NEWS FLASH on SBAC:  Beware the cozy relationship between Malloy and the Education Reform Industry.

Prior to the Malloy administration even announcing that they would be releasing the 2015 SBAC results today, the state’s two major corporate funded education reform lobby groups, ConnCAN and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), invited reporters to join a “media call” in which the groups would discuss the SBAC results.  Then, just as quickly, the call was cancelled.

As we learned this morning – Friday, August 28, 2015 – Governor Malloy’s administration is finally releasing the 2015 SBAC results this afternoon, but the super-secret nature of the information didn’t stop ConnCAN and CCER from announcing on Wednesday that they were holding a “press call” this morning so that the two pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing, pro-charter school, anti-teacher advocacy groups could discuss the SBAC results with the media — prior to those results actually being released.

And then, when questions arose about what communication had taken place between the Malloy administration and the two lobbing groups, ConnCAN and CCER quickly cancelled the media call, leaving one wondering whether the Malloy administration broke the law by refusing to give information about the SBAC results to the media and Connecticut citizens while actually providing the information to the two private lobbying entities.

Here is what ConnCAN and CCER sent out:

ConnCAN and CCER to Host Press Call and Outline Expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment Results

***Media Press Call on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 10:00 AM EST***
Please Click Here to Register for the Call
–Call-in number will be made available upon registration–
Media Participants Should Dial-In 5-10 Minutes Prior to Call Start Time

New Haven, CT — The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) has teamed up with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to host a press briefing call, which will walk reporters through their organizations’ expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment results.

The briefing will be an opportunity for media to learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the benefits of the test, and each organization’s plans and expectations as the state prepares for the public release of the results.

Right now, the state has only released the results to district superintendents. The test results and data have not yet been widely released. The results are expected to be made publicly available within the next few weeks.

ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and CCER Executive Director Jeffrey Villar will be available for questions immediately following the call. 

WHO:
Jeffrey Villar, CCER Executive Director
Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN Chief Executive Officer
Yamuna Menon, Director of Research and Policy, ConnCAN

WHEN:
Friday, August 28, 2015
10:00 AM EST

CALL-IN NUMBER: 
***Made available upon registration***

And then came this…

POSTPONED
ConnCAN and CCER to Host Press Call and Outline Expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment Results
***Media Press Call on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 10:00 AM EST***
**Postponed until a later date**New Haven, CT —  Due to scheduling conflicts, the media briefing call regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessment results with the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) will be postponed until a later date.

 

Charter School + Corporate Education Reform Industry continue record-breaking spending on lobbying

With the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly finally over, the corporate education reform industry is celebrating its victories.

More money for charter schools, while Connecticut’s public schools remain significantly underfunded, tops their list.

In addition, of course, there is the incredible and unethical defeat of the legislation that would have required Connecticut’s commissioner of education to have appropriate classroom and education experience.

All together the various corporate funded “education reform” groups dropped another $1.4 million, over the last six months, to promote and lobby on behalf of Governor Dannel Malloy’s anti-teacher, education reform initiatives that included diverting even more scarce public funds to privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools.

According to the June reports filed with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, Charter Schools and Corporate Education Reform groups have spent the following so far this year;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $84,100
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $5,700
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $40,000
   
North East Charter School Network $109,700
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $1,123,300
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $13,100
   
Other Corporate Education Front Groups include FaithActs for Education, Educators 4 Excellence, Connecticut School Finance Project, Achieve Hartford, Excel Bridgeport…  
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRYJanuary 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015 $1,375,900

 

Not surprising, a number of individuals associated with Malloy have collected huge amounts of money in lobbying and public relations fees to help promote his “education reform” agenda.

Consultants and lobbyists who made money this year from the corporate education reform industry included;

Corporate Education Reform Group Consultants and Lobbyists
Families for Excellent Schools Andrew Doba (Malloy’s former spokesman)
Roy Occhiogroso (Malloy’s chief advisor)
ConnCAN: Gaffney, Bennett & Associates
Connecticut Council for Education Reform: Reynolds Strategy Group
NE Charter School Network: Depino, Nunez & Biggs

 

Since the corporate education reform industry began ramping up their lobbying efforts as part of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative of 2012, the various charter school advocates and education reform groups have spent a record breaking $8.4 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing, anti-teacher agenda.

CT Mirror recently took a look at lobbying expenditures in an article entitled Digging into spending on lobbying in ConnecticutAlthough they noted the massive expenditure by the lead education reform group, Families for Excellent Schools, which is based in New York, they didn’t total all of the funds being spent by the corporate funded education reform advocacy group.

