Malloy tells right-wing American Enterprise Institute he is the “education governor”

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As reported earlier today, Governor Malloy traveled to Washington D.C. today to speak to the ultra-right wing American Enterprise Institute.  (see Wait, What? post: Malloy speaks to right-wing American Enterprise Institute in ongoing effort to alienate every teacher and public education advocate).

The purpose of his trip to D.C. was to brag about his Education Reform Initiative, the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill introduced by any Democratic governor in the United States.

The American Enterprise Institute introduced Malloy’s speech with the following:

“Since taking office in Connecticut in 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) has made K–12 school reform a centerpiece of his agenda, calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” To date, the state has passed key legislation surrounding teacher accountability, charter schooling, and turning around underperforming schools. At the same time, Connecticut has one of the nation’s largest academic achievement gaps, and Governor Malloy has faced pushback from teachers unions on his efforts surrounding teacher evaluation.”  – American Enterprise Institute 12/2/2013

Malloy who said teachers need only show up for four years to get tenure

Malloy who said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up

Malloy who dramatically expanded the amount of standardized testing

Malloy who pushed through an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation program linked to those standardized tests

Malloy who dramatically increased the amount of taxpayer funds diverted to charter schools and private companies.

In fact, when looking at Malloy’s record in support of the corporate education reform industry, the American Enterprise Institute was the perfect place for him to crow about his “successes.”

Who is the American Enterprise Institute?

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan called the American Enterprise Institute “one of the beachheads of the modern conservative movement.”

The Walton Foundation, one of the country’s three biggest funders of the corporate education reform industry is also a major funder of the American Enterprise Institute.  The Walton Foundation has relied on the neoconservative group to back their education reform ideas and the Walmart Company itself.  According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart “has discovered a reliable ally: prominent conservative research groups like the American Enterprise Institute…”

From 1985 through 2005, the American Enterprise Institute received more than $40 million from right-wing foundations.

In addition to their work on behalf of the Tobacco industry in which they sought to downplay the social costs associated with smoking, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has played a major role in the effort to deny Global Warming.

From 2006 to 2010, the American Institute received more than $1.7 million from fossil fuel interests including major funding from the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil.  In return they’ve published numerous studies downplaying the effects of Global Warming

And when it comes to collective bargaining and the right of Americans to join unions, here are just a few headlines from recent American Enterprise Institute publications and speeches;

“Public Unions Must Go…Public unions have been a 50-year mistake.”  – American Enterprise Institute 2/22/2011

“Break up the big… unions!” – American Enterprise Institute 10/19/2012

“Despite wins in last night’s elections, teachers unions are weakening” American Enterprise Institute 11/7/2012

The more you know, the more fitting it is that Governor Malloy went to the American Enterprise Institute to deliver his “education reform” message.

Pass the Salary (cross-posted from EduShyster)

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For those still digesting and cleaning up from yesterday’s festivities, here is a fun blog from EduShyster, fellow blogger and public education advocate who calls Massachusetts home.  I recommend everyone sign up for her blog, which can be found at: http://edushyster.com/

Just in time for the holidays, a reform groaner for the groaning board

Reader: if your holidays are anything like mine then you are looking forward to consuming an entire box of Asti Spumante engaging in a vigorous back-and-forth about education policy with your extended family. But with so many great ideas out there for improving our failed and failing public schools, how to settle on just one??? Fortunately our friends at the Teacher Salary Project have done some extensive menu planning for us and have prepared a veritable buffet of topics to discuss at the table. Unfasten your eat belt, reader: it’s time to pass the salary.

Teacher turducken
Shall we begin with a canapé of context? The Teacher Salary Project starts with an idea that everyone in the whole family can get behind: teachers are *rilly* important, especially the excellent ones who are putting kids on a path to 21st century outstandingness. Except that the salaries that teachers are make are anything but excellent which causes excellent teachers to leave and excellent would-be teachers to avoid the profession entirely, depriving 21st century bound kids of their prospective excellence. Sounds great, right? Alas, the Teacher Salary Project fits squarely into a category of holiday fare I’ve come to know and love as *reform turducken*: one reformy idea stuffed into another and into another, all clad in an innocuously glistening exterior.

