Today’s “MUST READ” Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?

Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.

Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.

Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.

And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.

On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”

Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.

Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.

 Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php

 

Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)

You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”

On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.

That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.

A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.

As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.

The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.

Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.

“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column

 

And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?

PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

  • Bridgeport Educator

    And do not miss Ken Dixon from the CT Post . He gets it !! http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Dixon-Summer-in-Connecticut-5647665.php

  • calas500

    Where is the CT DOE on all of this? Are they investigating all this aggressively? Too many hucksters with a profit motive allowed to eat up taxpayer dollars in CT in recent years! Real educators are not in it for monetary profit.

    • Linda174

      The CTDOE is the problem. Stefan is the ringleader.

  • jrp1900

    Two powerful pieces by Sarah Darer Litman and Wendy Lecker. If there are any politicians left in the State Legislature who care about children, then they ought to read these articles. The articles give you all the facts and arguments you need to convince the naïve and disbelieving that charter schools, and privatization in general, are disastrous for Connecticut’s school children.
    Privatization and deregulation go hand in hand. So it is hardly surprising that charlatans have popped up in more than a few places in education reform. The charlatans can smell the easy money; they readily understand that it is just a matter of playing out a role–you only have to say that you believe in “choice for all children” and that “bad teachers” are the problem, and that charter schools are pathways to success, and, in good time, the public money will come rolling in, as Stefan Pryor and his gang of reformers at the State Department of Education are only too happy to fund private initiatives, just so long as the required rhetoric. Michael Sharpe found it very easy to convince Commissioner Pryor that he only needed 53 million dollars to save the poor children of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. I’m sure there are a few criminals in the United States who must now realize that robbing banks with guns carries too much risk; it’s much easier to rob the public by setting up a Charter School Management company in a State where Stefan Pryor is Education Commissioner.
    Sarah Darer Litman coins a great phrase: “edufraud stew.” The phrase is evocative of realty: for, as with a stew, when the reformers come to town, you never quite know what you are getting. It looks like a carrot, but it could be a piece of corn–who knows? Similarly, he talks like a PhD (in some kind of Education “science”); he walks like a PhD (in line with some program in “Education Leadership”); and he swears ownership of a PhD (as though he were an Educational philosopher. But, curiously enough, it turns out that one or two “reformers” of this kind are NOT actually PhD’s, although their fellow reformers never suspected fraud. First, this kind of deception raises serious ethical questions about the edufraudsters. And, second, it raise troubling questions about the perspicacity of reformers like Pryor and Adamowski, who cannot see the charlatanry of the charlatans who stand before them.
    Adamowski and Pryor cannot see through the likes of Michael Sharpe or Terrence Carter for the simple reason that they do not want to use their eyes. Neither Pryor or Adamowski is interested in facts or empirical results or likely outcomes when all these things are pointing AWAY from their preferred dogmas. As Wendy Lecker reports, Adamowski pursued a number of “unproven reforms” in Windham. Many of his “reforms” had predictable disastrous effects, not least his absurd insistence that Windham High School must become two independent “academies” to serve the ideological purpose of offering “school choice,” even though the evidence is thin, to non-existent, that “choice” leads to increased educational equality. Adamowski plodded forward with his hopeless formulas that have already failed in Cincinnati and in Hartford. It cannot be that his interventions were “all for the children.” Because, as Wendy Lecker notes, if the children’s interests were paramount Adamowski would have pursued a different set of policies than the ones which had a strong likelihood of failure.
    Sarah Darer Litman makes a crucial point about “edufraud” discourse: it often speaks of “success,” but what that actually consists in is ill-defined. The reformers will often point to rising test scores, but in fact the research shows that charter schools (despite all their obvious advantages in funding and composing the student body), on average, do not perform better than public schools. To be sure, some Charter schools drill for the test like there is no tomorrow and “the kids” (oh, the kids!!) do relatively well and God is happy. But, in reality, few people would want to say that a test factory is the same as a comprehensive school, and that a high score on a standardized test is an adequate measure of “success” in the classroom. The only people who accept these overly simplistic nostrums are those who knowing of real education and the real challenges of relating to young people.
    Because the corporatists are skeptical of genuine education (for it cannot be quantified), and because they do not think enough about actual children, it follows that so many of them are unqualified for the positions they hold or aspire to. Professional credentials serve the purpose of regulating access to certain positions, and ensuring competence in those positions. Of course, there are flaws in the system, but it works well enough. But now we are told ANYONE can run a school, ANYONE can be a superintendent, ANYONE can be an education commissioner. This attempt to undermine teaching as a professional vocation, puts ignorance, bull-headedness and charlatanry in the driving seat. For those who think it does not really matter if non-educators control education, imagine if your doctor was really a plumber or your lawyer was really an accountant. Teachers should be trained educators because teaching is no less important than medicine or the law. Helping a child to become an adult is one the greatest responsibilities that anyone could have.
    Sarah Darer Litman and Wendy Lecker have written pieces that cannot be ignored and whose central arguments cannot be refuted. Kudos to both of them!!

    • JMC

      Nobody says it better, JRP!

