Here's What Joe Ricciotti Thinks

Joe Ricciotti's Published Thoughts on Future of Public Education

Diane Ravitch's blog (https://dianeravitch.net/)

A site to discuss better education for all

Will Hillary Abandon the Disastrous Policies of the Obama Administration?

By dianeravitch

June 22, 2016 

Joseph Ricciotti, veteran educator in Connecticut, wonders if Hillary Clinton will forge a different path from that of the Obama administration. He points out that Race to the Top and Common Core were both major disasters. Race to the Top was built on the assumptions of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, and proved even more harmful to public education and to children.

He notes that she benefited in her campaign by the early endorsements of the two teachers’ unions, the NEA and AFT.

He writes:

She can be thankful in no small part to the major role that the teacher organizations in the nation such as the National Educational Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) played in their early endorsement of her presidency. Public school teachers and parents are fighting the battle of their lives in attempting to hold off the forces of privatization along with the onslaught of charter schools in the nation.


Sadly, theses forces of privatization received major support from Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education appointed by President Barack Obama. No other Education Secretary, especially Democratic, has done more to privatize and weaken public education than Arne Duncan who was also obsessed with standardized testing. Under his regime, public schools across the nation experienced two failed programs with Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). His so-called “testocracy” grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes.

Likewise, under Duncan’s time in office, we have witnessed the demise of the neighborhood school and the growth of charter schools, all with corporate sponsors. Hence, it was obvious that former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was not a public school advocate but rather a paid shill who was in the pockets of the corporate reformers and the testing industry.

If Clinton is elected as president in 2016, it will not take very long for both the NEA and the AFT to know whether their early presidential endorsement has been wasted, as was the case following Barack Obama’s nomination eight years ago in his selection of Duncan as Secretary of Education. Whether Clinton chooses someone to serve as Secretary of Education who will undo the disastrous harm that Duncan has inflicted on public education in his eight years remains to be seen. Will she choose another corporate reformer or will she surprise everyone with an appointment of someone who will be a true advocate of public education and who is widely respected by the supporters of public education in the nation?

I can’t bring myself to tell you whom he recommends to lead the Department of Education.

 

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OP-ED | Will Hillary Clinton Turn Her Back on Public Education if Elected President?

CT News Junkie (http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ )

by Joseph Ricciotti | Jun 21, 2016 4:58pm 
(15) Comments | Log in to Facebook to Post a Comment 
Posted to: EducationElection 2016Opinion

CHRISTINE STUART / CTNEWSJUNKIE

 It would appear more than likely that Hillary Clinton will be elected as the next president of the United States come next fall.

She can be thankful in no small part to the major role that the teacher organizations in the nation such as the National Educational Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) played in their early endorsement of her presidency. Public school teachers and parents are fighting the battle of their lives in attempting to hold off the forces of privatization along with the onslaught of charter schools in the nation.

Sadly, theses forces of privatization received major support from Arne Duncan, the former Secretary of Education appointed by President Barack Obama. No other Education Secretary, especially Democratic, has done more to privatize and weaken public education than Arne Duncan who was also obsessed with standardized testing. Under his regime, public schools across the nation experienced two failed programs with Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). His so-called “testocracy” grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes.

Likewise, under Duncan’s time in office, we have witnessed the demise of the neighborhood school and the growth of charter schools, all with corporate sponsors. Hence, it was obvious that former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was not a public school advocate but rather a paid shill who was in the pockets of the corporate reformers and the testing industry.

If Clinton is elected as president in 2016, it will not take very long for both the NEA and the AFT to know whether their early presidential endorsement has been wasted, as was the case following Barack Obama’s nomination eight years ago in his selection of Duncan as Secretary of Education. Whether Clinton chooses someone to serve as Secretary of Education who will undo the disastrous harm that Duncan has inflicted on public education in his eight years remains to be seen. Will she choose another corporate reformer or will she surprise everyone with an appointment of someone who will be a true advocate of public education and who is widely respected by the supporters of public education in the nation?

One who comes to mind as a possible choice and someone who has a proven track record over the years in her support of public education and teachers is Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Education. Dr. Ravitch has had experience as Assistant Secretary of Education during the George W. Bush administration, so she possesses firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the U.S. Department of Education. Ravitch has traveled the country giving speeches to teacher groups and parents. There is no other individual the corporate reformers fear more for she is, without question, the nation’s greatest public school advocate. Her blog, dianeravitch.com is read by millions of educators and parents throughout the nation.

Aside from being very knowledgeable and a huge advocate for public education, she is a highly competent and distinguished educator, who has a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University and is currently an historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.

Indeed, if Hillary Clinton wishes to demonstrate her support for public education in the United States there is no better way to prove it to teachers and parents by appointing an individual such as Dr. Ravitch to be the next Secretary of Education and who will, undoubtedly, lead the charge of restoring public education to its rightful place in the United States.

Joseph Ricciotti is a retired educator.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Tags: public educationHillary Clintonelection 2016Joseph A. Ricciottidh

FPS Superintendant Search-Published in Minuteman

Superintendent search

Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In response to the request from the consulting firm hired by the Fairfield Board of Education regarding the search for a new superintendent of schools, as a former elementary school principal with the Fairfield Public Schools for more than thirty years, I would like to add my voice to the search committee’s thinking concerning the hiring of a new superintendent for the upcoming school year. I have followed the trends of public education in Connecticut for the past twenty years and strongly believe that the State of Connecticut with leadership from Governor Dannel Malloy has moved education in Connecticut with emphasis on standardized testing in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, this type of thinking has filtered down to the Fairfield Public Schools which has also been a staunch advocate of standardized testing in its schools, both elementary and secondary.

Hence what is needed, in the opinion of this writer, is an educational leader for the Fairfield Public Schools who will move the schools in a different direction in future years with less emphasis on standardized testing as a measure of student progress and teacher competency. The problem with  placing too much emphasis on standardized testing in a school district, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) - one of the most prestigious educational organizations in the nation - is that what is on the test is what will be taught. Moreover, school districts including Fairfield who place emphasis and rely on standardized testing often results in a narrowing of the curriculum for students. There is more to teaching and learning than test scores as an overemphasis on testing forces schools to cut back on enriching programs such as the arts and field trips. I can recall that one of the most memorable programs for elementary school students when I served as principal was a week at Nature’s Classroom every year.

Those individuals attending the open public forum conducted by consultants Brad Draeger and Dwight Pfennig in early May heard from those in attendance state that the Fairfield Public Schools in their search for a new leader need someone “who is creative and willing to think outside the box.” Needless to say, it is crucial for the Fairfield Board of Education to consider this attribute as an important priority in its search for a leader.

With this objective in mind, the superintendent in Connecticut who could serve as a role model for the search committee is Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice. He is one of the few superintendents in Connecticut who has publicly stated that when a school district relies on standardized tests Scarice believes “that what is taught in local classrooms has been dictated beyond the local level.” In other words, what Superintendent Scarice is saying is that the developers of standardized tests who are testing companies such as Pearson, McGraw Hill, etc. have greater emphasis than local educators on what our children should be learning.

According to the consultants from the consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, one of Fairfield’s strengths are a talented group of teachers who, ironically, have little voice in what Fairfield students should be learning. Parents across the nation are aware of this problem and have demonstrated their opposition to the power of testing companies by an “opt-out” movement such as occurred in New York City where more than 200,000 parents in the third through eighth grade had their children sit out standardized state tests last spring. Again, Superintendent Scarice adds his voice to this phenomenon when he claims, “there is too much at stake for districts in the current broken model of accountability system that rewards teaching to the test in which local control is compromised.”