However, no matter how you calculate it, the education reform industry has become the biggest “player” when it comes to lobbying Connecticut State Government.

Is your bank or insurance company helping to undermine your child’s education?

Yesterday we learned that the CT School Finance Project is nothing more than a front for another group called the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.  (See Wait, What? post CT School Finance Project – Here we again – Another education reform front group.)

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER) is a corporate funded “education reform” advocacy group that has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting Governor Dannel Malloy’s pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, anti-teacher initiatives.

In fact, no one, other than Governor Dannel Malloy, has been a bigger cheerleader for the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing system than CCER.

The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is rigged to fail up to 70 percent of all public school children and up to 90 percent of children who have special education needs or face English Language barriers.

As a result of the inappropriately designed SBAC test, approximately 3 in every 4 African-American and Latino children will be labeled failures this year.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) purports to be a non-partisan, 501(c) (3) (non-profit) organization, but their agenda is extremely political and their funds are being used to undermine Connecticut’s public schools and unfairly label Connecticut’s public school students and teachers.

You can read some of the absurd things CCER and its allies have written via the following articles;

CT Mirror– Op-Ed: Test data matters for Connecticut. Education is a science

Demystifying Student Assessment

For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Education is a Data-Driven Science

And where does this corporate funded group get their money?  According to their own reports CCER’s biggest donors include;

Webster Bank

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

First Niagara Foundation

Ion Bank Foundation

Other major funders include The Hartford and the Travelers Foundation

If you bank with these organizations or buy policies through these companies you are actually helping to fund an organization that is actively undermining our public schools and the children who attend them.

And just how far will they go to contaminate the debate around public education?

The Chairman of CCER’s Board of Directors is Steve J. Simmons.  The Greenwich cable company executive is not only a major funder of the charter school industry, but just last week he co-hosted a fundraiser for none-other-than Education Reform Groupie Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has consistently failed to fund Bridgeport’s public schools while diverting millions of taxpayer dollars to privately owned but publicly funded charter schools.  However, Mayor Finch’s anti-public education efforts didn’t stop Steve Simmons and other “Education Reformers” from asking their friends to hand over up to $1,000 a person for Finch’s re-election campaign.

It is bad enough that CCER is misleading the public and is lobbying on behalf of an agenda that is hurting students, parents, teachers and public schools, but it is even worse they are doing it with money that belonged to Connecticut consumers.

If you bank with Webster Bank, Bank of America or any of the other corporations that are pushing Governor Dannel Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda, the next time you go to the bank, speak with your insurance company or communicate with one of CCER’s funders, ask them why they are using the money that they take from us to undermine our public schools and label our children as failures.

CT School Finance Project – Here we go again – Another education reform front group

Like some type of gigantic octopus, the pro-charter school, pro-common core, pro-SBAC testing scheme and anti-teacher corporate education reform industry has set up multiple front groups while dumping more than $7.9 million dollars into their lobbying effort on behalf of Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives.

By now you’d think these hedge-fund managers and corporate executives would have created enough different groups to create the impression that they are more than what they seem.

But that’s just not the way it works…

Connecticut’s education policy arena is being honored with the presence of yet another “reform” front group.

And as with their earlier pronouncements, the charter school and education reform industry is claiming that their latest front group is an “independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests.”

The newest corporate funded education reform group to invade Connecticut’s education policy debate is called the Connecticut School Finance Project and according to its PR;

“Founded in 2015, the nonprofit Connecticut School Finance Project strives to be a trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests.”

Independent?

Transcends special interests?

File this one under – There is truly no lie that is too big for the charter school industry and its corporate education reform associates.

Earlier this year, the so-called “independent” Connecticut School Finance Project posted an advertisement that it was hiring a “Communications Manager.” Applicants were instructed to send their resume and cover letter to Katie Roy at [email protected].

At the time Katie Roy was actually serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, one of the leading entities lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s anti-public education policies.

According to CCER,

“Katie Roy is responsible for the organization’s day-to-day operations, finance, and human resources.  She also works on organizational strategy and leads CCER’s education finance work.”

Now with their own website, the self-described, non-profit, “independent” Connecticut School Finance Project has three employees, although it is yet to reveal where it is getting is money.

