, and some districts that just about ignored the Common Core in curriculum and practice had good scores. High test scores and teaching to the Common Core had zero correlation.
We also learned that SBAC scores tell us nothing about students' real competencies. As anyone who has an understanding of how to teach students to be thoughtful readers, effective writers, and competent thinkers knows, the more a teacher teaches to the Common Core ELA standards, the farther away those students will be from being thoughtful readers, effective writers, and competent thinkers. So the actual achievement gap will widen between the students in the affluent communities and the students in the cities with their increased test prep due to the low 2015 SBAC scores.
The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts lack any research base whatsoever and have no evidence that they will produce "college and career readiness", yet we restrict our neediest students to that Common Core regimen due to our misplaced reliance on the SBAC scores. Just because a PR firm was hired to promote the Common Core Standards and that PR firm, through focus groups, determined that "rigor" was the word that would sell the standards to the American public does not make the standards or the SBAC test rigorous. Neither of them is. The Common Core ELA standards teach a discredited way of reading and an inadequate way of writing, and the SBAC test is an exercise in "Gotcha".
We did learn from the 2015 SBAC test that opting-out is going to be an influential part of the narrative about assessing learning in the future. For example, in West Hartford, Conard High School had an opt-out rate of 5.5% and Hall High School had a 61.4 % opt out rate. What then can we tell about the two schools in the same town? Does Hall have more students who have applied to competitive colleges and do not want their excellent records of good grades and SAT scores hurt by a test designed to produce low scores? Does Hall High have parents who are more savvy than Conard parents and who are making a statement about their values and the kind of learning that they want for their children? Is learning richer and deeper at Hall than at Conard so that students and their parents seek other kinds of demonstrations of student achievement?
Also, are Westbrook High School, North Haven High School, Hartford Public High School's Law and Government Academy, Daniel Hand High School in Madison, and E.O. Smith High School in Storrs places where the emphasis is on real learning because more than 85% of the juniors in those schools opted-out of the 2105 SBAC math test? School by school, parent by parent, district by district, those questions will be explored now that Connecticut has completed its first year of SBAC testing, and, if we can judge by what is happening in New York where implementation of the Common Core and the taking of a Common Core aligned test is a year ahead of Connecticut, it seems reasonable to believe that opting-out will increase.
Over this past year of SBAC testing, some told the story that we need SBAC to close the achievement gap. That story is wrong. Closing the achievement gap will never happen with standardized tests. Some told the story that we need SBAC to gather data in order to compare schools and districts. That story is wrong. SBAC data is same-old, same-old; we had it all along with our state tests. Some told the story that we need SBAC to gather data about individual students and the skills they need. That story is wrong. SBAC doesn't address students' learning needs; teachers do. Some told the story that SBAC measures what students need to learn, but that story is terribly wrong. Those telling it must not be educators. They must not know what real learning is or what students need to be prepared to do.
It is time to end SBAC. It is time for a new story. A true one.
Governor Dannel Malloy's administration is finally ready to release the 2015 SBAC results!
Two months after parents in Washington State and Oregon were informed about how their state's children did on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests, Connecticut will finally get the news today about how our children "performed" on the absurd testing fiasco.
The first rule of modern government and politics is that when you don't want people to know something, release the information on a Friday. If possible, a Friday in August is best time to make something "public" if the goal is to make sure the public doesn't actually hear about it. The technique is an "art form" and strategy that the Malloy administration has used repeatedly over the past five years.
So now, after the spending more than $50 million dollars in state funds over the post two years on the new Common Core standardized testing scheme, and local school districts spending millions more, the Connecticut State Department will be revealing the test results this afternoon... A Friday afternoon in August.
In addition, apparently the wait for the CMT/CAPT Science test is finally over as well. While the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme has obliterated the usefulness of the Math and English Language tests, the traditional testing process is still being used to measure whether students are learning the state's science curriculum.
Unfortunately, the education reform industry's definition for being "college and career" ready only applies to Math and English so other important subjects, like science, go unaddressed. If policymakers were really concerned about the "whole child," the science results would have been released long ago so that schools and parents could be focusing on the full array of subjects that allow student's to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to live fulfilling lives.
Check back later for the numbers and the political spin from Governor Malloy's administration and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.
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."
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.
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.'"
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.
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.
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."
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.