Madison Superintendent provides Parents with the truth about the Common Core SBAC Test

As George Orwell wrote in his initially classified book of fiction,

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

To which it is well to remember the words of Winston Churchill who observed,

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

If you had a child in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you’d have a superintendent, school administrators and Board of Education that was committed to telling the truth about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing System and dedicated to putting children, parents, teachers and their public schools above the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s ongoing attempt to undermine public education in the United States.

If you had a children in the Madison, Connecticut public schools you would have received the following a letter from Superintendent Thomas Scarice and Assistant Superintendent Gail Dahling-Hench, a letter that honestly and truthfully explains why the Common Core SBAC test is not an appropriate tool or mechanism to judge our children, their teachers or our public schools.

The letter to Madison Parents states;

Individual Student Reports for the 2015 Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test were mailed this week. This specific report format is provided to the district by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and is a product of the national Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, consisting of 18 states.

Tests are designed with a purpose. The SBAC test was designed to measure the college and career readiness level of students through their achievement on the Connecticut Core educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-8 and 11. In addition, as in prior years, the science CMT/CAPT test was administered in Grades 5, 8, and 10.

One singular test provides an extraordinarily limited view of individual student performance. This particular test is based on an incomplete view of “college and career readiness”. In fact, this test endeavors to provide parents and educators with a predictive measure of an individual student’s college and career readiness by mere achievement of educational standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The reliability of these predictions is imprecise and suspect at best.

Resources provided by the CSDE clearly state that characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories (levels) is an oversimplification, and that the specific achievement levels should not be interpreted as infallible predictors of students’ futures.

Perhaps most concerning in the student reports is the definitive nature of the claims made about an individual student based on one test. This can be found in the language that declares whether or not your child has “met the achievement level” expected for a specific grade, and whether or not your child will need “substantial support to get back on track for success in the next grade”. These claims are particularly alarming given the inadequacies, imperfections, and lack of reliable evidence on one singular test to make such assertions. A balance of assessment tools at the school level provides a more complete picture of individual student performance, as well as timely and actionable data. We encourage parents to look at student performance over various measures when understanding the academic performance of their child.

You are also invited to review the March 2015 report commissioned by the SBAC entitled, Making Good Use of New Assessments. This report conveys numerous cautions about the use, and most importantly, the misuse of these scores.

When examining your student report, we ask that you refer to the online parent interpretive guide provided by the CSDE.

We hope you find this summary helpful when examining the enclosed results for your student. If you have questions about this report….

You can read the letter at:   http://www.madison.k12.ct.us/page.cfm?p=2723&newsid=1201

When every superintendent, school administrator and Board of Education are willing to speak the truth about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scam we will have taken a gigantic step forward in our battle to put the world “public” back into our nation’s system of public education.

Hartford Courant story highlights bizarre effort to privatize Clark Elementary School.

A Hartford Courant article entitled, Hartford School Board Asks Education Commissioner To ‘Impose’ Turnaround Plan reveals some of the contradictions and bizarre actions taken by the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, senior Hartford board of education officials, and corporate education reform industry advocacy groups in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reports,

“Despite objections from the teachers’ union, the city board of education asked Tuesday night that state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor use his statutory power to impose a “turnaround” plan for Clark School that would include management by an outside group.

[…]

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, contended that Clark teachers and parents were given inadequate information throughout the turnaround process, which she said amounted to “bullying and intimidation” in favor of Friendship.

“Unfortunately, the Hartford BOE just can’t allow the process to proceed as it should,” Johnson said.

Although senior staff in Governor Malloy’ State Department of Education have consistently denied that they had any role in pushing the effort to direct a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Courant now reports,

“The state had recommended Friendship, which operates four public schools in Baltimore in addition to its charter schools, to the turnaround committee that has been developing an improvement plan for the prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade-school on Clark Street…”

In the days leading up to last night’s Hartford Board of Education vote, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, his hand-picked board Chairman, Republican Richard Wareing, and the corporate education reform groups, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART), Hartford Parents University and others tried to claim that the Clark School parents and community unanimously supported the move give the school to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

However, no such consensus ever existed.