In light of the problem of standardized testing’s impact on local control of education and what should be taught in the classroom, the Fairfield Board of Education needs a superintendent such as Thomas Scarice who will provide the leadership to think “outside the box” and a leader who will help to restore the dignity and respect the teachers of Fairfield deserve.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.

Former Principal

Fairfield

Why isn’t media asking presidential candidates about education?

Published in CT Viewpoints

http://ctviewpoints.org/ 

It is difficult to believe as a life-long educator that the media has yet to ask any of the presidential candidates about their views on K-12 public education.

It is a well known fact the public education in Connecticut and across the nation has suffered immensely as an outgrowth of the policies of the George W. Bush administration with its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program. Likewise, public education continued its downward spiral as a result of President Barack Obama’s appointment of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who ushered in the disastrous Race to the Top (RTTT) along with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Needless to say, it is widely acknowledged by many that public education today is facing its worst crisis in decades. We have the oligarchs in the United States who are salivating over the fact that they believe K-12 public education constitutes the nation's last “honeypot,”  just waiting to be plucked for corporate profits. Hence, due to the corporations' involvement lead by moguls such as Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates, we have witnessed the greatest privatization movement ever experienced with the onslaught of charter schools, especially in urban areas. (For those of you who are not familiar with the privatization movement, charter schools use public money yet are not publicly accountable as are regular public schools.)

Ann Policelli Cronin on her blog, “Real Learning CT” has written extensively concerning charters schools and is of the opinion that they “operate for the profit of their investors.” Cronin also cites the fact that “states fund charter schools for a relatively small number of students and, thereby, deny these funds to traditional public schools, which have the responsibility to educate all of the students.”  Despite the fact that Republicans were the primary advocates of charters, today we also have Democratic governors such as Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York who have become staunch advocates of charter schools in their states.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made his position on charter schools quite clear. In a speech given by Sanders in New Hampshire on Jan. 3, he stated that “I am not in favor of privately run charter schools… I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.”

Ironically, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has clearly indicated during the Republican presidential debates that he intends to abolish the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. if elected as well as eliminating Common Core and allowing the states to take control of public education.

Perhaps the presidential candidate that parents and teachers know the least about concerning her position on K-12 public education is Hillary Clinton. Despite the fact that both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers have given her their early presidential endorsement, Clinton has yet to publicly state at any of the debates or on the campaign trail what her views are on education.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article, the Clinton campaign has given reassurances to their wealthy donors that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would not deviate greatly in her educational policies from her predecessor, President Barack Obama. Hence, it would appear, based on the WSJ article, that Hillary Clinton and her campaign are advocating the continuation of the billionaires’ and corporate America’s influence on K-12 public education.

Parents, teachers and the general voting public can only hope that the media will begin to focus on public education at the remaining presidential debates as well as on the campaign trail and begin to ask crucial questions of all the presidential candidates concerning what their views are on K-12 public education.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D. is a former educator from Fairfield.

Bernie Sanders: Good for K-12 Education

Published in Real Learning http://reallearningct.com/ 

On February 23rd, I wrote an open letter to the Presidential candidates and asked them their positions on K-12 education. I also asked readers to begin the conversation on this blog about who would be the best choice for our kids and for our country.  I received the following statement in support of Bernie Sanders. It informs us about Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sander’s positions on charter schools and the financing of public education. Note the specific details in the WSJ link.  

What are your thoughts about who would be best for K-12 education? Send your statement to annpcronin@gmail.com or comment below. ools and the financing of public education. Note the specific details in the WSJ link. ( This is the editor's note:  What follows is Joe Ricciotti's response).

Read on:   

Teachers and Parents Should Endorse Bernie Sanders Over Hillary Clinton 

One has to wonder whether the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) made a mistake in their early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the presidency.Thus far, according to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) story, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has given reassurances to her wealthy campaign financiers that she will not deviate from the education policies of Barack Obama in the support of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing as a means of measuring schools and teacher effectiveness.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders in a speech in New Hampshire on January 3, 2016 stated that, “I am not in favor of privately run charter schools…..I went to public schools my whole life, so I think rather than to give tax breaks to billionaires, I think we invest in teachers and we invest in public education.” Needless to say, this statement by Bernie Sanders is “earth-shaking” and is in opposition to what the Clinton campaign is advocating which is the continuation of the billionaires’ and corporate America’s influence on K-12 public education.

Also highly innovative and unique among main-stream politicians are Bernie Sanders’ recent comments on school districts’ dependency on property taxes. He believes this dependency on local property taxes is the cause of inequality among the affluent school districts and school districts which are largely impoverished. He cites the fact that the more affluent suburbs have “great schools” whereas schools in the poorer, inner-cities of the nation are substandard. Moreover, he advocates that the federal government needs to play an active role in order to  “make sure that those schools who need it the most get the funds that they deserve.” Needless to say, this type of forward thinking is unheard of in modern-day politics.

One of the concerns of teachers and parents regarding Hillary Clinton’s K-12 positions is her close affiliation with the “millionaire” donors who are helping to fund her presidential campaign. If elected president, will Clinton continue the education policies of her predecessor, Barack Obama, by espousing the use of standardized tests as a measurement of school and teacher effectiveness? Thus far, Hillary Clinton has said very little on the campaign trail to indicate that she plans to change what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has supported during his nearly eight years in this cabinet position. Will Hillary follow in the footsteps of Duncan in his support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along with its flawed standardized tests created by non-educators which have proven to be developmentally inappropriate for young children?

 If Hillary Clinton should be elected in 2016, it will not take very long for the NEA and AFT to know whether they had made a wise decision in their early endorsement. The appointment of the new Secretary of Education will determine whether it will be “business as usual “ and someone who will adhere to the “testocracy” agenda along with the continued privatization movement. Or will it be someone who will move education in a new direction, an Education Secretary who will restore the dignity of the teaching profession and someone who is a true advocate of public education? Shouldn’t Hillary Clinton be indicating her views concerning K-12 education on the campaign trail in order that teachers and parents can make an informed decision whether to vote for her or Bernie Sanders in the upcoming primaries?

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.

Another Great Op-Ed Piece by Joe Ricciotti

Political Leadership, Not Overtesting, Is Our Real Challenge

By Joseph A. Ricciotti on November 13, 2015 9:10 AM

Published in Education Week

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/op_education/2015/11/political_leadership_not_overt.html

Editor's Note: Education Week Commentary editors asked seven education practitioners and leaders to respond to the White House's "Testing Action Plan" and a coinciding Council of the Great City Schools study on mandatory testing. Read what each contributor had to say.

It took the power of parents in the nation as part of the "opt out" of standardized testing movement to realize that the use of standardized tests in public education is a dismal failure. Needless to say, to hear the president of the United States shift his views on standardized testing should now prompt other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, to give up the notion that testing can be used to assess students, teachers, and schools. Moreover, the change in the stifling use of standardized tests as a weapon against public school teachers will deal a deadly blow to the corporate education reformers in the country who relied on these tests for denigrating teachers, as well as for closing public schools and expanding charter schools.

What is needed now in our schools across the nation is a return to allowing teachers the freedom and autonomy to be the sole determiners of student progress. Hence, teachers should be allowed and encouraged to use their expertise and judgment and to base their assessments upon teacher-made tests that are diagnostic and individualized to help determine student strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, these teacher-made tests will be used primarily to help to improve and strengthen instruction, which should be the sole purpose of testing in the classroom.

However, despite President Barack Obama's admission that we are "overtesting," the real challenge facing the teaching profession is a lack of leadership in Washington, DC. It is now up to potential presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, if elected, to make the change of new leadership in the nation a reality by appointing a pro-public-education advocate—and preferably a former educator—as the next secretary of education. The newly appointed cabinet secretary's first legislative act as education secretary should be to diminish the role of high-stakes testing in the nation's public schools and to restore the dignity of the teaching profession.

