ALERT – State Board of Education Fails to stand up for parents and students

ALSO:  Add New Fairfield to school districts engaging in the inappropriate and abusive “Sit and Stay” bullying policies, but West Haven comes off the list after deciding to do the right thing and move students who have been opted out of the Common Core SBAC testing program out of the testing rooms

But in a sadly predictable move, Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education continued their incredible record of failure by refusing to step at today’s State Board of Education meeting to protect Connecticut’s public school parents and children.

Despite repeated requests that they use today’s State Board of Education meeting to instruct Interim Commissioner of Education Wentzell and her senior staff to stop misleading parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test, the state board failed to address the issue in any way what-so-ever.

In addition, the State Board failed to use their meeting as a venue to instruct a group of local school superintendents to stop forcing children who have been opted out of the test from being required to stay in the SBAC testing rooms during the testing periods.

As has been reported here at Wait, What? over the past few weeks, a handful of superintendents continue to bully and punish children and violate the SBAC testing protocol by failing to move children who have been opted out of the SBAC test to an alternative location where they can read or do homework.

According to information provided by parents, New Fairfield has now joined the list of towns engaging in bullying and violating the SBAC testing protocol, although parents also report that West Haven has decided to back-off of their indefensible position and are now moving opted out children to an alternative location.

As explained in the following Wait, What? post, the request for action by the State Board was simple and straight forward.  See: – Hey – State Board of Education – Tell them to treat parents and students with respect.

The Connecticut State Board of Education, as the state’s primary education policy entity, has the responsibility to ensure that children and parents are treated with the respect and dignity that deserve.

But instead of fulfilling that responsibility, the State Board ducked the issue and turned their backs – again – on Connecticut’s parents and students.

It has become increasingly clear that the members of the State Board of Education lack the commitment and honor necessary to perform their jobs and should be removed and replaced with Connecticut citizens who are actually dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing Connecticut public schools.

Hey – State Board of Education – Tell them to treat parents and students with respect

The Connecticut State Board of Education is meeting Monday, April 6, 2015.

In recent years Governor Dannel Malloy’s appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education have been among the most forceful proponents of the Common Core and the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing program.

Despite their support for the massive changes that are enveloping our public schools, as the primary policy setting body for Connecticut’s public schools, State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and the other members of the State Board have an obligation to ensure that parents, students, teachers and everyone associated with Connecticut’s public education system is treated with respect and dignity.

But when it comes to the issue of opting out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing, it has become increasingly clear that Malloy’s Department of Education leadership, along with a handful of local school superintendents and other school officials, are unwilling or incapable of dealing with parents and students in a respectful and honorable way.

By failing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the State Department of Education has become a co-conspirator, with a group of local school officials, in misleading and harassing parents who are seeking to opt their children out of the SBAC testing.

And as we know, some of these local officials have gone so far as to bully and punish children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by forcing those children to stay in the Common Coe SBAC testing rooms, an action that is not only immoral and unethical but that violates the SBAC Testing Protocol.

Last week the following letter was sent to State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and the other members of the State Board of Education asking that the Board use its meeting to clarify that parents have a right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing and that local school officials MAY NOT force children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing to remain in the testing rooms during the testing periods.

Sadly – but not surprisingly –  there was no response to the letter by Chairman Taylor or any other member of the State Board of Education.

However their unresponsiveness does not absolve them of their obligation to ensure that parents and students are treated with the respect that they deserve.

Here is the letter that was sent to the Board of April 2, 2015… 

And here is the hope that someone on the State Board of Education will finally step up at their meeting and put an end to the inappropriate actions that are being taken by some school officials.

 

You can read the State Board of Education with an email to:  [email protected] 

Allan B. Taylor, Chairman, State Board of Education

Connecticut State Department of Education

165 Capitol Avenue – Room 301, Hartford, CT 06106

Chairman Taylor and members of the State Board of Education,

On behalf of parents of public school students across Connecticut, I am writing to request that you add an agenda item to the April 6, 2015 State Board of Education Committee meeting to review and address the actions taken by your Interim Commissioner of Education and other State Department of Education staff as they relate to the issue of a parent’s fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing program and how local school districts should deal with children whose parents have opted them out of the SBAC testing.

