Op-Ed: SBAC test is part of corporate plan to discredit Connecticut public schools

Our founders recognized that the fundamental purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. The Declaration of Independence reads in pertinent part “…A]ll men are created equal… they are endowed…with certain unalienable rights…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

How, then, does the State of Connecticut justify the obstacles and roadblocks it has erected to prevent parents from exercising the right to opt their children out of corporate-backed standardized testing?

Op-ed submit bugEasy. It doesn’t. It puts them in place and arrogantly dares anyone to defy them. And it doesn’t expect many parents to challenge the test anyway.

Why aren’t more parents alarmed by these for-profit corporate-sponsored tests? Largely because they trust their public schools and local elected officials to notify them of threats to their children’s welfare.

Sadly, most superintendents, boards of education and even the teachers’ unions are letting parents and schoolchildren down by not informing them of the pernicious nature of the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test.

For example, most parents don’t realize that the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) was amended to allow the corporations behind SBAC to use the test for data mining. Children’s data is no longer protected by federal law.

Additionally, the cut scores which determine passing rates have been arbitrarily set to ensure that about 60 percent of those taking the language arts test will fail and the failure rate for the math portion will be about 70 percent.

Not content with labeling schools and teachers as failures in order to advance its agenda, the corporate reform movement (actively abetted by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Board of Education) callously plans to attach the label to children.

Mastery test results should be used to measure progress and show teachers where support is needed to promote student success, not to brand children as failures.

In New York, and other states, test results have caused outrage after the fact and resulted in strong coalitions of parents and teachers opposed to toxic testing. Superintendents, administrators and teacher unions know this. Why are they silent? Why are so many of them willing tools in the state’s plan to thwart the right of parents to opt out? They should be challenged on that point until a satisfactory answer is provided.

The real purpose of the SBAC test is to buttress the corporate mantra of “failed public schools” in order to advance their case for the privatization of education. Rupert Murdoch put it bluntly in 2010 when he said “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone…”

That figure comes in part from test support materials, software and new textbooks aligned with the Common Core, but much of it will come from the expansion of charter schools.

Today, Connecticut is dumping $100 million dollars of taxpayer money into charter schools every year with little to no oversight and the governor’s proposed budget contains funding for an additional four. At the same time, magnet schools have gone unfunded and the state is doing everything in its power to dismiss or delay the CCJEF (Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding) vs. Rell case which would require the state to honor its obligation to adequately fund public schools, an obligation which it has never met.

The SBAC is one aspect of a larger scheme which, at its core, is about corporate greed, not the welfare of children. I urge parents to investigate this issue for themselves and to opt their children out of the SBAC if they have concerns. A sample opt-out letter can be downloaded from this website: Walshminnick2015.org.

Martin Walsh, a teacher in Glastonbury and resident of Wethersfield, is a candidate for president of the Connecticut Education Association.

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