Over the last 40 years, I have been a public school teacher, an owner of a small business, a director of a state-funded early care and education program and, currently, I am an educational consultant.

In my opinion, terrible mistakes are being made by education reformers. A “one size fits all” approach to education is detrimental to children/students and robs teachers of their ability to be effective educators.

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Additionally, the reformers have changed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations.

For many months now I have talked with teachers and parents. Here is what I have discovered:

1) The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), although not a curriculum, have turned into a curriculum because the high-stakes tests, known as SmarterBalanced (SB), which will replace the CMTs in 2014-15, must be aligned with these CCSS. This has forced districts to create curricula that basically reflect the CCSS.

  • The CCSS are not developmentally appropriate for grades K-3.
  • The CCSS do not allow for individualization of instruction or take into account each child’s individual development. The CCSS require every student to have the SAME skills at the end of every grade. For example, not every child learns to read at the same rate. Some may read as early as 4 or 5 and others not until they are 6 or 7.
  • The CCSS have no research behind them and have never been even piloted. Would you allow your doctor to operate on you with a procedure that had never been researched and had never had any pilot studies? Our children are now the guinea pigs for these CCSS.

2) The new teacher’s evaluation system is not only inappropriate because it is based upon 45 percent of the results of the SB tests, but this new evaluation system is also taking up a tremendous amount of time for teachers and administrators to complete and fulfill.

  • Teachers now have to write Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). I have spoken to teachers who have spent hours trying to accomplish just the writing of their SLOs. They tell me even their administrators are not sure what a SLO should “look” like.
  • This new evaluation system is taking up a huge amount of time that should be spent on instruction preparation. Teachers already work long hours AFTER children go home!
  • Administrators also dislike this new system. They feel much time is being wasted assisting teachers with this SLO system which administrators have barely been trained on. Many administrators wish they could spend this time actually observing and/or helping teachers with instructional or behavioral problems in the classrooms.
  • Some districts have been forced to hire additional staff to fulfill the requirements of the new evaluation system — money that could be spent on other important things like lowering class size or instructional materials, etc.

3) SB tests are totally inappropriate. I have spoken to teachers who have administered sample tests to children. I am told that many children become stressed out even to the point of tears.

  • Preparation for these tests will take up huge amounts of instructional time. Even more so than the CT Mastery Tests (CMT).

4) In order for any school to be high-performing, there must be parental trust and partnership. Many, many parents have lost trust in the schools because of the SB tests AND the DATA collection associated with them.

  • Because of the change in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), many parents are concerned that their child’s information – which can also include personal family information – will not be protected.
  • Many superintendents and many other school administrators are NOT aware of the FERPA changes.
  • Parents are asking for the privacy policies from their local districts.
  • Parents are asking for the state’s privacy policies.
  • Parents are finding out that because the FERPA law has changed, their personal information is at risk and could be given to a third party.
  • All of this has led to parents no longer trusting their child’s school!

The legislature needs to:

  • Eliminate the CCSS.
  • Eliminate the high-stakes testing.
  • Eliminate the new teacher evaluation system.
  • Allow parents to opt out of the data collection or better yet, ask them if they want to opt-in.
  • If they do not eliminate the SB tests, allow parents to opt out AND offer an alternative instructional program within the school for their child to partake in.

Mary E. Burnham of the Sandy Hook section of Newtown is an educational consultant who is a former public school teacher, director of a state-funded early care and education program and a small-business owner.

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