Another MUST READ article by Connecticut professor Dr. Yohuru Williams

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Yohuru Williams is Chair and Professor of History at Fairfield University.  Dr. Williams is also a powerful, leading voice for public education, both at the national level and here in Connecticut.

His latest column for the Huffington Post is entitled, Lies My Corporate Ed Reformers Told Me: The Truth About Teacher Tenure and the Civil Rights Movement.

Williams writes,

The champions of corporate education reform insist that efforts to strip teachers of the procedural guarantees of due process embedded in tenure are somehow an extension of the Civil Rights Movement. In the latest iteration of this make-believe history, former CNN anchor Campbell Brown and her ally, lawyer David Boies, wax philosophical about how their campaign to end tenure is really “about Civil Rights.” While the rhetoric plays well in the press, it deliberately misrepresents the actual history of Civil Rights. In reality, teachers played a critical role in the movement. In some cases, they were able to do so because they were bolstered by tenure, preventing their arbitrary dismissal for activism.

Early in its campaign to challenge segregation in the courts the NAACP chief attorney, Thurgood Marshall recognized teachers as important allies. In Simple Justice, his seminal study of the history of Brown v. Board of Education, historian Richard Kluger observed,

“teachers were of special importance because there were so many of them, because they were generally leaders in their community, and because they were paid by the government, which in theory was not supposed to discriminate against anyone on account of race.”

What Kluger described of course, was the thin but important layer of protection offered by tenure that allowed teachers to participate in lawsuits and other actions that would have proved difficult for those with no such guarantee of due process. During the Jim Crow era, one of the most effective weapons segregationists had in their arsenal of terror was the power to fire or refuse to hire those who engaged in acts of civil disobedience or challenged the status quo. With the higher duty to protect children, many teachers bravely faced this challenge, using their classrooms not only to teach basic skills, but also to encourage critical thinking skills and inspiring young people to challenge second-class citizenship. Recent scholarship as well as personal memoirs captures this important role played by educators. In a 2009 biography Claudette Colvin, who at 15 refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus nearly nine months before Rosa Parks, credited her teachers with inspiring her to make her courageous stand against Southern apartheid.

Not all Black teachers were awarded tenure. In fact, very few states in the South offered the basic guarantee of due process to Black teachers but, in those states where teachers were protected, they were able to speak and testify openly and honestly about the detrimental impact of Jim Crow on their students.

Their professionalism and candor underscored the damning nature of Jim Crow, not in the lack of quality instruction but in the substandard facilities, large class sizes, lack of resources, and psychological impact segregation had on students — not to mention the disparities in pay and benefits including tenure.

[…]

So when so called “reformers” like Campbell Brown try to make the case that tenure extends teachers an unfair guarantee of employment unlike other public servants, she is more than stretching the truth. To be clear, when confronted with inequalities in pay and the denial of tenure to Black teachers, the NAACP did not argue for an end to tenure, but for the extension of the same basic protections of due process to Black teachers. In addition, when her allies like David Boies try to claim they are carrying on the legacy of the movement, they are not. Instead, they should address the issues of poverty and inequality; the same issues raised by the NAACP in 1950s and1960s that continue to plague American education. The lack of resources, bloated class sizes, high stakes testing, and zip code discrimination are real problems — not teacher tenure.

At the end of the day, what made teachers so critical to the Civil Rights Movement is partly what makes many of them dangerous to the agenda of the so-called education reformers today. Why is divesting tenure at the top of their list? In stripping away due process and removing basic protection against retaliation, they will effectively silence the strongest line of defense against those practices, such as high stakes testing, and re-segregation that remain harmful to children. In the process, they will clear the way for the ultimate corporatizing of American education in opposition to both the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. Fortunately teachers have already begun to organize to make a stand in an effort to shield and protect those who stand to be harmed most — our children.

