Monday, July 30, 2007

Connecticut Mastery Test Results

Well, the CT test results are in.
And it isn't very good news.
Here are the actual results, town by town.
For all the money CT spends on education, it looks like we've had some pretty disappointing results here.

The Hartford Courant had this to report:
Despite spending nearly $190 million to bolster public school reading programs over much of the past decade, the state reported slight erosion of reading scores on this year's Connecticut Mastery Test, continuing a gradual downward trend that began five years ago.

"It's quite serious," said state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan
A grade of 66 overall, in my opinion, is a failing grade - and CT has failed it's kids and the taxpayers who dump millions into education in this state. Sorry, but it is no longer acceptable to say - "but yeah, at least we are better than (insert some other state name here)".

Of course we all know where this will lead... asking the taxpayers to dig even more deeply into their pockets to add yet even more funding to a system that is obviously failing. For all the highly paid, Master and Doctoral Degreed specialists that our schools have in CT this is still what we end up with.

And of course the mantra continues to be we need more teachers, more specialists, more administrators, more, more, more.

Everyone seems to forget that better education is not directly proportional to the amount of money spent on it.

The studies abound, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reports, to prove it.. but the myth that more money is needed continues to live on robustly.
"Raising student achievement levels and improving our schools is not a matter of spending more money doing the same things as before but rather using the resources we have available in better and more innovative ways," said ALEC Education Task Force Chairman Rep. Jane Cunningham from Missouri.
Hartford alone spends over $13,000 per student to educate them and yet they have fallen dead last in the CMT scores.
So what gives?
Blame it on what now?
Blame it on lack of funding to train teachers better?
Blame it on lack of funding to attract the best and brightest and most well equipped educators? (I keep hearing how CT has the highest paid and highest qualified teachers in the nation)
Blame it on the parents who don't have a book at home? (Well - who taught them to read or to love reading?)

Demand longer school days? It's stressful for children. And some studies have suggested that the time allocated doesn't translate into better performance.

Demand costly mandatory pre-school? This has already been proven not to work.

Demand year round schooling? Well this employs more people that's for sure, and it is a very costly endeavor. Many parents object to it as it infringes on family time.

Demand school dress codes or uniforms? This discourages gang wear - but hasn't proven to raise performance dramatically - A study published in The Journal of Education Research by David L. Brunsma,(University of Missouri), and Kerry A. Rockquemore,(University of Notre Dame) found that student uniforms neither improved attendance and discipline nor decreased drug use. According to Brunsma and Rockquemore, uniforms did not significantly improve academic performance or students' attitudes toward school, peer-group relations were not improved, and that uniforms actually had a negative effect on student attitudes.

It doesn't look like anything they have been studying and talking about is working.
They have been "attacking this problem" for years and still have come up short.

It looks to me like they ought to be looking at curriculum substance instead of style.
It looks like they ought to be looking at time on task versus school day distractions.
It looks to me like they ought to get the fluff and nonsense out of the curriculum and focus on the basics.
It looks to me like they need to eliminate busy work and meaningless assignments.
It looks to me like they ought to be putting more money in the classroom instead of in administrators' pockets.
It looks to me like we need some choice in education and have schools compete with each other. While I am not a fan of vouchers, I think we need competition.

Schools need to demand more from the kids and have some real discipline. Give the kids some respect and some real reasons to cultivate self respect and self esteem. Let them work hard to achieve results they can be proud of. Hire teachers who really understand what learning is all about. Have a curriculum in place that is interesting, and not just busy work. Believe it or not, some of the more successful charter schools in my area are doing the things I have just mentioned. Furthermore, I would, cut the school hours in half, and allow the kids to have a life and interests of their own choosing. There would be no homework because any work needing to be done would be done in school. Parents need to be fully involved in the endeavor of their kids’ learning. Kids should not be fed and clothed by the school system. If parents are not doing their job of taking care of their children’s needs then they should be prosecuted according to the laws having to do with parental neglect of duties.