Katie Roy (Director & Founder) is the former COO of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

Patrick Gibson (Data & Policy Analyst) is a former employee of CCER, who, the site claims, “worked in close collaboration with Education Resource Strategies and three Connecticut public school districts to improve student learning outcomes and better align allocated resources with district strategy through an understanding of people, time, and money utilization”

Michael Morton – the new Communications Manager who recently transferred from Texas to take on the task of explaining to Connecticut voters why charter schools, privatization and Malloy’s damaging education reform strategies are what Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools need to ensure a better future.

CT School Finance Project asserts,

“The goal of the Connecticut School Finance Project is to collaborate with everyone who is impacted by this problem to find solutions that are fair to kids and taxpayers, and work better for schools, towns and cities.”

And yet, although they claim to be engaged in addressing Connecticut’s education funding issues, they fail to make any mention of the critically important CCJEF v. Rell School Funding lawsuit, a case that will go to trial this fall… A case that is finally forcing the State of Connecticut and the Malloy administration to address that fact that Connecticut’s school funding formula is not only unfair, discriminatory and hurts Connecticut’s students and property tax payers, but is blatantly unconstitutional.

Connecticut School Finance Project states that, “The way that Connecticut funds its schools is broken. It’s unfair to kids and taxpayers, and it doesn’t work for many schools, towns and cities.”

Yet this corporate education reform front group FAILS to even mention the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit.

They fail to mention that their hero, Dannel Malloy, was an initial sponsor and plaintiff  of the CCJEF lawsuit when he was Mayor of Stamford but turned tail when he became governor and actually had chance to do something about the way Connecticut’s public schools are funded.

They fail to mention that Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepsen, a former state representative and state senator from Stamford, is fully aware of the problems with Connecticut’s school funding formula and yet is spending massive amounts of public funds and staff time in an immoral and unethical fight against the interests of Connecticut’s children and property taxpayers.

Proving just how much of a farce this new Connecticut School Finance Project is, the group doesn’t even address the State of Connecticut’s historic under-funding of Connecticut’s schools or the battle to dramatically increase the amount of state funding for public schools as the only fair and constitutional method for reduce the unfair burden on local property taxpayers while ensuring all Connecticut’s public schools students get the support they need and deserve.

But that is because the Connecticut School Finance Project is most definitely not a “trusted, nonpartisan, and independent source of accurate data and information that transcends special interests.”

One need only look at its origin and its employees to know that the corporate education reform industry has rolled out yet another front group in their effort to undermine Connecticut’s public schools.

When it comes to the “NEW” Connecticut School Finance Project, remember the wise words of Matthew who warned;

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening and ferocious wolves.”

Charter School Industry money persuades legislators to give them your tax dollars

The Connecticut General Assembly is returning to Hartford for a special session to pass the statutory language needed to implement the state budget that the Democratic controlled legislature passed earlier this month.

While legislators are going into special session, cities and towns across Connecticut are cutting local public school programs as a result of the inadequate education funding that is part of the state budget that was agreed upon in a deal between Governor Dannel Malloy and Democratic legislators earlier this month.

But while the people reel from the impact of the major tax increases and deep spending cuts to vital services that are part of the new budget, there is one group that is overjoyed with the state budget that is receiving so much criticism from across the political spectrum.

Thanks to their record spending on lobbyists and lobbying, Connecticut’s charter school industry is sitting pretty thanks to the decision by Malloy and the Democrats to give the privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools record amounts of public funds.

Having created a myriad of front groups with names like Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child; North East Charter School Network; Connecticut Council for Education Reform; Achievement First, Inc., Bronx Charter School of Excellence, Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc., Educators 4 Excellence and FaithActs for Education, charter school owners and the corporate executives behind the education reform industry have poured another $1 million into their successful campaign to persuade legislators to give private charter school companies even more public funds while leaving their own local schools high and dry and twisting in the wind.

In just the first 150 days of the 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the charter schools and their front groups spent more than $1,149,800.70 to “persuade” legislators to fund their corporate entities rather than our public schools.

The Charter School and Corporate Education Reform groups involved in the lobbying include;

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $69,894.80
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $4,489.01
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $39,959.00
   
North East Charter School Network $85,608.24
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child $938,923.47
   
Bronx Charter School for Excellence $10,936.27
   
TOTAL LOBBYING EXPENDITURES BY CHARTER SCHOOL INDUSTRY

January 1, 2015 – May 31, 2015

$1,149,800.70

 

Since the corporate education reform industry began ramping up their lobbying efforts as part of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative of 2012, the various charter school advocates and education reform groups have spent a record breaking $7.9 million on behalf of their pro-charter school, pro-common core, anti-teacher agenda.