You can read the entire column by going to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/campbell-brown-teacher-tenure_b_5807346.html

Also follow his work via:  www.twitter.com/yohuruwilliams

In the New York Democratic Primary:  It is Governor Andrew Cuomo vs. Zypher Teachout

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This coming Tuesday, Zypher Teachout, the liberal Fordham University law professor is challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Like Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, Governor Cuomo supported some progressive causes like gay marriage and gun control.  But, also like Malloy, Cuomo has championed corporate welfare policies, coddled the rich and has been a huge supporter of the corporate education reform industry.

In fact, when it comes to his failure to support public school teachers and public employees, Andrew Cuomo’s record is almost as bad as Governor Malloy’s.

Malloy remains the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the “lowest performing” schools.  On the other hand, Cuomo is even more supportive of privately run, unaccountable charter schools.

Andrew Cuomo has raised $35 million. Teachout has raised $200,000.

Although Cuomo is expected to “easily” beat Zypher Teachout in Tuesday’s primary, the big difference between the gubernatorial races in Connecticut and New York is the way unions have handled the pro-union, liberal candidate in the race for governor.

In New York, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) – the state’s largest teachers union – refused to endorse Cuomo and played the key role in blocking the AFL-CIO from endorsing Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The Public Employees Federation – the state’s second largest employee union – with 54,000 members – went even further and actually endorsed Zephyr Teachout, Malloy’s opponent.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation, Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, the Local Education Leaders of New York State (a newly formed statewide group of teachers) all endorsed Teachout.

NYC KidsPAC, a political action committee composed of parent leaders devoted to strengthening our public schools. Has also backed Teachout, saying, “NYC KidsPAC wholeheartedly endorses Zephyr Teachout for Governor for her commitment to fight against privatization of our public education. We need a governor who believes in small class sizes, provides adequate resources for our most vulnerable students, respects the profession of teaching, opposes education driven by standardized tests and will fight for a high quality schools for all students throughout the State.”  The group added, “Governor Cuomo…supports raising the cap on charters, and has pushed through preferential access for charters to expand in space paid for by the city, while hundreds of thousands of our public school students sit in overcrowded schools, in trailers or on waiting lists for their zoned neighborhood school.”.

Other supporters of Cuomo’s opponent include the Yonkers Firefighters Union and a variety of liberal groups such as the Sierra Club and the National Organization of Women.

On the other side of the ledger, the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the Transport Workers Union, 1199 SEIU (the health care workers union) and some other unions have endorsed Cuomo.

In Connecticut, 1199 SEIU was one of the unions that endorsed Malloy without even allowing me to fill out a questionnaire or have an interview with their political action committee.  1199 SEIU was also the union that issued a press release calling me “anti-worker,” despite my lifetime record of supporting collective bargaining and unions.

According to media reports in New York, the Hotel and Motel Trades Council and 1199 SEIU were also “instrumental in helping Cuomo secure the Working Families Party nomination in May after a brutal battle.”

The liberal magazine, The Nation, endorsed Teachout for governor and the New York Times REFUSED to endorse Cuomo.  As Diane Ravitch explained, “The Times lavishly praised Teachout but did not endorse because she opposes the Common Core…”

With the New York Democratic Primary on Tuesday, it is virtually impossible for Cuomo to lose, but New Yorkers still have the opportunity to vote for a pro-public education/anti corporate education reform candidate.

Let’s hope New York teachers, parents and public school advocates use the primary to make a loud statement.

If it is loud enough, the candidates for governor in Connecticut may even hear it.

For whom the bell tolls…

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With Election Day less than nine weeks away, Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates continue to wait for an indication as to whether any of the candidates for governor will truly stand up against the tide of the corporate education reform industry, including their absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme.

Tens of thousands of votes hang in the balance.

The growing anger and frustration about the corporate takeover of public schools extends well beyond Connecticut.

However, as teachers and public education supporters know, Connecticut is home to the only Democratic Governor in the United States to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining in some of Connecticut’s poorest school districts.

The uncomfortable reality is that the corporate education reform industry is equally aggressive in other states across the country.