Raise your tip jar
But how to get your loved ones to talk teacher salary turkey? The Teacher Salary Project has thought of everything, starting with a toast—to teachers and their excellence and to the excellent salaries they should be earning. Then you’ll want to back up your toast with talking points and fact-based research helpfully tailored to compliment whatever political demographic you’ll be breaking bird with this Thanksgiving. Got a table full of conservatives? No problem—give them the great news about the two GOP governors who are leading the way to raise teacher salaries out of the swamp from which they just finished lowering them. Are they still hungry? Toss em a little red meat in the form of this study by Hoover Institute economist Eric Hanushek that found that great teachers increase students’ future earnings. What do you mean, is there more? Of course there’s more—like this McKinsey report on attracting and retaining top grads to a career in teaching.

Tasty tidbits 4 all
Well convincing the red state relatives was easy enough. Now, once you’ve retrieved your back-up wine box from the Subaru it’s time to work your magic on the moderates at the table.

Mention that for a small state to move salary scales to professional levels, it would cost the same as a single day in Afghanistan. Seconds, anyone? How about the news of places that have raised salaries through slashing administrative costs, early retirement packages, or bonds? Or offer up this tasty tidbit from Public Impact that shows states and districts how to raise teacher salaries by 20 to 130 percent with the money they have now.

Wow—that does sound like a tasty tidbit! Good thing the moderate wing of your family is tripped out on tryptophan or somebody might have a pesky question or two, like how does everyone get a bigger piece of pumpkin pie if the pie stays the exact same size? And is that whipped cream extra fluffy or just packed with merit? Perhaps it’s the Asti Spumantewriting but the Joyce and Gates-funded Public Impact and its husband/wife *thought leader* team (who just happen to sit on the board of the Teacher Salary Project) sound awfully familiar.  Why, is it time for another toast already? ¡To the Opportunity Culture! ¡Long may she reign!

Are you going to eat that?
By now you should be picking up on a theme—and it’s not just my, ahem, unhealthy interest in turkey-shaped-cakes. Peel back the Teacher Salary Project’s shiny skin—the documentary film, the involvement of writer Dave Eggers (of whom I’m a big fan)—and the *meat* of the campaign has a familiarly reformy flavor that has little if anything to do with raising teacher salaries. In fact the hater at the table (OK, it’s me) might point out that the entire thrust of our years-long-reform-a-thon is to figure out how to pay the majority of teachers less so as to free up dough for extra *stuffing*: the ever-expanding schmorgasboard of gizmos, test-preppery and achievement gap closure devices that our students so fiercely and urgently need. And don’t forget the gravy. A reformer can’t live by stuffing alone!

Meanwhile – At taxpayer or industry expense? Malloy to Keynote Security Industry Association’s “Government Summit”

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At the very moment Governor Malloy’s political operation was weighing the political fallout of his trip to the White House Correspondents Dinner and whether he should “reimburse” People Magazine for $1,000 or so (we still don’t know how much taxpayers shelled out for Malloy’s security detail), the U.S. Security Industry Association was releasing a press release that Malloy would be this year’s “Keynote Speaker” at their Security Industry Association Government Summit next month in Washington, D.C.

According to the Security Industry Association (SIA), the event is the “premier annual public policy conference in the security industry.”

The press release explained that Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy will serve as the keynote speaker and that, “Gov. Malloy’s remarks will precede a panel on school safety on day two of the Summit. Violent events in our nation’s schools have demonstrated that these “soft targets” are not sacred to those seeking to do harm. Understanding there are many factors that can contribute to secure learning environment, this panel will examine those factors as well as the contributions the industry can make to provide safe educational facilities.”

The press release goes on to note that, “The SIA Government Summit provides attendees with unique insights that help them better understand how policy drives business in the security industry. The exclusive nature of the setting allows one-on-one conversations with government decision makers.”

According to the Security Industry Association’s website, they are “the leading trade association for electronic and physical security solution providers. SIA protects and advances its members’ interests by advocating pro-industry policies and legislation at the federal and state levels; creating open industry standards that enable integration; advancing industry professionalism through education and training; opening global market opportunities; and collaboration with other like-minded organizations. As a proud sponsor of ISC Expos and Conferences, and owner of the Securing New Ground Conference, SIA ensures its members have access to top-level buyers and influencers, as well as unparalleled learning and network opportunities.”

Interestingly the press release did not reveal whether Governor Malloy’s trip to Washington D.C. would be paid for by the Security Industry Association or the taxpayers of Connecticut.

