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My Left Nutmeg

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My Left Nutmeg

Wednesday open thread

by: ctblogger

Wed Mar 18, 2015 at 08:54:28 AM EDT

The latest...
  • The time has come...
    A federal judge rejected former Gov. John G. Rowland's last attempt  Monday to overturn his second felony conviction.

    In a 12-page ruling, Judge Janet Bond Arterton denied Rowland's lawyers request for a new trial. Rowland is expected to be sentenced at 10 a.m. Wednesday in New Haven. The sentencing comes 10 years after his first sentencing on charges related to accepting illegal gifts while in office.

    His recent conviction is related to the unreported work he did for Lisa Wilson-Foley's congressional campaign in 2012. Rowland's lawyers argued in court documents that government prosecutors withheld information from them regarding the consulting contract Rowland had with Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley.


  • CT MIRROR: "Civil liberty should include freedom to decide on dying as well as living"
    Protecting civil liberties requires us to defend certain choices and an individual's right to make them.

    Most of the choices we defend involve how people live. However, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and Compassion & Choices-Connecticut are allied in believing that people have a right to make informed decisions about the end of their lives as well.

    In the coming weeks, our lawmakers will be debating the deeply personal choice of aid-in-dying and how to manage the challenging relationship between what is essentially a private decision and good public policy.

    We feel the proposal heading to the legislature balances that tension well. It does so by recognizing several important factors.

    First, aid-in-dying must be available only to those who truly need it. The proposed legislation does that by requiring that a person be terminally ill with less than six months to live.

    Second, decisions are not made alone. Just as the ACLU would never send a client to defend him or herself in court, we believe that a terminally ill person's decision to hasten death should be made with the guidance of a physician, loved ones, and with other available resources, such as counseling and pastoral assistance.

    All of this has been accomplished in the Connecticut legislation.


  • Victory!
    The battle to ensure that local school districts recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test ends in victory.

    In a published report today in the CTMirror, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Joeseph Cirasuolo, 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.

    Mr. Cirasuolo is quoted as saying;

    "You can't force someone to take a test they will not take...They will be sent someplace else."

    This important development should close the book on what appeared to be an unending effort by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy's administration and some local school superintendents who have been working to mislead and harass parents into believing that they did not have the fundamental right to opt their students out of the destructive Common Core SBAC testing.

    The position being taken by the head of Connecticut's superintendent association also makes clear that local school districts cannot use the "Sit and Stare" policy to punish or bully students who have opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

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Moses goes back to prison

by: ctblogger

Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 13:35:31 PM EDT

Only in Bridgeport!

Noting he received no personal financial benefit, Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey on Friday sentenced former State Senator Ernie Newton to just six months in state prison for violating campaign finance laws. Dewey allowed Newton to remain free pending appeal.

Newton received a mixed verdict from a jury on charges of falsifying $500 in campaign donations that led to approval of roughly $80,000 in public campaign funds for his 2012 Democratic State Senate primary race won by Andres Ayala.

[...]

The larger question for Newton is how this will impact his federal probation. When charged by the state he was still on federal supervised release going back to his federal conviction on corruption charges 10 years ago.

On Tuesday, Newton is expected to appear before U. S. District Judge Robert Chatigny for violating his federal supervised release. Judge Dewey said she would allow her sentence of Newton to run concurrent with any penalty imposed by Chatigny who could simply extend Newton's supervised release and/or send him to a federal facility for several months based on violation guidelines.

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Friday roundup

by: ctblogger

Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 10:22:30 AM EDT

Headlines!
  • BIGELOW: "A New Casino Isn't Worth Betting On"
    The way people at the Capitol have been talking this week, you'd think Massachusetts raiding parties had set fire to Suffield. "Massachusetts has declared war on us," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, "and we are going to fight back." Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said, "We will not step aside and let any other state... take jobs away from Connecticut."

    Their crime: daring to build a casino in Springfield, about 10 miles from the Connecticut border.

    Plans have been in the works to build at least one Massachusetts casino for several years now, and construction for an MGM resort casino complex in Springfield will start this spring. Now legislative Democrats in Hartford want to team up with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to build a third Connecticut casino along I-91 somewhere north of Hartford as a "defensive," job-protecting move.

    This is a terrible idea based on wrong assumptions. A smaller casino north of Hartford will do nothing but further dilute an already weak casino market, and in the end it'll probably be a failure and a money-loser. This is nothing more than a hypocritical stunt by a legislature that can't think beyond the borders of the state.


