Will Connecticut follow Massachusetts on Common Core?

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By Michael Surran, via Wikimedia Commons

The state of Massachusetts, one of the leading states on education reform in the nation, in a monumental decision has abandoned Common Core testing. The Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Michael Chester, in a stunning reversal has walked away from the very test he helped to create. Now it remains to be seen if other states in the nation, including Connecticut, will follow Massachusetts, a state that is considered to be “the gold standard in successful education reform.

Michael Polikoff, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California and a leader in the assessment of national tests, believes other states will follow, commenting that, “it opens the door for a lot of other states to repeal Common Core.”

Also playing a key role in the abandoning of Common Core in Massachusetts is Barbara Madeloni, the newly elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, a fierce opponent of Common Core who campaigned against all high-stakes testing.

Madeloni said in an interview concerning her beliefs on Common Core and on all high-stakes tests that “they are destructive to our students and our teachers as well as to joyful and meaningful public education.”

In addition, one of the major reasons for Massachusetts as well as other states to abandon Common Core was the fact that the tests “were too hard and too long” for students. Likewise, many of the states including Connecticut had poor results with many students  — especially in urban school districts — failing to reach “proficiency.”

In Connecticut, no one has been more critical of Common Core testing than CEA President Sheila Cohen. Following the release of the disastrous results on SBAC testing for Connecticut public school students this past August, CEA President Cohen commented in a press release on how these tests “are not only unfair and invalid, but are also a failed experiment” while also claiming that SBAC  “is a bridge to nowhere.”

Hence, President Cohen, in essence, is also advocating that Connecticut follow in the footsteps of what Massachusetts has done in which she powerfully cites, “In our nation, the federal government and states have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on SBAC. This is not the first boondoggle in history, but it is one that Connecticut has the power and wisdom to free our students of this year. It is time for Connecticut to cut its losses.”

Parents in Connecticut who wish to participate in the “opt-out” movement of SBAC testing in an attempt to emulate what parents in New York and New Jersey are doing have confronted hurdles from some Connecticut school officials. These officials, many of whom are superintendents of Connecticut school districts, have resorted to “shaming” and “threatening” tactics.

These actions have led education advocate and activist Jonathan Pelto to ask the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families to investigate “the abusive bullying and punishment that is being perpetrated by some local school superintendents and local school officials against those who have been opted out of the SBAC testing.”

Most of the Connecticut School superintendents as part of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents (CAPSS) continue to support Gov. Dannel Malloy’s advocacy of Common Core SBAC testing. However, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice of Madison has been an exception.

In a recent published statement concerning the impact of the Common Core SBAC testing, Scarice stated that “the education community….. continues to kneel and bow at the altar of big data that can be captured, with flagrant disregard for its importance or meaning.” Scarice is of the belief that far too many educators in Connecticut have been trapped in what he refers to as “mindless data” which has resulted in turning “children into faceless numbers.” Hence, he believes that SBAC, in essence, is responsible for “dehumanizing the sacred process of fostering the growth and development of children.” Moreover, it would appear that Scarice supports CEA President Sheila Cohen’s belief by indicating that despite “the spending of millions of dollars, the data will be meaningless, empty and faceless.”

With numerous states dropping out of Common Core testing, it would appear that it is only a matter of time before Connecticut will also capitulate. PARCC testing began as a cooperation between 26 states, but now only five and the District of Columbia will use the test.

Likewise, SBAC testing began with 31 states but now only 15 remain. Hence, the writing is on the wall for the Connecticut State Department of Education concerning the demise of Common Core for Connecticut public school students. The question is, however, how long will it take State Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell to realize the fact that Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will soon become history.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D. of Fairfield is a retired educator.

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