It’s about time legislators stopped listening to propaganda and started paying attention to research” (Sarah Darer Littman)

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The sentence comes from columnist and fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman latest commentary piece in this weekend’s CTNewsjunkie.

The topic:  Education Reform in Connecticut

Compared to what is actually taking place in Hartford and state capitols around the country, she might have begun her piece with the term, “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over” or any number of other adynata. [Turns out the phrase is called an Adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole that is taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility].

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece stands as a beacon of truth compared to the drivel Rae Ann Knopf, the executive director of the corporate driven, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, had published on CTNewsjunkie earlier in the week.  The two pieces should be read in tandem to get the full effect.  Read Knopf’s corporate education reform argument and then Sarah Darer Littman’s piece entitled Legislate Based On Research, Not Hyperbole.

The corporate education reform advocates falsely claim that not only will Malloy’s education reform legislation be good for children and our schools, but the cost of these unfunded mandates will be negligible, when such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

As Darer Littman writes,

“One hopes our legislators have been paying attention to the experience of our neighbors in New York as they listen to advocates from the Big Six (ConnCan, CCER, CBIA, CAPSS, CAS, and CABE). According to March report by the New York State School Boards Association and based on an analysis of data from 80 school districts, the districts outside the state’s five largest cities expect to spend an average of $155,355 on the state’s new evaluation system this year.

That’s $54,685 more than the average federal Reach To the Top grant awarded to districts to implement the program.

“Our analysis . . . shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” says Executive Director Timothy Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”

At a time when Connecticut’s towns and cities already face the potential for significant state aid reductions based on Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy’s proposed budget, is it any wonder that the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities testified in favor of delaying a system that is proving costly and problematic elsewhere?”

Darer Littman then turns her attention to the even more important point that Malloy’s entire teacher evaluation system is a farce and insult to the notion of creating better schools and ensuring that our state’s children are provided with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Calling Darer Littman’s piece a “must read” piece is a truly an understatement.

You can find it here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_legislate_based_on_research_not_hyperbole/

ConnCAN signs $200,000 contract with major Connecticut lobby firm

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The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN), the charter school advocacy group that was created by the founders of Achievement First, the state’s largest charter school management company, has signed a two-year, $200,000 lobbying contract with Connecticut government relations firm, Gaffney, Bennett and Associates.

In addition, ConnCAN staff will continue to lobby on behalf of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives.

Last year, ConnCAN and its sister organization, the Connecticut Coalition for Advocacy Now, Inc. (ConnAD) spent more than $693,000 lobbying for Malloy’s education bill.  Along with Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and other corporate funded education reform groups, ConnCAN’s lobby levels broke all previous records for legislative lobbying.

In the month of January alone, ConnCAN spent more than $15,000 on its government relations activities.

However, interestingly, the January Client Lobbyist Financial Report that ConnCAN filed with the Office of State Ethics, as required by Chapter 10, Part II of the Connecticut General Statutes, makes absolutely no mention of the public opinion poll that ConnCAN conducted in January and released earlier this week.

The report, which covers the period from January 1 to January 31st, 2013 was filed with the Office of State Ethics on February 11th.

Failure to disclose expenditures for lobbying and expenditures for activities in furtherance of lobbying is a major violation of Connecticut law.

If the poll was shared with legislators or used as part of any communication seeking to persuade others to communicate with legislators then ConnCAN is required to include those expenses on its ethics report.

However, ConnCAN’s January Form ETH-2D failed to provide any information about the recent poll they conducted.

Meanwhile, the lobby firm of Gaffney, Bennett and Associates has been working for ConnCAN or ConnAD since the two organizations were formed about six years ago.

In addition to ConnCAN, Gaffney, Bennett’s clients include, AT&T Wireless, the City of Stamford,  Exxon/Mobil, GE, Hartford Healthcare Corporation, NBC, Pitney Bowes Corp., Procter & Gamble and Quinnipiac University to name a few.

Will someone speak up for Latino students? Corporate reform group overlooks the truth in effort to bolster charter schools.

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Will someone speak up for Latino students?

Corporate reform group overlooks the truth in effort to bolster charter schools.  