Somewhere along the way people have forgotten what educating kids is all about. It has become more of an indoctrination of political correctness and less about actual learning and exploration. There is way too much fluff in the schools as they attempt to “teach” about sex education, AIDS awareness, gay and lesbian issues, anti-smoking, anti-drugs, and every other campaign that comes down the pike. The current "cause du jour" is Global Warming. Kids are not spending enough time actually learning the things that they need to learn. It seems to me that there is precious little on task time being spent on the essentials. Kids are not learning enough history or civics to become active informed citizens. The reading lists at most schools contain such contemporary trash and little in the way of real literature. It has been shown that kids who regularly read classic literature learn to read, speak and write better because they learn by example. Basic mathematics has become a confusing maze of "nouveau jibberish". Kids are not learning enough higher math or science and they cannot even read or write properly. This is evidenced by the huge number of remedial classes that colleges now have to offer in order to get their students up to speed. That is shocking!

Now just as a local anecdote: The superintendent in my school district (West Hartford, CT) just got a raise that gives him a salary of $188,000 per year. Perhaps they should have held off on his raise until they saw these test scores. We as a town have now budgeted $117.8 million dollars alone on education. Our test scores range from 65.9% to 79.6% of students who are at or above state goals. That puts us in the bottom of our District reference Group which compares us to similar towns. This leads me to suggest that perhaps we should be spending more on the classroom and less on the guy with the big office in the Education Center in Town Hall. But perhaps he is paid that highly because he can dream up all the excuses as to why we have been funding the schools more and getting much less in return.

I can't wait to hear how much more money we'll need to spend locally and as a state to raise our kids' performance.


Kim said...

Great post! You really hit the nail on the head with the requests and suggestions that will flow without ever addressing the horrible pedagogy issues that are really the base of public education failure.

mccommas said...

What is most distressing is how unsurprising this is. I am taking this web log to the next Board of Ed meeting and demanding to know where all our money has gone.

By the way. We have held two Republican Incumbents accountable here in Windham including the Chairman Ken Folan.

The only way to change is to get rid of the people that are there now and replace them with a hard line realist. We got two first class replacements for both spots. That’s a far cry from a majority but at least we will have a voice or two at the table instead of ZERO!!

One other incumbent that should be targeted for defeat is the Chair of the Board of Ed for Colchester. What really ticked me off was she said about people’s increased taxes in the Norwich Bulletin. She said she did not increase the budget (well actually as I recall it was an increase of 4 percent) and the only reason why peoples taxes are going way up there is because their houses are worth more than they were due to reevaluation.

What this ninny does not understand – or pretends not to -- is that this is all money on just paper. My condo was bought for $99,000 and its now values at about $125,000. That does not mean I have 26 thousand dollars lying around here somewhere! I would have to sell my home to get that money and to find somewhere as nice would cost about the same so there is little or no reason to sell. I have to live somewhere.

It doesn’t matter whether my money comes out of my right pocket or my left. I earn my money all at the same place and I don’t get the kind of increases in my pay that they keep demanding in taxes. Next year they are going to go up again if we don’t do something now before the elections.

But maybe it would all be worth it if the kids were excelling but their scores are still the worst in the state.

Money is not the problem, at least not for the students.

Tamara said...

What gets me is that the very same Dept of Ed that isn't adequately educating kids in the public schools wants to have oversight over homeschoolers!

No thanks, we can educate our kids very well on our own.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks for your to-the-point rejection of fad solutions, such as school uniforms.

The only real school reform that has been proven over and over to improve school performance is smaller class size, which allows teachers to spend more time with each student. As you have noticed, that is not on the fad solution list, because it would not mean hiring more specialist or administrative staff, nor would it mean enriching standardized testing companies in order to provide accountability.

Of course, as homeschoolers, we have the best teacher to student ratios in the country! And we spend less money and time that the schools.

To paraphrase Tamara: We educate our kids very well on our own!

Jennifer said...

As a former high school teacher, I can say with authority that it doesn't cost that damned much to teach kids how to read, write and do basic mathematics. Most of the money is spent on athletic palaces, administrator salaries and self-esteem seminars.