In order to maintain the fantasy that the Clark School community unanimously selected Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Board of Education had to vote without allowing public input and systematically overlook information such as an email from the co-chair of the School Governance Council and member of the Clark Turnaround Committee who wrote,

“PLEASE VOTE NO TONIGHT,” adding, “our unified voice was to see other [school] models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us.”

And to make the charade complete, the Hartford Courant reported that Commissioner Pryor was up for his part of the whole scam when his spokesperson concluded,

“We’re grateful for the thoughtful dialogue and respect the local process in Hartford,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We will certainly take the views of the Hartford Board of Education, Mayor Segarra, and the Clark school governance council into account as we consider the potential paths forward.”

Thoughtful dialog?

Respect for the local process?

The truth is that State law requires that the district school turnaround process be driven by parents, teachers and the local community.

In the case of Clark Elementary School, that process was still on-going.

In fact, Clark School parents were supposed to go see schools in New York City last week and in Cincinnati this week, but those trips were suddenly cancelled.

Faced with the potential that their hand-picked private vendor would not be selected by the local community, the Mayor of Hartford, the Hartford Board of Education, corporate education reform industry advocacy groups AND the Malloy Administration conspired to concoct a strategy that effectively eliminated appropriate parent involvement.

Instead of following the law and doing the right thing, Malloy et. al. simply aborted the process and will use a no-bid contract to hand the out-of-state charter school management company a Hartford public school along with millions of dollars in state and local taxpayers’ funds.

The Clark Elementary School process has become a quintessential example of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-privatization political agenda.

In this case the winner is a private out-of-state charter schools company, while the losers are the students, parents and teachers of Clark School along with the taxpayers.

You can read the Hartford Courant story here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0409-20140408,0,3652613.story

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

SURPRISE: Malloy administration’s back room deal to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to an out-of-state charter school company is back

As Wait, What? readers have known for months, the Malloy administration has been engaged in a campaign to force the City of Hartford to turn their Clark Elementary School over to a private, out-of-state private charter school chain based in Washington D.C.

Initially Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, tried to “persuade” the City of Hartford to turn Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc. the charter school chain that Pryor co-founded.

When the parents, teachers and Clark School community fought back, the Hartford Board of Education, the majority of whom are appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segar, said no.

At that point, Pryor and the Malloy administration switched to Plan B.

Plan B was to force Hartford to turn the local neighborhood school over to Friendship Charter Schools of  Washington DC through a no-bid contract process.

Once again parents, teachers and the Clark School Community fought back.

But Commissioner Stefan Pryor, along with his aides, has spent that last few weeks trying to force Hartford to give up their opposition and agree to turn their school over the private charter school company.

According to sources who attended meetings about this issue, the Pryor’s group has told parents that the only way Clark Elementary School can get significantly more funds to improve their school is to allow this backroom deal to go forward.

When some community leaders complained that the Friendship Charter School chain was being forced upon them, Commissioner Pryor’s aide, Andrew Ferguson, shot back saying, “You’ve had years to do this internally.”

Ferguson’s comment is particularly repulsive and inappropriate since the Connecticut State Department of Education is well aware of the historic underfunding of Connecticut’s schools and that there is absolutely nothing preventing Pryor from investing additional funds in Clark Elementary without making the community give up control of their neighborhood school to a private out-of-state charter school company.

While the level of arrogance emanating from the Connecticut State Department of Education is shocking, the real question is who has participated in the behind the scenes effort to undermine the teachers and parents and push forward with the deal to hand Clark Elementary over to the Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School chain.

To date, freedom of information requests for all communication between the Malloy administration and the corporate leadership of Friendship Charter company have gone unanswered.

Therefore, an additional request will submitted today,

The new FOI request will again be made pursuant to the  Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.

The new request is a demand that the State Department of  Education turn over all written communication, memos, documents, emails and corresponding attachments that mention “Friendship Charter” and were sent to or from Commissioner Pryor, Adam Goldfarb (Pryor’s chief of staff), Morgan Barth (Pryor School Turnaround Director) or Andrew Ferguson (Pryor and Barth’s aide assigned to the Clark School Committee).

The request covers all communication created, sent or received during the period from September 1, 2013 through today, March 28, 2014.

In addition, the State Department of Education is instructed to turn over a list of all phone calls that were made by these four individuals, along with the date, time and duration of each call.  The request covers both the office and cell phones of those four previously mentioned state employees.