Rae Ann Knopf, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform recently took issue with a commentary piece written by Wendy Lecker (recent commentary) that was published in the Stamford Advocate and Connecticut Post and then reposted here at Wait, What?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a business group that was one of the biggest supporters of Governor Malloy’s” Education Reform” proposal.  The organization’s board of directors is made up of a number of corporate executives including the Presidents, CEO or COOs of United Illuminating, First Niagara Bank, The Travelers, Nestle Waters North America, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the Retired Chairman & CEO of The Hartford.

In her commentary piece, Wendy Lecker reminded readers that as part of Malloy’s education reform effort, Hartford’s Milner School, a school where 40 percent of the students go home to households where English is not the primary language, was given to a nearby charter school management organization Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), despite the fact that FUSE has never had a non-English speaking student attend their Jumoke Academy schools.

Rather than devote the time and resources to help the Milner School succeed, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gave the school, the students and millions of taxpayer dollars to a private entity that has no experience teaching bi-lingual students.  Not surprisingly, according to a recent report to the State Department of Education, the Jumoke Academy has failed to take the necessary steps to strengthen its bi-lingual program and the number of students attending the Milner School has dropped.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Rae Ann Knopf came to the Jumoke Charter School’s defense writing, “Observing that enrollment at Milner, a school partnering with Jumoke Academy, has gone down, Ms. Lecker writes, “we can already see that Jumoke’s Milner is not the same as last year’s Milner.” (see Knopf’s response here)

Knopf adds, “Well, we certainly hope not. Over the last three years at “last year’s Milner”, students scored an average of 32.8 on the School Performance Index (SPI). Put in lay terms, that means most Milner students were not even scoring at the “Basic” level on their CMTs. In contrast, Jumoke students scored a three-year average SPI of 80.1 (which is close to the statewide achievement target of 88). That score indicates that many Jumoke students had “Advanced” and “Goal” CMT scores. As measured by test scores, students at Jumoke were more than twice as successful as students at Milner. There’s nothing unreasonable about the hypothesis that a partnership between Milner and Jumoke should advance student learning at the former Milner School.”

Once again, the education reformers will go to any length, even misrepresent the facts, to defend their school privatization agenda.

Rae Ann Knopf claims, “As measured by test scores, students at Jumoke were more than twice as successful as students at Milner.”

Even the education reformers recognize that the three most powerful factors determining test scores are poverty, language barriers and the number of students who need special education services

So what are the facts?

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

20%

0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

39%

0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

11%

2%

 

Percent of Students qualifying for Free or Reduce Lunch Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

100%

72%

 

So if the students attending the Milner School are significantly more poor, have far greater language barriers and a far greater number need special education services, is it surprising that test scores are lower at Milner than at Jumoke?

Of course not!

So do you then give the Milner School, its students and its taxpayer funds to a school that doesn’t have any experience with a major portion of the community?

Of course not!   Unless you are part of Governor Malloy’s education reform plan.

And what happens when you transfer all that money to an entity that doesn’t have any experience?

According to the Commissioner’s Network Midyear Operations and Instruction Audit for the Thurman Milner School;

Four months into the year, Jumoke still hadn’t hired a bi-lingual teacher

And “Some teachers described an ELL push-in model and others describe a pull out model, so it is assumed that both approaches are used.  While classroom teachers have had training in instructional strategies to use in teaching ELL students, some report that they could use more training in that area.”

Wait, What??

One in five Jumoke-Milner students are not fluent in English and 40% of the students go home to households that don’t speak English and Jumoke still hasn’t hired a bi-lingual teacher and the teachers report that they DON’T KNOW if the Jumoke Administrators are using a “push-in or pull out” model of teaching English Language Learners?

Not only is CCER’s Executive Director overlooking the facts by defending the Jumoke Academy but the Commissioner’s Network Program and Governor Malloy’s education reform plans are failing to provide the most vital services to the children of the Milner School and especially the schools large Latino population.

If that is what the Connecticut Council for Education Reform considers a success, it is a sad day in Connecticut.

Even on Budget Day – (or especially on Budget Day) – Lobbyist money helps make the world go round…

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When Connecticut passed its landmark campaign finance reform legislation, the goal was to remove lobbyist and special interest campaign money from the public policy making process.

But of course, where there is a will, there is a way.

Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee, the PAC affiliated with Governor Malloy has raised over $235,000 in the last 18 months and a nice portion of that money comes from lobbyists who represent a range of clients that will be impacted by Malloy’s budget and policy proposals.