In light of the early endorsement given to Hillary Clinton by both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is it too much to ask Hillary Clinton—as well as other presidential candidates—about her views on the use of standardized tests in our public schools? Although all public school educators should rejoice in the admission by the president that we are "overtesting," the real joy will come when we have new pro-public-education leadership in Washington as secretary of education. Until then, it is premature to believe there will be any change until we see a fundamental shift of values and goals in which standardized testing plays a diminished role in our nation's public schools. We need organizations such as the NEA and the AFT to challenge the presidential candidates to make a positive difference in the education of our nation's children.

Joseph A. Ricciotti is a retired public school educator. He served as an elementary teacher and principal and as the director of the Teaching Internship Program at the Graduate School of Education, Fairfield University. 

 

Will the CEA’s position on SBAC testing generate parental support?

Published in the CT Viewpoints ( http://ctviewpoints.org/2015/10/21/will-the-ceas-position-on-sbac-testing-generate-parental-support/ ) 

As the results of the SBAC Common Core testing across the nation are made public, the backlash from parents could possibly be severe and felt in every state as well as by the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. The failure of many students, especially in urban areas, could serve as the catalyst to end the crippling education Common Core State Standards reforms that have ushered in a new era of high-stakes testing.

In Connecticut, the most recent state to communicate the unacceptable SBAC test results, we find that urban communities such as Bridgeport have to endure the fact that an unbelievable number in excess of 90% of its students have failed the SBAC tests in math. In many of the suburban communities in Connecticut, we also find that high percentages of the students are unable to meet “proficiency,” which has added more fuel to the “opt out” movement as parents in both urban and suburban communities do not want their children to have failing test grades on their records when their children apply for college. However, the crucial question remains whether the recent Connecticut Education Association (CEA) position on SBAC testing will result in even greater numbers of Connecticut parents resisting future SBAC testing by joining the opt-out movement.

The dismal test score results in Connecticut have also necessitated the corporate reformers to do damage control.

Jennifer Alexander of ConnCan, for example, makes the questionable statement in a press release that “the baseline data will give us a new starting point to determine how well our schools and districts are preparing students for the challenges of “college” and “career,” thereby implying that Common Core will also establish a new role for public education. Hence, Alexander is basically espousing what the corporations want from public education which is to educate “career” ready students for their corporate world. As one English teacher in Connecticut, Elizabeth Natale, stated "the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are preparing students to be “workers” rather than “thinkers” and that government attempts to improve education are stripping away the joy of teaching and are doing nothing to help children.”

When Common Core’s main objective is to prepare “workers” rather than “thinkers,” it also negates opportunities for children to listen to each other and to collaborate on ideas. Common Core also becomes an impediment in allowing teachers opportunities to get to know their children deeply and to bring their interests into the classroom rather than to spend valuable instructional time on test preps. Common Core has also been an agent to dehumanize teaching as teachers must adhere to the mandates of the corporate reformers which runs counter to the needs and interests of their students.

More damage control also spewed from Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), who said, “This year’s results are a baseline, a starting point from which we should see steady improvement in years to come.” Hence, in years to come, if 80% of the Bridgeport students should fail the SBAC math test instead of 90%, would this so called “improvement,” according to Villar, constitute “progress?”

What Villar and Alexander fail to mention, which is supported by research, is the well-known connection between poverty and the Common Core SBAC test results. That is why school districts such as Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven will have lower SBAC test scores while the more affluent communities such as Darien, Westport and New Canaan will have higher scores. Eventually, in this “test and punish” high-stakes atmosphere, we will see public schools in the so called “failing” school districts replaced with a more profitable and selective charter system, which is the hidden agenda of the corporate reformers’ support of Common Core SBAC testing.

As another classroom teacher and edu-blogger, Steven Singer, has made it crystal clear in his statement that “politicians (and corporate education reformers) seem to be committed to keep as many test and punish policies as possible as well as committed to the notion that the only way to tell if a school is doing a good job is by reference to its test scores. High test scores – good school. Bad test scores – bad school. This is baloney!”

Corporate reformers such as Alexander and Villar have a reputation, according to some, for not listening to the voices of Connecticut public school teachers as well as ignoring their pleas. President Sheila Cohen of CEA, which represents 43,000 public school teachers in Connecticut, had this to say about the SBAC testing in a recent statement:

“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. Seventeen of the 32 states that originally signed on to SBAC are no longer subjecting students in their states to the assessment. Here in our state, policymakers and legislators must push ahead in finding a replacement for SBAC.”

In summary, Cohen’s press release indicating that seventeen of the original 32 states have dropped the Common Core assessments does not bode well for the future of SBAC in Connecticut. Needless to say, this is a national reflection of parental dissatisfaction with the Common Core assessments. It would also appear that the Common Core advocates in Connecticut, such as Alexander, Villar and Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell, have failed to anticipate the backlash against the Common Core State Standards and SBAC testing.

Hence, as an outgrowth of the large number of Connecticut students failing the SBAC tests, the reformers have had to resort to the dissemination of misinformation as part of their damage control. However, if the CEA is successful in generating greater parental support through the opt-out movement that opposes SBAC testing for their children, this could turn the tide against SBAC. Moreover, it would also appear as though increased parental resistance might serve as the catalyst to end the national “one-size fits all” Common Core standards. The question remains to be answered whether the Common Core State Standards and its accompanying SBAC testing will become history as another failed experiment of the corporate education reform movement.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D, is a retired educator from Fairfield. He spent 31 years in the Fairfield public school system and retired as an elementary school principal.

OP-ED | New Leadership Needed to End Educational Malpractice Across Nation

by Joseph Ricciotti | Aug 21, 2015 3:40pm 
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Posted to: AnalysisEducationElection 2016LaborOpinion

 


JOSEPH A. RICCIOTTI

There is a test and punish fixation in public education today that is an outgrowth of the education policies of the present U.S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan.

 

His poorly planned, so-called education initiatives such as Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ushered in a plethora of stifling high-stakes testing which has resulted in what the corporate education reformers like to address as “school failures.” What followed was the closing of public schools because of low test scores, many in urban school districts, which were then replaced with charter schools. The corporate reformers are notorious for their use of standardized tests to label the school districts of the poor and the minority as “failures” while systematically underfunding their schools. This was also the beginning of the privatization movement by the corporate education reformers who envisioned public education as the last “honeypot” in the United States.

Needless to say, public education in the country cannot continue to survive another four to eight years of these crippling education policies. Moreover, what is critically needed is the appointment of an education secretary with
some knowledge of public education and preferably a former educator who will help to reverse these initiatives as well as to help to restore the morale and well being of public school teachers.

Hence, one of the most important decisions the newly elected president of the United States will have to make in 2016 will be the appointment of the next Secretary of Education. Listed below are some possible choices of candidates for this position who will help to make the changes that will restore public education in the nation.

1. Diane Ravitch — Perhaps the individual the corporate reformers fear the most, and with good reason, is Diane Ravitch. She is the author of the best selling book,Reign of Error, and also publishes one of the most widely read education blogs, dianeravitch.net, that reportedly has received millions of visits. Hence, there is possibly no one more qualified to be the next Education Secretary than Diane Ravitch, who previously served as Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. She is currently a Research Professor of Education at NYU and a historian of education with a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Without doubt, Dr. Ravitch would be the much-needed educator catalyst to turn around and undo the harm that has been done to public education by the present and past administrations.