Crimson Wife said...

Out of curiosity, Judy, why are you skeptical of vouchers? Is it because you're concerned about government money having too many strings attached?

Judy Aron said...

Yes - Crimson Wife..
If private schools - or other non-public entities accept vouchers (aka public money from taxpayers) then they will be open to accountability and regulation by the state.

Even tax credits (where you don't give the money to the state to begin with) could be problematic because if the IRS or some other agency gets involved in determining who gets to use a tax credit or not, then we caught up in those kinds of regulations as well.

Anonymous said...

Typical right wing verbal diarrhea. Facts are outright wrong. Head Start does bring children up to an equal level at starting school. Tax credits, vochers, yuck. Americans fought for the right to public education. Don't give it up so easily. This person doesn't even have kids in the school system.

Judy Aron said...

Anonymous (11:27 PM) You liberal statists don't even have the integrity and courage to sign your name to your opinions. I had kids in the government school system, and you know what - it sucked. They achieved much more as homeschoolers then they ever would have had they stayed in government schools. So have millions of other homeschooled kids. So what are people supposed to do? Allow their kids to languish in substandard learning environments because "Americans fought for the right to public education"? Give me a break. Public education needs a heck of a lot of reform - just look at the scores that were reported here - Are you actually proud of them?

What facts are wrong here pal? Name them. Show me where Headstart has been a success overall - Cripes even the federal government has shown it to be non-performing.

You don't like homeschoolers - Fine - Don't be one. But at least don't criticize those who have made a choice that works best for their kids.

Put your name to some facts you gutless wonder and then we'll talk - o.k.?

Anonymous said...

What is even more concerning is the impact the actual administration of the CMT has on our public school educated children. The schools teach to the test. I know I am preaching to the choir.

However, the schools all spend valuable educational time (i.e.dollars) teaching the children how to take the test. In fact, my school said if 10 minutes remain, answer all b's and c's.

If this is a mastery test, what are we showing the children have mastered by such advice?

Even more apalling is that I went to the CMT administrators in Hartford who thought teaching children test taking tips were practical. And, this person didn't even flinch about the b's and c's advice. He blamed the gov't. What a cop-out.

I have adopted a combo of public school (work full-time) and a great deal of at home oversight with tutors, books, writing prompts, etc. Home school is the way to go!

Ted R said...

Do you really care about education? Seems to me your real issue is your pocketbook, and this is more about me, me, me.

Public Schools aren't perfect by any means. But there are great teachers and great students making great accomplishments.

If you think learning is measured by CMTs, think again. It just show how out of touch you are with what it takes to educate a child. CMTs are a politicians answer to eduction "reform." Most real educators will tell you what CMTs really are, which is a waste of time. But because people like you keep screaming for "measurements," politicians keep dreaming up nonsense like CMTs.

Judy Aron said...

Ted R - Yes I really DO care about education. I see public government sponsored education failing in many ways and bankrupting communitities in the process. But there are many reasons why that is the case.

This is not about me, me , me. This is about the disservice we are doing to our kids and our country.

I absolutely do not think learning is measured by CMT's - and I never said they were. The CMT's and all of these other high stakes tests are being misused for political reasons for sure... but you have to admit that if they are being used as indicators then they are indicating failure.

Yes, I think these tests are on the whole a waste of time - especially because they detract from real learning since teachers are busy "teaching to the test". Really intense detailed and thorough content learning has been lost. But I think there is a purposeful dumbing down going on in our educational system. There are some good books on that written by Charlotte Iserbyt, John Taylor Gatto, Bev Eakman, Sam Blumenthal, and others. You should check them out.

The tests themselves are also engineered in certain ways that may or may not really be good indicators of proficiency. Read the book, The Big Test, all about the SAT's. That's an eye opener.

That being said - would you like to tell us what your version of measurement of success in government schools should be? Especially since educrats are in the position of having to show accountability, they need to be able to have some measures of success in their programs.

Anonymous said...