In Iowa, Richard Doak, the Des Moines Register’s two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and former editorial page editor recently critiqued Iowa’s incumbent Republican governor Terry Branstad by writing,

“In Iowa and throughout the nation, education “reform” is being driven not by parents and educators but by business leaders. The stated purpose of the reforms is to produce a better labor pool for businesses and make the state and country more economically competitive.

The change in thinking about education in this country has been subtle but profound. The original purpose of public education was to create an enlightened citizenry that would sustain democracy. Now the purpose is to turn out educated workers who have the knowledge employers want.

The extent to which education and other functions of government have been co-opted by the business community is a huge untold story in this country. America is well on its way to becoming a nation of corporate interests, by corporate interests and for corporate interests.”

The editorial could just have easily been written about Connecticut’s incumbent Democrat Governor Dannel “Dan’ Malloy.

With Election Day fast approaching, now is the time for Connecticut’s gubernatorial candidates to clarify where the stand;

Do they stand with Connecticut’s students, teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers or will they continue to turn our public schools into little more than testing factories and money pits for an industry that is gorging itself on scarce taxpayer funds while undermining the role of teachers, parents and the local control of public education.

Candidates:  Speak up or you may just find that when it comes to your electoral future, the bell tolls for thee.

Illinois School Bans Discussions of Michael Brown’s Death (by Paul Thomas)

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This article was written by fellow pro-public education blogger Paul Thomas for Alternet.  Paul Thomas is a an associate professor of education at Furman University and a powerful voice on behalf of public education .  His blog can be found at: http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

Illinois School Bans Discussions of Michael Brown’s Death (By Paul Thomas)

When faced with tragedies like the shooting of Michael Brown and the community unrest that followed, there are many hard questions to be asked. Why did this happen again? Who should be held accountable? How do we prevent such injustices?

But among the hard questions, few are so pressing, or essential, as this: What do we tell the children?

For educators, that question weighs heavily, and in the Brown case all the more so because Brown’s death occurred just as the new academic year begins.But in Edwardsville, Illinois, the answer is chilling: What do we tell the children? We tell them nothing.

From the local CBS affiliate in St. Louis:

A new directive has been issued in Edwardsville schools: Don’t talk about Ferguson or Michael Brown in class.

Superintendent Ed Hightower says normally there would be an open discussion of current events.

“However, this situation in Ferguson-Florissant has become a situation whereby there are so many facts that are unknown,” he says.

He says teachers have been told not to discuss it and if students bring it up, they should change the subject.

This is inexcusable for many reasons. The shooting is grounded in racial issues we already refuse to discuss in the U.S., despite the fact that they impact all of our lives, students’ included. Failure to confront a topic certainly won’t make it go away, and how students feel about the world impacts how they learn about the world.

But we also cannot ignore that this banning of a difficult topic is related to both the traditional view that education should be “objective” (i.e., absent emotion and opinion), and the current high-stakes environment plaguing our schools. Schools have long been driven by a workplace model honoring “time on task” over relevance to students’ lives, but the current “accountability” era has rendered schools places where nothing is relevant unless it is tested—including tragedies.

Whatever the policy changes driving such a shift, schools and teachers must hold themselves to a higher standard. They must allow, and even embrace, discussions of Brown’s shooting, among other tragedies, because formal school settings and the support educators can provide often represent the best possible avenues through which children can confront complex issues like these.

Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., concurs that banning the topic of Ferguson in schools is exactly the wrong approach. Instead he argues that precisely what is needed is a focus on bringing the real world into the classroom:

Beginning as early as the latter elementary years, schools should offer — no, require — age-appropriate cross-cultural studies that would, in effect, introduce us to us. Meaning not some airy fairy curriculum of achievements and accomplishments designed to impart some vague intra-cultural pride, but a hard-headed, warts and all American history designed to impart understanding of who we are, where we’re from and the forces that have made us — inner-city black, Appalachian white, barrio Mexican, whatever.

Children’s lives, including their schooling, have never been absent the weight of social tragedy. While we shouldn’t be nostalgic about a golden time when schools attended to each student’s every need, we must consider how the high-stakes environments of education have created almost no option for addressing the real world, which students cannot avoid, and must navigate first, in order to be successful students. Formal K-12 schooling must equip our youth for more than work and college; it must prepare them for living lives that can create a better world.

