Questions For The New CEA President-3


The Connecticut Education Association will hold elections for a new president in May. The two candidates for president of the CEA are Jeff Leake and Robert Smoler. Jeff Leake is currently CEA vice-president, and Robert Smoler is president of the Fairfield Education and Association and a math teacher at Fairfield Warde High School in Fairfield, CT. I have asked them twelve questions about issues regarding education that face us as a state. I have previously posted two sets of the candidates’ answers. Here are their answers to the third set of questions:

Jeff Leake

5.What is your position on standardized testing? What do you think about Connecticut’s current practices regarding standardized testing? Would you recommend those practices remain the same or be changed and, if so, how?

Standardized testing, although now disconnected from teacher evaluation, is still a burden for students and the learning process. Standardized testing has narrowed instruction and the student assessment process. We need to end every-year testing for our grade 3-8 students and implement representative testing (NAEP model).

6. What is your position on charter schools in Connecticut?
a. The original idea for charter schools was to create innovative, teacher-controlled learning spaces.

b. Charter schools have become for-profit business opportunities and have increased racial and economic segregation in our nation.

c. The proliferation of charters needs to end, and those presently operating need real and effective oversight.


Robert Smoler

5. What is your position on standardized testing? What do you think about Connecticut’s current practices regarding standardized testing? Would you recommend those practices remain the same or be changed and, if so, how?

Standardized tests, as they are currently viewed, are one of the great disservices to our youth and the education system as a whole. They do not measure achievement, but rather measure the ability to do well on a particular test that has inherent biases built into it. These types of tests also correlate to the relative wealth of a community. So, it is not doing anything to close the achievement gap.   If anything, it exacerbates it. Children in poor communities are likely to get a sub-par education as their faculty and administration must feel so much more pressure to “teach to the test.” These tests should not be used to reflect student capabilities, the effectiveness of teachers nor the quality of public schools. That said, they represent one of many data points that could be helpful in informing teacher instruction. To the extent standardized tests aid the instruction process, I am in favor of maintaining them in a limited manner. If these tests were to be used in any other way than informing instruction, then they should be eliminated.

6. What is your position on charter schools in Connecticut?

Public schools are treasures that need to be cultivated. They are central to our democracy. I am against any alternate education system that siphons funds out of the public school system or puts our schools under the influence of corporate entities. I also believe that when our public schools are properly resourced; they do a tremendous job educating students. Clearly, there are failing schools, but they are only failing because governmental entities have failed to recognize the unique challenges of these district, mostly poverty, and withheld the type of support from these districts that would allow them to succeed.

I’ve seen this movie before. When I was in the healthcare industry, managed healthcare companies came onto the scene promising to lower costs and improve quality versus traditional indemnity health insurance plans. In the early going, these plans were less expensive, not because they were doing such a great job, but because they were cherry picking the healthy customers and leaving the indemnity plans to insure the sick. Each time more healthy people went to the managed care plans, the cost of the indemnity plans went up until they were no longer affordable and they disappeared. At that point, the managed care plans had to begin insuring everyone and wouldn’t you know it, they became just as expensive as the indemnity plans were after a short while.

That’s what is happening in public education today. The charter schools are cherry picking the stronger students out of the public schools and as a result their scores look good. If charter schools ever had to educate everyone, no doubt their results would look the same or worse than that of today’s public schools. In fact, there is the risk that once charter and private schools have all of the students, they might find it unprofitable and pull out of the business, leaving whole communities without a mechanism to educate their children.

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