If the Malloy administration were serious about transparency, honesty and fairness, these materials would be immediately turned over and shared with the Clark School community prior to any  final vote on the future of Hartford’s Clark School.

Investigation needed into Malloy administration’s handling of Clark Elementary School Fiasco

Last October Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his corporate education reform industry allies teamed up with Hartford’s outgoing superintendent of schools, Christina Kishimoto, to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.

See Wait, What? articles?

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (October 25, 2013)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (October 28, 2013)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (October 31, 2013)

When parents, teachers and the Clark School community rose up in anger, even Governor Malloy’s close ally, Mayor Pedro Segarra, were forced to back off the backroom deal with Achievement First, Inc.

With Achievement First, Inc. off the table, Pryor and his operatives concocted Plan B.

Plan B was designed to use Pryor’s “school turnaround process” to hand control of the Clark Elementary School over to a Washington D.C. charter school chain called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.  In addition to charter schools in Washington, Friendship runs a series of charter schools in Baltimore Maryland.

Despite promising that it would be the parents, teachers and the Clark School community that they play the lead role in making any decisions about the future of Clark Elementary School, Commissioner Pryor, his school turnaround director, Morgan Barth, and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson were already working to deliver a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have failed to persuade the State Department of Education to turnover email communications and documents about the early planning that occurred between Pryor’s office and Friendship Charter Schools.

However high-ranking officials within the State Department have confirmed that the Malloy administration had already “cut a deal” with Friendship Charter Schools, Inc weeks ago.

Information about the deal between Pryor and Friendship first appeared in the following Wait, What? posts,

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (Feb. 10, 2014)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (Feb. 13, 2014)

And early this month, the Malloy administration tried to move forward with Plan B.  See Wait, What? articles,

NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (March 6, 2014)

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else (March 9, 2014)

Once again, parents, teachers and the Clark School Community have been forced to come to the defense of their local elementary school

This time, in an attempt to defuse the community’s anger, the Hartford Courant is reporting that Commissioner Pryor has announced that he will allow the community,  More Time To Draft ‘Turnaround’ Plan For Hartford’s Clark School.”  

Although Pryor and the Malloy administration have consistently denied that there was any pre-determination in favor of Friendship Charter Schools, the Courant story reveals the truth with the statement that, “State education officials [now admit that] they recommended Friendship because the group has experience working with a teacher’s union and has the organizational means to take on a school with as many challenges as Clark — and in time for the 2014-15 academic year.”

In a truly laughable moment, Pryor’s Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth was quoted in the same Courant story as saying, “This talk of, ‘it’s Friendship or bust,’ and there’s an ultimatum from the state to have Friendship … that’s not true.”

While Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson added in equally absurd quote saying, “The state can’t want it more than the local community.”

Of course, the ongoing attempt by the Malloy administration reveals just how hard it has been working to give the school away to an out-side charter management company.  In case after case Pryor’s State Department of Education has made it absolutely clear to local communities that they have had little to no choice in what would happen once Pryor’s announced their school was a target for his turnaround program

The citizens of Connecticut deserve an investigation into the Malloy administrations actions surrounding the effort to first give Clark Elementary School to Achievement First, Inc. and then to give it to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Malloy full steam ahead on Common Core, Common Core Testing and “education reforms”

Just over a month ago, Governor Malloy took the the microphone to announce his election year effort to persuade teachers, parents and public school advocates to overlook his three years of failed education policies and throw their support behind his re-election aspirations.

In essence, Malloy said, “I hear you and we’ll wait until after I’m re-elected” to proceed with some of our efforts to undermine Connecticut’s public education system.

But proving, yet again, that action speaks louder than words, Malloy has been pushing full steam ahead with some of the worst aspects of  his corporate education reform industry agenda.

A re-cap of Wait, What? posts from the weekend are a shocking reminder that Malloy has the habit of saying one thing and doing another.

Posts to read include,

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else

Parents, teachers and the community that makes up Hartford’s Clark Elementary School in Hartford are still reeling from the Malloy Administration’s threat that the Clark “Turnaround Committee” must agree to turn their local Hartford neighborhood school over to Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School Inc or else they won’t get the funds necessary to improve their school.

But there is much that Clark School parents and the Clark School community have not been told.

This development comes despite a state law that requires an inclusive “turnaround” process in which parents, teachers, school officials and community members are supposed to play the primary role in deciding the future of their local school.