Reclaiming Civic Duties of Schools

During my 18 years teaching public high school English, tragedy interrupted our sacred commitment to “time on task” often enough—notably on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and on Sept. 11, 2001. Since these tragedies consumed media coverage, most teachers throughout my school turned on our classroom TVs and watched dark moments of history unfold before us with our students. I taught throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when accountability based on standards and high-stakes tests was in its evolving years, but even then, teachers were directed and monitored for keeping students on task, teaching standards and preparing students for the tests.

Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, schools have increasingly become places where focus never strays too far from standards or tests, leaving little or no room for the reality of daily existence, even when that reality imposes tragedies onto teachers’ and students’ lives. This approach has also had the effect of shifting public education away from its foundational civic and democratic purposes and toward narrow functions such as college and career readiness.

Allowing and encouraging students to engage with the real world must be central to that lost purpose of schooling. As John Dewey asserted as far back as 1897:

I believe that this educational process has two sides—one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following.… I believe that knowledge of social conditions, of the present state of civilization, is necessary in order properly to interpret the child’s powers.

How children and young people feel impacts directly how they think. Despite our best efforts to keep children and teens focused purely on intellectual pursuits, their emotional responses to everything in their world drive not only their ability to think, but also what they think.

#FergusonSyllabus: Learning to Address Our Inadequate World

Teachers must find a way to offer students a reasonable amount of time to reflect and then express how they feel about the complicated issues surrounding what happened in Ferguson: the death of a young person, issues of racism, conflicting messages about authority figures and law enforcement, and safety.

Classrooms that seek to be intellectually engaging must be emotionally and physically safe; the shooting of Brown has fueled fear in young people that cannot be addressed by banning conversations and topics. Instead, teachers should manage safe discussions that begin with emotions and then move toward multiple opportunities for students to explore how becoming better informed helps them address their feelings, as well as come to terms with how they view the hard issues of racism, police use of force and civil unrest.

The shootings of young, unarmed African American males in the U.S. are fraught with many complex questions that require careful consideration and solid facts. One of the most important aspects of formal education is introducing children to the wide range of disciplinary ways of coming to understand our often inadequate world.

All disciplines can find ways to help students address real-world tragedies through academic practices that serve them against their current fear and confusion. School should be a safe harbor against the often misleading media world. Once tragedies are granted the space and time needed for our hearts to begin to heal, they offer powerful opportunities to teach that cannot be anticipated by standards or tested—ones that require careful study, credible evidence, and complex considerations of difficult ethical questions. One of the best places for students to confront the topic of Ferguson is in their classrooms with their teachers. Understanding this, some educators have already begun to develop curriculum and lesson plans to address the tragedy.

#FergusonSyllabus has emerged on Twitter, begun by Marcia Chatelain, a history professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Chatelain spurred an ongoing series of Tweets inviting teachers to consider not only how to address Brown’s death with students, but also why they should.

James Netters of Memphis Theological Seminary has blogged about integrating the Brown tragedy into course work, compiling a reader. Netters continues to write about the importance of teaching about Ferguson:

Today, as the events of Ferguson unfold, we need less Niebuhr and more Baldwin. We need fewer sighs and more plans; we need less complacency of an immoral world and more actions of moral women and men. If we don’t, then we won’t have “the fire next time.” We’ll have the fire right now.

Chatelain and Netters highlight the importance of bringing racial consciousness into the classroom during times of tragedy as a way to heal student fears and as a path to address social unrest and prevent further tragedies. These efforts are essential because the tragedy of Brown’s shooting has roots in exactly the sort of refusal to address hard topics that the Edwardsville schools are now mandating.

But the path to a real education lies to the contrary: students must learn to ask hard questions in order to change the world, and school is the place to learn those lessons.

Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t

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The Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter, Jon Lender, “effectively” finishes up his sure to be award winning series on U.S.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “hand-picked” education reform disciple, Terrence Carter, with a breaking news story entitled,  Terrence Carter’s Ph.D. Award Date Arrives, But His Doctorate Doesn’t.

Lender, who led the Courant’s investigation of “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the disgraced former head of the Jumoke/ FUSE charter school chain, turned his attention to the highly touted education reform export who the Malloy administration was bringing in to join Special Master Steven Adamowski to “turnaround” New London public schools.

The Courant’s investigative operation quickly determined the truth about “Dr.” Terrence Carter including the fact that despite what Carter claimed, he did not have a Ph.D from Stanford University or Stanford and Oxford Universities or even from Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Among one of “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s many explanations was the observation that while he hadn’t actually received a Ph.D from Lesley in the past, he was going to be given one this month.  He even bragged that when he defended his thesis, the committee informed him that he could now call himself “Dr.”

Well, the good “doctor’s” version of reality appears to be a bit different from the reality that the rest of us live in.

In this afternoon’s Courant article, Lender writes;

Embattled New London school superintendent candidate Terrence P. Carter had been scheduled to receive his Ph.D. in Education Monday from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. — but that didn’t happen.

“I can confirm that Terrence Carter does not have a degree from Lesley University,” Director of Communications John Sullivan said in an email.

He was then whether other candidates received their degrees on Monday’s long-scheduled “conferral date” of Aug. 25, and whether it’s still possible that Carter would receive his doctorate.

“Degrees have already been conferred today. He does not have a degree from Lesley,” Sullivan said in a subsequent email. “Beyond that, I have no further comment on his or any other student’s academic information.”

Carter did not respond to Courant messages seeking comment Monday.

Carter was selected by New London’s school board in June to be its next superintendent of schools, but the Board postponed a vote on awarding him an employment contract in late July.

The postponement came in the wake of newspaper revelations that Carter had used Ph.D. and Dr. with his name for at least five years without having a doctorate from an accredited college, and that large portions of his New London job application essay were identical to language in articles published on the Internet.

Lesley University would not discuss the reasons why Carter’s doctorate was not awarded.

Questions about Carter deepened when a national research organization provided The Courant with a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 including the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which he does not;. Also, The Courant reported that Carter got a Ph.D. in 1996 from “Lexington University” — which doesn’t have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto “Order Now, Graduate Today!”

The school board commissioned an investigation into Carter’s background after the newspaper disclosures in July,. The report on that probe by the Hartford law firm of Shipman & Goodwin, the board’s legal counsel, is due to be presented at a meeting Thursday night. It’s unclear whether the board will go through that night with its previously scheduled vote on whether to enter an employment contract with Carter.

Carter had told New London officials during the application process that he was due to receive a Ph.D. in education from Lesley this summer — and, in a letter dated June 10, Carter’s senior adviser at Lesley verified that he had “successfully defended his dissertation” on May 28, and would officially be awarded his Ph.D. on the “next degree conferral date, August 25, 2014 — which was Monday.

But that situation has changed, according to Sullivan’s email.

[...]

The Ph.D. that Carter had been scheduled to receive was for a dissertation entitled “Driving Value within a Changing Network of Schools through Learning and Development: The Use of a 360° Feedback Tool To Drive Change and Bring Value in Public Education.”

Carter told the Courant in July he would be willing to send a copy of the dissertation, but he has not done so. Lesley has declined to release a copy.

Carter and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment last week on Simmons’ letter and other questions concerning the New London situation.

The New London board’s June choice of Carter was watched more closely than most local hirings of school administrators, partly because the state Department of Education has played a strong role in addressing the local system’s record of low performance. The board’s June announcement that it had selected Carter was endorsed publicly by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

You can read Jon Lender’s full story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2225/article/p2p-81175756/

You’re right…You just can’t make this sh*t up

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[First, on a personal note.  The Secretary of the State’s office continues to count the Pelto/Murphy petitions as they are sent in by local town clerks.  While the process won’t be concluded until the middle of next week, it appears increasingly likely that we will fall short of the 7,500 “valid” signatures to get on the ballot.  Although we’ve identified a significant number of signatures that were inappropriately or illegally rejected, the traceable problems do not appear, at this time, to be enough to put us over the top – even if we were able to go to court and ask a judge to overrule the actions taken by certain local officials.   When we know the final status of the petition count we will, of course, inform readers immediately.  Regardless, we want to thank all of you who have been so supportive of this quest ---- more to come].