To help grease their success, the various charter school advocacy groups has even spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire Governor Malloy’s chief advisor and his former press secretary.

During the recent legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child ran television ads calling upon Connecticut’s elected officials to divert even more scarce taxpayer funds to charter schools.  The group was also the lead sponsored of a pro-charter school rally in which they bussed in parents and students from charter schools as far away as New York City and Boston.

Among the more curious expenditures listed in the reports filed this month with the State Ethics Commission by Families for Excellent Schools/Coalition for Every Child was a payment of just over $2,000 to the charter school management company Achievement First, Inc.

However, with Achievement First Inc. and other charter school companies claiming that they don’t have to abide by Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act because they are private entities, there is no way to know what exactly the charter school operator is doing with its public funds or other funds that they are collecting.

A bill expanding the reach of Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law to ensure greater transparency when it comes to the charter school companies was water-downed during the last days of the legislative session as a result of intense lobbying by the charter school industry.

Dacia Toll, the Co-CEO of Achievement First Inc. testified that requiring charter school operators to adhere to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act would be a unfair burden.

As education advocate and commentator Sarah Darer Littman explained in a CT Newsjunkie column entitled, Keep An Eye Out for Mischief in Implementer When It Comes to Transparency, the charter school industry is simply unwilling to open its books for public inspection despite the fact that it receives well over $100 million a year in public funds from Connecticut’s taxpayers.

Sarah Darer Littman wrote,

“In her testimony to the Education Committee opposing SB 1096 in March, Achievement First President Dacia Toll complained that “it would be incredibly burdensome to CMOs, as FOIA compliance would significantly distract, undermine, and obstruct non-profit CMO resources and manpower from its most important work: providing high-quality support to charter schools, students and staff.”

In other words, Ms. Toll is more than happy to take taxpayer money, but would find it “incredibly burdensome” to comply with FOIA requests that come with being held accountable for it.

For more about the charter school industry’s successful effort to meaningful prevent transparency go to: Charter School Operators – Want taxpayer funds – just don’t want to explain how they spend it.

Careening down the wrong path as Education Reform Industry spends more money to buy public policy

Connecticut has become a striking example of what is truly wrong with the way government and public policy functions in the United States today.

Rather than using the state motto, “Qui transtulit sustinet – He who is transplanted still sustains,” the Constitution State could easily shift to, “Step right up and buy your public policy here.”

And presiding over the entire farce is a governor devoted to coddling the rich, while lying to the people.

Victorious thanks to a campaign in which he repeatedly claimed there was no budget deficit, promised that he wouldn’t raise taxes or cut critical state services, Governor Dannel Malloy is now ducking a budget deficit that is skyrocketing.  Malloy’s next step will be to raid the state’s Rainy Day Fund to balance this year’s budget, or worse, he will put the massive deficit on the state’s credit card thereby dumping even more debt on the backs of Connecticut’s overly burdened middle class.

And as for next year, while the state’s fiscal situation deteriorates, Malloy’s proposed state budget includes massive and unacceptable cuts to a wide variety of state services.

Rather than offer up a plan to ensure that services are maintained by requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, Malloy is berating legislators or anyone else who challenges the house of cards he has built.

When it comes to the budget related to public education, Malloy’s proposed budget actually REDUCES spending on public schools by well over $150 million over the next two years, the largest such cut in history.

Yet Malloy has proposed INCREASED spending on charter schools by more than 25 percent.

As if to highlight the modern system of “pay-to-play” policy making, while Malloy turns his back on Connecticut public school students, parents and teachers, the corporate education reform industry is pouring even more money into their unending quests to privatize public education and denigrate teachers.

The corporate funded New York based entity called Families for Excellent Schools has set up yet another “education reform” front group in Connecticut.  This one is called “Coalition for Every Child.”

According to the latest reports filed with the Office of State Ethics, this organization has spent over a quarter of a million dollars lobbying in just the past eight days.  The pro-Common Core, pro-Charter School group has even hired Malloy’s chief adviser, as well as Malloy’s former press secretary, to run their PR campaign in support of Malloy’s plan to divert even more scarce public dollars to charter schools companies.

Three other corporate education reform industry groups, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN), the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), and Achievement First, Inc. (the charter school management company with strong ties to the Malloy administration,) have spent nearly $100,000 more in recent weeks in a lobbying program designed to persuade legislators that it is good idea for them to cut funding for their own public schools, while increasing the taxpayer subsidy for the privately run charter schools.