2. Lily Eskelsen Garcia — Currently serving as the President of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest labor union, Ms. Garcia would be an excellent choice for Secretary of Education. She is the first Latina to lead the NEA and, needless to say, would provide a much-needed fresh perspective of the education problems facing the nation if appointed to this cabinet position. Most importantly, she is an educator with many years of teaching experience who was named Utah “teacher of the year,” unlike the current Education Secretary whose credentials include being a former basketball player. Lily Garcia is an opponent of the standardized testing movement that she believes is serving to oppress public schools and is a weapon used against teachers. Ms. Garcia would be a “breath of fresh air” as education cabinet secretary.

3. Dr. Carol C. Burris — Perhaps no individual educator has been a more fierce an opponent to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) than Dr. Burris, a principal in Rockville Center on Long Island who is retiring this year in order to devote more time to combat the corporate education reform movement. Since her retirement, she has been appointed Executive Director of the Network for Public Education (NPE). She was a teacher and then a principal who received her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, and also received the NASSP Dissertation of the Year Award. In 2010, she was named Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013 she was named SAANYS “New York High School Principal of the Year.” An author of numerous professional articles, Carol Burris possesses the educational background and credentials that have been lacking in former education secretaries, as well as the present one.

4. Jonathan Pelto — Pelto has been actively involved in Connecticut public policy advocacy and electoral politics for nearly 40 years. In 1984, he was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives as a senior at the University of Connecticut and, over five terms, rose to the level of Deputy Majority Leader. He also was a long-time member of the Appropriations and Education Committee. Most recently, he was a candidate for governor in Connecticut as the nominee of the newly created Education and Democratic Party. His “What? Wait?” blog is widely read by many, especially educators, who consider him an articulate, experienced and well-informed opponent of the corporate education reform movement as well as a staunch opponent of charter schools. Pelto’s vast political experience and understanding of the inner workings of politics would make him an ideal candidate for education secretary.

In summary, it should be noted that none of the Republican candidates currently campaigning for the 2016 presidency would under any circumstances nominate any of the above individuals for education secretary, which leaves only the Democrats — including current frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

However, Anthony Cody who writes for Living in Dialogue, believes Hillary Clinton is too closely aligned with the Gates Foundation, which has been a major donor to the Clinton Foundation, and may also not be willing to buck the very powerful trends confronting public education. Moreover, according to Cody, Clinton has made it clear that she is a “solid supporter of the Common Core and believes that such a testing system helps you organize your whole education system.” Hence, Cody has written off Clinton as a change agent for the nation’s current trajectory in education and is looking more favorably at Bernie Sanders.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D, is a retired educator having served as an elementary school principal for 31 years with the Fairfield Public Schools.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC EDUCATION AS A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN ISSUE

Published in Badass Teachers Association Blog on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-future-of-public-education-as.html

Joseph A. Ricciotti Ed.D.
Retired Educator

Note from the author: I am attempting with these op-ed pieces to elevate the importance of public education in order that it be considered as a presidential campaign issue in the upcoming presidential campaign. Needless to say, I am also hoping that an individual such as Diane Ravitch is appointed as the 2016 Secretary of Education. One can only hope.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is to be applauded for his recently announced presidential platform and for his courage as a presidential candidate to address the issues that are crucial to the future of the United States as well as emphasizing the importance of fighting for the middle class. However, what should also be included in his campaign platform as well as in the campaign platforms of other presidential candidates that is also highly significant is the future of public education in the country. Including the role of public education in the upcoming presidential is critical in order for the United States to maintain its prosperity as well as its global leadership in the decades to come. Hence, the United States needs a president with a 21st century outlook who will elevate the importance of public education as a presidential campaign issue.

Public school teachers, parents and administrators need to elevate the issue of how public education in this country is under siege and currently undergoing its greatest challenge for survival from the threat of privatization and high-stakes standardized testing. Just as Bernie Sanders believes that the middle class in our country is in jeopardy from the oligarchs, likewise oligarchs such as Bill Gates, Bill Walton, Michael Bloomberg, to name a few of the corporate education oligarch reformers, are threatening to change and destroy public education in the nation by replacing public schools with charter schools.

Sadly, in the tri-sate areas of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, we also have governors who are in the privatization camp as all three governors have implemented policies that are considered by many teachers and parents to be anti-public education and who also advocate the replacing of public schools with charter schools. Their anti-public education stance and their erroneous philosophical beliefs are evident as Governors Malloy, Cuomo and Christie have all appointed commissioners of education in their states who support and promote privatization practices. These include their support of education programs such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with its stifling high-stakes standardized testing which is meeting severe parent resistance throughout the nation as the “opt-out” movement spreads like wildfire.

Unfortunately, two of the tri-state governors are Democrats who supposedly belong to the political party that has always supported public education. Needless to say, support of public education is not part of the playbook of either Governor Malloy or Governor Cuomo who have earned the dubious title of “education assassins.” Their anti-education policies are meeting with fierce resistance from organizations such as BATs, United Opt Out, Save Our Schools as well as the Network for Public Education which places the political futures of these Democratic governors in jeopardy as parents and teachers in these states are working together and have formed political movements that are in opposition to the anti-education policies espoused by Malloy and Cuomo. It appears to be a political movement as these groups of parent and teacher activists are in the process of developing clearly articulated positions that are highly critical of the tri-state governors. Likewise, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago faces similar political opposition in his political future. This also raises the fascinating question regarding whether Hillary Clinton in her campaigning for the presidency can choose to ignore this political movement

As most public school teachers, parents and administrators are aware, our present Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been a champion of the wealthy privatization corporate reformers such as Bill Gates. Moreover, Secretary Duncan, a non-educator, has been Bill Gates’ primary advocate of converting public schools into charter schools. Jeff Bryant, an associate at Campaign for America’s Future writes, “a national moratorium on charter schools would stop the hemorrhaging of funds from traditional public schools.”

Needless to say, this type of educational leadership in Washington needs to stop and the next president needs to give serious consideration to appointing a person such as Dr. Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book “Reign of Error” as the next Secretary of Education and someone who will help to restore public education and to support the teaching profession.

Public school teachers today are considered by the corporate education reformers as merely “clerks” whose expertise, craft and artistry are no longer valued. As an outgrowth of Common Core, teachers no longer have any say or voice in the curriculum and can no longer function as reflective practitioners as the corporations and testing companies now determine what is taught and how it is taught. Likewise, local control of education has been seriously eroded and has become a thing of the past by the new federal Common Core standards. Educators realize that Common Core is a top-down reform movement developed by non-educators and supported by Bill Gates.. It is, in essence, sheer politics with no chance of succeeding. Is it any wonder why teaching has been dehumanized when teachers must adhere to the mandates of the corporate reformers even though they know that these mandates run counter to the interests and needs of their students? It is time for teachers and parents to push back against these corporate education reformers and to help restore the dignity of teaching and public education.

Posted by BadassTeacher Association at 12:04 PM 

Who Will Be the Next Secretary of Education

Here are some published articles from former well-loved principal of Riverfield School and recently retired Director of the Teaching Internship program at Fairfield U , Dr. Joe Ricciotti.  His writings will certainly resonate with many of you:
 

 
Published in Badass Teachers Association Blog on:

http://badassteachers.blogspot.com/2015/05/who-will-be-next-secretary-of-education.html?m=1 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

by Joseph Ricciotti
 
Who Will Be the Next Secretary of Education in 2016?

As we approach the beginning stages of the 2016 presidential elections, the stakes for the future of public education in this country could not be higher. Moreover, it is time for teachers, administrators and parents to consider whether the next president of the United States will be a true education president. Needless to say, we cannot afford another four years of an Education Secretary such as Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan who, as a corporate education reformer with his obsession with standardized testing, has done more to privatize and weaken public education than any other Secretary of Education in the past. 