 

Meanwhile, pro-education advocates and columnists Wendy Lecker and Sarah Darer Littman have produced two more “MUST READ” pieces.

Wendy Lecker’s piece can be found in the Stamford Advocate and the other Hearst Media outlets, while Sara Darer Littman’s column can be found in at the CT Newsjunkie.

The two pieces should be mandatory reading for all candidates seeking office in Connecticut, as well as the media and the various investigators that are looking into the inappropriate, and potentially criminal, efforts to undermine our public education system and replace it with the corporate education reform and charter school industry’s agenda of privatization and diverting public funds to private enterprise.

Wendy Lecker’s latest column is “Connections in charter world a curious weave,” while Sarah Darer Littman’s latest is entitled “It’s Past Time for Transparency at the State.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

The most disturbing revelation of the FUSE/Jumoke charter school scandal is that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education have consistently neglected to provide any oversight of charter schools. FUSE/Jumoke’s CEO Michael Sharpe’s criminal history and false academic credentials were easily discoverable, yet no one bothered to check. Even worse, Pryor turned a blind eye to Sharpe’s persistent failure in running Hartford’s Milner elementary school- despite the heightened scrutiny Pyror was required to provide of schools in his Commissioner’s Network.

While Milner was floundering, Pryor and the State Board handed Sharpe a new charter school in New Haven, Booker T. Washington Academy (“BTWA”). In April, the Board unanimously approved Sharpe to head BTWA. BTWA’s partnership with FUSE/Jumoke was a major factor in the unanimous vote. When Sharpe was later disgraced, BTWA lost not only its director, but also the basis upon which the SBE approved its application.

Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.

Green Tech’s performance was so poor that the SUNY Charter Institute refused to fully reauthorize it. SUNY noted that the school did not “com[e] close to meeting its academic Accountability Plan goals.” Although Mr. Taylor contended that 100 percent of graduates went to college, SUNY reported that only 68 percent went. And not one student passed an AP exam.

These facts cast doubt on Mr. Taylor’s veracity and his ability to deliver on his promises for BTWA. Yet the Board chose to ignore the data and accept Mr. Taylor’s erroneous claims.

The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.

Not even religious entanglement bothered the board. After supporters testified about the need for a school that “would promote God’s principles,” SBE Chair Allan Taylor admonished BTWA that the school is a public school- not an adjunct of the church. Yet Reverend Morrison’s church’s home page prominently features a link to Booker T. Washington Academy.

When it comes to rubber-stamping charter schools, even a major scandal cannot shake the State Board from its status quo. One has to wonder what it will take to get the State Board of Education to fulfill its duty to protect Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

[Thanks to Mary Gallucci for her invaluable help researching this piece]

Wendy Lecker’s complete piece can be found here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Connections-in-charter-world-a-curious-weave-5706568.php

Sarah Darer Littman also examines the activities of Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his band of education reform and charter school aficionados who have been given control of Connecticut’s public education system.

Littman writes,

As soon as the Hartford Courant reported  that a state grand jury had issued a subpoena for “all emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor since January 2012,” it was obvious the controversial head of the state Department of Education was on borrowed time. Frankly, I’m surprised he survived this long.

From the start, Pryor presided over a culture of cronyism and opacity, rather than the transparency Gov. “Dannel” P. Malloy promised.

Take his funneling of $255,000 in no-bid contracts through the State Education Resource Center, for example.

Back in 2012, Tom Swan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, filed a whistleblower complaint  regarding these contracts after learning about them through emails he’d obtained through an FOIA request.

