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Students Take Learning To The Streets To Defend Teachers

by | Jun 11, 2012 9:09pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education, Town News, Westport

WESTPORT—Over 100 students gathered in front of Westport’s Staples High School this morning to protest the aspect of Public Act 12-116, An Act Concerning Education Reform, which requires annual performance evaluations of principals, administrators, and teachers, based upon a new standard of “effective practice” and a framework developed by the state’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC).

—More photos

Wearing badges with numbers representing scores on standardized tests, student leaders Jordan Shenhar, Mike Holtz and Will Horne urged their classmates be more active in lobbying for a more holistic approach to evaluation than simply “posting a status on Facebook.” Holtz invited students to attend Monday evening’s Westport Board of Education meeting to ensure their voices are part of the conversation as policy is made. They’re also circulating a petition.

“We need to get the word out because policymakers…always think it’s great to set standards, but sometimes you have to think about what standards you’re setting and what exactly you’re doing, because the measures you’re putting out actually affect people’s lives,” Holtz said. “You have to make sure the standards and measures are good measures…that’s what concerns me.”

The idea for the protest came from an AP English assignment to do a project that would utilize students’ rhetoric and persuasion skills to work on something about which they felt particularly passionate.

Several parents and teachers, including 37-year veteran English teacher, and former leader of the Westport teacher’s union, Dick Leonard, were on hand to lend support.

Watch what they had to say.


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(14) Archived Comments

posted by: Alex from Nevis | June 12, 2012  6:44am

Well Lenin did say “Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever.” Is it terrifying to see children co-opted into service for the union? Maybe, but it is predictable.

Mr. Leonard thinks that evaluating a teacher based roughly 1/4 on test scores where applicable (in subjects like math and reading) is “not gonna work out?” How else can a school identify where an individual teacher needs help/training? Knowing how an entire school rates is fine and dandy, but it’ll never help the individual teachers improve to the benefit of our children.

Can Billy add 2+2? No, but he has soaring self-esteem and a new respect for the struggle of the downtrodden union members struggling to live on salaries that now surpass the private sector, top rate health insurance, and life-long guaranteed pensions.

The government in CT rules by the consent of the unions. Its time to break the public sector unions’ vice-grip on our lives.

posted by: saramerica | June 12, 2012  7:46am


Alex, like so many adults you underestimate the intelligence and critical thinking skills of teenagers, assuming that this is them being “co-opted” rather than having thoughts and ideas of their own. The students had a choice of any subject for their rhetorical skills project and they chose this, because they are the ones being tested. My child has exactly the same opinion about the CAPTs. She was lied to by her principal, told that “colleges look at CAPTS”, which is total bullshit. I called several college admission offices, including University of Pennsylvania and none of them look at state mandated tests.

The point Dick Leonard makes about standardized tests being useful over a large group but less so in a smaller group in an individual year is backed up by research. Unfortunately our governor and our current Secretary of Education seem intent on ignoring research in favor of misguided policy.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | June 12, 2012  9:16am


These kids will do well in life. They read the tea leaves correctly. Shine those apples, scrub those blackboards and wipe those brown noses you little go-getters.

Now you need to start a non-profit (easy paperwork), write a blog, and seek funding from the NEA and AFT affiliates here in CT.

You can do this!

CT Kids for CT Teachers!

I just love it you little Bolsheviks…...er Capitalists.

When do they march on the gold dome of Xanadu in Hartford?

posted by: saramerica | June 12, 2012  1:12pm


It’s a good thing you aren’t a YA author, Goatboy, cause it’s clear you have no respect for teenagers.

posted by: Jeff Klaus | June 12, 2012  2:47pm

I actually agree that in high performing districts, the state tests are a remarkable waste of time for most kids.  One of the flaws of the reform initiative is that so far its a one-size fits all approach.

But on this “protest” thing, its pretty clear that some teachers have taken up not an insignificant amount of class time to “educate” their students on the evils of accountability. If my kid came home and spewed this propoganda, I’d have a conversation with the principal about the appropriate use of school time.

But then again, if Sara wants to afford equal time to bring reformers in to talk to the students, I’m sure ConnCAN would be game.

posted by: saramerica | June 12, 2012  3:53pm


It’s really fascinating how someone who allegedly cares about education has so little respect for the intelligence and critical thinking skills of students. These students had the choice to do anything for their end of year project. They debated several subjects and chose this one. And yet Jeff, Alex, and Goatboy all assume that they have been “co-opted” by unions “educated w propaganda” and are “brown-nosing” their teachers rather than doing research and developing informed and rational opinions for themselves.