One of the factors that needs to be considered is the responsibility of the learner and his or family. Nothing can be done legally to make kids work harder or make parents shut off the tv. I have heard enough of schools failing our children. Communicate to the parents and kids that it is there job to take advantage of opportunity. They will reap the rewards when they succeed through hard work and they will suffer the consequences when they fail.
On instruction, we definitely need to beef things up. Remember, though, that rigorous instruction involves tedious grammar instruction, reading the difficult classics and writing essays and papers, practicing math problems over and over until you get them right, reading the textbook and memorizing vocabulary and times tables... These things are often dry and difficult. Top colleges and high schools demand almost too much from their students. But because the students know that being at Choate or Harvard is an opportunity of a lifetime, they suck it up. The students don't come to class consistently unprepared because they have too much to lose, too much pride in themselves and because they'll be asked to leave if they flunk. Public school students in traditionally under-performing schools need to rise to the occasion.

There are many schools that are filled with lazy and poorly behaved students. Administrators will tell teachers to make the instruction more "engaging". This ultimately means make it easier and, like a PlayStation video game system, more about entertaining kids. This is the problem when teachers are held accountable for the failure of the students as opposed to being evaluated on the rigor of their instruction. No one wants to lose their job so they make sure kids are getting A's and B's because if they are not getting A's and B's, then the teacher must be doing a bad job.

A teacher once told me that an administrator told him to change his instructional technique and grading system after the first quarter grades for his class had too many C's, D's and F's. He was teaching science and had included "too much" vocabulary on his tests. In other words the kids were responsible for too much material, weren't studying enough, failed the tests and so these demands must have been too much. I'd love to hear a Harvard professor being admonished by the dean that he included too much material on the final exam. So there goes the teacher's effort at being rigorous. Teachers will play fluff games to get through the day without behavior incidents because if students think something is boring, they will become rowdy, disruptive, disrespectful to each other and to the teacher.

It is politically and educationally correct for a teacher to differentiate his instruction and cater to the needs of each of his learners. This has its benefits for the prepared, hardworking, respectful student who is truly having a hard time grasping a skill after an earnest effort, but too many times it also sends the message to students who may just be lazy or stubbornly misbehaved that your teacher will find a way to meet your "needs".

You talk when the teacher talks so the teacher should create a lesson tomorrow to give you the opportunity to participate in discussions. You get up out of your seat constantly during math to pretend like you are getting another tissue but really you want to make faces at your buddy for giggles. So now, the teacher must make the lessons more kinesthetic for you. You doodle in your notebook instead of looking up your vocabulary definitions so the teacher must create an assignment that allows you to draw a picture of what the word means. So when do students learn to actually have to do something that they may not like to do? Is there no value anymore in being made to do something you'd rather not do in the best interest of your education? Do we remove the roof of our home to avoid having to prune the tree? Obedience has been abandoned.

Again, to compare to top colleges, professors are quirky and demanding and have different styles. Part of being a top student is "figuring out" your teacher and caring enough about your grade to be observant enough to figure out what YOU must do to be successful. The "hey-teacher-I-don't-get-it.-Try-something-else-to-make-me-smart" mentality has never been the mentality of the most motivated, successful students. Yet education policymakers are slaves to this mentality.

This is a bit of a rant but my point is to highlight the idea that personal work ethic will trump most obstacles in life. In this age of declining work ethic amongst the masses, it seems short-sighted to constantly blame only the policy makers and educators for the quality of education that one has not attained. Providing an excellent education doesn't necessarily mean that everyone will obtain an excellent education. Let us start factoring this notion into our future assessments of our educational institutions.

Tammy said...

Can any of you tell me what happens if we don't allow our child to take the CMT? Both from a legal point of view and the school.

Judy Aron said...

Tammy - if your child is homeschooled (s)he is not required to take the CMT - if enrolled in government school... well I think you are required to take the CMT - but I am not certain. best thing is to ask Deborah Stevenson (

John M said...

Can we raise our CMT standards to the likes of California by having our kids learn Algebra and knowing how to write well written 5 paragraph essays by or at 8th grade.just my $0.02.

John M.