Gov. Malloy’s legal counsel at the time, Andrew McDonald, who has since been elevated to the bench as an associate justice of the State Supreme Court, called Swan’s complaint “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

Except that it wasn’t.

According to the interim report released by the state auditors : “. . . contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services. Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the State Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.”

Pryor’s Education Department has been strong on accountability for teachers, but did it hold itself to those same standards? Not so much.

While the pro-corporate education reform Hartford Courant editorial page waxed lyrical about Pryor’s accomplishments , let’s not forget that these are the same folks who were singing Michael Sharpe’s praises and wanting to give him more taxpayer money only hours before the FUSE/Jumoke scandal blew up.

[…]

Pryor’s reign at the state Department of Education has certainly been great for consultants. It’s hard for the average Nutmegger to know exactly how great, because of his administration’s opacity…

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece can be found here:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_its_past_time_for_transparency_at_the_state_department_of_education/

Finally, if you get a chance, print off these two commentary pieces and when the candidates or political parties come to your door or call you on the phone during the next nine weeks, tell them that  you’d be happy to hear their “message” … once you are done reading them Wendy and Sarah’s two columns.

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

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Pelto Media Statement in Response to Governor Malloy’s Press Release:  GOV. MALLOY: MILLIONS IN ADDITIONAL FUNDING WILL ASSIST STRUGGLING SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Malloy misleads teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers – again!

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just issued a press release that began with the following:

HARTFORD, CT) — Governor Dannel P. Malloy, joined by Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, today hat Alliance Districts are set to receive a total of $132,901,813 in additional funding for the 2014-15 academic year to help implement academic improvement plans.  To date, 28 of 30 Alliance District Year Three plan amendments have been approved, with the final approvals expected in the coming weeks.

In typical fashion, the Governor and Commissioner of Education have used their announcement as a way to further mislead Connecticut’s teachers, parents, public school advocates and taxpayers.

Malloy claims that his “initiative” is providing Connecticut’s 30 most struggling school districts with another $132 million in state aid, but the truth is that this year’s increase is only about $45 million and that in order to get those funds, school districts were required to accept a series of new mandates and programs aimed at further implementing Malloy’s corporate education reform agenda and diverting scarce public dollars to private companies.

For example, some of the new money is being used to pay for pet projects such as Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.”

As Connecticut has come to know, Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, Achievement First, Inc. has received more new funding than any other charter school operator in Connecticut.

While most school districts in Connecticut have effectively been flat funded, Achievement First, Inc. has benefited from a massive increase in per pupil funding, more charter school seats, and additional resources from various grants that were once reserved for Connecticut’s real public schools.

And if that windfall wasn’t enough, hidden inside this so-called “new” money for Connecticut’s poorer school districts is yet another special deal for Achievement First, Inc.

Note that in today’s press release, Malloy and Stefan Pryor brag about how 28 or the 30 “Alliance District Year Three Plans” have been approved.

What Malloy and Pryor don’t explain is that in order to get approved, towns were required to include certain education reform initiatives, including forcing Connecticut’s largest school districts to participate in Achievement First, Inc.’s “Residency Program for School Leadership.

As part of the program, Connecticut taxpayers will not only pay Achievement First, Inc., for their “services,” but Connecticut school teachers, paid for by Connecticut taxpayer funds, will be sent to teach in Achievement First schools.  This means that in addition to paying the charter school chain $11,500 per student, paying for all of their transportation costs and all of their special education costs, Achievement First, Inc. will be will be further subsidized thanks to having taxpayer-funded public school teachers working in their privately-run charter schools.

Achievement First, Inc. calls their “Residency Program” a “unique opportunity.”

There is no doubt about that, it is a unique opportunity for Achievement First to get more of our public funds.

When more and more questions are being raised about the lack of oversight of Connecticut’s charter schools, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are diverting record amounts of public money to charter schools.

While Malloy claims he is investing another $132 million into Connecticut’s poorest schools, the truth is that Connecticut taxpayers are being forced to waste even more money on Malloy’s failed education reform policies.

All this while our public school students continue to be left without the support they need and deserve.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy promises to “stay the course” on education reform!