The Malloy Administration’s plan to force the “Clark School Turnaround Plan” to hand the day-to-day operation of the Hartford elementary school over to Friendship Public Charter School Inc. first came to light in a February 10, 2014 Wait, What? article entitled, “NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (2/10/14).

 

The Brave New World of being ‘College and Career Ready (By Sarah Darer Littman)

One of the oft-stated goals of education reform is to ensure that students are “college and career ready.” Like “excellence,” it’s probably one of the most over-used phrases in the education reform movement.

But as I’ve asked before,  what does this phrase really mean? Do our policy makers even know?

Judging by their actions of late, I’m starting to think they don’t.

On March 18, the window opens for field tests of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the computer-based adaptive test that will go live next year to replace the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).

SBAC, or the Smarter Balanced Consortium, is one of the two consortiums that states have signed up with to develop new assessment systems for the Common Core State Standards. Funded by a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (which runs out in September of this year), SBAC claims its system “will measure mastery of the Common Core State Standards and provide timely information about student achievement and progress toward college and career readiness.”

But there’s a slight catch. They haven’t yet defined “college and career ready.”

“The Consortium also will establish performance benchmarks that define the level of content and skill mastery that marks students as college- and career-ready. These performance benchmarks will be determined through a deliberative and evidence-based standard-setting process, which will include input from K-12 educators and college and university faculty,” the website says. “Preliminary performance standards will be established in 2014 after student data have been collected through pilot and field testing. Following the Field Test in spring 2014, the Consortium will conduct standard setting for the summative assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 in ELA/literacy and mathematics. These performance standards will be validated in July/August 2015 using spring 2015 operational data.”

So basically the people who are pushing Common Core — Mssrs. Gates, Obama, Duncan et al, need our kids to be lab rats for this project, while their kids are safely ensconced in private schools, immune from such pedestrian concerns.

What does being an unpaid test subject for SBAC entail exactly?

Sarah Darer Littman’s entire piece can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready/

 

A crisis of low standards” (By Wendy Lecker)

Not poverty. Not inadequate resources. Not toxic stress. Not segregation. According to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, low standards are the cause of America’s educational disparities.

The solution, he maintains, is national standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the accompanying national tests.

“For far too long,” Duncan declared, “our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities.

They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” Duncan claimed states’ low standards made “educators, administrators and especially politicians” look good but did not prepare students for the rigors of college work.

Before the Common Core, according to Duncan, high school success was a “lie” — it certainly did not mean that students were “college ready.”

What a compelling, but false, narrative. A new peer-reviewed longitudinal nationwide study confirmed that the most reliable predictor of cumulative college GPA and college graduation is a student’s high school GPA.

Read the Wendy Lecker’s entire piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-crisis-of-low-standards-5298374.php

Who is behind the effort to destroy Hartford’s Clark Elementary School?

Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community have a right to know what is really going on behind the scenes in the ongoing effort to stifle parental involvement and hand Clark over to an out-of-state charter school company.

The corporate education reform industry has targeted Clark, but who exactly is pushing these unfair, discriminatory proposals that seek to take over the school, fire all the teachers and hand control of the school over to those who have no understanding of the community?

It is time to find out,

Pursuant to  the Connecticut Freedom of Information act, the proponents of this Clark takeover need to produce any and all memos, documents, notes, emails and attachments that have been sent, received or produced over the last 60 days and relate to the Clark Elementary School.

If elected and appointed officials won’t do the right thing for the Clark community then at least the community deserves to know the deals that have been cut behind the scenes.

This Freedom of Information request will cover Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Morgan Barth, Pryor “Turnaround Director” and Andrew Ferguson, Pryor and Barth’s point person on the effort to destroy Clark.

In addition FOI requests are being submitted for the same information from Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Hartford Portfolio Director Oliver Barton.

Clark parents should refuse to engage in further discussion until these materials are handed over.

The request for these documents are being submitted today, it will be noteworthy to see if Malloy administration and the City of Hartford fulfill their legal duty and hand over the requested information in a timely fashion.

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else

Parents, teachers and the community that makes up Hartford’s Clark Elementary School in Hartford are still reeling from the Malloy Administration’s threat that the Clark “Turnaround Committee” must agree to turn their local Hartford neighborhood school over to Washington D.C.’s Friendship Charter School Inc. or else they won’t get the funds necessary to improve their school.