  • Connecticut loves Clinton.
    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dominates the Democratic primary field in an early look at the 2016 White House run in Connecticut and tops possible Republican challengers by margins of 18 to 25 percentage points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have 18 percent each in a possible Republican primary matchup, with 12 percent for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and 11 percent for New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University Poll finds. No other candidate tops 7 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

    Secretary Clinton tops the Democratic pack with 53 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts with 15 percent and Vice President Joseph Biden with 8 percent. No other candidate tops 2 percent and 15 percent are undecided.

    Clinton tops any listed Republican contender by double digits in Connecticut:  
    52 - 34 percent over Bush:
    52 - 34 percent over Christie;
    54 - 32 percent over Paul;
    56 - 31 percent over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee;
    53 - 34 percent over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida;
    53 - 33 percent over Walker;
    55 - 30 percent over U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

    "In blue Connecticut, Hillary Clinton has big double-digit leads against top Republican contenders," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

    "Despite the current e-mail controversy surrounding Clinton, she is well-liked in Connecticut while the Republican contenders get either mixed evaluations or negative ones from voters."


  • I know who's buying the first round on St. Patrick's Day!
    Beverage giant Diageo North America held a ceremony for recent graduates of its Learning Skills for Life bartender training Wednesday morning at Diageo's Norwalk offices.

    [...]

    Among the speakers at the ceremony were U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4) and Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, who posed for a photo with the students.

    Himes also stated the importance of bars and bartenders to greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill.

    "I work in Congress, so getting to know bartenders is important to me," Himes said, adding that his drink of choice is bourbon on the rocks.

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Mr. Unpopular

by: ctblogger

Wed Mar 11, 2015 at 10:26:04 AM EDT

He even lost support among his base? Ouch...it doesn't get any uglier than this.

Fresh from a bruising but victorious reelection battle, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has weak support from Democrats, women and young voters, leaving him with a negative 43 - 47 percent score, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 48 - 46 percent approval rating in a May 9 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

In today's poll, men disapprove 52 - 40 percent, while women are divided, with 45 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. Disapproval is 78 - 17 percent among Republicans and 54 - 36 percent among independent voters, while Democrats approve 64 - 22 percent, an anemic score for same party approval.

While 50 percent of Connecticut voters are optimistic about the next four years with Malloy as governor, 44 percent are pessimistic.

"Gov. Dannel Malloy starts his second term in the hole. It is the first time he has been in negative territory since a June 2012 poll," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.

"When a Democrat scores only 64 percent among Democrats and is under 50 percent among the base, women and young people, you know he is in trouble."


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Here is a prime example of why the Common Core is just plain wrong

by: ctblogger

Mon Mar 09, 2015 at 09:21:27 AM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

As has been noted here on at Wait, What? on a regular basis, there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to improve academic standards and phasing in greater expectations for our children's educational achievement.

While the fundamental concept of local control remains critically important, there certainly isn't anything wrong with seeking to align standards across political boundaries so that all of the nation's children are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to live their lives to the fullest and be capable of becoming active participants in our egalitarian society.

What is unproductive, even immoral, is to promote the notion that we can increase academic achievement without recognizing that the greatest barriers to academic success are poverty, language challenges and a failure to provide the extra or special educational services that individual child need in order to grow and prosper.

The Corporate Education Reform Industry and its allies like Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, along with Governors including Connecticut Democrat Dannel Malloy, New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo and former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush, would have us believe that the Common Core and the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme will produce a better educated citizenry, or at least one that will be more "college and career ready."

But of course, the more we learn about the Common Core and its related Common Core testing system the clearer it gets that the path they are promoting is leading us quickly and steadily away from what our children need and deserve in order to be prepared to face the challenges of today's world.

The nation's leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, along with a host of teachers, parents, academics and public education advocates have been heroic in their efforts to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and its truly un-American political agenda.

Today Diane Ravitch posted a series of article on her blog that highlight the very problem associated with the Common Core and Common Core Testing.  If you don't read Diane's blog you are missing out.  It can be found at http://dianeravitch.net/.

In one post Diane reports on a piece by fellow education blogger Peter Greene who responds to the Common Core's requirement that:

"All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten.

Peter Greene takes on the Common Core proponents by saying

"There is a world of difference between saying, "It's a good idea for children to proceed as quickly as they can toward reading skills" and "All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten."

"The development of reading skills, like the development of speech, height, weight, hair and potty training, is a developmental landmark that each child will reach on his or her own schedule.

