Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education.  The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.

Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”

Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…

Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.

The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.

However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.

Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.

But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.

Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text.  Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.

Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.

Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.

And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.

Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.

TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078

AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is  Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.

I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.

 I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

 With this being said,  I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take  regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that  we have made in Connecticut and  in particularly, in  East Hartford Public Schools, specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment, and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children,  and making sure that we are “doing right” by  Connecticut’s future.

Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010.  Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.”   The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens.  As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.

 Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.

Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of  our  children, I  ask  you  to  think  of  the  second  grader  who  will  only  have  second  grade  one  time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.  When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better.  While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact.  When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy, in the past  to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.

  • Jim Spellman

    Discouraging to say the least. As usual, Jon digs/exposes/reports, we proclaim disgust and condemnation – and Dannel and cohorts continue to do whatever they want to do. Akin to being forced to see replays of Bill Buckner’s error – we know what comes next with no ability to change the outcome. Alas, poor Connecticut, we knew thee well.

  • Bill Morrison

    And a special “Thank You” to any of us who voted for Malloy! I’m still disgusted!

    • jonpelto

      LOL

    • Tom Burns

      Foley is still unemployed but rich–and has a frothy beer in his hand at the moment–he must have been your choice–wake up

      • R.L.

        I can see from the history of your comments that you are naïve. There was no choice, as Malloy is the same creature as Folley, is the same creature as Cuomo, is the same creature as Walker, is the same creature as Bush, is the same creature as Clinton, is the same creature as Romney, is the same creature as Obama………..”You are shittin me –no way is that his vitae–he has no chance–this would be truly embarrassing and the final nail in big Dan’s coffin–” Haven’t you noticed all of the flagrant, in your face, disrespect these corporate servants have been showing the people as demonstrated by their rhetoric and policy? They keep implementing insulting, fuck you what are you going to do about it, policies and daring the apathetic public to do something about it. The organizations charged with rallying the populace into action (the unions) are complicit (at least here in Connecticut) with their loud silences and louder endorsements of the enemy.

        • Bill Morrison

          Tom,

          Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is to repeat the same actions and expecting different results. Malloy brought us corporate education reform, Common Core, Stefan Pryor and Charter-Gate, ConnCAN, test after test, the attempt to abolish collective bargaining for teachers, VAM, Adamowski, Paul Vallas, etc. Yet, people like you returned him to office under the guise that Foley would end collective bargaining. You somehow reasoned that Foley would be worse than Malloy, yet Malloy has already been Satan.

          No, I did not vote for Foley. Nor did I vote for Malloy since they are variations of the same theme. On the contrary, I took Einstein’s admonition to heart, realizing that returning Malloy to office would be disastrous for education as his actions have already proven to be. I voted for change; I voted Pelto!

          By Einstein’s definition, people like you are quite insane!

        • Bill Morrison

          I retract the “. . . people like you . . .” comment. I should have said that people who voted for Malloy, expecting different results, are quite insane.

        • Bill Morrison

          By the way, Malloy is employed, rich, and is probably laughing hysterically and with deep-seated contempt at our anti-corporate education reform movement because many of us voted for him again for fear of the Foley boogeyman. Thank you to all of his apologists. You are as much to blame now as Malloy.

  • Martin Walsh

    In the words of Claude Rains, “I’m shocked…SHOCKED!”

  • cindy

    Dear SDE,
    I have been a coach for several years. However, I am really good. So I have decided that I would like to become a State Commissioner of Education in Connecticut. Would it be possible for me to get my 092 a few years before my teaching certification, because that might look really impressive. And it would really rock if I could get my 093 to be a superintendent like say, a month or so before my teaching certificate. I am a fast learner, so I don’t think this will be a problem.

    I’m pretty hepped up on qualifications, and I get picked to be in charge of lots of things, so I really don’t think the other teaching/092/093 candidates will mind.

    TTFN
    best,
    NQ

    • jonpelto

      The DRAFT Cindy for Commissioner starts now!

    • tom burns

      You are shittin me –no way is that his vitae–he has no chance–this would be truly embarrassing and the final nail in big Dan’s coffin–

  • Mary Gallucci

    Just what we need–another newbie with questionable qualifications.
    And the pool of candidates is shrinking; one has dropped out.
    http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/24/rabinowitz-drops-bid-to-become-states-next-education-chief/

    • Castles Burning

      And Bill Finch couldn’t be happier so all looks good for Bridgeport.

  • R.L.

    “Our” unions represented us well when they forced endorsements for Malloy…….NOT

    • Bill Morrison

      The Declaration of Independence says, in part, that, ” . . . Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from
      the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government
      becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to
      alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government . . “.

      The governance of our Unions has been extremely disappointing. Certainly, Melodie Peters of AFT-CT has abused her office in her support of Malloy at teachers’ expense. To make matters worse, there is no process for the membership to vote for change. Only delegates can run for office, and only delegates can vote for officers. This system does not represent the interests of the membership! We need to abolish our ties to this “government” and create a new one that serves our interests! Our Unions work for Malloy NOT us! It is time for a change.