In particular I ask that the Board of Education clarify that while Section 10-14n of the Connecticut State Statutes states that, “each student enrolled in grades three to eight, inclusive, and grade ten or eleven in any public school shall, annually, take a mastery examination in reading, writing and mathematics,” there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the state or school districts to punish a child (or parents) who opts out (refuses) to participate in the testing program.

While it is perfectly reasonable that the State Board of Education has a policy in place that seeks to ensure that all children enrolled in public schools take the Mastery Test, the Board and the agency it manages has an even greater obligation to provide parents, students, teachers and the public with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

However, in written communications, press statements and conversations the Commissioner and her staff have had they have failed to be completely honest and that failure has helped create an environment in which some superintendents and local school officials have been misleading and lying to parents about their opt out rights and harassing those parents who have decided to opt their children out of the testing.

Many local superintendents and their representatives have used the “There is not opt out provision” directive from the State Department of Education to mislead and harass parents into thinking they do not have the right to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

Equally troubling are school officials who have threatened children (and parents) with dire consequences if they do opt out of the SBAC tests.

In two central Connecticut communities, juniors were told at Common Core SBAC pep-rallies that they would not graduate if they didn’t take the test.

And in Farmington, the Superintendent of Schools told the local school board that juniors that were opted out would be put at the back of the line for choosing courses next year, even if it meant those students were not going to get the AP or honors classes they needed to complete their high school work and enhance their college applications.

Yet, as members of the State Board of Education are aware, the “state mandate” on testing has been on the books for decades, yet thousands of children failed to take the CMT/CAPT tests each year and none of those children or their parents were punished for not taking those tests – because there is no provision in any law, regulation or policy that allows students to be punished for failing to participate in the State’s Master Testing system.

Finally, along with clarifying that although the State Board of Education is committed to full participation in the state’s Mastery Testing program it recognizes the individual rights of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC testing, I am requesting that the State Board of Education take immediate steps to instruct school superintendents that children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing may not be left in the testing rooms during the SBAC testing periods and that these children should be moved to a safe, secure location where they can read, do homework or engage in some other educational activity.

Leaving children in the testing room is an inappropriate form of punishment and bullying.  The practice leads to unnecessary anxiety for the child and creates an environment of resentment for those students who are taking the test.

Forcing children to stay in the testing room also violates that SBAC testing protocol as outlined in the SBAC Test Administration Manual (TAM) and the SBAC Test Coordinator Manual (TCM).

Despite the specific wording om the SBAC protocol, a group of local school administrators are forcing children who have been opted out of the test to remain in the testing rooms and these school officials are defending their action by claiming that specific staff at the Department of Education told them that the SBAC requirement that only children participating in the test may remain in the testing rooms was discretionary.

There is nothing discretionary about the language.  Please see:  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC Test Administration Manual, in section 3.0 ENSURING TEST SECURITY (Test Administration Manual Page 10) and section 3.1 SECURITY OF THE TEST ENVIRONMENT (Test Administration Manual Page 11)

“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

The requirement is re-stated in the Test Coordinator Manual, which sates,

“This manual provides Test Coordinators with information needed to complete specific tasks before, during, and after the administration of the Smarter Balanced assessments…”

And then on Page 25 repeats the requirement,

“Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

However despite the clear wording of the SBAC protocol, a handful of superintendents continue to punish students by forcing them to remain in the classroom during the testing periods.

Fairfield’s Superintendent David Title’s letter to parents reads,

“Students who chose not to participate will be marked present and will be required to remain with their class in the test room. There will be no alternate instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate”

As a result of Superintendent Title’s directive, a number of elementary students were forced to “sit and stay” in the SBAC testing rooms during the first two weeks of testing in Fairfield.

