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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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Holy Joe Lieberman takes over anti-Iran deal lobby group...

by: Larkspur

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 09:59:15 AM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

I wonder if President Obama will treat his old mentor the same way he did Sen. Elizabeth Warren on TPP and Fast Track?

From Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo


LOL. Anti-Iran Deal Farce Hits Crescendo

...I[Josh Marshall,TPM] just came across a hilarious story which really brings together the tragic, tendentious and hysterical (yes, both meanings) nature of this drama. I just learned that Joe Lieberman, storied Middle East hawk, has joined United Against Nuclear Iran as its new Chairman. UANI is one of several pressure groups now rolling out massive ad campaigns against the deal bankrolled by assorted billionaires.

This is not terribly surprising given the rising hysteria over the deal and Lieberman's role as one of Washington's arch Middle East. "UANI has led the effort to economically isolate the Iranian regime, and its bipartisan and international expertise makes it a highly respected voice on the merits of the Iran agreement. I am honored to assume this new leadership role at this important time."

But why exactly does UANI need a new chairman?

After all, they just hired Dr. Gary Samore as chairman back in 2013. Well, Samore had to leave because he supports the deal! Yes, he supports the deal. The deal is such a Chamberlainesque catastrophe that one of the main anti-deal pressure groups had to part ways with its leader because he supports the deal.
SNIP

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Shhhh… Don't tell but Malloy admin will be releasing SBAC test results as early as next week

by: ctblogger

Fri Aug 07, 2015 at 17:48:09 PM EDT

Cross post from Jon Pelto's Wait What?

About six weeks AFTER states like Washington and Oregon provided their citizens with state-wide data about how students did on the 2015 SBAC testing scheme, Governor Dannel Malloy's State Department of Education appears to be getting ready to release the state-wide numbers in conjunction with giving Connecticut's school districts the information they will need to inform parents and teachers about how students did in the test that was designed to label the majority of students as failures.

In a memo dated August 3, 2015, but entitled "Student Assessment News August 8, 2015," local school officials are being told that;

"Smarter Balanced and CMT/CAPT Science Results Information on the embargoed and public release of Smarter Balanced Assessment baseline results and CMT/CAPT Science results will be forthcoming.  At this time, embargoed secure release of district level results is estimated to be no earlier than August 5, 2015.

Meanwhile, a toolkit of materials has been created for district use.

These materials may be customized when presenting Smarter Balanced results to educators, boards of education, families, and community members."

The State Department of Education's SBAC "toolkit" would make the government in George Orwell's supposedly "non-fiction" book 1984 proud.

Among the documents that superintendents and principals are expected to use when "explaining" the SBAC test results are;

The Connecticut Smarter Balanced Interpretive Guide 2015  (This guide is designed to help educators, parents, students, the public, and members of the media understand and explain the results of the Smarter Balanced summative assessments.)

A PowerPoint Template for District or School Results (This slide deck is fillable and editable. It provides the basic steps of presenting district or school level assessment results.)

A Back to School Smarter Balanced Presentation which serves as "A presentation and a FAQ to assist in explaining the Smarter Balanced assessments.

The propaganda includes language such as, "Points to remember about annual state testing" which reads;

An annual assessment is intended to;

Accurately describes student achievement and growth as part of program evaluation and schools, district and state accountability systems.

Provides valid, reliable, and fair measures of students' progress/attainment of the knowledge and skills required to be college and career ready at the end of grade 12

Provides an annual snapshot of student achievement that should be used along with other information, such as class work and other tests, when making education decisions.

Considering we know that the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Tests achieve NONE of these goals, it is clear that the materials are nothing more than an extension of the effort to mislead parents about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scam.

The August 3, 2015 memo to local school officials also states;

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CDSE) has also developed parent brochures to accompany the hard copy of individual school reports that schools send home.  Tailored by grade (for example, third grade test takes entering fourth grade, fourth grade test takers entering fifth grade, etc.), each brochure ties the previous year's standards with the upcoming year's standards and provides useful tools and strategies for parents to assist their children at  home."

So Parents - When your local school administration "brief" you and your community on the 2015 SBAC results, be sure to ask the presenter whether they are using the misleading materials that they were provided by the State Department of Education.  If they are, it would probably be a good time to tell your local school board it is time for new administrators.

Check back for more about the materials that the Malloy administration has prepared to convince YOU that the disastrous SBAC tests are good for your child, their teacher and our public schools.