When analyzing the policy initiatives it is often useful to see who has worked to guarantee access to the key decision makers.

The following is list of organizations whose lobbyists have – as the saying goes – ponied up for the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC.

 

Clients whose lobbyists have donated to Malloy’s Prosperity for Connecticut PAC

 

Ability Beyond Disability
Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Alliance Energy Corporation
Altria Client Services Inc. and its Affiliates
American Council of Life Insurers
Apple Inc.
ASSA ABLOY Americas
AT&T Connecticut and Affiliates
Auctor Corporation
AVWatch, Inc.
backnine NETWORK
Bank of America Corporation
Bestech Inc. of CT
Bradley Off Airport Association
Bristol Hospital and Health Care Group, Inc.
Can Manufacturers Institute c/o Multistate Associates Inc.
Carpenters Labor Management Program
CGR Medical Development, LLC
Charter Oak Health Center
CIGNA Corporation
Citigroup Management Corp.
Coca-Cola Refreshments, Inc.
Comcast Cable Corp.
Community Health Network of CT
Connecticut Association of Realtors, Inc.
Connecticut Bankers Association
Connecticut Benefit Brokers, a Chapter of NAHU
Connecticut Beverage Coalition, Inc.
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now Inc
Connecticut Construction Industries Association
Connecticut Creditor Bar Association, Inc.
Connecticut Distributors, Inc.
Connecticut Energy Marketers Association
Connecticut Homemaker and Companion Assoc.
Connecticut Film Center
Connecticut Thermal-Renewable Energy Coalition (CT_REC)
Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association
Copart, Inc
Council of States Attorneys
CPV Towantic, LLC
CT Assoc. Health Care Facilities
CT Assoc. Public School Superintendents, Inc.
CT Association for Healthcare at Home
CT Association of Health Plans
CT Association of Prosecutors
CT Attorneys Title Insurance Co.
CT Broadcasters Assoc.
CT Chapter National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
CT Children’s Medical Center
CT Coalition Interior Designers
CT Coalition of Taft Hartley Health Funds
CT Community Action Foundation
CT Community Providers Assoc.
CT Forest & Park Assoc., Inc.
CT Health Association for Mutual Progress, Inc.
CT Hospital Assoc.
CT Humane Society
CT Humanities Council, Inc.
CT Institute Blind
CT Junior Republic Assoc.
CT Main Street Center
CT Mortgage Bankers Assoc.
CT Probate Assembly
CT State Medical Society
CT Water Service, Inc.
CT-NAELA Chapter
Darden Restaurants, Inc.
DIRECTV, Inc.
DISH Network, LLC
Dominion Energy
Eastern CT Health Network/Manchester Memorial Hosp
EmblemHealth
EPMJR, LLC
EquiPower Resources Corp.
Exelon Generation Company LLC
Explore Information Services
Expressway Courier & Freight LLC
Exxon Mobil Global Services
FIG LLC and certain of its affiliates
First Technologies LLC
Forest City Residential
GDF-Suez FirstLight Power
General Electric Company
Governor’s Prevention Partnership
Goodwin College
Greenbelt Management LLC
Grocery Manufacturers of America
Hartford Economic Development Company
Hartford Health Care Corp.
Honda North America, Inc.
Hospital for Special Care
Housing Authority of the City of Stamford
Hybrid Insurance Group
Insurance Assoc. of CT
Iroquois Gas Transmission System
JPMorganChase
Kofkoff Egg Farm
Lakin Tire East, Inc.
Laz Parking
LeadingAge Connecticut
Manufacturing Alliance of CT Inc.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribe/Foxwoods Resort Casino
Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co.
McDonald’s Corporation
Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.
Merit Properties, Inc.
MetroHartford Alliance
Metropolitan District Commission
MGM Resorts International Operations, Inc.
Microsoft Corp.
Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority
National Electrical Contractors Assoc/Int’l. Brhd. Elect. Wrkrs
National Shooting Sports Foundation
NBC Universal
Nestlé Waters North America Inc.
New England Convenience Store Assoc.
New England Home Care, Inc.
New Haven Board of Education
Northeast Association of Wholesale Distributors
Northeast Utilities
Norwich Public Utilities
NRG Energy, Inc.
Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators Association of Connecticut
Palace Theater
Pepsico
Pfizer Inc.
Phadia US Inc, part of Thermo Fisher Scientific
Pitney Bowes Corp.
Praxair, Inc.
Procter and Gamble
ProHealth Physicians
Purdue Pharma L.P.
Quinnipiac University
RBS Greenwich Capital
Reed Elsevier Inc.
RESC Alliance
Schnitzer Steel Industries
SCI – CT Funeral Services, Inc.
Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association
Senior Care Centers of Connecticut
Spectra Energy Transmission
The Connection Fund, Inc.
The Jewish Home for the Elderly
Three 3M Corporation
TicketNetwork
Total Wine & More
Toy Industry Association
Transportation General
Tri-S Environmental Services, Inc.
UIL Holdings Corporation
United Healthcare Services Inc.
United Technologies Corp.
Value Options
Vanguard Health Systems
Verizon Communications
VNA Community Healthcare, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
We Work for Health
Webster Bank
Western Connecticut Health Network
Wheeler Clinic, Inc
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of CT
Winters Brothers Waste Systems, CT
Workforce Investment Board Alliance
Xerox Corp.
Yale University