But there is much that Clark School parents and the Clark School community have not been told.

This development comes despite a state law that requires an inclusive “turnaround” process in which parents, teachers, school officials and community members are supposed to play the primary role in deciding the future of their local school.

The Malloy Administration’s plan to force the “Clark School Turnaround Plan” to hand the day-to-day operation of the Hartford elementary school over to Friendship Public Charter School Inc. first came to light in a February 10, 2014 Wait, What? article entitled, “NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (2/10/14).

A follow up story on February 10, 2014 further explained developments.  See Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School (2/12/14).

Late last week, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor pulled the trigger in their effort to force the Clark School community to accept their new master.  Using his Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth and State Department of Education staffer, Andrew Ferguson, Clark’s parents were basically informed that they had no choice to but to agree to Pryor’s demands.  See NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (3/6/14).

The Friendship Public Charter School chain is presently made up of six charter schools in Washington D.C. and another five “turnaround” schools that the company runs in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.

Washington D.C.’s Friendship Public Charter School company is yet another charter school management organization trying build an empire.  

Just last October, Friendship Charter School was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana trying to open a new chain of schools.

As reported by the local media in Baton Rouge last October, “Nine charter school groups planning to open schools in Baton Rouge introduced themselves Monday night to about 125 people who gathered at Living Faith Christian Center…..” Friendship Public Charter School from Washington, D.C. was one of those schools giving a presentation.

According to their application, ”Friendship Louisiana – a Louisiana non-profit corporation – seeks to hire Friendship Public Charter School Inc. to start, manage, and grow a network of charter schools that implements its proven charter school and turnaround models to improve dramatically outcomes for Louisiana students.”

But Baton Rouge isn’t Friendship Charter Schools’ only target.  Their Louisiana application adds, “Friendship proposes to operate a network of charter schools in Louisiana that includes three schools in Shreveport ultimately serving grades pre K-12, and one school in Baton Rouge serving grades 6-12.”

In an apparent effort to impress the Louisiana powers that be, in their application, Friendship Charter Schools Inc. brags that they have, “been invited by school districts in states including Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Carolina to operate turnaround schools, and [have] declined.”

The application goes on to read, “Friendship is interested in Louisiana because it has created the conditions for reform that make it conducive to turnaround success.”

So let’s get this right…Friendship Charter Schools turned down “invitations” to open schools in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and North Carolina  because those states didn’t have “conditions for reform” that made “it conducive to turnaround success,” and at yet the Malloy administration, out of the blue, wants to give them a school in Connecticut?

There is something very, very wrong with this picture.

And what happened in Louisiana?

On October 31, 2013, the Advocate Newspaper of Baton Rouge reported,

“Capitol High and Istrouma High will merge on the Capitol High campus, with Friendship Public Charter Schools, of Washington, D.C., in charge.”

[…]

Donald Hense, chairman of Friendship, donned a dark blue ballcap with an F on it, a reference to the group’s flagship high school.

He rattled off positive statistics connected with that school and the group’s other high school in the nation’s capital.

“Ninety-five percent of our students graduate in four years,” he said. “One hundred percent go on to college.”  (A claim that sounds familiar to those who have been following the Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School farce).

At the press conference, Louisiana’s Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard, who holds the position Paul Vallas held for six years called the development, “a positive step forward.”

And back here in Connecticut, Stefan Pryor’s operation claims that they are choosing Friendship Public Charter School, Inc., regardless of the opinion of Clark School’s parents, because the Friendship Public Charter chain will provide the personal attention that Clark Elementary School needs.

Who is behind the effort to destroy Hartford’s Clark Elementary School?

Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community have a right to know what is really going on behind the scenes in the ongoing effort to stifle parental involvement and hand Clark over to an out-of-state charter school company.

The corporate education reform industry has targeted Clark, but who exactly is pushing these unfair, discriminatory proposals that seek to take over the school, fire all the teachers and hand control of the school over to those who have no understanding of the community?

It is time to find out,

Pursuant to  the Connecticut Freedom of Information act, the proponents of this Clark takeover need to produce any and all memos, documents, notes, emails and attachments that have been sent, received or produced over the last 60 days and relate to the Clark Elementary School.

