Update on the effort to destroy the Clark Elementary School in Hartford

In a story entitled, Hartford Officials Explain Charter School Choice,the Hartford Courant’s Vanessa de la Torre explained that “Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has recommended Clark as the future site of the charter network’s second K-8 elementary school in Hartford, a proposal that has left some Clark parents stunned.”

A Hartford Board of Education sub-committee met yesterday to hear by Kishimoto has pronounced the death penalty for a school that is well-loved by the parents and students of the neighborhood.

As the Courant article explained, “City school officials on Tuesday cited chronic absenteeism, declining enrollment and years of low test scores as reasons why Clark Elementary School should be converted into an Achievement First charter school.”

As Wait, What? readers know from a series of posts over the last few days, the data Hartford officials are using is suspect at best and more to the point, outright misleading.

This battle isn’t about Clark School’s failure…it is about closing a Hartford public school so that Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, can get a second Hartford school – and a free school building at that.

Hartford Superintendent of Schools Kishimoto, with the apparent support of Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and members of the Hartford Board of Education, is engaging in a dishonest “School Redesign Analysis” and process that is stacked in such a way as to provide an excuse for Hartford to close the Clark School and hand the building over to Achievement First, Inc.

As noted yesterday, Kishimoto explained that their “analysis was based on the following data points:

  • District OSI scores
  • Enrollment Data (Five-year trend)
  • Socio Economic Status percentages (Five-year trend)
  • School Attendance Rates (Five-year trend)
  • Student Retention Rates (Five-year trend)
  • School Building Capacity

It is important to note that Kishimoto makes no reference to the fundamental issues associated with students that face language barriers, students that require special education services or issues related to having qualified teachers who have the experience and skills to face those vitally important issues.

And even the numbers that Kishimoto and Hartford officials are using are misleading.

According to Hartford Superintendent of Schools Kishimoto, a key issue behind her decision to close Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First is “Declining Enrollment.”

Declining Enrollment?

Kishimoto completely fails to explain that student mobility is a product of a variety of factors.  In most public schools certain neighborhoods have a much more transient population that impacts the number of students attending public schools.  This issue is further complicated when a school system, like Hartford, has instituted some form of school choice.

But more to the point, the decision to turn the school into an Achievement First school is exactly the wrong approach.

In 2012, the 8th grade class at Clark Elementary has lost 7% of its students since 5th grade

In 2012, the 8th grade class at Achievement First had lost 22% of its students since 5th grade

Achievement First, Inc. is notorious for “out migrating,” “counseling out” or “dumping” children who don’t fit their exacting “no excuses” model.

The last thing Clark School parents need is an Achievement First, Inc. school.

And Kishimoto’s misleading and intellectually dishonest “analysis” doesn’t end there.

The following charts, that were also posted yesterday, clearly reveal that Achievement First, Inc. EXACTLY THE WRONG entity to take over the Clark Elementary school.

In fact, if Mayor Pedro Segarra and the Board of Education was really interested in helping the students and parents of Clark they’d be investing their time and resources in supporting the school instead of considering handing it over to a corporation that is unwilling or unable to provide the Clark School community with the education it needs and deserves.

Here are just a few of the criteria NOT INCLUDED in the Superintendent’s analysis. 

The number of students coming from households where English is not the primary language.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 26% 8%
2010-2011 26% 5%
2009-2010 26% 5%


The percentage of students requiring special education services.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18% 7%
2010-2011 16% 8%
2009-2010 14% 8%


The number of experienced Special Education Teachers and Special Education Paraprofessionals.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 19.5 2
2010-2011 17.5 1.5
2009-2010 14.5 1.5


The one thing we know about dealing with the issues associated with poverty, language barriers and special education needs is that students need teachers who have the training, experience, ability and willingness to step forward and teach in some of the most complex and challenging classrooms in the country.

And when it comes to identifying successful teachers, here are just two measures of the difference between what is available to the students of the Clark School versus the students who attend Achievement First, Inc.

Teachers: Average Number of years of experience in education.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18.9 years 2.4 years
2010-2011 16.2 years 2.2 years
2009-2010 13.2 years 2.0 years


% of Teachers with Master’s degree or above

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 76% 40%
2010-2011 72% 34%
2009-2010 70% 28%


Kishimoto, who is leaving as Hartford’s Superintendent, has laid out an absurdly inappropriate and expedited process to get the Hartford Board of Education to vote to close Clark and hand the building over to Achievement First, Inc.