According to parents, other school superintendents allegedly refusing to move students to an alternative location include;

Coventry Superintendent David Petrone 860-742-7317

Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann 860-253-6500

West Haven Superintendent Neil C. Cavallaro 203-937-4300

Hamden Superintendent Jody Ian Goeler 203-407-2090

Portland Superintendent Phillip O’Reilly 860-342-6790

Shelton Superintendent Freeman Burr 203-924-1023

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett 860-571-8110

Woodstock Superintendent Francis A. Baran 860-928-7453

Parents of Connecticut’s public school students understand and appreciate the role the State Board of Education has in setting policies and goals, but it is also vitally important that the State Board of Education recognize that those goals must include treating parents, students and all members of the education community with dignity and respect.

When it comes to the Common Core SBAC testing, action is needed by the State Board of Education to ensure that all parents and students are actually treated fairly.

Please use your April 6, 2015 meeting to make that happen.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Pelto

Education Advocate

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.

Tracing the Malloy Administration’s deceit on Opting Out of the Common Core SBAC Testing

Late yesterday afternoon, Dianna R. Wentzell, Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education issued a directive to Connecticut school superintendents reiterating the lie the Connecticut parents do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

For information about the letter see Wait, What? Post: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

After months of silence and despite the overwhelming fact that there is no federal or state law that allows the government or school districts to punish children (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core Testing Scam, Malloy’s interim Commissioner of Education incredibly instructed school superintendents to continue their unethical and immoral harassment of parents who are seeking to protect their children by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC Tests – A test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 Connecticut public school students are deemed failures and that more than 90 percent of special education students and English Language Learners have “fail” attached to their academic records.

Last year, attorney Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, made it extremely clear in his testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly that these was no mechanism to punish students (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

With that background, the Interim Commissioner’s action is not only highly inappropriate but suspect.

What is going on behind the scenes that would lead Malloy’s Commissioner to issue a threatening letter that seeks to limit parental rights?

As John F. Kennedy said,

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

Considering the decisions are being made by public employees, who are paid with taxpayer funds, Connecticut parents have a right to know who and why their government is seeking to limit their rights.

To that end and pursuant to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, the Interim Commissioner of Education (and her staff) is being asked to turn over all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015.

Parallel requests are being submitted to a select group of school superintendents who have maintained that parents do not have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.  This list includes the school superintendents of Westport, Fairfield and Ridgefield Connecticut, as well as others.

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws require that the receipt of these requests be acknowledged within twenty-four hours and that the materials requested by provided in a rapid and appropriate time frame.

Furthermore, since the requests are for electronic copies of all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015, these public officials are required to provide the information free of charge.

As the information is provided, it will be posted here so that Wait, What? readers and the public can learn the truth about why government officials are engaged in an ongoing effort to prevent parents from utilizing their constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children from the damage that will be caused by the Common Core SBAC testing.

At the State Department of Education, the Freedom of Information request will be directed to Interim Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell, her Executive Assistant and Kelly Donnelly the State Department of Education’s Director of Communications and Community Partnerships.

Superintendents receiving the Freedom of Information Act requests include;

Westport Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon

Fairfield Superintendent of Schools David Title

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Deborah Low

To illustrate the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the Common Core SBAC test, a parent need only look at the projected “Failure Rate” for students with disabilities that require special education services.

These pass/fail “cut scores” were adopted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in November 2014 with Governor Malloy’s administration voting in favor of the “cut scores,” while the representatives of the governors’ of Vermont and New Hampshire (the other two SBAC states in New England) abstained in the vote, refusing to support the discriminatory pass/fail “cut scores.”)

As readers can see, the projected “Failure” rate for special education students on the Common Core SBAC Test [A rate that mirrors that of other demographic sub-categories of students] is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal.

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%
Math
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

Here we go again! Malloy Administration misleads mother on Common Core SBAC Test

Governor Malloy and his administration are continuing to tell Connecticut parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test that begins next month.

