The consistently wrong path to better schools by Wendy Lecker

Wendy Lecker, the pro-public education advocate and fellow columnist hits it out of the park; again, with a new commentary piece in Stamford Advocate entitled “The consistently wrong path to better Schools.

Improving education achievement in our major cities must be a top priority for all of Connecticut’s citizens.  Access to higher quality public schools is a fundamental American right, and is even guaranteed by Connecticut’s Constitution.  In addition, in the near future, 40% of Connecticut’s entire workforce will be coming from our state’s poorer, urban, Priority School Districts.  Our state’s economic future depends on providing all of our young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.  Finally, the price tag for creating quality schools is not cheap.  Connecticut’s schools are already underfunded and yet Connecticut taxpayers are paying about 80% of the entire educational expenses in cities like Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

Education is both the economic and civil rights issue of our time.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas, “Special Master,” Steven Adamowski and the corporate education reformers claim to have the solution – simply hand our public schools over to private corporations.

The approach being perpetrated by these corporate reformers couldn’t be more wrong and Wendy Lecker’s latest column dives that point home.

Wendy Lecker writes;

“Most people who board the wrong train headed to the wrong destination get off and look for the right train.

But not the educational leadership of Hartford.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, a protégé of the controversial “reformer” Steven Adamowski, has climbed on the wrong train despite the obvious signs that it will take Hartford in the wrong direction.

In her state of the schools address, Kishimoto highlighted a study conducted for her by University of Connecticut researchers. The study measured, by neighborhood, factors that inhibit the ability to learn, such as child poverty, the percentage of adults without high school or college degrees, crime, health, housing and neighborhood stability, and community assets such as preschool and after-school programs.

Fifty years of research have established that these out-of-school influences account for the majority of differences in student achievement.

In a recent New York Times article, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon summarized his research demonstrating that income inequality is the prime factor in educational disparities. As Professor Reardon noted, schools do not “produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.”

Reardon’s research revealed that the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students has widened in the past three decades largely because income inequality has increased, affluent students arrive to kindergarten better prepared than poor students, and affluent parents spend more on enrichment and tutoring.

Our best chance to reduce academic disparities, then, is to work to reduce economic inequities.

To the extent schools can help, we must give them the capacity to counteract the forces that hinder learning. That means a sufficient number of social workers, school psychologists, health centers, extra academic help and support for children and families, as well as a rich and varied curriculum.

However, rather than address the factors that prevent Hartford’s neediest children from learning, Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto seems intent on taking us in completely the wrong direction, ignoring the evidence she herself requested.

First on Kishimoto’s agenda is expanding the Achievement First charter franchise in Hartford. Achievement First, Inc., already operates a charter school in Hartford and is notorious for failing to serve Hartford’s neediest children. In a city where 43 percent of students come from non-English-speaking homes, only 4.8 percent of Achievement First’s students come from non-English-speaking homes. In Hartford, 18 percent of students are not fluent in English; at Achievement First, 4.8 percent. Thirteen percent of Hartford’s students have disabilities compared with 7.5 percent at Achievement First. Moreover, Achievement First has a 25 percent attrition rate.

Achievement First, a state charter school, is funded directly by the state and is not part of Hartford’s school district. However, Hartford Public Schools must pay for special education services and transportation for Hartford children attending the school. On top of this requirement, Hartford public schools paid $1.5 million dollars for capital improvements on Achievement First’s school building, which the charter uses for free. Additionally, Hartford and Achievement First entered into an agreement whereby the district pays more money to the charter company. This coming year, the district is scheduled to pay Achievement First over $3.2 million.”

Wendy’s assessment the approach being implemented by Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is harsh but 100% accurate.

Take the time to read the whole column at the Stamford Advocate at:

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    And how is it that these incitful pieces of information never reach the Advocate’s sister paper the CT Post? Is it that people in Bridgeport think it may not be necessary? Or can they not read? Do they not care about their children’s education? Are they independently wealthy and preparing to send their children to Choat? Or is the power of the mighty buck making the truth disappear? Or is Linda Lambast waiting for Mr. Vallas to go up to the mountain top with his shovel and bring down the next bucket full? Can I get some Cool Aid?