 

National revolt against MAP Standardized Testing takes shape as Hartford expands MAP Standardized testing….

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Earlier this month, teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School announced that they would be boycotting the (Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test system.  The also released a letter explaining why.

The teachers wrote, “…MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress…It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.”

By standing up to this flawed testing program, the Garfield High School teachers have sparked a national movement in opposition to the MAP Test.  The effort has received the support of nationally renowned pro-public education individuals and groups including the American Federation of Teachers, California Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, Change the Stakes, Diane Ravitch, FairTest, Matt Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, National Education Association, Parents Across America, Save Our Schools and many more.

Over the same period, but at the other end of the spectrum, education officials in Hartford, along with their corporate education reform allies, have committed even more money, time and effort utilizing the very test that the Seattle teachers and their supporters are condemning.

Sarah Darer Littman, a CTNewsjunkie commentary writer and pro-public education blogger, has done an extraordinary job writing about the latest counterproductive efforts in Hartford.

In two recent commentary pieces, Littman has highlighted the ongoing effort to saddle Hartford’s students and teachers, and Connecticut’s taxpayers, with this MAP testing outrage.

To understand the underhanded, heavy-handed and behind the scenes maneuvering that “education reformers” are engaged in, read Beware of Foundations Bearing Gifts and An Expensive ‘Gift’ for Taxpayers Without Accountability.

The following passages summarize the problem;

“In August, the [Hartford Board of Education] was asked to renew the contract for the Northwest Evaluation Association MAP program for two years at a cost of $592,443, or $11.50 per student. MAP, or Measures of Academic Progress, was piloted with the 9th grade last year, but this year was extended K-12. At the time the school board was asked to renew the contract with the rollout of the program, the source of funding was described as “special funds”, with no mention of the Gates grant.

The full board was only notified of the grant in October. But because the money is being administered through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which will receive $50,000 per annum of the three year grant period to manage it, the school board was not given the opportunity to vote on the matter despite the cost implications for Hartford Public Schools and state taxpayers.

One of my major questions regarding the Gates grant and the impact on HPS has to do with technology resources. According to the NWEA technology requirements, each student requires a workstation or client and these must have adequate and stable Internet connectivity for the test to be successfully administered. “NWEA requires a persistent connection to the wireless access point, free of interruptions, to successfully run Test Taker. Any outages in the connection, regardless of how brief, may cause errors during testing or require re-testing particular students.”

Although the Gates grant budgets $592,443 over the three-year period for license fees for NWEA computer adaptive assessments, there is a mere $34,500 budgeted for computers and equipment, and that goes to Achievement First for “Technology for Residency Program for School Leadership.” As far as HPS goes, there is zero in the grant for the implementation of any technology.

According to Ms. Frederick, “HPS has been planning for the MAP testing for three years including extensive training for teachers and administrators in order to ensure all were and are prepared for the administration. In addition we have conducted a technology readiness survey to determine the level of resources available in each school. Our goal is to ensure that all schools are fully resourced to implement the test during the testing period. Purchasing computers for the schools that are the most in need is an ongoing priority in the district. When dealing with technology, issues can and do come up. When that happens, we have a system in place for resolving the issue immediately. To date, we have had very few problems administering the test district-wide.”