What are Malloy’s education reform supporters doing and saying with all their money?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform is using its money to tell parents that the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test (SBAC) is a good thing even though it will label the majority of children as failures. (See: No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.)

Meanwhile, ConnCAN and the rest of the charter school industry are using their hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Malloy’s disgraceful budget and lobbying to stop the Connecticut legislature from pausing the development of further charter schools in the state.

Following the charter school industry’s success in preventing a charter school moratorium bill from passing the General Assembly’s Education Committee, the co-CEO and president of Achievement First Inc., the Executive Director of ConnCAN and state director for the Northeast Charter School Association all gleefully issued press releases cheering on the fact that the Malloy administration can continue its efforts to expand the number of publicly funded, but privately owned charter schools in the state.

Dacia Toll, co-CEO and president of Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that collects the lion’s share of the $100 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds spent on charter schools explained that, “The moratorium on public charter schools would have been a huge step backward.”

A huge step backward for the company’s bottom line that is…

While Malloy’s proposed budget actually INCREASES CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING BY $36 million…

Malloy’s proposed budget cuts tens of millions of dollars to public schools including the following programs;

Reduces funding for the CT Pre-Engineering Program

Reduces Youth Service Bureau programs

Reduces funding for the Parent Trust Fund

Reduces funding for Neighborhood Youth Centers

Reduces funding for Science Program for Educational Reform Districts

Reduces funding for Wrap Around Services

Reduces funding for Parent Universities

Reduces funding for the School Health Coordinator Pilot

Reduces funding for Regional-Technical Cooperation

Reduces funding for Alternative High School and Adult Reading

Reduces funding for Youth Service Bureau Enhancement

Reduces funding for Health Foods Initiative

Reduces funding for School to Work Opportunities

Reduces funding for Commissioner’s Network Schools

Reduces the Priority School District funding for Extended School Building Hours and Summer School

Reduces funding regional interdistrict grant to reduce segregation

Reduces funding for the Leadership, Education, Athletic-Partnership (LEAP)

And the list goes on….and on…

And the Corporate Education Reform Industry is silent on these devastating cuts.

Their plan is simple – more money for charter school companies – cuts to public school programs and higher property taxes for the rest of us.

Connecticut has truly become the land where “step right up, buy your public policy” has become the standard.

No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

The unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test is designed to ensure that the vast majority of Connecticut public school students are deemed failures after taking this year’s Common Core SBAC tests.

Here are the projected results for this year’s SBAC test for 6th graders.  [The information comes from the SBAC organization’s own report.]

Projected Common Core SBAC Results for 6th Graders

English/ Language Arts  6th Grade Percent failing to reach goal
All 6th Graders 60% Fail Rate
African American 6th Graders 75% Fail Rate
Latino 6th Graders 74% Fail Rate
6th Graders (Special Education) 90% Fail Rate
6th Graders (English Language Learners 95% Fail Rate

 

The Common Core SBAC test is designed to ensure failure because it is testing children at 2-3 grade levels above their present curriculum and because it requires significant computer skills just to get through the test.

The Common Core SBAC test is also extraordinarily expensive, in part because all children must take the test on updated computers, using updated software and utilizing expanded internet bandwidth.

In California, another state that is using the Common Core SBAC test, cost data that is part of a major lawsuit being brought by local school districts reveal that the total cost of the Common Core SBAC Testing farce could be $250 – $500 dollars per child, per year.

Here in Connecticut, the Malloy administration is providing significantly less than 20 percent of the cost of implementing the SBAC testing program, meaning local property taxpayers are literally shelling out tens of millions of dollars for a test that is designed to fail their children.

But rather than tell the truth about the Common Core SBAC testing scam, the corporate education reform industry and their allies are engaged in an unprecedented effort to mislead student, parents, teachers and the public about the SBAC test.

Equally offensive, these corporate funded lobbyists have joined with the Malloy administration and some school superintendents to try and stop parents from opting their children out of these tests and punishing children whose parents have opted them out.

In what may well be the  most incredible and absurd defense of the Common Core SBAC test written to date, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded front group for the Common Core and Charter Schools recently published an article entitled, “For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity.”

Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, is a registered lobbyist whose compensation package is in excess of $150,000 a year.  His job is to promote the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.

In a truly bizarre defense of the unfair and discriminatory SBAC test, the front man for the Common Core and Charter School front group writes,

For Parents, Testing is an Opportunity

I have my annual physical this week. It’s not something I look forward to, and I particularly dislike the associated blood test. Nonetheless, the test provides my doctor and me with important information about my health, and we use that data to make decisions that help me live a healthier life. It makes me think: there are some interesting parallels to the standardized assessment that my own children, and all Connecticut children in grades 3-8 and 11, take annually.