    • wendy lecker

      My pieces should be in the Ct. Post as well.

      • Linda174

        Thank you Wendy for all your articles. You have also educated your fellow journalists as well as the public.

        • Apartheid First

          Really. It looks like there was some pro-TFA piece in the NYT this weekend, and in the little rinky-dink Willimantic Chronicle Week-end edition, they took one of their reformy reporters out of moth balls to do the same for the locals.
          It is a well-oiled machine that keeps such organizations going.
          And excellent columns like Lecker’s or Darer Littman’s do not make it to the NYT. Nor do these papers, large and small, accord the truth about school reform the dignity of a column, relegating this info to opinion pages, as if that’s what it is.

        • JMC

          Newspapers give pride of place to organizations which may/have/will buy ad space with them. The reformers know this very well.

        • cal

          This is an honest question really….can someone just explain to me how students in hartford get some of the highest per student spending in the state yet there are no enough textbooks.

  • brutus2011

    We all need to stop our whimpering.

    And focus on the fact that this is a public opinion war.

    They are winning because we are idiots who either forgot, or did not pay enough attention to, our history lessons..

    We need to stop being idiots and mobilize the ordinary citizen.

    And take back the night from those who would subvert our republic to make a few, ok a lot, more bucks.

    • Apartheid First

      I don’t see this as a public opinion war. Most parents and even most school districts do not have the resources that Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family empire have. They buy politicians, publishers, newspapers, testing companies, charter school management groups, and TFA. If this were a matter of common sense, school reform would never have taken hold.
      For that matter, the racism and segregation that fuel the 2 Connecticuts might have ended with Brown V. the Board of Education or the Civil Rights movement.
      But the power of the almighty dollar (or whatever is the currency of empire) is very hard to fight.
      We are fighting, though.

    • Linda174

      Who says we are not mobilizing? People don’t just post here. Not all can mention what else they do, but they are doing. Rise up…spread the word where you can. We are.

  • msavage

    We already KNEW all of this. We’ve heard it over, and over, and over, and OVER again. What are we going to DO about it?

  • msavage

    Here’s what I find extremely frustrating. We keep having our attention directed to everybody’s clever columns. Yes, very intelligent. Very well-written. Important message–but we keep hearing it over and over again and the reformers just keep humming merrily along. Yet the two times I’ve actually asked for advice re taking ACTION about something–opting my child out of the CMTs or figuring out how to lead a district in a rejection of the Common Core Standards–it’s cricket time. Chirp, chirp, chirp. How about taking some of that clever column time and directing it toward developing some resources for helping parents who are actually ready to DO something? Wendy’s the head of the CT chapter of Parents Across America, right? And a lawyer. Maybe the head of PAA with some knowledge of CT law could develop a framework for helping parents who wish to take action? Yeah, another clever article–but how about something more practical?

    • msavage

      Sorry, this particular post obviously rubbed me the wrong way. One more comment and I’m done, I promise. Is this a mutual admiration society and a kvetching club or a group of people who actually wants to help protect public education?

  • Magister

    I would love to see a CT school or district refuse to play along like Grafield HS in Seattle, but I have no idea how to make that happen. Normally I would expect the union to organize such a pushback, but they seem dormant.

    • Bill Morrison

      I have proposed just that action to Melodie Peters, the President of AFT-CT. She has cursed my name repeatedly for that proposal.

      • Bill Morrison

        We need a STATEWIDE boycott of all standardized tests! We should plan one beginning next school year. It would be nice if our state-level unions would organize this, but they will not do so. Is anyone with me?

        • Castles Burning

          a STATEWIDE boycott would definitely be the way to go it seems to me.

  • Apartheid First

    As an individual parent, you CAN opt your child out. There are parents who do this, even in Greenwich–although it would be more powerful if those students took a zero on the test and started bringing down the test score averages of their districts.

  • Linda174

    It’s starts by spreading the word from parents to parents, teacher to parents, students to students (high school age). Progress had been made and there is push back. Opting out has occurred in some CT districts. You have to rally your base and others need to rally theirs. We are moving forward, specifically on the FERPA changes and giving our kids information to third party vendors WITHOUT parent permission (a change made by Arne Duncan WITHOUT congressional approval)…that is getting much attention nationwide. YOU can be the change you want to see. I believe you wouldn’t have opted out this year anyway and it had nothing to do with others not supporting CT parents. We also received great advice and support from united opt out last Sunday from Ceresta Smith, a Florida parent and teacher. I don’t know if you can rely solely on others to accomplish what you need to accomplish for your children. We have been able to support each other in many ways.