Ms. Frederick continued, “In administering the test, schools are very creative in using the resources they have while ensuring there is little disruption for other students. Many students take the test in a dedicated computer lab, others take the test in their classroom using either classroom computers or laptops. Several schools have laptop carts that move from classroom to classroom allowing students to remain in their classroom to take the test. In year one of the test, we have been pleased with the results both in participation and how successful schools have been in administering the test. We continue to evaluate and plan for improvement.”

Something about “creative use of resources” sounded the alarm bells with me, particularly because I’ve been hearing concerns from media and technology specialist friends in wealthy school districts about having adequate resources to implement SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium adaptive tests that will replace the CMT/CAPT in 2014-15.

I put out feelers to teachers in the trenches to try and ascertain the picture. Most were not willing to go on the record for fear of retribution. But William Morrison, a social studies teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School, painted a somewhat less-than-rosy picture in telling me that the testing was problematic because of bandwidth problems.

Another teacher at a Hartford magnet school told me the school’s Wifi is turned off during assessments in order to limit bandwidth to testing computers. This means students and teachers not taking the assessments cannot use tablet devices. Both of the school’s laptop carts are used for testing for 3-4 weeks, making them unavailable for student projects.”

And the list of problems associated with even taking the tests goes on and on, not to mention the fact that the test results themselves are of little use.

If parents and taxpayers want to know the truth about this MAP testing program, they should start by reading up on the Scrap the MAP effort that is sweeping the nation.  Begin by checking out the Scrap the MAP Blog.

And then ask your state and local elected officials why Hartford and Connecticut are moving in exactly the wrong direction on this vital education issue.

Beware! Education Reformers Are Coming for Your School Board (cross-posted from Diane Ravitch)

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(Cross-posted from http://dianeravitch.net)

A big thank you to the nation’s leading pro-public education blogger Diane Ravitch for allowing me to write a guest post for her daily blog.  I’m re-posting it here on Wait, What? or you can read it here: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/02/beware-education-reformers-are-coming-for-your-school-board/

During the 2012 election cycle, we saw the corporate “education reform” lobby begin to play their hand when it comes to the notion of local control of public education.  Their approach is a simple one.  If you don’t agree with our position, we’ll simply change the rules or work to defeat your local elected board of education.

As far as the corporate education reformers are concerned, the end justifies the means and if the cost of getting what you want requires destroying our nation’s age-old commitment to local control of education, so be it.

And we certainly aren’t talking about local parents banding together to ensure that their voices are heard.  We are talking about billionaires and millionaires and the major education reform companies, organizations and foundations dumping tens of millions of dollars into state and local efforts to elect handpicked accomplices or even, where necessary, changing the rules to make it easier to open charter schools and dismantle the core elements of a broad-based public education system.

Take for example the political involvement of education reformer and New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.  Mayor Bloomberg has been a very busy guy.  Not only is he the Chief Executive Officer of New York City where he is leading a successful effort to privatize much of that city’s public education system, but he has become a leading example of this “my way or the highway” approach to destroying local public education.

In Bloomberg’s case there was his $20,000 check for Residents for a Better Bridgeport, a political action committee seeking to do away with the democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the local pro-education reform mayor.  There was also the $75,000 check to California Charter Schools Association Independent Expenditure Committee, and on the same day in October, Bloomberg wrote a check for $10,000 to Neighbors for School Board 2012 (Oakland). The three “education reform” candidates that the group was supporting in Oakland also received checks from Bloomberg for the maximum allowable amount.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg dropped a check to Education Voters of Idaho for $200,000 to defend a set of reform proposals and $80,000 to Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, reformer Tony Bennett, who has now moved his destructive activities to the State of Florida.

In state after state, the super-rich, corporate executives and education reform entities spent millions to influence local elections.  When the final reports were filed in Bridgeport, the corporate education reform industry and its supporters spent more than $560,000, a state record, in their effort to take away the right of local citizens to elect their own board of education.  In that case, they failed, but they are already moving forward on efforts to undermine what’s left of the democratically-elected board.

In “So You Wanna Buy a School Board Seat…,” fellow pro-public education blogger, Edushyster, wrote about the situation in Minneapolis, Minnesota while another pro-public education blogger Jersey Jazzman wrote “How To Buy a School Board Race 3000 Miles Away,” about the same thing happening in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

In Minnesota, the push to elect a pro-charter school, TFA alumnus came from Teach for America and 50CAN, a national charter school lobbying group, as well as, other corporate executives.  50CAN was set up by Connecticut resident and education reform activists Jonathan Sackler, a corporate director of Purdue Pharma. The present Chairman of 50CAN is Mathew Kramer, the President of Teach for America. 