Under Arne Duncan’s regime, we have witnessed the demise of the neighborhood school and the growth of charter schools as part of the privatization movement. He has imposed with his Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core (CCSS) programs a plethora of stifling high- stakes standardized testing - often referred to as the “Duncan testocracy” - on the schools including the use of tests to assess teacher performance. His method of education reform has grossly neglected the impact of childhood poverty on learning for children from impoverished homes. This is what happens when you appoint an unqualified non-educator to the highest education position in the nation.

Likewise, Duncan has been a champion and spokesperson for the wealthy and powerful in the nation in their efforts to privatize public schools and to weaken and ultimately destroy the teaching profession. Duncan’s affiliation with Bill Gates is a prime example. The Obama administration with its “Race To The Top” program has been a continuation of the war on teachers that began when George W. Bush was president with his “No Child Left Behind” testing fiasco. Anyone who denies this extended war on teachers is either a silly, inexperienced fool or a paid shill for the corporate reformers and the testing industry.

Based on the early polling, it appears that Hillary Clinton is a clear frontrunner who more than likely could become the next president of the United States. If she is able to attain the highest office in the country, we need to begin a grassroots movement to convince her to appoint an educator to the position of Secretary of Education. Hillary Clinton has been an advocate of universal pre-kindergarten, arts education in the schools, after-school tutoring as well as smaller class sizes and educators now need to convince her of the need to also be an advocate for a diminishing role of standardized testing in public education. There is no guarantee, however, that Hillary the politician will not follow in the footsteps of her predecessor, President Obama, as she, and especially her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have close ties to Wall Street and to their former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin.

Hence, the crucial need for a grassroots movement consisting of teachers, administrators, parents and students who are concerned about the future of public education in the country and who can help to persuade Hillary Clinton of the importance of not appointing another corporate reformer for Education Secretary. It is critical that the grassroots movement help to push Hillary Clinton to the left on education issues, especially if Jeb Bush is Hillary’s Republican opponent who will more than likely be a staunch candidate for Common Core. In essence, where else can Hillary go other than to oppose Common Core which has become a national curriculum with its ridiculous high-stakes PARCC and SBAC testing?

However, teachers and parents cannot do this alone, as we need organizations such as the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), National Education Association( NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) with their clout, financial resources and numbers to influence Hillary Clinton to appoint someone to the cabinet position of Secretary of Education that is truly a champion of public education as well as someone who also has the support and respect of teachers and parents. We also need to have someone as Secretary of Education who has presidential support and will serve as a catalyst to provide a mission to the new secretary to begin to undo the disastrous harm that Arne Duncan has inflicted on public education in his eight years as Education Secretary.

One name who comes to mind and who has a proven track records in her efforts of supporting public education and teachers is Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” Dr. Ravitch has had experience as the Assistant Secretary of Education during the George W. Bush administration so she possesses first hand knowledge of the inner workings of the Department of Education. Dr. Ravitch has traveled the country giving speeches to teacher groups and parents as there is no other individual that corporate reformers fear more than Diane Ravitch as she is the nation’s leading public school advocate. Her blog is widely read by millions of educators and parents throughout the nation as she has a huge following. Aside from being very knowledgeable and a powerful advocate for public education, she is a highly competent and distinguished educator with a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University and currently a Research Professor at New York University. Diana Ravitch is, without doubt, clearly the person who will lead the charge of restoring public education to its rightful place in the United States.

Hence, the grassroots movement cannot wait until after the election to lay the foundation for the appointment of a proven education reformer and public school advovcate such as Diane Ravitch for education secretary but must begin now. A strategy is needed that will be persuasive in convincing Hillary Clinton to consider Diane Ravitch for the cabinet position of education secretary. Perhaps organizations such as the NEA and UFT can threaten to throw their support to Elizabeth Warren if Hillary doesn’t agree to a progressive such as Diane Ravitch for education secretary. The grass root participants need to have a strategy in which they will frequently speak out during presidential campaign events that will occur very often during the months prior to the presidential election by asking specific questions of the candidates and especially of Hillary Clinton concerning the qualities they will seek when appointing someone to the highest education office in the country.

They need to write many op-ed pieces in newspapers all over the country and will need to be certain that those individuals chosen to narrate presidential debates ask the appropriate questions concerning what qualities will the new president seek in the selection of the Secretary of Education. And finally, what has happened in the New York City’s mayoral election of Bill de Blasio , which was a repudiation of former Mayor Bloomberg’s corporate education reform policies, needs to serve as a model for Hillary Clinton. The message of de Blasio’s election is crystal clear as it indicates that the tide in the country concerning education reform is changing. We now need to see this change occur at the national level and, for this to happen, we need Hillary Clinton to rescue public education.

Students, parents and teachers need her to give serious consideration to appointing an individual to be Secretary of Education that is an educator and one who will restore public education in this country to its rightful place.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.
Retired Educator
 

The destructive impact of accountability on public education (Guest post by Joseph A. Ricciotti) (appearing on jonathanpelto.com  educational blog "Wait What")

Feb 09

jonpeltoDianna Roberge-WentzellEducation ReformJoseph RicciottiNo Child Left Behind ActSmarter Balanced Assessment TestStandardized Testing Joseph Ricciotti,NCLBRTTTSBACSmarter Balanced Assessment TestStandardized Testing 1 Comment

An important guest post from Josesph Ricciotti, a retired educator and a leading public school advocate in Connecticut.  His commentary pieces can be found in many of Connecticut’s media outlets as well as here at Wait, What?

School districts in Connecticut will soon embark on another round of standardized testing referred to as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium( (SBAC) which are tests administered to all students in school districts that are implementing Common Core. Hence, as a life-long educator and a former principal the question I would ask is why? Education officials from the Connecticut Commissioner of Education down to the superintendents of Connecticut school districts immersed in implementing the SBAC tests would say we need “accountability.” Ah, yes, that infamous word “accountability” that has a thirty year record of failing children, parents, teachers and communities.

The era of “accountability” started back in the early eighties when Ronald Reagan was president. Education historian Diane Ravitch and author of the best selling book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” traces the accountability movement back to 1983 when “A Nation at Risk” was published. Ravitch cites “For the past 30 years, U.S. educators have been like a dog chasing its tail. What has happened is tragic.” Ravitch is also of the belief that our nation’s political leadership “have become obsessed with the idea that everything that matters can be measured and that test scores are the ultimate measure for children, schools, teachers, and now, higher education.” As one educator said, “it is as though we want to quantify everything.

For the past fourteen years also in the name of “accountability” we have had No Child Left Behind (NCLB) followed by Race to the Top (RTTT) which, because of the testing aligned with these programs, have been utter failures. And now we are entering a new era of “accountability” with Common Core and the SBAC tests, again, all in the name of “accountability.” In essence, what NCLB and RTTT and now Common Core have done according to Tom Skelar, Dean of the Edgewood School of Education in Wisconsin,”was that over the last 14 years it has literally denied a generation of children access to their fundamental right to a powerful and critical education.” Skelar goes on to state that the only beneficiaries of “accountability” have been legislators and, of course, the testing companies that have made millions on the sale of tests and data systems to schools.

The SBAC tests aligned with Common Core were largely designed by testing experts with minimal input from teachers. Yet so much of teachers’ success under the guise of “accountability” will now be determined by SBAC test scores – or more commonly known in educational circles as “high-stakes testing” – which includes teacher performance evaluations as well as their salaries. As George Ball in an op-ed piece in the San Franciscogate so appropriately stated, “What’s lost in Common Core is the human factor. Teachers are deprived of the freedom and creativity that is the oxygen of learning. Common Core sacrifices the magic of teaching and learning at the alter of metrics.” Needless to say, these are powerful words aimed at what is occurring throughout the nation’s schools in the name of “test-based accountability.

