Achievement First’s Teacher Certification Violations lead right into State Department of Education

Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy is among Connecticut’s worst offenders when it comes to charter schools that fail to provide students with properly certified teachers.

According to the records filed with the State Department of Education, of the 59 teachers working at Achievement First – Bridgeport last year, 21 (36 percent) did not have Connecticut certification or were teaching outside of their certification parameters.

Among the list of non-certified personnel at Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy was Morgan Barth.  Barth was recently named by Commissioner Stefan Pryor to be the Director of the State Department of Education’s Turnaround Office, the entity that is assigned to overseeing state support for Connecticut 30 Alliance Districts.

It is incredibly telling that Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, couldn’t find anyone more capable of managing the Malloy administration’s ongoing effort to “help” the state’s thirty poorest school districts than someone whose only experience was at Achievement First, Inc.

It’s even more telling that the Malloy administration, who can’t stop belittling and undermining teachers chose to hire someone who has never held state certification despite a state law requiring them to do so.

According to his resume, Morgan Barth was a “founding teacher” at Achievement First – Elm City Preparatory Academy in New Haven from August 2004 to June 2008 and then went on to serve as a principal there and then as principal at the Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy Middle School.

But in direct violation of state law, Morgan Barth apparently never held Connecticut state certification to be a teacher or an administrator.

On July 1, 2010 a new state law took effect that allowed charter schools to use up to 30% non-certified teachers and administrators, although Connecticut’s regular district public schools were still required to have 100 percent of their staff certified.

Despite that law, Achievement First Inc. has consistently had more than 30 percent of their staff non-certified.

And that 2010 law doesn’t erase the fact that it appears Morgan Barth was illegally teaching and serving as a principal for at least 6 years.

There are over 45,000 public school teachers who meet Connecticut’s certification law and nearly as many retired teachers who met the law when they were teachers.

Add in at least 8,000 plus school administrators (except Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski) who also have proper state certification.

But despite more than 50,000 certified teachers and administrators, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor chose to put Connecticut’s “Alliance Districts” in the hands of an individual who has consistently failed to do what is legally required of Connecticut’s real public school teachers and administrators.

The arrogance and sense of entitlement that surrounds the corporate education reform movement is not unlike the arrogance and sense of entitlement that surrounds the clowns in Washington who are purposely tanking our federal government and our economy.

  • readdoctor

    Just another example of one law for the people, and no law for those in power and their pals. A great deal is riding on Carmen Lopez’s Vallas lawsuit at the CT Supreme Court. They can affirm the law is for everyone, or they can affirm the law is not the same for all Connecticut Citizens. Time and time again we find our State BOE making special arrangements for the politically connected while at the same time passing new regulations that make it harder for regular Connecticut citizens. The system has become corrupt in the eyes of the people. When this happens, and the law turns away, we need to turn to the ballot.
    Silence and apathy are not acceptable in a democracy,
    Guess what Governor, the people vote

  • cindy

    I’d sure like all MY money back for all the graduate work, and the time that it took to jump through every hoop to maintain certification and pursue administrative certification under the advisement of the very same department that creates special rules for other people.

    Class action, anyone?

    • brutus2011

      I agree. I have jumped through every hoop, crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” to receive and maintain my two Ct teaching certifications.

      And, if I allow them to lapse, then Pryor wants me to go back to school to take more recently mandated courses to re-certify.

      Unbelievable.

      I recently had a “blog exchange” with the bank executive husband of the Achievement First CEO.

      Apparently, the charter executives don’t believe that having a Ct teaching certification equates to more effective teachers or teaching.

      This almost palpable contempt for certified teachers is evident.

      So Jon’s point is absolutely on point–why do most have to follow the law to be eligible to teach in Ct and a relative few are deemed to be above the same law?

      Did we not fight a revolution to decide such things?

      Do we now have to fight another revolution to defeat traitors of our republic?

      • Linda174

        Klaus should stick to banking. Webster has had a fair share of embezzlement cases. Being married to a charter chain cult leader, doesn’t make him an expert of teaching and learning. They all follow the Gates funded “research” that miraculously always agrees with Gates. Maybe Jeff can start BFA, bankers for America.

        • Sleepless in Bridgeport

          Bankers for Themselves

      • Linda174

        The only use test scores when determining “effective”. Those who can teach, those who can’t bloviate about something they know nothing about.

    • jonpelto

      We definitely need to explore the class action angle – there is a lot of teachers who deserve to be reimbursed for their unnecessary efforts to get and maintain certification. Defendant # 1, Dannel Malloy, Defendant #2, Stefan Pryor, Defendant #3 State Board of Education. Laws with knowledge of class action suits, now is your opportunity to step forward.

  • Linda174

    Paraphrasing here from a comment on another blog, but it is oh so ironic that Obama and Duncan are upset about being held hostage by a group of politicians right now, when they have held ALL 50 STATES hostage with their stimulus plan, race to the trough.

    We had to accept their conditions: national standards NOT developed by educators (despite their lies and they were NOT state led; they were state followed) and tying test scores to teacher evaluations. If you did NOT accept those two conditions (as demanded by the GATES USDOE), then you wouldn’t get your waiver to no consultant left behind.

    Since when did the federal government control the schools in all 50 states, all cities, towns and districts in the USA?

    Since Obama chose his basketball buddy who volunteered in his mom’s after school program and Arne could never be named Superintendent in Chicago because he wasn’t qualified (he was called CEO), that’s when. And I voted for Obama ONCE.

    So, Barack and Arne…what goes around, comes around evidently.

    Set us free and leave our kids, teachers and schools alone.

    YOU are making it worse, not better.