[…]

I appreciate the value of the SBAC test because I know firsthand that grades don’t provide parents with enough information. In my experience within the public education system, grading practices from teacher to teacher and school to school vary enormously. That’s why I rely upon standardized assessments to accurately understand where my own children stand. If any of my children are behind in school, knowing that early is an opportunity; it gives me time to prepare them before they graduate high school, rather than finding out they’re behind once they’re enrolled in expensive remedial classes in college.

[…]

The comparability of the data among students, schools, and districts is also important. Since I am divorced, my children attend schools in two different towns, and I want to be sure that both school systems are preparing them equally for the future. Absent a comparable measure such as the SBAC, it would be hard for me to know.

Despite these benefits, many parents are still concerned about over-testing. Some expend an incredible amount of energy trying to opt their children out of the SBAC. I want to alert these parents to the important benefits of having access to standardized assessment data. Also, my unsolicited advice to concerned parents is this: consider speaking with a principal about your district’s high school graduation requirements. In your earnest efforts to do what is right for your children, you may be inadvertently creating problems; under Connecticut law, districts are generally required to incorporate test results into graduation requirements. There are some exceptions, but you should confirm that your children can still graduate if they miss the test.

[…]

Some parents have inadvertently pushed their children into more testing by choosing to enroll them in the Advanced Placement (AP) courses that impress the most prestigious colleges and universities. It’s hard to argue against demonstrating mastery in these advanced courses. However, when stacked on top of SAT and ACT tests in high school, these additional exams may contribute to the notion that there’s too much testing these days.

And Villar concludes,

It’s also possible that when parents talk about schools over-testing their kids, they’re referring to their districts “prepping” kids for the state test. This ill-fated attempt to quickly improve testing results simply doesn’t work, and it does not come from a faulty state-testing system.

Seasoned educators know that the best ways to prepare children to succeed on tests are to engage them in a curriculum that is challenging, to give teachers enough time and resources, and to encourage students to do their best. Somewhat similarly, there is little that I can do to prepare for the blood test at my annual physical in the short term. Only long-term efforts at exercising regularly and eating well will help me pass the test.

Villar’s incredible statements are so misleading that they cross the line into outright lies.

What is worse is that as a former superintendent of schools, Villar knows that he is not providing his readers with the truth.

For starters, here is one important bit of information for Connecticut parents.

It is against state law for a Connecticut school district to require a student to take or pass the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test in order to graduate.  The district cannot make passing the SBAC test a required element for graduation, in fact, a school district can’t even require a student take the SBAC test in order to graduate.

Furthermore, there is no federal or state law that allows the state or school district to punish a child (or parent) who opts their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Even the Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, told a legislative hearing that neither the state nor a school district could punish a child who is opted out of the test.

But like others spokesmen for the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Mr. Villar apparently believes he is not bounded by any moral or ethical duty to tell the truth.

It is a shockingly sad statement, and a powerful commentary on our times, that a leading proponent of the Common Core and the Common Core SBAC testing would engage in blatant lying in order to try and mislead students, parents, teachers and the public.

I have challenged Mr. Villar to debate these issues three times over the past few weeks and each time he has failed to respond.

Rather than spew indefensible statements, the corporate education reform industry should release their talking heads to come out here into the real word and debate their positions in a public forum that would allow the media and citizens to finally learn the truth.

Oh, and if the actions being taken by Mr. Villar and Connecticut Council on Education Reform aren’t offensive enough, check back with Wait, What? this coming week to find out just who is funding these anti-teacher, anti-parent, anti-student, and anti-public school tactics.

Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting

The uncomfortable truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and key members of the Connecticut General Assembly continue to side with the Corporate Education Reform Industry rather than with Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

The most recent indicator of the warped approach being taken by Connecticut’s “political leaders” was the outrageously inappropriate and misleading memo that was sent out this week by Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

The Education Commissioner’s directive sought to further harass and scare Connecticut parents into falsely believing that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

See: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

The question that arises over and over again is why Connecticut’s elected and appointed public officials are engaged in their ongoing effort to undermine and privatize public education in Connecticut, denigrate teachers and turn our public schools into little more than taxpayer funded testing factories.

The answer, sadly, is rather simple…

The Corporate Education Reform Industry has spent a record-breaking $6,767,957 plus in support of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” agenda – – – An Agenda that includes forcing the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme on Connecticut’s public schools while cutting taxpayer support for public education and increasing public funding for privately owned and operated charter schools.