In Westport, where Staples High School principal John Dodig is retiring, he cites his displeasure with the state’s implementation of the SBAC testing tied to teacher evaluation emphatically stating “I don’t believe in it. I think it is hypocritical, it’s destructive and it’s not going to change education.” Under Dodig’s tenure, Staples High School in 2008 was named by Connecticut Magazine as “#1 High School in the State and was also recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2013.

The new interim Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dianne Roberge-Wentzell has wasted no time as her top priority in pushing school districts in Connecticut in the administration and implementation of the SBAC tests aligned with Common Core which are schedule to be given to public school students during the spring of 2015. Why the big rush for tests that are destined to create havoc? According to Jonathan Pelto, the SBAC tests are “designed to ensure that potentially up to 70 percent of students fail to reach goal.” Hence, critics of Common Core testing believe that its evaluation methods are built on bad science, faulty research and compare it to “ building a plane while flying it.” Do we really want the test makers experimenting with our children in the name of “accountability”? Is Common Core and the SBAC aligned tests yet another train wreck waiting to happen?

Research on testing indicates that SBAC test scores will, in reality, simply and basically describe the demographics of students. That is why school districts such as Fairfield and Westport will have high SBAC scores while Bridgeport and Hartford will have low scores. In the end, the SBAC test scores will tell more about the real estate values than the quality of its schools. University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber has shown that nonschool factors such as family income amount to 60% of achievement.

Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, in a recent talk had  a poignant message to education reformers and test makers when she said, “Testing does nothing but show you the educational attainment of the child’s mother. We don’t even see the test results, Why? What is the point of all this testing? These tests are what they are using to ruin people’s lives-adults and children; and then they run around saying, “I’m for the kids.” We continue to brand education as a failure. Why are we telling these lies?”

In light of the nonschool factors that impact student achievement, the Connecticut State Department of Education needs to take a step back and reflect on what their focus on high-stakes testing is doing to our students and what they are doing to our teachers and schools. There is more to teaching and learning than test scores. “Accountability” is the culprit that is demeaning our public schools.

 

 

Common Core Is A Lemon
Published 7:53 pm, Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Connecticut Post

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were dealt a major setback when two states, New York
and Massachusetts, decided to slow down their implementation. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo
has distanced himself from Common Core citing that it is "problematic" as well as "very controversial"
in New York State. Hence, Gov .Cuomo now wants to ask the New York State legislature to "slow
down the Common Core's implementation" and not have any tests aligned with the new standards
administered for five years.


Likewise, Massachusetts also decided to slow down the implementation of Common Core for two
years while it investigates how well the tests aligned with Common Core, referred to as PARCC,
compare with the state's existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam.
The Massachusetts commissioner of education, Mitchell Chester, unlike Connecticut's education
commissioner, Stefan Pryor, believes "that fully adopting the new testing deadline by the 2014-2015
school year is "too precipitous" for his state's schools." Massachusetts and New York will now join 15
other states that have decided to reconsider their involvement with the Common Core while
Connecticut's Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor plan to stay the course
and do not plan to make any changes in the implementation of Common Core.


Undoubtedly, the uprising against Common Core - often referred to as "the core" - in the country, has
not gone unnoticed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Moreover, they
also realize they are losing the public opinion battle as new strategies are being developed by the
Obama administration and their Common Core allies to counteract resistance to the new standards.
One of the staunchest proponents of Common Core is Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham
Institute, a conservative think-tank that has received Gates Foundation funding for the support of
Common Core. Petrilli is of the belief that if the Core proponents want to win the battle, they have to
"get Americans angry about the current state of public education." In regard to the Core's
implementation, Petrilli is also responsible for the statement "the chaos in the classroom will be
great," so it appears that logic has not distinguished either Arne Duncan or Mike Petrilli.
In other words, as the corporate education reformers who have unsuccessfully attempted to do with
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT), by falsely highlighting so-called "failing"
public schools, now want more of the same medicine with Common Core.
In essence, they are trying to convince parents of public school children in the nation that their
schools are failing. Needless to say, the "failing schools" strategy is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated
on the general public in the history of American public education.
It has failed to change the general public's opinion in the past with NCLB and RTTT as parents and the general public continue to hold their public schools in high esteem. Petrilli believes that if parents
can be made angry and convinced that public education and public schools are "failing," it will then
pave the way for acceptance and a smooth implementation of Common Core.


One of the leading opponents of Common Core in the nation is Dr. Carol C. Burris, an award-winning high school principal on Long Island who received her doctorate from Teachers College,
Columbia University, and has researched and written extensively on the Core but perhaps her most
famous and memorable quote is " the Common Core is a lemon and no amount of professional
development will make it right."

We have also heard from Barbara Madeloni, newly elected president of the Massachusetts Teachers
Association (MTA) , a warrior against the corporatization of public education and a fierce critic of
Common Core, cite that what is needed in public education today is a new vision "that must replace
the dehumanizing data-driven madness that is choking the life from our schools." One would have to
think in light of these developments that the tide is turning on Common Core.

11/6/2014 Common core is a lemon - Connecticut Post
http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Common-core-is-a-lemon-5874243.php 2/2   


Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D., of Fairfield, is retired as teaching internship program director at the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University.

 

************************************************************************************************************

Op-Ed: Educational accountability —Is the tide turning against testing mania? 

By: JOSEPH A. RICCIOTTI, ED.D. | September 4, 2014

As published in the CT Mirror

http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-educational-accountability-is-the-tide-turning-against-testing-mania/0/

Public schools throughout the nation today are up to their eyeballs in standardized high-stakes tests which are being used for closing schools and evaluating teacher effectiveness as well as determining student progress.

 

It appears as though the corporate education reformers want to quantify everything in education today. Unfortunately, the concept of empowering teachers cannot be found as a component of implementing the Common Core standards as they usher in yet another new wave of testing for Connecticut public schools.

We find in many school districts that parents are forming opposition groups to the testing mania as well as having their children opt-out of high-stakes tests. The Vermont State Board of Education has recently issued a statement that it will not allow the federal government to bully its children.

 

Little do the corporate reformers realize that there is a silent army of teachers, parents and concerned citizens waiting to be awakened. Likewise, Connecticut politicians are beginning to wake up to the power of grassroots activism throughout the state.

 

The new national education policy of accountability no longer allows for teacher autonomy, which appears to have become a thing of the past. The corporate reformers  have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent teachers from determining what is appropriate content for their students. They are seeking a robotic kind of teaching in which teaching to the test is of primary importance.

 

Moreover, using test scores as the centerpiece of education progress has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum.

 

Diane Ravitch, author of the best selling book, “Reign of Error,” believes that “testing is taking out the joy of teaching. It is sucking the oxygen out of the nation’s classroom."

 

Ravitch envisions a different kind of public education system and asks, “Imagine schools where children were tested every three or four years, at transition points, as in the world’s top performing nations. Imagine schools where teachers wrote their own tests and used their professional judgment.”

 

What is most insidious about the Common Core test is that many schools and classroom teachers do not receive the results until after their students have left, which is of no value to them for reteaching purposes. For example, in many school districts in New York State, the Common Core tests were given in April, scored in May and the results issued in August.

 

If teachers are unable to know which questions on the tests their students got right or wrong, what value is the test? This is another glaring example of how the reformers advocating for Common Core tests are really only interested in ranking students, schools, and in evaluating teachers.

 

There should be a requirement for all corporate reformers to take a course in testing and measurements in order to learn how standardized tests should be used to enhance the learning process of students.

