At yesterday’s State Board of Education Meeting, Commissioner Stefan Pryor recommended, and the State Board voted, to take over the New London School System. They also voted to renew Achievement First – Bridgeport’s charter for another five years.
As was the case with Windham’s Schools, the Commissioner and Board determined that the New London’s democratically elected Board of Education was not capable of running a school district without state oversight.
At the same time, the Commissioner and board members decided that while Achievement First – Bridgeport “has some work to do on its curriculum,” it is “helping to close the state’s achievement gap.” The school’s performance was so impressive that the State Board of Education not only voted to give the school a five year renewal (instead of a more limited three year renewal), but it also approved Achievement First’s request to add 135 new seats at the school, which will mean an additional $350,000 a year in state funds for the school, when the new charter school funding formula is fully implemented.
So Achievement First – Bridgeport must be succeeding where Windham and New London are failing.
But take a look at the following chart and don’t forget that the greatest predictors of poorer performance on standardized test scores are poverty, language barriers and the number of students who need special education services.
Greater poverty, a higher percentage of special education students and higher numbers of non-English speaking students mean lower school or district wide test scores.
The data is absolutely clear. Achievement First – Bridgeport has fewer poor children, half the number of special educations students and less than a fourth the number of non-English speaking students…and yet their test scores are the same as Windham’s and significantly lower than New London’s.
Think about it.
Achievement First – Bridgeport’s students are less poor, less likely to need special education services and far less likely to have language barriers and yet they do far worse on standardized tests than New London’s students and about the same as Windham’s students.
But Windham and New London face an unprecedented state takeover and Achievement First – Bridgeport is rewarded with a 5 year renewal of their charter and permission to expand.
What would account for such an outrage?
Ignorance? Unlikely, I got these numbers right off the State Board of Education’s website.
On the other hand, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education and the Chairman of the State Board of Education are both “big supporters” of charter schools. As we know, Commissioner Pryor was a founding member of Achievement First, served as one of their Directors for eight years, resigning that position only to accept Governor’ Malloy’s offer to become Commissioner, and, as a Director for Achievement First, voted for their aggressive expansion plan that calls for nearly doubling the number of students they manage.
Meanwhile, Chairman Taylor is a long-time member of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board, ConnCAN being the charter school advocacy group created by Achievement First. ConnCAN being the group that spent half a million dollars lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s proposal to expand funding for Connecticut’s charter schools.
So there you have it, the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education are taking actions that directly benefit organization that they are connected too, while undermining the most basic democratic rights of two of Connecticut’s communities.
There are some who would say that it is almost criminal.
Here is the data:
|5th Grade Reading at Goal||6th Grade Writing at Goal||% Free or reduced lunch||% Special Education||% Not Fluent in English||% From homes where English is not the Primary Language|
|Achievement First Bridgeport||23.6%||26.6%||66%||8%||6%||6%|
|New London Schools||36.6%||34.8%||94%||14%||21%||25%|