Even worse, local school districts are using that false information to intimidate Connecticut parents.

Parents — do not let them fool you – you can and should opt your children out of these destructive tests, a set of Common Core standardized exams that are rigged to ensure that up to 7 in 10 children fail.

When Christine Murphy, a resident of Bristol, Connecticut, informed her son’s school that he would not be taking the Common Core SBAC Tests, the assistant principal, on behalf of the superintendent, informed her that she did not have the right to opt her child out of the test.

[School Superintendents!  Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test]

Christine, recognizing that this is still America, reached out to the NBC Trouble Shooters who did a news segment about her attempt to utilize her fundamental right to determine what is best for her child.

Interestingly rather than telling NBC news the truth, the whole truth and nothing be the truth, the spokesperson for Governor Malloy’s Department of Education and the paid lobbyist for one of Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry groups decided that they would intentionally mislead the mother, NBC news and the people of Connecticut into thinking the mom did not have the right to opt her child out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Sadly, NBC news fell for the trick and failed to report the truth.

Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education issued a statement which read;

“These laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests. These mandates have been in effect for many years and the State Department of Education, as well as all public schools, must comply.”

– Kelly Donnelly, Connecticut Department of Education

The Malloy administration’s response is at best disingenuous and should more appropriately be called blatantly deceitful considering the reality about parental rights in Connecticut when it comes to the Common Core SBAC Test.

The FACT is there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school district to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Yes it is true that Governor Malloy and his administration have been telling parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out.  But those statements are false.

When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, was finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 2014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

“On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

At the same public hearing, Allan B. Taylor, the Chairperson of the Connecticut State Board of Education stated,

 “There is no law that says they can’t. Certainly no state law that says they can’t. Therefore, residually, presumably they have that right … but that is the parent’s choice, the local district’s choice. The State Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”

The state and local districts will not be punishing parents and their children because they have no legal right to take any action against parents for removing their children from the Common Core SBAC tests.

What the Connecticut General Statute §10-14n(e) does say is that,

“No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.” 

This means that towns cannot promote or graduate a student on the basis of their Common Core SBAC Test score and they certainly cannot hold back a student or refuse to allow them to graduate based on their Common Core SBAC Test score.

Unfortunately, NBC news failed to do its job.

Rather than push past the political spin coming from the Malloy administration, the reporter simply accepted the misleading statement issued by the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Connecticut citizens deserve better from their government and the media.

You can see the NBC segment by going to http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/troubleshooters/State-Prohibits-Parents-From-Opting-Kids-Out-of-Testing-291119901.html

State Board of Education is tone-deaf to needs of the children

Wendy Lecker, fellow public school advocates and columnist has done it again!

In here latest MUST READ column published in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and other Hearst media outlets, Wendy shines the light of truth on the Malloy administration’s unrelenting effort to undermine and privatize Connecticut public education system.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his political appointees have pushed their corporate education reform agenda.

While Malloy’s effort has paid off in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fund his political aspirations, the blood money has come at the cost of our state’s students, teachers, parents and public schools.

As Wendy Lecker writes, the Malloy anti-public education effort was in full-swing this week as the “Connecticut State Board of Education demonstrated how not to make public policy.”

In a piece entitled “State board tone-deaf to needs of the child,” Wendy explains,

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s appointed board trampled local control and democracy by ramming through resolutions that completely disregarded the parents, teachers and communities impacted by their decisions.

Last month, Republican legislators forced a public hearing on legislation calling for a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards until the state could assess the implementation’s financial and educational impact.

Ninety-five percent of parents submitting testimony favored a moratorium on the Common Core, as did 91 percent of teachers, 95 percent of citizens not identifying as parents or teachers and 87.5 percent of local elected officials.

Unfazed by the outpouring of concern, the State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution demanding the immediate implementation of the Common Core and its tests.

