Hey CT!! Waive good bye to NCLB, Wave hello to SPI

In the last couple of weeks I have posted a few posts on the Common Core State Standards.  I do believe that supporting them is like supporting a really good tolerance unit written by Skinheads.  My state of CT, and 32 others have received NCLB waivers.  But what do the states get with the waivers?  After I wrote this post I wasn’t going to post it.  I thought no one really cares.  Our school system started the year with PD on what the Common Core State Standards are.  They were released two years ago!  Well I obviously decided to not deleted it.  I think it is important.  It is important that you know the “why” behind the “what” you will be teaching.  This post is on Connecticut, but I can only imagine that the teachers and students in each state with a waiver are probably in a similar boat.


Did your state get a NCLB waiver?  What does the fine print say in your state?

Last May the Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut announced that Connecticut received a waiver to NCLB.  Thank goodness because 47% of our schools were not meeting Federal requirements.  I am sure the commissioner with his long track record in education was quite proud.  What is not on his Linkedin resume is that he also helped start Amistad Academy charter school and served on the Board of the school.  He also served on the board of Achievement First which was born out of Amistad.  His co-founder now serves as the CEO of Achievement First, which also has members from such illustrious groups such as Teach For America.  The Achievement First network has grown in CT and was lead into New York by Joel Klein.  That’s Joel Klein who left being the Chancellor of Education  for New York City to work for Richard Murdoch News Corp in their ever expanding education division.  That’s the division renamed Amplify that has teamed with AT&T to supply digital tools and services to schools this year and into next just in time to get schools ready for 2014 when the testing will be done on computers.

The waiver changes how CT reports student learning.  CT will now use a Student Performance Index (SPI).  The waiver actually does not remove most of the NCLB problems.  The AYP is simply replaced by SPI.  The SPI combines and weights the test scores from standardized tests in all subjects and all levels. A school’s SPI is supposed to be 88 (I have no idea what that means, you try.)  If  it is below 88 in 2014 then a school has a few years to close the gap between it’s score and 88 by 50%, and then 50% again and again each year until it is above 88.   The SPI would be used to determine school funding, sanctions and rewards. Based on their SPI scores schools will be ranked into one of five categories.  The lowest 5% of schools would be called “turnaround schools” and be placed into a commissioners network.  Those schools could be mandated to be operated by private or semi-private operations.  The SPI would also measure five subgroups which would all have there own SPI targets.  The number of schools that could fail in these subgroups will increase since a subgroup is now only 20 students.  The level above “turnaround schools” is “focus schools.”  They would receive increased funding and agree to being told what staffing changes to make and how to operate the school.

The schools will be subject to external groups coming in to the rescue.  “The CSDE’s Turnaround Team will conduct the required rigorous review process to select external providers including universities, RESCs,  nonprofits, charter management organizations (CMOs), CommPACT, or other providers with proven track records.” (CT’s waiver application)  One thing that will be piloted is “personalized learning.”  “We plan to use pilot in select schools as a way to explore alternatives to the traditional instruction and assessment model, which is based on the accumulation of Carnegie units and passing standardized summative assessments administered for all students of all skill levels at the same time.”  I will let you read between the lines of that statement.  Of course the waiver does state that standardized test scores don’t tell the whole picture, “the CSDE also believes that school quality cannot be fully captured by test scores. Therefore, the Performance Team will consider incorporating additional metrics in categories such as civics, arts, fitness, college and career readiness, and school climate into the accountability system at a later date.”  At a later date…wonder when that will be.

So what did our waiver wave?  We get more standardized testing. A greater emphasis on standardized testing. A change in how schools are graded. A system that makes it easy for the state to take over the lowest 5% of the schools, and basically tell the other lowest 10% what to do without “taking them over.”

I can’t help thinking though…based on my other Common Core Standards posts and seeing the forces behind the CCSS, that the waiver was simply a way to put in place the SPI, a system of scoring schools that will be incomprehensible to most parents, a system that brings with it the “Commissioner’s Network,” just to allow “charter management organizations (CMOs), CommPACT, or other providers with proven track records” to get a stronger foothold into our schools and increase our payments to out of state standardized test providers.  The current guess by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which will be selling CCSS tests to CT, is that it will cost $30 per student to initially test them for a year.  That’s $16,000, 000 just for testing.  That does not include all of the test prep materials, and even computer upgrades that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium requires (that’s why your district will be upgrade to Windows 7 by 2014).  There will be a lot of money handed-out in CT education over the next several years, and charter schools and testing companies will be sure to fill their pockets.

So why should you care about what is happening in CT?

My governor, Dannel Malloy, the man who name Stefan Pryor Commissioner of Education, the man who beheaded teachers with an edreform package this year, was just named the head of the National Governors Education and Workplace Committee, which just happens to be one of the two groups behind the Common Core State Standards.

Please note that this is not against charter schools.  My daughter attends a charter school.  I love the idea of charter schools.  I do not love the companies, groups, and individuals that have influenced the direction of the movement and the types of charter schools that they open and how they undermine public schools and do not supplement my public schools.



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