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It turns out that it took less than 24 hours for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy to make it clear that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s departure IS NOT a sign that Connecticut’s anti-teacher, pro-corporate education reform Democratic governor is going to use a second term to do a better job representing the concerns of teachers, students, parents and public school advocates in Connecticut.

Although Malloy is the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in “turnaround” schools, the announcement that Stefan Pryor will be leaving his position at the end of this year was seen by some as a signal that Malloy was going to shift away from his corporate education reform industry and privatization policies and would use a second term to provide more support for Connecticut’s real public education system.

But at a stop yesterday at the Day newspaper of New London, Malloy made his real intentions clear,

“During a brief, surprise visit to The Day on Monday, part of a campaign push through the area, the governor assured us he will stay the course on education reform if re-elected.”

As proponents of public education know, significant changes are needed to close the achievement gap between students who live in rich and poor communities, but “staying the course” with the corporate education reform industry’s agenda is absolutely the wrong thing to do.

It would seem that when it comes to Malloy’s campaign for re-election, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

You can read the Day editorial at: http://www.theday.com/article/20140820/OP01/308209937

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

The problem is poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs!

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Tom Foley both claim that they are committed to doing something about Connecticut’s “failing” schools.

Democrat Malloy began his approach by becoming the only Democratic governor in the national to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining in the poorest and lowest performing schools which he euphemistically calls “turnaround schools.”   Malloy also proposed massive amounts of new Common Core standardized testing for all public school students and tied his modest funding increases for poor schools to inappropriate privatization strategies.

Republican Foley has also proposed more standardized testing.  According to a recent article in the New Haven Register, “Foley also wants a third-grade reading test before children are promoted and a regents’ style exam to test basic skills in order to graduate from high schools.”

However, to his credit, Foley recognizes that state education funding formulas must address the needs and challenges students face.  Foley explains that the school funding grant “’should be variable depending on the needs of the child,” with less money for capable, independent students with a lot of enrichment at home and more for special needs children.’

While both Malloy and Foley lament the large achievement gap that exists in Connecticut, neither appears willing to set aside the nonsense of more testing and focus the state’s resources on the factors that do limit academic success – poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs.

Malloy and Foley would do well to read the recent CT Newsjunkie commentary piece written by Barth Keck.  Keck’s piece is entitled, “It Doesn’t Take Captain Obvious to Identify A Stacked Deck,” and he explains,

Among the obvious realities of public schools:

1. A disadvantaged family life negatively affects educational Achievement.

“A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories,” says Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander , whose research tracked nearly 800 Baltimore schoolchildren for 25 years. “This view is at odds with the popular ethos that we are makers of our own fortune.”

Another recent study  from the Washington University School of Medicine found that “children who are exposed to poverty at a young age often have trouble academically later in life” since poverty “appears to be associated with smaller brain volumes in areas involved in emotion processing and memory.”

Brain scans of 145 children between 6 and 12 showed that “poverty also appears to alter the physical makeup of a child’s brain; those children exposed to poverty at an early age had smaller volumes of white and cortical gray matter, as well as hippocampal and amygdala volumes.”

This is especially bad news for Connecticut, as poverty among children has increased by 50 percent since 1990, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Barth Keck’s latest commentary piece can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_it_doesnt_take_captain_obvious_to_identify_a_stacked_deck/.

His message is clear and concise.

Poverty limits academic achievement and poverty among Connecticut’s children has increased by about 50% in recent years.

When it comes to dealing with Connecticut’s achievement gap, both Malloy and Foley are wrong.  We need less testing and more learning, not the other way around.

We can and must confront Connecticut’s achievement gap…

But the solution is definitely not the anti-teacher, pro-privatization effort being pushed by Governor Malloy, Stefan Pryor and their allies in the corporate education reform industry.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Today’s “MUST READ” Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?

Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.

Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.

Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.

And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.

On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”

Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.

Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.

 Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php

 

Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)

You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”

On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.

That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.

A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.

As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.

The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.

Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.

“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column

 

And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?

PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies

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