If elected and appointed officials won’t do the right thing for the Clark community then at least the community deserves to know the deals that have been cut behind the scenes.

This Freedom of Information request will cover Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Morgan Barth, Pryor “Turnaround Director” and Andrew Ferguson, Pryor and Barth’s point person on the effort to destroy Clark.

In addition FOI requests are being submitted for the same information from Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and Hartford Portfolio Director Oliver Barton.

Clark should refuse to engage in further discussion until these materials are handed over.

The request for these documents are being submitted today, it will be noteworthy to see if Malloy administration and the City of Hartford fulfill their legal duty and hand over the requested information in a timely fashion.

 

NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again

The battle for control of Hartford’s Clark Elementary School has become a case study in how the corporate education reform industry works.

On one side are the heroic parents and teachers who are working tirelessly to save and improve one of Hartford’s local neighborhood schools.

On the other side is the money, greed and arrogance that drives the corporate education reform industry.

The effort to run over the will of the local community and hand Clark Elementary School over to a charter school management company is being led by Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, and Morgan Barth, Pryor’s “Turnaround Director,” who illegally worked as a teacher and administrator for Achievement First, Inc before being appointed to his present position by Pryor.

As Wait, What? readers know, Stefan Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and Achievement First, Inc. has received more money from the Malloy administration than any other charter school operator.

With the help of Hartford’s out-going superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, Pryor and his band of education reformers tried to work a deal to close Clark Elementary School and hand the school and all of its taxpayer funds over to Achievement First, Inc.

Clark Parents and teachers fought back and derailed to the effort to give the school to Achievement First, Inc.

As the following links reveal, Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth then concocted a plan to hand Clark Elementary School over to a large Washington D.C. charter school company called Friendship Charter Schools.

The only thing standing in their way was a state law requiring that parents, teachers and the local community had to play a role in selecting a “turnaround” model and there was little interest in a  Washington D.C. charter school company that had virtually no experience running schools with a large Latino population, a significant number of English Language Learners and a large special education population.

But now, according to sources close to Pryor and Barth, rather than work with the local community to identify a turnaround model that is actually appropriate for Hartford’s Clark Elementary, Malloy’s State Department of Education is telling the parents, teachers and local community that they must accept the charter option or the school will receive no additional funds or support mandated under the Commissioner’s Network Program.

The arrogance being displayed by Malloy’s appointees is truly breathtaking.  Never in a million years would these bullies treat White, suburban communities they way they are treating a community made of African Americans, Latinos and other Americans of color.

State Department of Education sources confirm that Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth are giving the Clark School community an  ultimatum.

Their choice – go with one of our hand-picked charter schools or get nothing.

The racism and discrimination against the Clark School community is nothing short of criminal

But if members of the Connecticut General Assembly don’t intervene, the Malloy administration will get away with destroying another urban neighborhood school.

For background, here are some of the previous Wait, What? posts on Clark Elementary School.

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (10/25/13)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (10/28/13)

(Updated) Superintendent Kishimoto’s “end justified the means” form of a School Redesign Analysis (10/29/13)

Update on the effort to destroy the Clark Elementary School in Hartford (11/30/13)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (10/31/13)

Hartford’s Clark Elementary School Community says “NO” to takeover (11/11/13)

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain  (2/10/14)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (2/13/14)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School

Three days ago, in a post entitled NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain, Wait What? readers learned of an apparent deal by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and his senior staff to turn over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to a major Washington D.C. based charter school management company despite the fact that the Clark Turnaround Committee, which is made up of local parents, teachers, administrators and Hartford residents, hadn’t even begun to identify which of five possible turnaround models they were interested in pursuing.

Out-going Hartford Superintendent of Schools Christina Kishimoto “nominated” Hartford’s Clark Elementary school for Governor Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” turnaround program.

State law requires that when a school is accepted as a Commissioner’s Network School, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor must defer to the recommendations of the local Turnaround Committee except in extreme circumstances where the Turnaround Committee fails to adopt a turnaround plan or the plan is so inadequate that the Commissioner must take total control of the school.

But according to multiple sources within Pryor’s Office and in the Hartford Board of Education central office, Pryor and his sidekick, Turnaround Director Morgan Barth, have already decided to give Hartford’s Clark School to the Friendship Charter School chain, regardless of what the Clark Turnaround Committee may choose.