In even more arrogant disregard for Connecticut communities, the board approved four new charter schools: Great Oaks Charter and Capital Harbor Prep Charter in Bridgeport, the Booker T. Washington Charter in New Haven and the Stamford Charter School for Excellence in Stamford.

Wendy Lecker adds,

“…the state will divert $85 million dollars over the next few years to charter schools in Bridgeport that serve only 1,600 children. The new charters would drain more than $13 million more from the public schools.

Bridgeport’s board of education and elected parent’s council passed resolutions calling for a moratorium on all charter schools in their city.

These local officials and citizens explained the duty to serve all children in Bridgeport. They noted the flaws in the charter applications, including the serious questions about the companies’ ability to serve students with disabilities or English Language Learners.

Yet the tone-deaf state board voted to force two more charter schools on Bridgeport.

The State Board of Education’s approval of a new charter school in Stamford was equally appalling.

Stamford’s elected board of education voted to oppose the Stamford charter application.

Stamford parents started a petition to oppose the charter school which garnered more than 800 signatures in 48 hours. The Bronx charter school company had a petition up for a month trying to drum up support for the charter, but could only muster 17 signatures.

At the SBE meeting, Stamford officials and parents were united in explaining that Stamford’s integrated schools have closed the achievement gap by double digits in the last seven years. By contrast, the Bronx charter operator has a large and growing achievement gap in its school and offered nothing new to Stamford. In fact, when asked by Stamford’s superintendent why she chose this city, the Bronx operator was unable to respond.

Despite the evidence, the state board voted to give the charter school company more than $4 million for a school of only 392 students while leaving Stamford’s 16,000 public school students underfunded.

Wendy Lecker concludes her column with,

As Bridgeport resident and former NAACP president Carolyn Nah testified, “all children” does not just mean all children in charter schools — it means all public school students. Something is wrong when political appointees in Hartford favor a handful of students, trampling the decisions of democratically elected representatives and parents who are in our schools every day, working to protect the educational interest of every child.

Please take the time to go read the full column and send it to families and friends by going to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-State-board-tone-deaf-to-needs-of-the-5378068.php

 

Malloy’s new charter schools – 1st up the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven

Time to review the facts surrounding Malloy’s new charter schools…

Number #1: The Booker T. Washington Charter School.

The Booker T. Washington School may very well be Connecticut’s first foray into using public funds to pay for what appears to be a religiously connected school.  (We’ll pretend for a moment that such a move is not unconstitutional).

According to the charter school application approved by Malloy’s State Board of Education yesterday, there is a rather unseemly and bizarre connection between the Booker T. Washington Charter School, the charter school management company known as Jumoke/FUSE Inc. and the Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

The application begins with the statement,

“The Booker T. Washington Academy is the brainchild of Reverend Eldren D. Morrison, Pastor of Varick Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut (“Varick Memorial”)

The Governing Board of Directors for the Booker T. Washington Academy includes the following individuals,

  • Reverend Eldren D. Morrison: Founder of Booker T. Washington Academy, Pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut and New Haven, Community Leader
  • Jesse Phillips: Chief of Staff to Rev. Morrison at Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, CT, and Community Economic Advisor)
  • Stacia Morrison: Academic Assistant, Bridgeport Public Schools and First Lady of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, New Haven, Connecticut).

And on the next page of the application its states,  “Stacia Morrison is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She intends to apply for a staff position with the Academy and, if hired, will resign from the Board.”

The cost to Connecticut taxpayers to get the Booker T. Washington Charter School up and running over the next five years will exceed $27 million.

In addition, the taxpayers of New Haven will continue to pay for the transportation costs and special education costs of students attending the privately run Booker T. Washington Charter School.

A $27 million dollar public expenditure for the “brainchild” of a church minister and the school’s governing board will include the minister, his assistant and his wife … at least until she gets a  job at the school at which time she will resign her position on the governing board.

Interestingly no one on the State Board of Education even pressed the issue of the association between the school and a church or the notion that the founder’s wife will serve on the Board of Directors until she gets a state-funded job at the school.