"We would like all children to grow up to be tall and strong. It does not automatically follow that we should therefore set a height standard that all children must meet by their fifth birthday- especially if we are going to label all those who come up short as failures or slow or developmentally disabled, and then use those labels in turn to label their schools and their teachers failures as well. These standards demand that students develop at a time we've set for them. Trying to force, pressure and coerce them to mature or grow or develop sooner so that they don't "fail"- how can that be a benefit to the child.

"And these are five year olds in kindergarten. On top of the developmental differences that naturally occur among baby humans, we've also got the arbitrary age requirements of the kindergarten system itself, meaning that there can be as much as a six-month age difference (10% of their lives so far) between the students."

Peter Greene goes on to note,

"Children's development is highly variable, making it impossible to set a hard and fast deadline, such as, they must be able to read at the end of kindergarten. My own children learned to read before they started kindergarten (I read to them and with them daily), but others in their class started reading in first grade; a few became readers as late as second grade."

And as someone who also read to their children on a daily basis from their earliest days, I can certainly attest to the notion that the developmental issues related to become readers is highly variable.  Both of my daughters excelled at comprehension at an early age but neither became "successful" readers until first grade, at best.

In my younger daughter's kindergarten class, one of her best friends was actually eight months younger than she was.  I don't know whether her friend was able to read by the end of kindergarten or not, but both are now in high school and their grades and test scores define them as being extremely academically "successful."

In the real world, there is simply no useful place for a Common Core Standard that requires that, "All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten."

But equally bad, or perhaps even worse, is the Corporate Education Reform Industry's insistence that the only way to determine who is winning and who is losing is through a system of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Cores standardized tests.

Diane Ravitch raises this very issue in a second post which begins by noting,

"High-stakes testing has reached down into kindergarten, where it is developmentally inappropriate. Kindergarten is supposed to be the children's garden. It is supposed to be a time for learning to socialize with others, to work and play with others, to engage in imaginative activities, to plan with building blocks and games. It is a time when little children learn letters and numbers as part of their activities. They listen as the teacher reads stories, and they want to learn to read.

But in the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, kindergarten has changed. Little children must be tested. The great data monster needs data. How can their teachers be evaluated if there are no standardized tests and no data?"

Ravitch then introduces us to an article in Slate by Alexandria Neason where she describes the kindergarten classroom of Molly Mansel, a New Orleans teacher.

Remember this is kindergarten - 4 and 5 year olds!

"Mansel's students started taking tests just three weeks into the 2014-15 school year. They began with a state-required early childhood exam in August, which covered everything from basic math to letter identification. Mansel estimates that it took between four and five weeks for the teachers to test all 58 kindergarten students-and that was with the help of the prekindergarten team. The test requires an adult to sit individually with each student, reading questions and asking them to perform various tasks. The test is 11 pages long and "it's very time-consuming," according to Mansel, who is 24 and in her third year of teaching (her first in kindergarten).

The rest of the demanding testing schedule involves repeated administrations of two different school-mandated tests. The first, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, is used to measure how students are doing compared with their peers nationally-and to evaluate teachers' performance. The students take the test in both reading and math three times a year. They have about an hour to complete the test, and slower test takers are pulled from class to finish.

The second test, called Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP, is a literacy assessment that measures and ranks children's progress as they learn letters, words, sentences, and, eventually, how to read. Mansel gives the test individually to students four times throughout the year. It takes several days to administer as Mansel progresses through a series of tasks: asking the students to write their names, to point to uppercase and lowercase versions of letters, and to identify words that rhyme, for example.

Although more informal, the students also take about four quizzes per week in writing, English, math, science, and social studies. The school's other kindergarten teacher designs most of the quizzes, which might ask students to draw a picture describing what they learned, or write about it in a journal.

"By the end of the school year, Mansel estimates that she'll have lost about 95 hours of class time to test administration-a number inconceivable to her when she reflects on her own kindergarten experience. She doesn't remember taking any tests at all until she was in at least second grade. And she's probably right."

Whoever made this happen should be arrested for child abuse and theft of childhood.

And if there is anyone who thinks this doesn't or can't happen here in Connecticut...Watch for the Wait,What? series of articles this week reporting on the testing madness associated with Governor Malloy's K-3 reading mandates.

The Common Core, Common Core testing program and the related efforts to "reform education" are turning our schools into little more than testing factories.  These forces are on track to undermine and destroy Connecticut's public schools.

Every parent should consider taking immediately steps to protect their children from this inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory testing system.

For parents with children in grades 3-8 and 11 that starts by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

For parents with younger children, it means telling their local superintendent and board of education that they must take immediate steps to distance schools from the harmful effects of the testing and assessment frenzy.