    Here is the letter one Missouri representative sent Arne requesting answers to the FERPA changes:

    Spread the word in your town….all these invasions are creeping across the country. NY just found out student data has already been released to inbloom, the nonprofit front for Rupert Murdoch’s Wireless Generation and without parents even being informed. They are data mining our children and there is $$$$$ to be made. Why else would Rupert be interested in our public schools.

    • msavage

      “I believe you wouldn’t have opted out this year anyway and it had
      nothing to do with others not supporting CT parents.”

      Doesn’t change the fact that there didn’t appear to BE any support for CT parents.

      “We also received
      great advice and support from united opt out last Sunday from Ceresta
      Smith, a Florida parent and teacher.”

      Yes, hopefully that will be some help for next year.

      “I don’t know if you can rely solely
      on others to accomplish what you need to accomplish for your children.
      We have been able to support each other in many ways.”

      Honestly, both potential actions were driven as much by a desire to do the right thing for public education and for ALL kids as much as a desire to do for my own kids. I could sit on my butt and not do a thing and my own kids would still be getting a decent education–for the moment. I thought this was a fight about education in general–the future of public education. The new civil rights issue of our era, etc., etc. I thought I was trying to fight a fight that extended beyond my own front door. This isn’t just about my kids, right?

      Bottom line–there should be more support for parents who want to take action. Would benefit parents, children, AND teachers.

    • Linda174

      Take the advice and the support offered or not…we have all learned from each other and we will continue to do so……the civil rights moniker is actually overplayed and doesn’t even make sense as they further segregate the poor children. That’s their false slogan.

  • Apartheid First

    I’m a bit puzzled by the tone of some commenters. I don’t get fired up by every blog here, nor by every one of Ravitch or wherever I follow blogs.
    I sometimes don’t realize how important a bit of information on a blog is until there is a critical mass of it. Then I go back and I use the links or use the blog as a starting point for research.
    If anyone ever tried finding information on TFA, for example, the amount of propaganda put out by that organization and its “alums” is amazing and depressing. The Communist party of the former Soviet Union would envy the near-lock-step uniformity of praise that one finds online about TFA. Plus they create their own research and they have many journalistic “plants”–embedded pro-reform reporters–who add to the mass of disinformation. Really, some blog posts and comments are the only place one will find the truth about TFA. Blogs are what have exposed a lot of the horrid policies of Adamowski and Vallas.
    I can’t think of what is wrong with today’s post. Yes, we do know this story, but that doesn’t mean the charter company founded by Stefan Pryor is not making huge inroads in privatizing the schools of urban Connecticut. I get a bit suspicious when people start to tire of the story of charter schools–because these will not effect suburbia as much.
    It took a long time to go from Women’s suffrage to the vote… I’m sure a lot of people in power–men–got tired of hearing about that issue. But those in power are not going to surrender one bit of it, however unfairly they have acquired it, if we are not endlessly vigilant.

    • Bill Morrison

      Outstanding points!

  • Bill Morrison

    Why would Hartford Public Schools pay a dime for any charter school when I have been unable for years to buy enough textbooks for my students? I have 30 books for 150 students. Oh, well, the district also had over $1,000,000 to buy into a corporate evaluation system for teachers, but (oh my gosh!) not one dime for textbooks! It’s as if they are falling over themselves to prove our point that the district is deliberately setting up the public schools for failure.
    It’s incredible; the district loudly proclaims that our teachers are failing our students but the district denies us even the most rudimentary of resources with which to succeed. Oh, I forgot, all the resources went to select schools. When Adamfraudski broke up the schools into the so-called small-learning academies, he failed to mandate the equal distribution of resources between all schools. to top it off, he advertised a system of choice, but no choice exists; students are routinely denied their first school of choice. And, students have such a limited selection of courses that no student can claim a real education (except from the resource and course-rich charter and magnet schools).
    Teachers have begun voting with their feet. It’s a shame.