For more read Wait, What? Post: Merging Church and State – The Booker T. Washington Charter School

 

The second rather unseemly and bizarre issue is that the new Booker T. Washington Charter School will be run by a charter school management company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc.

Just two years ago there was nothing even called FUSE Inc. and now the charter school management company has a senior corporate officer sitting on the Connecticut State Board of Education, was just approved to run its fourth school in Connecticut and it still had time to take over management of a public school 1,500 miles away in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

FUSE Inc. is better known as Jumoke Academy Inc.  Their initial charter school is in Hartford and is called the Jumoke Academy.

Like all charter schools in Connecticut, the Jumoke Academy has refused to take its fair share of English language learners or students with special education needs.

With the passage of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law in 2012, Stefan Pryor used his new-found power to take over Hartford’s Milner Elementary School and give it to Jumoke Academy to manage via a no bid contract.

The agreement was struck so quickly that the state and Jumoke didn’t even have a signed contract until well into the new school year.

The deal was particularly strange since the Jumoke Academy had never had a non-English speaking student in its six-year history and yet was given control of Milner Elementary, a school in which approximately 40 percent of students didn’t speak English or went home to households in which English was not the primary language.

A review of the demographics of the two schools made it clear that Jumoke could not possibly have been the best management company to take over the Hartford neighborhood school.

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 25% 0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 39% 0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy
2010 11% 4%

 

To facilitate the expansion of his growing charter school company, Jumoke’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Sharpe, set up a holding company called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence, Inc. and named himself the new company’s Chief Executive Officer.

Less than a year later, although the State Department of Education had no data about the level of success Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was having at Hartford’s Milner School, Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education gave Jumoke/FUSE, Inc. another no-bid contract, this time to take over the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport.

In the meantime, Governor Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke/FUSE Inc. to serve as a member of the State Board of Education — the very entity responsible for approving charter school applications and holding charter schools accountable.

And now the State Board of Education approved Jumoke/FUSE Inc.’s application to open the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven.

But as tens of millions of public funds are diverted to this lucky company, the most interesting development of all may well be that while Jumoke/FUSE Inc. claims to be focused on operating schools in Connecticut,  their Booker T. Washington application failed to mention that just a few months ago, Jumoke/FUSE Inc. was able to get a contract from the Louisiana Recovery School District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take over a school there. [The Louisiana Recovery School District is the state entity that Paul Vallas ran before he made his way to Bridgeport].

Imagine, a charter school management company that has been given two no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration to run public neighborhood schools and still managed to get control of a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And although there is no data about how they are doing with their Connecticut schools or what time commitments they have made to their Baton Rouge school, not a single member of Malloy’s State Board of Education asked Jumoke/FUSE Inc. how it was going to have the time to open yet another charter school in Connecticut.

For more read Wait, What? blogs Friends in high places = lots of money! and The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train.

Malloy administration lines up votes to re-endorse the Common Core

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say…

Maybe Dannel “Dan” Malloy is simply on a mission to alienate as many parents, teachers and public school advocates as possible before he faces the electorate this coming November.

Or maybe the pay-off in campaign contributions is so great that it is worth selling ones soul to the corporate education reform industry.

Whatever the reason or reasons, before Malloy’s State Board of Education votes to divert millions of taxpayer funds to charter schools at its meeting tomorrow in Hartford, Board Chairman Alan Taylor will call for a vote so that the Malloy administration can re-commit itself, our state, our schools and our children to the Common Core.

While reasonable people can debate the merits of having a common set of educational standards, the truth is that Connecticut has had a long history of ensuring that our schools are guided by strong, evidence based, state educational standards.  Those standards have been improved over time through an open process that allows public participation and seeks to promote consensus building.

But thanks to George W. Bush and Barak H. Obama a decision was made in Washington D.C. to institute a top-down set of national standards that would apply to every state.  Except, of course, six states refused to participate and word is that Indiana just pulled out of the Common Core.