    • JJ Thorpe

      Talk about “overly simplistic”! All charter schools are bad! That’s as ridiculous as saying all public schools are good. There are good and bad public schools, and good and bad charters (which, by the way, ARE public schools in our state). You’d like every charter to be horrible–it’s better for your story line–but in fact, charters in CT and across the country are both failing and excelling.

      • jrp1900

        JJthorpe: Where did I say that all charter schools are bad? I said that ON AVERAGE they do not perform better than public schools. This obviously means that some excel and some fail. Exactly the point that you make. And you are wrong: I don’t wish for charter schools to be bad. I would like every child to have a fair chance at a decent education. Charter schools are not a way to achieve this goal.

        • JJ Thorpe

          Really? There are charters you like and respect? I’d love to hear their names, because I find that hard to believe. Do you rail with equal or greater fervor against alternative ed programs, where far more students are not getting “a fair chance at a decent education”? What about charters like the ones in DC, Chicago, and Stamford playing the role of alternative education programs because the city ones are terrible? Are those charters more palatable? You dislike the model even though it’s saving some kids’ lives? (And no, I’m not talking about Amistad schools.) Help me understand. It feels like charters bad because reform efforts threaten you in some way.

        • jrp1900

          JJThorpe: As Im sure you are aware, the original conception of charter schools was that they would be community-based, run by teachers and parents to meet the particular needs of a specific group of children–say, English language learners in a neighborhood with a high proportion of foreign language speakers. I don’t oppose this model of the charter school. In fact, I think it is quite a good idea. But the charter schools that have come about today are something different. Typically, they are not community-based but are run by charter school management companies, backed by hedge fund groups and other powerful sectors of American society. And far from being run by teachers and other professional educators, charter schools are headed by a wide range of people many of whom know nothing of education. As I’m sure you know, there are scandals concerning charter schools and public monies all over the nation.

          I agree with you that Special Education programs in public schools are often inadequate. But it does not help matters to divert scarce resources to charter schools. Charter schools are notorious for underserving special ed cohorts. Indeed, one major knock against charter schools is that they can shape their student bodies in a way that public schools cannot. I don’t think I am saying anything controversial when I state that this policy is an invitation to discriminate against certain kinds of students.

          BTW, I am not “railing” against charter schools. I have read more than a bit about them, and you can find what I say in any number of books and articles, not least Diane Ravitchs book “Reign of Error.” And you are dead wrong: reform efforts don’t threaten me in any way. I oppose most of them for the simple reason that I think they are misguided. I support public schools because I believe they are a crucial foundation for democratic republicanism.

        • JJ Thorpe

          The language you use doesn’t distinguish between charters following the model you say you support (which serve the needs of a specific student group), and the others. I’m not a wholesale charter cheerleader–there are many I know are not helpful or are saying one thing and doing another. But I’ve visited enough charters to know that’s no reason to write off the entire model. Scandals are not relegated to charters–give me a break. The entire education system has their fair share (“Dr” Carter)–you don’t get to ignore those. The charters I’m most familiar with ARE run by educators and teachers–again, speaking about charters like those schools don’t exist is disingenuous. And, let’s stop talking about charters like they’re not public schools–rhetoric like Pelto and others referring to charters as privatized corporate machines is ridiculous and inaccurate; I know a few of those exist, but in CT, it’s just Achievement First–everyone else (Integrated Day, Highville, Domus, etc.) is a small shop. If you want to carry on about big charter networks skimming public school kids who don’t need a specialized environment and counsel out (without admitting it) kids who need extra help (*cough* Amistad *cough*), I’ll stand with you, but it’s inaccurate to speak about all charters as if they’re THAT, and I won’t let that stand. Blanket statements might be convenient for Candidate Pelto’s stump speech, but the rest of us need to be honest about the nuances of charters. I hope to see more accurate language from you in the future if you truly believe all charters are not the same.

        • jrp1900

          JJ Thorpe: I am not sure what you mean when you speak of my imprecise language. I said that I supported certain kinds of charter schools, in certain contexts, so I’m not sure how this amounts to writing off “the entire model.” Where did I say that scandals were “relegated to charters”? I said that a fair number of charter school operators have turned out to be frauds and con-men. This is true and it is not the same as saying that charter schools are the only educational institutions where fraud happens. But given the relatively unregulated climate in which charter schools operate it is more likely that fraud will happen there than in a public school with various levels of bureaucracy. I am well aware that human failings are to be found wherever you find people…

          When you say that charters are “public schools” you ought to clarify what you understand by this term. Charter schools are manifestly NOT public schools in the same sense as a school presided over by the local school board. The charter permits the licensee, whomever that may be, to carry out certain legal responsibilities that have been ceded to them by the local BOE, including hiring and firing, etc. Charter schools in CT may be publically-funded, but this does not mean that they are accountable in quite the same way as the local high school. This is one of the knotty complications that got Jumoke Academy into trouble, and it’s clearly one of the things that the State Legislature is going to have to clarify by new legislation.

          I’m glad we agree that charter school networks tend to skim off the most promising public school students. Then you must also agree that the student body that is left behind in the public school represents a greater concentration of special education needs and other problems. This is hardly a recipe for educational equality or improved academic performance across the system.

  • Linda174

    I saw this on a rear car window. It could have been either Carter or Adamowski or Pyror or all three.

  • Linda174
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