Are Alliance School Districts implementing their Turnaround Plans with “fidelity”?

That unbelievable question is what Morgan Barth; Malloy’s School Turnaround Director at the State Department of Education (and former Achievement First Inc. administrator) is asking Connecticut’s Alliance School Districts.

Are you implementing your plan with fidelity…?

At the direction of Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, the State Department of Education has managed to put together a “Turnaround Office” with virtually no teaching experience, no Connecticut experience and no real understanding of the challenges facing public education in Connecticut.

Instead of providing the real support Connecticut’s Alliance School Districts need, they are burdening districts with more paperwork; more data collection and absurd, even idiotic questions…like are you implementing your plan with fidelity?

Fidelity?  It must be one of those fancy corporate education reform terms, because in the real world fidelity means:

fi·del·i·ty: faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support. “He sought only the strictest fidelity to justice” Synonyms:  loyalty, allegiance, obedience;

Over the past 18 months, Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. (the large charter school Management Company) and corporate education reform aficionado, has moved out all the professional expertise from the State Department of Education’s office that is responsible for what used to be called Priority School Districts but are now called Alliance Districts.

Instead of trained professionals with Connecticut experience, Pryor has handed the operation over to a former Achievement First, Inc. administrator Morgan Barth who managed to spend a number of years illegally teaching at a Achievement First school despite his lack of proper state certification.

Much of the rest of Pryor’s “turnaround” team is made up of young paid non-Connecticut consultants who are funded through a $1 million contract with an out-of-state company.

MassInsight, the out-of-state consulting company, “won” the one year contract after its CEO came to Connecticut to speak in favor of Malloy’s education reform legislation. 

Despite having little to no experience, the Commissioner and Governor committed $1 million in taxpayer funds to this out-of-state company ignoring the fact that the State Department of Education already had experienced staff who knew the school districts in Connecticut, understood the issues and were already making a positive impact.

Furthermore, any additional help that might have been needed could easily have been acquired from Connecticut’s regional service centers such as CREC, EastCONN, Project Learn, Etc.

But no, wasting precious public funds has been the hallmark of this administration and the State Department of Education has been a prime example.

The Malloy administration has consistently opted for more privatization and delegating decisions to more people who don’t come from Connecticut, don’t understand Connecticut and will be headed off to new consulting opportunities as soon as they arise.

In fact, in less than a year, more than half the MassInsight consultants have already left to be replaced by even less experienced people.

Now, virtually every day, Alliance Districts are reporting that the Malloy/Pryor bureaucracy of consultants is making more and more absurd demands.

Just last week an Alliance District administrator was sent the following…

“In response to some questions the Turnaround Office has received about the data dashboard section (first worksheet) of the AD Implementation Tracker, I wanted to share some additional information with you to assist you in your efforts to complete this portion. The data dashboard is intended to support conversations about district-wide and school-level performance over time based on leading and lagging indicators. We understand that districts calculate these numbers slightly differently and are not asking you to reinvent the wheel. While we recognize that districts report this information to the CSDE at the end of the year, we are asking for several key data points more frequently and in real time to support data-driven decision-making in Alliance Districts and identified schools.”

The out-of-state consultants at the State Department of Education went on to say;

“Math/Reading Achievement: We recognize that districts are administering different tests and the data coming from these tests may not line up exactly to the dashboard’s quarterly reporting structure. For example, if your district administers a trimester-based test, simply report the test results three times a year at the end of the quarter in which the test is administered. If the test does not generate a school-wide average, please pick a representative grade to report. In the header where you enter the name of the math/reading assessment, please simply state that grade level(s) reported.

Also, you can pull information for the ED114 tab of the Implementation Tracker from the CSDE’s online grants management system. We suggest using November 15, 2013 as the end date for reporting expenditures for Quarter 1. (However if 10/31 is the end of the quarter in your district you may use that date.)”

The Alliance District administrator reported that these types of requests come in every week and are often than diametrically opposed to previous requests sent by the State Department of Education’s Turnaround Office.

Week after week, month after month, the outside consultants disrupt the efforts to “turnaround” districts by demanding more and more “data” for some new software program they’ve purchased.

But hey…we’re only paying these out-of-state consultants a million dollars of our taxpayer money so maybe we deserve the “B” team.

If there is one constant in Malloy’s “education reform” initiative it is ongoing effort to put an end to jobs for Connecticut residents in order to “free-up” funds to hire outside consultants and companies.

First came the millions Pryor gave away in no-bid contracts when he arrived in Connecticut.  Almost all of those went to companies he had done business with in other states. 

Then came the contracts with companies like MassInsight.

  • Castles Burning

    It all seems part of the plan to disrupt education (if not bring it to its knees) in the turnaround districts, so that they can be declared “failures” and sold to the highest bidder or best bud.

    Also, since they know nothing about education or true evaluation of how “things” are going, they must resort to DATA. The numbers will reveal all and I was especially comforted to learn that “[t]he data dashboard is intended to support conversations about district-wide and school-level performance over time based on leading and lagging indicators.” I have not had a good conversation about lagging indicators in quite some time.

    • Charlie Puffers

      I too have missed the exhilaration of sitting down with other exhausted, over-worked, underpaid colleagues who have each completed a 7 hour day in a classroom filled with fidgety, bored, talkative, test question drilled children to discuss those leading and lagging indicators. For some reason the conversations in the teachers lounge and the favorite watering holes of teachers around have city have been on other topics. One common theme is: Who are these idiots running the show and would someone tell me when the earth comes back around so I can jump on?

    • Linda174

      When you really don’t know what you’re doing, because you never were and never will be a teacher, just baffle the peons with a never ending stream of convoluted bull$hit. And when it doesn’t work, rely on the “fidelity” catch-all phrase so all self- appointed “leaders” can be free of responsibility for their own failures.

      • jrp1900

        Linda174: I think you have it just about right: the “convoluted bullshit,” so beloved by the “reformers,” is precisely a claim to an authority that they haven’t earned and don’t really deserve. The obsession with statistics and “data” that the “reformers” evince is another mark of their bogus expertise. They pretend that “ed leadership” is a hard science, sort of like physics. In the reformer’s playbook, you don’t need a teacher’s certificate to be a teacher (hence TFA), and you don’t need a superintendent certification to be a superintendent (exhibit A: Paul Vallas). But to be a true ed leader you do need to be schooled in the mindless language of business management. This does seem to be a credential that you can’t do without. Or, at least, I have yet to hear a “reformer” who does not speak the corporate jargon that is as ugly as it is empty.