Since Malloy introduced his “Education Reform” agenda, the charter school industry and the corporate funded “education reform” advocacy groups have hired dozens of lobbyists and spent nearly $7 million, or more, to “persuade” Connecticut officials to adopt policies that are diametrically opposed to what is in the best interests of Connecticut students, parents, teachers and public school system.

Corporate funded and affiliated groups like Achievement First, Inc.; A Better Connecticut; Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc.  (ConnCAN); Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy; StudentsFirst/GENEPSA (Michelle Rhee); Families for Excellent Schools Inc.; Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.; Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER); North East Charter Schools Network ; Bronx Charter School of Excellence; Students for Education Reform; Educators 4 Excellence; Excel Bridgeport, Inc.; Achieve Hartford, Inc. and  their newest front group, the Coalition for Every Child, are pumping more and more money into lobbying and advertising programs.

This year, more than two dozen paid lobbyists are running around the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building working to divert more money to charter schools, while supporting the Common Core SBAC testing scam and other “education reform” agenda items.

According to the latest filings with State Ethics Commission, Corporate Education Reform Industry front groups will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars on lobbying during this legislative session.  These groups are dropping millions more on advertising.

Connecticut’s Parents, teachers, public education supporters and taxpayers deserve better from their elected officials but Governor Malloy has made his position clear.

Malloy has said he is “staying the course” on his “education reform” agenda even if his education policies “aren’t popular.”

But what about state legislators?

Will the members of the State Senate and House of Representatives continue to turn their backs on the people who elected them?

The answer will come in the coming weeks, along with even more spending on lobbying and public relations by the charter school and corporate education reform industries.

The following chart reveals just how much money has been spent to push through Governor Malloy’s anti-public school, anti-teacher and anti-parent agenda.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,731,504
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $1,113,587
   
A Better Connecticut $2,326,391
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $911,950
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $292,684
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $277,987
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,954
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $62,900
   
Families for Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy Inc.Note:  Does not count the recent multi-million dollar television advertising campaign that Families for Excellent Schools failed to report, despite state laws requiring full disclosure $35,000
EDUCATION REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES as of 2/1/2015 $6,767,957

Pelto renews challenge to Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to Debate

A week ago I issued a request to the paid spokespeople of the Corporate Education Reform Industry in Connnecticut to set up a debate to discuss the educational issues facing Connecticut.  Their response has been silence.

Therefore, I am renewing my request and sent the following email to Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN and Jeffrey A. Villar, Executive Director, Connecticut Council for Education Reform

Ms. Alexander, Mr. Villar;

Considering neither of you list your email address on the ConnCAN or CCER websites, I assuming that you may not have received my February 17, 2015 email challenging you to meet and discuss the educational issues that are confronting Connecticut.

As paid representatives of the Corporate Education Reform Industry you have been making a variety of statements to Connecticut  media outlets that I consider to be extremely misleading.  In many cases, those statements have gone unchallenged because there is no readily available mechanism to refute your unsubstantiated claims.

The people of Connecticut deserve an open discussion about these important issues and so I am renewing my request that you agree to a public debate about these issues.

I am hopeful that one or more of Connecticut’s media outlets would be willing to provide a venue for this important discussion.

The clock is ticking on this year’s legislative session so please get back to me so that we can work through any logistics or issues that need to be addressed prior to such a debate.

Jonathan Pelto

Education Advocate

Education Blogger

February 17, 2015:  Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

After spending record amounts of money lobbying for Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Initiatives, Connecticut’s corporate funded education reform advocacy groups continue to spend millions of dollars misleading parents and policy makers, denigrating teachers and the teaching profession and promoting the discriminatory, inappropriate and unfair Common Core and Common Core Testing Scheme.

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER) are two of the leading entities behind the wholesale assault on public education in Connecticut.

As the paid ambassadors for those seeking to profit off of our children and our public schools, these so-called “education reformers” have constantly and consistently resorted to misleading statements and outright lies to back up their anti-public education agenda and rhetoric.

Unfortunately for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers, these apologists for Governor Malloy and his corporate education reform agenda have gone unchallenged.

That situation has got to stop.

Today I am asking WNPR’s Where We Live, WFSB’s Face the State, FOXCT’s The Real Story, CT Report with Steve Kotchko and other appropriate news forums to host a debate between myself and any one of the leaders of these corporate advocacy fronts such as Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Jennifer Alexander, the Chief Executive Officer of ConnCAN.