It will come as no surprise, but Sackler, with a check for $50,000, was also the largest donor to the Bridgeport effort that is mentioned above.

And in New Jersey, Jersey Jazzman asked, “Why would California multi-millionaires be interested in a school board race in the small city of Perth Amboy, NJ?

It seems absurd, and yet it’s true: four wealthy Californians and one wealthy Coloradan – heavy hitters in the tech, financial, and health care sectors – have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a slate of candidates running for the school board in Perth Amboy, a city of 50,000 with a majority Hispanic population.

From Connecticut to California and New Jersey to Idaho, the story is the same.  The charter school industry is spending record amounts to lobby government officials and buy local boards of education. 

But their tactics are very clear.   Backing up their lobbying effort is a broader strategy to change the rules and change the players as a way of ensuring they can build their charter schools and further privatize America’s public education system.

If General Eisenhower were alive today, it wouldn’t simply be the military-industrial complex he’d be warning us about, it would be the even more devious and dangerous education-industrial complex.

Keep your eyes open and don’t be surprised to find these corporate reformers playing their politics with your local boards of education.

When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” – Rupert Murdoch

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In a post yesterday, Tom Aswell, whose blog is called Louisiana Voice, reminded his readers about what is truly driving the corporate education reform industry – tapping into what they perceive to be a $500 billion market.

What Tom may not have realized is Connecticut’s ongoing connection to that statement.

Murdoch’s quote comes from November 2010 when, after hiring education reformer and former New York City Chancellor of Education Joel Klein, Murdoch’s News Corporation bought Wireless Generation, a privately-held education technology company for about $360 million in cash.

In the corporate press release, News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch told reporters, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching…Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”

At the time, Wireless Generation’s marketing propaganda noted, “At Wireless Generation in Brooklyn, software engineers are working with Achievement First to build a commercial version of the software that the charter operator uses to monitor student and teacher performance.  Operating out of stylish offices in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, the 350-employee firm will take in $65 million in revenue this year and is growing at a 20% annual rate.”

News Corporation told its investors that the purchase of Wireless Generation was part of a broader effort to “make seed investments in entrepreneurial education companies.”

For example, last May, Wireless Generation, in turn, bought a California company called Intel-Assess.

Wireless Generation explained, “With the acquisition of Intel-Assess, a premier developer of custom and finished education content, Wireless Generation will significantly increase the number of assessment items and related tools available to complement its formative assessment platform. In addition, the acquisition will help Wireless Generation make available high quality assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards to customers in thousands of districts across the U.S.”

About the same time, News Corporation further developed their strategy by creating a company called Amplify, whose CEO is Joel Klein.  Wireless Generation is part of Amplify and Amplify describes itself as, “a new business dedicated to reimagining K-12 education by creating digital products and services that empower teachers, students and parents in new ways. Amplify is focused on transforming teaching and learning by creating and scaling digital innovations in three areas: analytics and assessment, content and curriculum and distribution and delivery.”

Soon after, Amplify partnered with AT&T.  In their joint press release, the consortium explained that they will be introducing “new curriculum and platform products” throughout the United States.

And as luck would have it, one of the five school districts chosen for the Amplify, Wireless Generation, AT&T pilot program was none other than East Haven, Connecticut.

Last August, the East Haven Patch on-line newspaper headline read, “East Haven Schools Selected for Education Technology Pilot Program.”

The article explained, “The district’s 7th grade students will take part in a Wireless Generation pilot program that features the use of Android tablets and an online platform for academic curriculum.  The school system is partnering with a national educational technology company for a pilot program that features the use of mobile tablet computers to access an online curriculum.

For the new pilot, Wireless Generation will be providing all of the equipment, as well as ongoing on-site support for the program, during its duration.  The company is expected to create a satellite office here in Connecticut to serve the East Haven leg of the project, which will be staffed by two technical experts and two content experts.  The cost is entirely picked up by Wireless Generation.”

Hooray!  Free stuff…

So it turns out, when Rupert Murdoch talked about the $500 billion money making opportunity out there called America’s public education system, little did he know what a special role we’d be playing in helping him tap into that market.

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