According to the Hartford Courant article, the Hartford Board of Education must “consider the Clark proposal at its Nov. 19 meeting and then vote on Kishimoto’s recommendation in December.

The board voted in August to allow Achievement First to open a second charter elementary school in Hartford through a partnership with the school system, although the location was unknown at the time.”

As one active parent put it, “she learned of the proposal last week. School administrators met with Clark families twice on Monday and there were “a lot of parents, a lot of concerns, a lot of tears, a lot of people angry because we’re not getting our questions answered and we just feel like we’re getting bullied.”

The Courant’s story added that the parent’s son, “Clark fourth-grader, asked Kishimoto ‘not to take his school away from him,’ Soto recalled Tuesday. ‘That broke my heart.’”

In perhaps the most bizarre twist of all, the Courant explains that, “Reshma Singh, Achievement First’s vice president for external relations, said the district notified charter officials late last week that Clark Elementary was the proposed site.”

Clark Parents and the taxpayers of Hartford and Connecticut are supposed to believe that Achievement First, Inc. only heard of Kishimoto’s stupid proposal “late last week.”

At some point the lying and misrepresentation has got to stop.

The sad fact is that Hartford officials cut a deal with Achievement First, Inc. to allow them to have a second taxpayer-funded charter school.

Clark School and its students, parents and teachers are pawns in the game being played by the corporate education reform industry.

Hartford’s students, parents, teachers and citizens deserve better.

You can read the Courant’s story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2225/article/p2p-77977875/

  • cindy

    Gentrification of Public School

  • readdoctor


    Perhaps the Superintendent missed the historic 2010 NAACP Resolution on Charter Schools?
    Just in case she this. Perhaps the whole city of Hartford missed it. After all the charter school resolution has only been around for 3 years. Three years is a long time for leaders to have their heads buried in the sand.

    Charter Schools

    WHEREAS, charter schools operate more autonomously than traditional public schools in the use of funds, adherence to state laws and school policies, selection and removal of students, and the selection and removal of staff, thus creating separate and unequal conditions for success; and

    WHEREAS, charter schools draw funding away from already underfunded traditional public schools; and

    WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes that at best, quality charter schools serve only a small percentage of children of color and disadvantaged students for whom the NAACP advocates relative to said population left behind in failing schools; and

    WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes the urgent need to provide quality education for all children, not only those fortunate enough to win lotteries to attend existing quality charter schools; and

    WHEREAS, the NAACP is committed to finding broad based, effective solutions for immediate implementation to improve the quality of public education for all children.

    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will strongly advocate for immediate, overarching improvements to the existing public education system; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students; and

    BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will urge all of its Units to work to support public schools throughout the nation to educate all children to their highest potential.
    Roslyn M. Brock Chairman National Board of
    Leon Russell
    Benjamin Todd Jealous
    Roslyn M. Brock

  • Someone Who Cares

    I see a lot of comments (in various postings) regarding the need to be certified to be a principal or a sup.  That to be a teacher in the state, you need to have gone to CT universities, and passed exam after exam, etc.  That it is a up hill climb to become a sup. in the state if you did not teacher, and lead a CT school. That principals are required to have 5 years of experience in the classroom, where all teachers cross some magical threshold of teaching greatness during the summer of their fourth and fifth year…BUT, we allow anyone to sit on a Board of Education.  Just to ensure my words are not misrepresented…I am a raging liberal, and I 100% believe in the democratic process, so if towns want their BOE to be elected then go right ahead and elect away, but it is fascinating to me that we require so much “certification” for teachers, principals, and sups. but not for our Boards of Ed.  And this is especially concerning when so many BOE take the stance that “we run the district, not the sup.” So you mean to tell me that the person who has been certified by the state as an educational leader is not the leader of kids’ education, but individuals who were elected and might not have any experience in education. Fascinating!!!  You mean to tell me that someone potential just running for BOE knows the science behind teaching ELL students, or how to teach reading to a room full of little kids, or how to implement the common core, or analyze data effectively to support student learning, or knows how to hire the right principal or sup.  Too often we stick with systems because that is just the way we have always done things, but what if those ways are the wrong way, or have not caught up to the changing times…Just something to think about…