I consider myself fortunate to have had teachers in my life who weren’t like you guys, and who challenged me with respect for my intelligence and without thinking that I was the sum of my test scores.

posted by: Linda12 | June 12, 2012  3:54pm

So when kids are judged as not being able to think critically and problem solve it is the schools’ fault.

When they are able to think critically and problem solve (even a topic of choice) they were brainwashed.

ConnCon - really Klauss - they just won the Bernie Madoff Education Award…These students could teach Riccards and you a thing or two.

Focus on banking please…turn around banks are coming soon with Bankers for America replacing the incompetent employees.

What is a “reformer” by the way…just wondering…they seem to be tripping all over each other with conflicting messages.  Time to get back on message so you don’t confuse anyone.

posted by: Speak up | June 12, 2012  4:28pm

“Spewed propaganda”

Here is some propaganda for you:

We don’t just worry about high school graduation rates (we lose 50% by the way).  We worry about the percentage of students accepted to the most competitive colleges in the country.

We won’t rest until that number is 100%.



posted by: brutus2011 | June 12, 2012  5:31pm


Kids from affuent communities are not the focus of today’s education reform movement.

Kids from poor and/or minority communites ARE the focus of today’s reform movement.

It is about SES or socio-economic status.

Those kids whose home environments are stable with good resources tend to have the kinds of academic and life outcomes that everyone wants for their kids.

Those kids whose home environments are unstable without adequate resources tend to have academic and life outcomes that everyone does not want their kids.

I realize most of you are saying—“Tell me something I don’t know!”

To which I reply, then why are people like “Jeff Klaus,” the ConnCan Boys, and our very own organic Trojan Horse, Ct. State Education Commish Pryor, trying to help us poor folk?

And why are politicians like Arne Duncan, Daneel Malloy, Bill Fitch, and John DeStefano so worried about us poor folk?

Its about the money folks.

But the saddest part of all of this is not only will the outcome of poor children not improve, but the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.

And “Jeff Klaus,” because of your support for the privatization of the schools in my community, I will never put a cent into Webster Bank.

posted by: saramerica | June 12, 2012  6:41pm


Bingo, Speak Up. Fortunately, some kids have been taught the critical thinking skills to see through THAT kind of “spewed propaganda.” One of the most influential books and analyzed in HS was Animal Farm by George Orwell. I was fortunate to have an exceptional teacher. Fortunately no one was judging her on our test scores, and because we weren’t wasting a month and a half being prepped for and taking the CAPT’s we read and analyzed a third more books than kids do today in Honors sophomore English. See what these “educational reforms” and “improvements” have done?

posted by: Linda12 | June 12, 2012  8:22pm


Did you think it was propaganda when
ConnCon paid for sandwiches and bus rides for the student rally….students for reform or something like that. When asked by a reporter why they were at the Capital they were not able to answer the question.

When Rhee had her “grassroots” rally with five parents and the camera crew was that coerced?

Or are you just concerened when it is public school students and it doesn’t favor your agenda?

posted by: Speak up | June 12, 2012  9:05pm

To Sara….Animal Farm teaches so many lessons. Jeff K would love a classroom of Boxers…..Jeff is always right and we will study for the test some more (we will work harder). 

To Brutus….I am closing my Webster account and it is amazing how much time he blogs during the work day.

posted by: saramerica | June 12, 2012  9:10pm


Exactly, Brutus. Note how Jeff Klaus - and Commissioner Pryor - are sanguine about testing in the affluent communities. Pryor said that he isn’t concerned that there are no affluent communities in the pilot scheme for evaluations:

Members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which has been working to finish the evaluation guidelines by July 1, also expressed some concern that none of the state’s wealthiest districts applied to pilot.  http://ctmirror.org/story/16536/coming-school-near-you-teacher-evaluations-based-student-performance

“There was some concern about that,” said Pryor. “I am not overly concerned.”

There are some districts that this state model will never impact, said Pryor, noting that “a small number” of school systems are doing a superior job with their independent evaluation system and will get a waiver.”

And ConnCan’s Klaus: “I actually agree that in high performing districts, the state tests are a remarkable waste of time for most kids.” 

So…yeah. Testing is good…for POOR MINORITY KIDS IN INNER CITIES. In other words, the underfunded school districts, where now Governor Malloy and Pryor are trying to get legislature to trade democracy for the funding that the districts are due under ECS.


Quite Machiavellian, really.

posted by: CONconn | June 14, 2012  11:22am

Jeff Klaus, your comments sound an awful lot like how ConnCAN marched in parents and students with blue shirts into town hall meetings and gave them a scripted set of questions to ask and things to cheer for, because they assumed they couldn’t think for themselves.

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