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Mayor of New London Endorses Sanders -- How Many Other Elected Officials Are Feelin' The Bern?

by: abg22

Wed Aug 05, 2015 at 00:44:25 AM EDT

( - promoted by ctblogger)

Bernie Sanders may have seen a surge in grassroots support in recent months but that has not translated into support from his fellow elected officials. Outside of Sanders's home state of Vermont, only a handful of elected officials across the country have endorsed the liberal firebrand challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President. By one account, only two mayors in the entire country have come out for Bernie. One of them is in Connecticut.

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, a Democrat who became Connecticut's second openly gay mayor when he was elected as New London's first 'strong mayor' in 2011, announced his support for Bernie on his facebook page in June, probably not realizing just how much of an anomaly his endorsement would make him.

Locked in a tight battle for re-election with city councillor (and fellow Democrat) Michael Passero, Finizio has been waging an openly and unapologetically progressive campaign based around issues like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and universal pre-K. What's notable about this is that Finizio already has the progressive vote pretty much locked up, so it's hard to see how he gains any political advantage from the Sanders endorsement in terms of shoring up his left flank.

Even supporters of Hillary Clinton have to admit it's a pretty ballsy move by someone facing a difficult re-election battle.

There are surely other elected officials in Connecticut who are feelin' the Bern. But will they have the guts to come out openly in support of Sanders?  

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Monday roundup: The CTGOP insanity edition

by: ctblogger

Mon Aug 03, 2015 at 14:03:17 PM EDT

Monday headlines:
  • Meet Republican State Rep John Scott: Hypocrite.
    If you want to collect less income tax revenues, then increase taxes. If you want less business tax receipts, increase taxes. And if you want less sales tax receipts, then add more items that can be taxed. It is simple economics.

    Hmm...is this the same Rep. Scott who proposed this?

    State Rep. John Scott, R-40th District, has introduced a bill that would allow municipalities to charge their own hotel and restaurant tax.

    [...]

    A substantial tax on hotel rooms is almost expected, Scott said, adding that visitors would be paying the tax, rather than residents.

    [...]

    But Tony Sheridan, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, disagreed. Tourism has been hurt dramatically the last few years and is just starting to improve, he said.

    "The bottom line here is that we cannot afford another tax at this time," Sheridan said.


    Seems like Rep. Scott ignores his "simple economics" formula when it doesn't suit his purpose.

  • Danbury's longest serving dishonest mayor to LGBT community in the city: "Hate crime? What hate crime?"
    When members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury last week discovered a rainbow flag outside their church had been burned, some saw it as a threat.

    The Rev. Barbara Fast, the church's minister, said at least one member of the congregation became worried about the safety of the gay community.

    "If any of them has suffered violence or discrimination in their lives, the burning of a rainbow flag can create a greater sense of risk," she said.

    [...]

    Police have suspended their investigation of the flag-burning, which they consider an act of vandalism. Lt. Christian Carroccio said there is no evidence to suggest it was a hate crime because whoever did it left no message, typical in anti-gay incidents.

    Walt Sizemore, president of the church's board of trustees, was not pleased with the department's decision.

    "I'm kind of surprised the police didn't see this as a hate crime," he said. "Typically, when flags are burned, people are angry. That is more than just vandalism."

    [...]

    Mayor Mark Boughton condemned the flag-burning and said he trusts the police to investigate it thoroughly.

    "We have to rely on the judgment of our officers," Boughton said. "If they believe it's not a hate crime, you have to rely on that. People do stupid things all the time.


  • The new leadership at the CTGOP is off to a fantastic start!
    Every dollar raised by Republicans in Connecticut will be worth just 87.5 cents under a contract that gives a newly hired fundraiser 12.5 percent of all political contributions to the state party.

    Catherine Marx, a veteran political operative who worked on Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst's campaign for state treasurer in 2014, recently signed a four-month fundraising contract with the party's new chairman, J.R. Romano.

    The unusual arrangement is rankling some of the party's current and former leaders, who fear that donors could become skittish about seeing percentage of their contributions going to pay for overhead.

    The commission even applies to money raised by volunteers and employees of the party, which took in $1.8 million in 2014. At 12.5 percent, that would work out to an annualized commission of $225,000.

    "I'm not very comfortable with this approach and will have to watch it very carefully," said Edward Dadakis, who represents Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan on the Republican State Central Committee.

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