The people of Connecticut deserves the truth and a discussion on television or radio about the truth behind the corporate education reform industry’s efforts will provide Connecticut’s citizens with the information they need to tell fact from fiction.

 

 

More than 90% of English Language Learners “Projected” to Fail Common Core SBAC Test

The time for outrage is upon us!

The Common Core testing scam must be stopped.

Considering that many of the world’s greatest scientists, authors, actors, teachers and leaders were once English Language Learners one would think the public education system in the United States would be designed to promote and support opportunities for those who need extra help learning the English Language. Moreover you would think education policymakers would be working to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities that having a multilingual population present.

But instead, the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their supporters are pushing a political agenda that actually seeks to isolate and discriminate against the overwhelming majority of students who face any sort of challenge, including those who aren’t yet fluent in the English language.

The fundamental discriminatory nature of the Common Core testing program is yet another example of the insidious and detrimental approach that the corporate elite call “education reform.”

Take for example the situation here in Connecticut.

Faced with a growing revolt against the discriminatory, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy issued a press release yesterday in defense of the Common Core SBAC test saying,

“Tests are important tools in the teaching and learning toolbox that helps track student progress towards success in college and careers.”

Yes Governor Malloy, tests are important tools, but the Common Core SBAC test is not a mastery test or even a useful tool in the “teaching and learning toolbox.”  Instead it is a computer-based standardized testing system that is specifically designed in such a way as to intentionally define the vast majority of public students as failures.

Among the Common Core SBAC test’s greatest failure is its utter contempt for English Language Learners – students that are not presently proficient in the English language.

Rather than focus on developing the teaching and learning tools to ensure English Language Learners succeed, the Common Core SBAC test is a mechanism to label ELL students, and the educators who teach them, as failures.

The paid spokesperson for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), a corporate-funded advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Initiative and the Common Core SBAC test, recently dismissed concerns about the Common Core SBAC testing program during a NBC-CT TV interview by suggesting that those who needed “extra help” taking the test would get it.  His example, students who faced language barriers could have their Common Core SBAC questions asked in Spanish.

Forget the fact that the children in the Hartford Public School System go back to homes that speak 79 different languages…what CCER’s executive director failed to address is that it is the Common Core SBAC test itself that is actually the problem because it is designed in such a way that more than 90% of ELL students will not meet the artificial “goal” level.

This year every Connecticut public school is required to implement the Common Core SBAC test and the pass/fail “cut scores” are based on the results of last year’s 2014 Common Core SBAC field test.

According to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s own information, more than 90 percent of the English Language Learners will be labeled as failures.

Rather than discuss whether the test is an appropriate tool or is appropriately calibrated when it comes to passing or failing, the proponents simply say that “it is what it is.”

That, in English, is called discrimination and racism….

And it has no place in the nation’s public schools.

Here are some of the “projected” results for the Common Core SBAC Test

Projected Failure Rate for English Language Learners on English (ELA) Section

4th Grade ELL Students    90.2% WILL FAIL
 6th Grade ELL Students  95.1% WILL FAIL
 8th Grade ELL Students  95.2% WILL FAIL
11TH Grade ELL Students  94.3% WILL FAIL

 

Projected Failure Rate for English Language Learners on Math Section

4th Grade ELL Students    89.1% WILL FAIL
 6th Grade ELL Students  94.8% WILL FAIL 
 8th Grade ELL Students  94.7% WILL FAIL
11TH Grade ELL Students  94.3% WILL FAIL

 

Important Note:  The SBAC Pass/Fail “cut scores” were set in November 2014 and Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, voted in favor of these Pass/Fail rates.  Interestingly, Vermont and New Hampshire abstained on the vote because they didn’t think the way the tests were being scored was fair.

Yesterday’s Wait, What? blog post explained that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is geared to identify 9 in 10 special education students as failures.  It is equally reprehensible that a massive national standardized testing system would be created in which that more than 90 percent of our nation’s English Language Learners are labeled as failing.

The problem is not our children.

The problem is the immoral and unethical Corporate Education Reform Industry and their political allies like Democratic Governors Dan Malloy and Andrew Cuomo who are undermining the sanctity of a fair and just society.

The hundreds of billions spent on the Common Core testing operation could have made a real difference if it was spent on supporting the quality of education for our nation’s children rather than for creating a discriminatory testing system that undermines their very sense of self and self-worth.

Parents need to opt their children out of the Common Testing debacle before it is too late.

You can find out more about the SBAC cut score system at: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Disaggregated-FieldTestDataFINAL.pdf