So now our “sort-of” national standards are being implemented.

But as teachers, school administrators, parents, students and taxpayers are learning, the hard way, a new set of “national” education standards has its benefits and its downsides.

In the midst of this debate comes news that Governor Malloy’s State Board of Education, with no public hearing and no notice to school districts, administrators, teachers or parents, will re-commit us to the Common Core with a vote at tomorrow’s State Board of Education meeting.

As I said, sometimes it is hard to know just what to say…

Here is the resolution that the State Board of Education will be adopting tomorrow;

Connecticut State Board of Education – TO BE PROPOSED: April 2, 2014  

Whereas, The State Board of Education (“Board”) is charged by law to ensure that all students shall have equal opportunity to receive a suitable program of educational experiences that prepares them for success in higher education and the workplace; and

Whereas, The Board is mindful of and concerned with inequities within and across classrooms throughout the State of Connecticut that unfairly impact students’ chances for success in Grades K-12 and in their future; and

Whereas, The State Board remains committed to implement the educational interests of the state by promoting the continuous improvement of education and providing leadership and support to school districts; and

Whereas, Toward this end, in July 2010 the Board adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are higher in rigor and more closely aligned with college and career expectations than the prior standards; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the State Board of Education stands firm in its belief that full and immediate implementation of the Common Core State Standards is necessary, and pledges its commitment to provide the necessary leadership, supports and resources for educators, students, and families, to ensure its success.

Oh and in case you missed it: Vallas lawyer’s gratuitous attack on those who sued Vallas

Although it didn’t get a lot of play at the time, following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Carmen Lopez v. Paul Vallas case that let Paul Vallas off the hook for not having the credentials necessary to get his 093 State of Connecticut superintendent certification, attorney Steven Ecker wrote a commentary piece following the court’s decision. 

Ecker is the attorney that the City of Bridgeport hired to back up their own lawyers when a Connecticut Superior Court Judge ruled that Vallas lacked the credentials to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut.

As readers may recall, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s decision after basically finding that Connecticut’s Uniform Procedures Act required that those who opposed Stefan Pryor’s decision to waive Paul Vallas’ need for certification should have first gone to the Connecticut State Board of Education with their complaint before turning to the state courts for action.

Of course, considering the wholly inappropriate way in which Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Alan Taylor, Malloy’s appointed Chairman of the State Board, handled Vallas’ three credit independent study — calling it a school leadership program — the chance of a fair hearing before the State Board of Education was non-existent.

Regardless, the state’s highest court did what it did and effectively threw out the attempt to have Vallas removed for failing to complete the school leadership program as mandated by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy.

But as we now know, despite fulfilling his three-year contract or at least staying through the 2013-2014 teacher contract negotiations, as he bragged he would, Vallas announce that he has hightailing it back to Illinois in order to run for Lt. Governor in his home state.

What many people missed, at the time, was that after Vallas announced his impending departure and the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t the court’s role to determine whether the Malloy administration had followed the law when they decided a three-credit course counted as a school leadership program, attorney Ecker wrote a commentary piece for the blog “Only in Bridgeport.”

The commentary piece is a classic tribute to the approach Malloy, Pryor, Vallas, Adamowski and their ilk take to citizen input and the rights of the People to pursue their grievances.

In the piece, Ecker suggested that, “perhaps plaintiffs should follow their own guidance and reimburse the City for the cost of defending against a lawsuit that should never have been filed!”

Ecker introduces his piece by observing;

“Neither Mr. Vallas nor his lawyers are interested in gloating over the Supreme Court ruling. I have always felt – and I said in open court back in July – that I do not attribute bad faith to anyone here. Plaintiffs obviously hold strong views about what is best for the educational interests of Bridgeport’s children, and those views deserve respect. However, as I also suggested in the same courtroom on the same day, respect is a two-way street, and it is deeply unfortunate that Mr. Pattis, plaintiffs, and a handful of their supporters find themselves unable to acknowledge that people holding differing views are also acting in good faith, based on their own strongly held convictions about what is right for the schoolchildren of Bridgeport. The need that Mr. Pattis and others evidently feel to personally attack Mr. Vallas (and anyone else who has a differing viewpoint) is what I find so disconcerting. The allegations of corruption, cronyism, incompetence and the rest of the nonsense is both uncivil and irresponsible. It also is highly counter-productive in the long run.