    • Apartheid First

      Thank you for this information!
      Adamowski is a fraud. And Kishimoto is a worthy successor.

    • Bill Morrison

      I would love to clarify my point above concerning textbooks. When Adamowski destroyed the comprehensive high schools in favor of the magnet schools and small learning academies, the magnet schools got everything that they wanted in terms of resources, as did a few of the chosen elite of the small learning academies. My own academy was one of those stuck with few resources. Over the years, we teachers have tried to rectify this by placing numerous textbook orders to no avail.

      Our new principal (Mr. Mike Maziarz, who took over this year) has done everything in his power to support us in improving our situation. He approved our bringing in the UCONN Early College Experience program, he is attempting to use MAP testing to justify levelling of classes, and he has consistently approved the purchasing of textbooks. In other words, he is helping us to overcome the ravages inflicted upon us by Adamowski.

      My animus is directed at Adamowski’s fraudulent regime, not at anyone else.

      • Bill Morrison

        My animus is also directed at corporate reformers who have weaved a path of destruction wherever they go. Adamowski has caused unspeakable harm to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of students in Norwich, CT, Cincinnatti, Hartford, and now, New London and Windham. He is supported by Governor Malloy, who also supports such criminals as Stepfan Pryor, Paul Vallas, and Michelle Rhee, as well as corrupt corporations like CONNCAN, and the Charter School movement. I am looking forward to the class-action lawsuit that I’m filing as soon as we teachers are evaluated using student test scores.

  • msavage

    Look–I’ve been convinced that I might have been too harsh on Wendy Lecker.I apologize if that’s the case. I would just like to see CT PAA provide more support to CT parents who are making attempts at fighting corporate ed reform. I thought that was what PAA was all about. Maybe I thought wrong?

  • msavage

    Really gonna try to stay away from this blog for a while, ’cause it causes me way too much frustration lately. But before I go, I need to reiterate one more thing for Wendy, Linda, and anyone else who would berate me for being aggravated with Wendy for “not helping me with my individual issue.” I’ll say it again–I could sit on my butt and not do a thing
    and my own kids would still be getting a decent education–for the
    moment. I thought this was a fight about education in general–the
    future of public education. Wanting to opt my daughter out of the CMTs was personal, yes. But it was also an attempt to try to support the larger cause. As was my desire to try to fight the Common Core Standards in my district. I sense the potential, am willing to help fight the fight locally, but I don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to do it on my own. So it won’t get done, most likely. Maybe some other district will initiate the fight in CT. Hope so. .

    My opinion, we don’t have time for op-eds, columns, blog posts, conferences, letters to the editor, etc., etc.–in so many areas. Not just public education. I’ve said this before. We are running out of time for the economy, for the environment. For the very fabric of society. Personally I think the environment is a more pressing issue than education, anyway. We don’t start paying more attention to what we’re doing to the earth, we’re not gonna have much time left to worry about education. Maybe it’s time to stop spinning my wheels re education reform and spend more time on the environment. Peace.

    • Bill Morrison

      I agree with you that we need to become more active in our common fight against the corporate reformers. I have been trying for the past year to generate some real activism with little success. That said, the movement seems to be growing, albeit slowly, as evidenced by the conference you and I attended last weekend.
      In my opinion, we need to take the movement to the streets. We need to demand of our state-level unions that they help lead this effort. We are losing the public relations battle to the corporate reformers and we need to start making real noise.
      In fairness to Wendy, she has been as active as any of us, probably more so. I can’t account for her apparent lack of response to you, but it isn’t for a lack of involvement on her part. I would recommend that you discuss it with her.
      Anyway, I count you as a kindred spirit in this fight and would love to meet with you to discuss just how we can generate some activism. As history bears out, one person with the right motivation and the right cause can create massive change.

      • Charlie Puffersch

        It seems to me, Bill, that the best place to start would be in your own school. The Garfield teachers decided to boycott as a staff and it made nationwide news. You aren’t going to get anywhere if you try to make it too big.

    • Linda174

      You were never berated here. The conversation continued off line. It was initiated by your comment posted approximately 21 hours ago.