 

But the tide may be turning for the high-stakes testing movement as evidenced by the recent election in Massachusetts where Barbara Madeloni has been elected president of the state’s teacher union, campaigning on the premise of abolishing reliance on standardized tests.

 

Madeloni lambasts the Common Core, a national set of curriculum standards adopted by Massachusetts in 2010, as “corporate deform." She describes the architects of Common Core as “rich white men who are deciding the course of public education for black and brown children.”

 

Similar to Connecticut, Massachusetts has not closed the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic students. According to Madeloni, what standardized tests best do is to “identify the socioeconomic status of the student who took it.”

 

Moreover, Madeloni, believes poor performance on tests has "left under-performing students ashamed and embarrassed and high-ranking students anxious to stay on top, creating a caste system.”

 

A strong advocate of teachers, Madeloni asks, “why are teachers so mistrusted?  And why are teachers, with their content and pedagogical knowledge, not given a greater voice in the classroom?”

 

The George W.Bush administration, followed by the Obama administration, by the year of 2016 will have waged 16 years of war on teachers because it was cheaper than waging a war on poverty. The corporate education reform policies of both administrations have had an agenda for nearly two decades of accountability and testing -- with dismal results.

 

If Hillary Clinton wins the upcoming presidential election, will we have an additional four years of corporate reform education policies. Or will she appoint an educator to the cabinet position of Secretary of Education who will  be an advocate for teachers and public schools and someone who is opposed to the high-stakes testing mania?

 

Public school teachers can only hope and imagine.

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

 

The following article was posted on Dian Ravitch'e web site to discuss better education for all:

Diane Ravitch's blog

http://dianeravitch.net/

Here is the link to the article which is printed below:

Dr. Joseph Ricciotti: How CCSS Ruins Kindergarten

October 13, 2013 

Dear Diane,

As an outgrowth of reading your new book, “Reign of Error” and reading your blog, I have written the op-ed piece below to the Connecticut Post.

Thank you for all you do in your support of public education.

Regards,

Joe Ricciotti

The Developmental Inappropriateness of the CCSS for Kindergarten Children
by Joseph Ricciotti

To:
edit@ctpost.com
To the Editor,

I recently had an opportunity to talk to a kindergarten teacher who taught in an urban school district in Connecticut immersed in implementing the Connecticut Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and was amazed at the changes that have occurred with kindergarten education over the years. As a former elementary school principal, kindergarten was always my favorite grade level as I enjoyed the innocence, naturalness and spontaneity of young kindergarten children and how much they loved school. Most amazingly was how impressively gifted and talented the kindergarten teachers were in accommodating to the intellectual, social, physical and emotional needs of these young children. It was inspiring to see how these kindergarten teachers planned lessons and activities that were intellectually challenging and creative yet very developmentally appropriate and how positively these precious young children responded to the lessons which enabled them to make giant strides and progress in their kindergarten year.

Unfortunately, education reformers such as Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor don’t seem to think much about what is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten children in the zealous implementation the Connecticut Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Moreover, Commissioner Pryor and other reformers are thinking of how can we get these kindergarten children into college as their main focus. In the place of developmentally appropriate activities suitable for young children, Pryor and other “education reformers” want these kindergarteners to begin to work on “academic skills” instead of a kindergarten where creative play as well as language and number development use to be some of the central themes of the curriculum for these young children. Sadly, what we are are also experiencing with the Common Core Elementary Standards for these very young children is stress as many of these vulnerable young children are not prepared for this level of education.

In a recent speech given by the noted child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick at the American Principles Project (APP) in Washington, DC, she cited how the CCSS “will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.” Likewise, Dr. Carla Horowitz of the Yale Child Student Center claims ” the Common Core asks small children to behave like little adults and they are not little adults.” Noted child development expert, Dr. David Elkind wrote two books, “The Hurried Child” and “Miseducation” citing how schools have had a downward extension of the curriculum which have impacted children in their early years of schooling with inappropriate and test-driven instruction. He also believes that “miseducation” in the early years ” can leave the child with lifelong emotional disabilities.”

A parent of a kindergarten child in Palm Beach County, Florida shares her daughter’s experience in which she had her first test. According to the parent, each student taking the test in this kindergarten class was separated by a cardboard wall and were given a five page test on numbers. When the parent inquired from the teacher why these kindergarten children required testing, the teacher responded, “they have to be prepared for testing in first grade. ” In New York City, testing of young children has reached the point of absurdity in which many parents of preschool children are known to pay tutors $200 an hour preparing them for an entrance exam in order to enhance their chances of obtaining a place in one of the elite New York City private schools. One wealthy New York City couple even celebrated their daughter’s high test score with a catered bash at their Hampton’s home with the child’s closest preschool friends.

As Diane Ravitch, education historian and research professor of education at New York University, in her new book “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” points out that “since the advent of No Child Left Behind, many schools have cut back on every subject that was not tested.” Hence, according to Dr.Ravitch, we find that many public schools are cutting back on other subjects such as history, literature, dramatics, art, music and foreign languages at the expense of basic skill subjects which are the ones that are tested. The subjects being eliminated were once the norm in ordinary public schools, as Dr. Ravictch belives that programs such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race To the Top (RTTT) have undermined the ideal curriculm in many public schools, especially in the more impoverished urban schools. The amount of testing for children of all ages in Connecticut schools including the very young in Connecticut will only intensify as Commissioner Pryor implements the Connecticut Common Core State standards which will also, in part, be used for the assessment of Connecticut teachers. Needless to say, the stakes are very high for teachers, students and parents.

Ms. Ann Policelli Cronin, an experienced high school English teacher in Connecticut believes that much of what has been written about the CCSS is “based on a faulty premise about their quality.” She disputes what New York Times editorial writers Charles Blow and Bill Keller have written concerning the importance of the CCSS as Ms. Cronin believes, “the Common Core State Standards will diminish student learning in high school classes and will inhibit good teaching.” When parents and teachers examine who are the staunchest supporters of the CCSS, they will find the likes of Bill Gates, Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush who, in addition to advocating for the implementation of the CCSS in schools across the country, are among the most vociferous leaders of the corporate education reform movement.

If it hasn’t become obvious to Commissioner Pryor, CCSS could become another failed experiment of the education reformers as was the case with NCLB and RTTT, only its victims will be the many young children in public schools exposed to inappropriate developmentally curricula. The recent primary elections for the Board of Education in Bridgeport and for the mayoral race in New York City do not bode well for Commissioner Pryor and for his friends in the corporate reform movement.

One message that is quite clear from these elections is that the general public is starting to realize that more testing will not improve student learning and that the reformers’ obsession with testing has only made the country’s education worst, not better. As David Lee Finkel, a middle school teacher in Florida said, the general public, parents and teachers “want a public education system that isn’t an industrial factory spitting out test takers but want schools that are places for deep thinking, learning, creativity, play, wonder, engagement, hard work and fun.”

The public choice is becoming quite clear as an outgrowth of these recent elections as the high-stakes testing era may now be in its twilight years.

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.
Teaching Internship Program Director
Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions
Fairfield University
jricciotti@fairfield.edu
203-254-4000, ext. 2284

 **************************************************************

 
The following letter to the editor by Dr. Joseph Ricciotti, former well-loved principal of Riverfield School and currently Director of the Teaching Internship program at Fairfield University, was published in the CT Post prior to the 2012 presidential election.  He wrote about the need for careful evaluation of the candidates in the light of their voting records showing support of teachers and public education regardless of party. His article certainly  gives us a lot to think about as Election Day 2013 approaches.  Thanks Joe.