    • Mary Gallucci

      good one!
      I wish I could shut down Sidwell Friends school until either Sasha and Malia were required to take the same standardized tests that all public school children are forced to sit through, or until public school children get the respect, the enrichment, the academics, and the tasty organic lunches that Sasha and Malia enjoy every day.
      Shut down Sidwell Friends!

  • mookalaboona

    IF THE CEA AND THE AFT ENDORSE MALLOY FOR THE NEXT ELECTION, THE ARE NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE TEACHERS THIS GOVERNOR HAS REPEATEDLY SLAPPED IN THE FACE!

    • Sleepless in Bridgeport

      Where is the CEA? Reminds me of the “Silence of the Lambs”. Here is my bet (and I am on my way to visit the Indians at Foxwoods to place it). The courts will diddle around long enough for Vallas to “negotiate” a new contract with the Bridgeport BOE so the rest of the duly certified teachers can get in line for their unemployment checks. He already sent the wrecking ball in on the administrative staff when he arrived and replaced them with his own army of scabs and retreads.

      • WesternCTteacher

        All CEA leadership is held accountable. Many offices are vacant at the county level at my last check. Attend the county councils and speak up.

  • Andrea C

    I cannot believe this!! I so want my money back, as do my young family members who foolishly followed the law to be certified and to practice teach and to get advanced degrees in their subject areas. Retired Judge Carmen Lopez’s case is what will turn the tide or confirm that laws apply differently depending on who your friends are. We can only hope that the Judicial Branch of the state government is not as corrupt as the gubernatorial and legislative branches.

  • ruswalsh

    If there is a class action lawsuit, I wonder if Malloy and Pryor will seek out certified legal counsel. Perhaps they would like to hire a Yale grad with a five week summer course in the law.

    I addressed the issue in my blog a few weeks ago, where I said the following:

    As a proud possessor of teaching certificates from two states, I would like to think that certification does matter. I know other things matter, too: intellectual ability, content knowledge, experience. But if I am hiring a new teacher, as I did in my last position as Director of Human Resources in a suburban school district, I am going to hire the certified candidate over the non-certified candidate every time. Why? Certainly not because I was required to in these days of alternate routes to teaching, but because I knew that I was reasonably sure of some critical qualifications when I hired a certified teacher. I was assured that the candidate had some understanding of child development, had the ability to translate content knowledge into lessons that would help children learn, and had the knowledge and ability to adapt instruction to different learners’ needs. I also had some confidence that the candidate understood how to manage a classroom.

    Most importantly, however, I knew that the certified candidate was likely to still be teaching in the district 3, 5 even 10 years from the hire date. Candidates who commit themselves to a teacher certification program have committed themselves to the profession. With experience and professional development, they will get better at what they do, and the district’s investment in them in recruiting, training and retention will be rewarded.

    You can read the rest at http://russonreading.blogspot.com/2013/08/wendy-kopp-goes-to-doctor-or-does.html

    • jonpelto

      Ha good one!

  • Achievement First

    Achievement First’s teachers are certified according
    to state law. In fact, several of our teachers have become National Board Certified Teachers. In its criticism of Achievement First and AF Bridgeport Academy Middle, this post fails to mention the outstanding teaching and learning taking place in our schools. AF Bridgeport Academy Middle students have made greater academic gains than their statewide peers. In 2012, the
    school achieved the highest year-to-year growth for students in the state. AF’s Bridgeport students are also outperforming their local and statewide peers and are performing on par with nearby Greenwich in some grades and subjects.These results are possible because Achievement First is deeply invested in ensuring that there is a great teacher in every classroom, and that all teachers receive
    excellent professional development so that they can help all students make outstanding academic progress.

    • cindy

      So what changed?

      Could it be the restrictions that shook the school up like a snow globe were removed, and once things settled, the students could finally go back to something resembling a normal school situation? How could they NOT do well?

    • Linda174

      Someone at AF has all the reformy edulingo down, but too bad it’s not true. Great spin, but we’re not buying.

      Care to mention your high teacher turnover rate?

      Or the requirement to sign an agreement not to speak with the public or media once your TFA temps leave in exchange for severance or a recommendation?

    • Mary Gallucci

      Thank you, Achievement First PR person. Is that you, Morgan Barth? Oh, don’t get angry that I am trying to “out” you–you true believers are all lock-step in your unwavering allegiance to the party line, so it could be you, your spouse, Pryor’s mother, Nate Snow, etc.
      I do recall reading about the “great teacher in every classroom”–do they bring their own clickers? Board Certified, how nice! Are the staff names posted on your website? I could not find staff names on charters last time I checked, unlike at most public schools.
      Which state law do you refer to, by the way? The alternative certification one? Is this certification like the “natural food” label, which, thanks to corporate lobbying, can include genetically modified food made in a test tube or grown atop a toxic landfill, all because a state or federal “law” was written to allow this. State law now allows a TFA newbie with 5 weeks of training to be certified enough to call him/herself a “teacher” who is, in addition, highly effective. They stamp it on their foreheads after the 5 weeks.
      Do teachers (both the certified and the non-, un-, or under-certified) ever have to sign anything that limits what they can discuss about AF while employed or on departure?

      • Linda174

        Smackdown….go Mary!

    • Please be more honest

      I remember seeing the publication about two teachers in New Haven being national board certified. This post is specifically addressing Bridgeport. As far as the gains in scores, the prior year scores were at rock bottom so improvement was inevitable. I understand that there is an unyielding focus on test scores (and test subjects) at AF but what about science, social studies and the arts. Students in Greenwich often have two or three periods of arts/PE in addition to social studies and science daily. Do the students at AFBA get the same well rounded education?

  • Fed up with this nonsense

    Has anyone thought to wonder/question WHY Morgan Barth left his cushy AF nest? Sure, Alliance Grant Big Papa position is great, but maybe one should dig deeper. Just as with AF. A great talk but layers underneath are not so good.