The foregoing explains why I say what follows. Ordinarily I would not comment at any length. But the spinning endlessly promulgated by plaintiffs and their lawyer really warrants a response. So –”

You can find the entire commentary piece at: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/vallas-lawyer-attacks-on-school-chief-uncivil-and-irresponsible-rule-of-law-honored-by-vallas/#more-53032

But for those who want the “spark-notes” version, Ecker saves the best for last in which he observes,

“One final point. The Supreme Court decision is by no means a “moot” point. It establishes an important legal point, and also allows Mr. Vallas to help facilitate an orderly transition to a new superintendent. No doubt, Mr. Vallas has just announced that he will be returning to Illinois to seek public office there. Plaintiffs and their lawyer appear pleased by the news, which of course is their right. It is unfair, however, for them or anyone else to use this recent development in an effort to justify the costly and unsuccessful litigation waged by plaintiffs against Vallas over the past seven months, and it is equally unfair to use this news as a reason to ignore or brush aside the Supreme Court’s holding. The rule of law deserves greater respect than that.”

SURPRISE: Connecticut Supreme Court rules Commissioner Pryor had a right to waive Vallas’ need for certification…

As if there was any remaining doubt about how our justice system really works…

According to the ruling just released by the Connecticut Supreme Court, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor DID NOT exceed his authority when he decided to waive Paul Vallas’ need for certification to be superintendent of schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The Supreme Court decided that Pryor could waive Vallas’ certification requirement despite the fact that Vallas only took a three credit independent study course instead of a school leadership program as mandated by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy.

The Supreme Court justices reversed the lower court judge claiming that a “quo warranto” motion to remove Vallas was not appropriate in this situation.

Just as importantly, the Supreme Court opinion was  that the determination as to whether Vallas did or did not complete a School Leadership Program, “was a licensing decision squarely committed to the state board and the commissioner by the legislature, and the plaintiffs failed to avail themselves of appropriate avenues to raise this challenge to the defendant’s qualifications in the appropriate administrative forum.”

Meaning that rather than sue Vallas, former Judge Carmen Lopez and all of us who believed Pryor was wrong to have waived Vallas’ certification should have gone to the State Board of Education and asked them not to do what they did.

The ruling is a powerful message to the 45,000 certified teachers and 8,000 certified administrators who worked so hard and spent so much money to get their certification.

Instead of wasting your time trying to get an education and meeting the legal requirements needed to become certified in Connecticut, teachers and administrators should simply have gone to Governor Malloy and asked him to introduce special legislation to grant you certification at the discretion of the Commissioner of Education.

Then, when you failed to even do the minimum amount of worked outlined in that special legislation, you could have gone to Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and asked them to simply waive your need for certification all together.

You can read the Supreme Court ruling here:  http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROcr/CR310/310CR4.pdf

ah….Good thing we are a nation of laws and not of men…

Or as Al Pacino observes towards the close of the movie “Justice for All,”

“That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a *slime*! If he’s allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin’ on here!

Judge Rayford: Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!

Arthur Kirkland: You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he’d like to do it again! He *told* me so! It’s just a show! It’s a show! It’s “Let’s Make A Deal”! “Let’s Make A Deal”! Hey Frank, you wanna “Make A Deal”? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, 3 weeks probation?

Arthur Kirkland: [to Judge Fleming] You, you sonofabitch, you! You’re supposed to *stand* for somethin’! You’re supposed to protect people! But instead you rape and murder them!

[dragged out of court by bailiffs]

Arthur Kirkland: You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!”