The Friendship Public Charter School chain is made up of six charter schools in Washington D.C. and another four schools that the company runs in Baltimore, Maryland.

Late yesterday, Hartford Courant reporter Vanessa De La Torre reported that a group of Clark parents, educators and administrators were flying to Washington D.C. to visit Friendship Charter Schools.  Apparently plans are already in place for Friendship Charter Schools to come to Connecticut in the next week or two.

In the Hartford Courant entitled Hartford Parents, Educators Visit D.C. Charter School, the Courant reported;

A 14-person delegation from Hartford that included six parents from Clark, two teachers, the principal and a district administrator flew out of Bradley International Airport Tuesday night and spent Wednesday visiting two sites of the Friendship Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.

The trip is research, they said. Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor has chosen Clark, a North End neighborhood school that has struggled with low test scores and chronic absenteeism, as a candidate to enter the state Commissioner’s Network after this academic year.

A state-mandated committee for Clark is now under deadline to create a detailed “turnaround” plan by April. That means the panel, which includes two union-appointed teachers, is rushing to explore school models that might best help Clark and its groups of students who are learning English or have special needs, said Soto, one of the committee’s parent members.

However, highlighting the corrosive power of the corporate education reform industry, the most bizarre part of the entire story is revealed when the Courant article added:

Hartford school board Chairman Matthew Poland denied this week that any school model is a favorite. So did community organizer Mayra Esquilin, executive director of Hartford Areas Rally Together, which received a $24,000 contract from the school system to guide Clark parents and community members through the turnaround process.

HART, the school system and the reform advocacy group Achieve Hartford! Funded the short trip to Washington, Esquilin said. The group was scheduled to return Wednesday night.

What the article didn’t fully explain is that although Superintendent Kishimoto hired the Executive Director of Hartford Areas Rally Together to “guide Clark parents and community members through the turnaround process,” Mayra Esquilin has repeatedly shown that she has a major conflict of interest in the entire situation.

Mayra Esquilin is not only the Executive Director of Hartford Areas Rally Together (HART), but she is also a member Achieve Hartford’s Board of Directors.

Achieve Hartford Inc. is not only paying for the airfare and hotel accommodations for the 14 members of the Clark Turnaround Committee to fly to Washington, but the corporate lobbying group has been one of the biggest supporters of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s public school privatization efforts.

Esquilin and Achieve Hartford Inc. not only supported Superintendent Kishimoto’s failed attempt to close Clark Elementary and hand the building over to Achievement First, Inc. but also supported the outrageous and potentially illegal attempt to hand S.A.N.D. Elementary School over to Steve Perry’s private charter school company as part of a that secret Sheff lawsuit deal.

As the Hartford Courant reported previously, Esquilin was quoted as saying “that she and others canvassed the neighborhood over the past few days and found many parents who were uninformed — and in some cases, misinformed — about the SAND proposal.”

It is beyond incredible that the individual and corporate-funded advocacy group that supported destroying Clark and S.A.N.D elementary are now “guiding” Clark parents, teachers and community members through the turnaround process.

Talk about the foxes guarding the chicken hen-house.

And worse, the entire process may very well be short circuited if Stefan Pryor has already decided to hand the school over to an out-of-state charter management company.

Meanwhile, who funds Achieve Hartford Inc.?

According to Achieve Hartford’s own website, the education reform advocacy group is funded by some of the most powerful corporate education reform industry companies in the country including the Aetna, Prudential, Travelers, Bank of America, ING, The Phoenix and Metro-Hartford Alliance.

The potential for serious and illegal conflicts of interests are so great that it is hard to imagine that even these companies would risk supporting such an inappropriate use of their donations by Achieve Hartford Inc.

The extensive list of potential ethics violations will undoubtedly keep the Connecticut’s Ethics Commission and Hartford’s Ethics Commission busy.

For an example of Achieve Hartford’s conflict of interest read the newsletter article that can be found via the following link:  http://www.achievehartford.org/upload/files/10-31-13-EducationMattersEXTRA.pdf?utm_source=October+31%2C+2013+Edition&utm_campaign=2-16EM&utm_medium=archive

For the Hartford Courant article go to: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0213-20140212,0,6213104.story