As we approach the November elections, teachers across the nation find themselves in a quandary as they observe that the policies of the Democrats, who used the be the party supporting public education and public school teachers, are no longer distinguishable from the educational policies of the Republican party. Although President Obama's rhetoric often extolls the importance and virtues of public education and public school teachers, in reality, his policies, implemented by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are very conservative in nature and more consistent with Republican principles. For example, Race to the Top (RTTT) (often referred to as "race to nowhere") is very much a Republican doctrine that extends No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to an even a greater degree as it attempts to use test scores to assess teacher effectiveness. In essence, RTTT is more negative and punitive than NCLB and comes right out of the play book of the right wing ideologue Republican party. Hence, is it any wonder that teachers find themselves in a dilemma as to how to vote and whom to elect to positions of political leadership.

If the Democrats continue with their right wing conservative educational policies, they will alienate the teachers and teacher unions that have traditionally been the party's staunchest supporters. More importantly, these misguided policies and initiatives will deal a severe blow to public education and to the quality of the teaching profession as well as  the morale of our teachers. You cannot, on the one hand, preach about the importance of teachers for our children and to the future of our nation while implementing educational policies that are literally destroying public education in this country. Obama must also observe the slow, steady tide of resentment from teachers and parents that are tired of being scapegoated. There is, however, still time for President Obama to change the direction of the misguided policies of his first term in office by laying out a new set of proposals and agenda for a second term, if reelected. First and foremost, he must dump Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and replace him with someone who is an educator and who also has a vision for education that is supported by the nation's teachers. Two individuals who come to mind are Linda Darling Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University and former president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future and Diane Ravitch, Education Historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education.It would appear, based on comments made in his more recent speeches, that President Obama is beginning to realize in comments made concerning  the excessive testing taking place in schools for the sake of accountability is not working. Moreover, if the Democratic Party is truly committed to a progressive education platform, the following should be included:

A. Fully fund public education and public schools. We are a nation at risk and can no longer afford not to make education the nation's highest and most important priority. Both Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan effort need to elevate education in the same fashion as defense  in this country is elevated. We have witnessed the devastating impact that state budget cuts have had on the quality of education necessitating teacher layoffs resulting in larger class sizes as well as negatively impacting early childhood education. We can no longer allow children to be in sub-standard schools with large classes and inexperienced teachers. Small classes, particularly in kindergarten and first grade, should not exceed 15 students as research shows that smaller classes in these early years, especially in urban schools, can make make a difference in long-term outlook. Likewise, we need to stop the movement toward privatization of public schools by putting a halt to the growth of charter schools.

B. Begin a war on poverty. There is a mistaken notion among reformers and especially among politicians that good teachers alone can improve the lives of children in poverty. This notion is what the pseudo-reformers and politicians want the public to believe in order that they might escape the heat of abandoning their responsibilities in helping the poor. It is music to the ears of right-wing foundations and corporate capitalists when they are told that poverty is no excuse for poor children not learning. Poverty in this country is exploding and politicians can no longer escape the fact that when children come from homes with not enough food to go around, they can't be expected  to learn in school with even the best teachers on the face of the planet. Neither are more tests and longer school days the answer for when children face a myriad of problems stemming from poverty such as crime, hunger, homelessness, poor parenting etc., it  will take more than good schools and outstanding teachers to solve the problems. Arizona State Professor Gene Glass in his book, "Fertilizers, Pills and Magnetic Strips" argues that it is "poverty and discrimination that threaten American education", not teachers or teacher unions. In the recent strike in Chicago what has gone unnoticed in the mainstream media is the fact that 87% of public school children who live in Chicago come from low-income families. Many of these low-income families have collapsed from  the recession with its high unemployment rate as well as from neighborhoods that have deteriorated from crime and disinvestment. Hence, the plain and simple truth is that teachers cannot do this alone and unless politicians and reformers make eradicating poverty a number one priority, schools will continue to languish.

C. Support the professionalization of teachers by elevating the status of the teaching profession in order to attract more young people into teaching. Stop the madness of high-stakes testing and the paranoia that exists on the part of politicians with accountability. Tests should be used for diagnostic purposes to improve learning and not for evaluating teachers and schools. The public is gradually learning that standardized tests which are the foundation for education reform are fundamentally and irreparably flawed and doomed for failure. What is it with politicians in both parties who believe that teachers are the ones who need to be heavily regulated and supervised while giving Wall Street and bankers a free pass ? Embrace the power and necessity of collective bargaining and teacher tenure and do not attempt to relegate teachers to second class citizenship. Distance yourself from so called reformers such as Michelle Rhee who is, in actuality, a conservative in progressive clothing. Moreover, distance yourself from organizations such as Teach for America (TFA) that undermines the professionalization of teachers whose disciples espouse ridiculous concepts that it is not necessary to attend professional colleges of education in order to become a teacher. TFA would never fly in the suburbs as the parents would never stand for it !  As  one supervisor of TFA  students noted, "what is it about accepting sickeningly inexperienced and unprepared teachers that makes it ok for the children of the poor? " Likewise, as Bill Moyers of PBS recently indicated, stand clear and be cautious of the American Legislative Reform Commission (ALEC), an organization in which a collaboration between corporations and conservative legislators whose main goal is the privatization of education.

The value of public education in our society cannot be underestimated for it isn't important because it serves the public but because it creates the public. As Benjamin Barber said, "public schools must be understood as public not because they serve the public but because they establish us as a public and give meaning to we the people."  Public education is the foundation of our democracy and, Horace Mann, father of American education, referred to the common school "as the greatest discovery ever made by man." He was talking about public, not privatized schools and believed that all students should be educated equally and responsibly. That is why programs such as NCLB and RTTT are so detrimental to public education because they are basically ill-conceived schemes  that will wipe out centuries of public school tradition. When the public fully comprehends the damage these programs are inflicting upon public education such as closing schools, firing teachers and leaving students out in the cold, they will abandon them like a hot potato. Hence, is it any wonder why teachers feel they are without a political party ?

Joseph A. Ricciotti, Ed.D.
Teaching Internship Program Director
Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions
Fairfield University
203-254-4000, ext.2284
jricciotti@fairfield.edu








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Betty Mulholland | Reply 02.06.2016 10.48

Right on target. Too much testing stifles the creative process.
As a teacher participant at Nature's Classroom, I saw students flourish in creative environs.

Betty Mulholland | Reply 02.12.2015 10.38

Always good to see that you keep writing article that are relevant to the problems of education.
Thanks for your hard work.

Alice Britton | Reply 02.12.2015 09.48

What a wonderful article. I wish everyone would think like this!

Betty Mulholland | Reply 12.02.2015 00.42

Dear Joe,
I do enjoy reading your articles. I only wish that the hiigher ups would pay attention to your concerns.

Bob Gillette | Reply 24.11.2014 13.07

Joe,
Your analysis of threatening trends in public education is right on target. Painful. Today's teachers, students and parents deserve more. Keep battling.

Betty Mulholland | Reply 21.11.2014 09.22

Especially enjoyed this last article. When will they ever learn to let educators do their jobs.

Betty Mulholland | Reply 09.10.2014 17.27

Love your articles. Keep them coming.
Especially agree with last paragraph in first article.

Ken Tavares | Reply 07.10.2014 18.14

Dear Joe,

Your voice is so very important. It is just too bad that it does not reach a larger segment of our society.

Betty Mulholland | Reply 15.09.2014 17.58

Dear Joe,
Thanks for your insights on the education system. I was so fortunate to work with you. You trusted me to do the right thing for my students. Bravo.

Betty Mulholland | Reply 09.12.2013 10.57

We "old School" teachers realize the value of educating the child at his/her appropriate developmental level. Play, recess and creative arts are vital.

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