    • Mary Gallucci

      Your despotism is showing. Yes, it might indeed be of use if members of Boards of Education had a decent education themselves and some knowledge of teaching and pedagogy (like Arne Duncan? Stefan Pryor? Bill Gates? Eli Broad? Wendy Kopp? did I mention Arne Duncan?), but in a democracy like ours, there are no educational requirements or litmus tests for most elected offices and boards. It is not, in fact, the lack of educational preparation on the part of Boards of Education that is the issue, though.
      Next you’ll be saying that it really would be in the interests of freedom if only literate people voted. Or those with advanced degrees. Or those with a certain skin color. It is a slippery slope when one “cares” but does not understand.
      But I actually do favor the idea of a person with educational qualifications and experience heading the Commission of Education at both the state and federal level. Kinda like the medical degree earned by the Surgeon General or the law degree of a judge.

      • Someone Who Cares

        First never, ever put words in my mouth…I firmly believe all individuals can vote regards of degree, income, skin color, etc.

        I just find it hypocritical on your part to want everyone who sets foot in an educational leadership position to be certified, but you fail to point the finger at Boards of Ed when it comes to being competent education experts who are certified.

        If we are going to be a state that has hundreds of BOE then we need to treat them with more importance. We would never have federal judges be elected officials because judges need to be experts on law. BOE should be too and right now they are not in CT.

    • jimpepe

      Hooray for you… don’t stop there. Tell the citizens of CT just how stupid they are and how screwed they’re getting by the BOE. I’m appalled by all the underhandedness that is going on a public school. Inform the community of the proper procedures and don’t allow these cronies in educator disguises get away with that crap.

  • Mary Gallucci

    Isn’t it against the federal legislation on SGCs to take the process away from the very people the legislation was created to empower? In the SGC legislation, it says that *after 3 years* IF an SGC notes lack of improvement, etc, THEN they may vote to reconstitute a school, which can include as a possibility the change to charter school management. But even this recommendation must be presented to the BoE and to the community before it can be decided.
    So why is Kishimoto steamrolling over parent, student, and staff desires to maintain their school, thus contravening the law on SGCs?
    I am puzzled by the ostensible justification due to “absenteeism”–sounds like a straw target (like capacity–concepts Adamowski is always bandying about in his endeavor to privatize schools). Besides the enormous concerns with Achievement First’s disciplinary policies as revealed in the report last year (which should have resulted in placing the charter under state supervision and in preventing additional school takeovers, I mean openings), a troubling issue with In-School Suspensions, Time Out Rooms, and Out-of-School suspensions, at all grade levels, is that it takes students out of the learning environment. So, Achievement First Hartford in essence has a much higher “absentee” rate (from the classroom) than any other school, because so many children are removed from the classroom for white-shirt fittings and shaming rituals.
    Kishimoto must go, and someone should begin conducting an evaluation of Kishimoto and an audit of those who say she does not need an evaluation. She can now do anything her masters bid her, without fear that it will show up on an evaluation or future job reference.

    • Mary Gallucci

      I was mistaken about the legislation being federal; it is state. See CT Senate Bill 458, affirmed in Public Act 12-116 at section 23 subsection 2 (from around page 56 of the pdf), which outlines the steps to be taken if, after *3 years* in existence, a SGC determines that a school is still in need of interventions, the SGC shall come up with a proposed model; go to the Superintendent; then to the BoE, which shall schedule a Public Hearing, after which the BoE takes a vote on whether to accept the agreed-upon model (with various provisos in the event that there is disagreement; this is a process of some length–45 days here; next meeting there, not like Kishimoto’s despotic rush job). But the whole process of reconstituting a school must begin with “an affirmative vote of the School Governance Council,” *after* three years of SGC meetings, trainings, and assessments. By the way, I thought that Steven Adamowski wrought miracles in Hartford and saved all the schools. See http://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/act/pa/pdf/2012PA-00116-R00SB-00458-PA.pdf

  • Charlie Puffers

    It seems like Kishimoto is out to pay back the BOE for canning her by screwing with the system as much as she can before she goes. Her motto “First do some harm.”

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