For a draft opt out letter click on: Sample opt out letter for Connecticut parents.

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Thursday roundup

by: ctblogger

Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 12:46:45 PM EST

Reading material...
  • Herbst continues to dig a hole for himself over his idiotic attempt to censoring free speech.
    A chain of emails among Knights of Columbus in Trumbull show an organized effort to get a controversial painting taken down. A few of the emails make it appear that Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst and a member of the Town Council were on board with the mission.

    The painting at The Trumbull Library, part of the Great Minds Collection, led to outcry from some area Catholics for its depiction of Mother Teresa with pro-choice feminists.

    [...]

    From email correspondences obtained by The Trumbull Times, it appears that outcry started with Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, who were joined by the Rev. Brian Gannon of St. Theresa Roman Catholic Church, in decrying the artwork as "blasphemy."

    The emails, which started Feb. 15, are part of chain with the subject: "Offensive artwork at Trumbull Library - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Daughters of Charity Placed in False Light."

    In one email, dated Feb. 14, Father Gannon writes to thank others for a quick protest of the painting.

    "Joe Pifko told me it will be removed Monday," an email signed 'Fr. Gannon' reads. "This alleged artwork is utter blasphemy and an attempted manipulation of God. Let's keep a close vigilance, the winds of evil are blowing with greater ferocity every day."

    Pifko is a Republican Town Council member, who represents District 4. He responds on Feb. 14, indicating Herbst is on board with the cause.

    "I have contacted First Selectman Herbst and he is outraged at this display," the email reads. "The Library Board has been notified and there will be a meeting with the First Selectman on Monday morning to remove this piece!"


  • I'm embarrassed that this jerk is the mayor of Danbury.

    Every time a snowstorm bears down on Danbury, Connecticut -- which has happened a lot this winter -- students and parents turn to Twitter to find out whether schools will be closed.

    They rarely get a straight answer.

    Instead, Danbury residents see jokes, meme-filled videos and teasing references to snow days at fictional high schools from "Glee" or "Grease" -- all courtesy of Mayor Mark Boughton, a social-media prankster whose @MayorMark account provides actual updates about school closings amid all the buffoonery.

    "Attention: West Beverly Hills High School is closed for tomorrow. #90210," read one recent mayoral tweet.


  • Put him in jail already!
    Former Gov. John G. Rowland on Wednesday made what could be his final effort to win a new trial before he is sentenced in two weeks for breaking campaign finance law while advising a Congressional race in 2012..

    In legal papers filed in U.S. District Court late Wednesday, Rowland's lawyers argued the same points they have been arguing since late last year - that federal prosecutors withheld evidence the former governor could have used to persuade a jury of his innocence during his September trial.

    [...]

    "Given the significance of the suppressed evidence, and the thinness of the Government's case, the prejudice to Mr. Rowland is plain," Rowland's lawyers wrote.

    U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton has been dismissive of Rowland's claims, first during a telephone conference on Feb. 23 and again in a written decision two days later. During the telephone conference, Arterton permitted Rowland to argue once more for a new trial, but warned him the outcome would likely be the same.


  • Amen!
    For far too long, federal education policy has fixated on student testing, testing, and more testing.

    The forced over-reliance on standardized testing has eaten away at the time and attention students should have to thrive and love learning. Today the public recognizes that Connecticut has been going headlong down the wrong road, and we have the first public opinion poll on testing in 2015 as evidence.

    Some tests are more useful than others, and the distinctions make a difference. Some offer a track record of effectiveness, providing teachers with tools to respond rapidly and precisely to a student's academic needs; others simply do not.

    The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, to be taken by students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 annually beginning next month, does not advance education. But countless hours preparing students for the test have the effect of reducing precious and valuable instructional time in classrooms across the state. Our students will never get back that wasted time.

    Driven by decrees from Washington, testing has overtaken level-headed common sense. It is time to put the emphasis back on teaching and learning. That can be achieved by our state legislature approving a plan that would:

    1. Phase out SBAC, instead utilizing the progress assessments already being administered in local school districts.

    2. Reduce the percentage that testing counts toward measuring school quality from 90 percent to 20 percent. That will demonstrate that it is learning that matters most -  not a high-stakes test score.

    3. Establish a State Mastery Examination Board, composed of educators and experts, to identify the progress assessment test that will take the place of the federal and state requirement that there be one statewide test.

    4. Prohibit high-stakes testing -  such as SBAC -  in pre-kindergarten programs through second grade.

    5. Establish a commission on student learning and school quality to identify key measures that indicate how well schools and districts prepare students to meet key accountability objectives.

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