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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Questions Grow On Incoming School Chief’s Use Of Ph.D. Title, Financial Problems

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Claiming that he was “hand-picked” by Arne Duncan to be part of the corporate education reform industry, “Dr.” Terrence Carter has become a national example of what is wrong with the education reform movement.

The latest article on Carter, entitled, Questions Grow On Incoming School Chief’s Use Of Ph.D. Title, Financial Problems, can be found in today’s Hartford Courant.

Courant reporters Jon Lender and Kathy Megan write,

Questions about Terrence P. Carter’s background multiplied Tuesday, a day after the New London school board delayed a vote on approving a contract for him to start Aug. 1 as superintendent of schools.

Board members want to ask Carter about The Courant’s disclosure Friday that the Chicago school administrator had called himself doctor and Ph.D. for more than five years on the basis of a degree from what he’s called an “unaccredited” school – Lexington University – for which no campus address or Internet website can be located.

In several developments Tuesday:

•Records emerged showing that Carter, 49, filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in California in 1999, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Illinois in 2012. Neither petition was granted, records show, because he failed to follow through on required procedures or paperwork. In 2012, he stated his liabilities at $768,649, with more than $200,000 stemming from student loans, and assets at $338,654. Two creditor banks filed objections in 2012 saying Carter “failed to accurately describe” what he owed.

•Documents from his time as a Chicago school principal show Carter used Ph.D on emails and letterheads. Some of his supporters have said it was others who attached the title to his name. The Courant found more than a dozen public documents that referred to Carter as Dr. or Ph.D.

•The resume Carter submitted to the New London school board lists a “Certificate of Advance Graduate Studies” from National Louis University in Chicago, but that school’s director of communications, Susan Barnett, said Tuesday that he never obtained the certificate.

“He was never officially awarded the degree,” even though he completed the 36 credit hours of course work, because he didn’t submit “a degree finalization form that is required,” she said. “He does not actually hold a degree from here because he never submitted the paperwork.”

[…]

Criticism of the vetting process has been growing since it was disclosed last Friday that New London’s recruiting consultant, Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson LLC – which conducted a national search for candidates and pledged to perform “extensive background checks” on them – failed to turn up any of the Dr. and Ph.D. references The Courant found.

As a result, Carter was never asked where he obtained his “unaccredited” degree and whether it was appropriate to claim a doctorate.

[…]

When The Courant asked Carter more than a week ago about his unaccredited degree, he said he had earned a doctorate in theology from Hamersfield University in London. He said the doctorate would have enabled him to “practice in the ministry,” although he never did that.

A number of London educational institutions’ representatives said they’d never heard of the school. When pressed further, Carter sent The Courant a printed transcript from Lexington University. The transcript listed no campus address or Internet website for online studies.

Carter said in his email that Lexington University was “formerly known as Hamersfield University back in the 90s when I attended.” He said Tuesday that he had to be in London for several weeks annually during the three years he was pursuing his doctoral studies at Hamersfield.

An Internet search turned up a site headed “Lexington University,” which advertises for people to obtain their degrees at prices of up to several hundred dollars. It was unclear if that website is connected with the transcript sent by Carter — and he declined to answer more questions.

The Lexington University transcript said that Carter, now 49, received an A in each of 45 graduate courses on the way to a Ph.D. The transcript says that the degree was in human resource management and organizational learning, not theology. Many of the course listings related to human resources and organizational learning.

You can read the full article with all the various quotes at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-carter-resume-0723-20140722,0,6040752.story

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New London Superintendent candidate Terrence Carter’s Financial Problems

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The Day of New London has posted a breaking story highlighting financial problems that have plagued Terrence Carter, the “education reform expert” that Special Master Steven Adamowski and the Malloy administration have been pushing for the job of superintendent of schools in New London.

The Day of New London newspaper is reporting,

according to court documents, Carter has a history of defaulting on financial obligations and has filed for bankruptcy in two states. His claims, though, were dismissed because he failed to appear at a court-scheduled meeting or file required paperwork.

In a Feb. 3, 2012, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Carter claimed a total of $768,649 in liabilities, including $211,224 in student loan obligations, and reported $338,654 in assets. He listed his average monthly income as $7,134.53 and claimed $4,758 in monthly household expenses, according to documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Northern District of Illinois.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a debtor who earns a regular income to propose a plan to repay debts over a three- or five-year period, according to court documents.

Carter’s filing lists 14 creditors, including American Express, Citibank, Sallie Mae and the U.S. Department of Education.

Panos Brothers Construction and Painting, an Illinois-based company listed as a creditor in Carter’s 2012 bankruptcy filing, placed a contractor’s lien on Carter’s Chicago condo in January 2012.

According to forms filed by the company’s attorney, Carter hired the company to renovate and paint his Chicago condo but never paid the $18,512 bill.

A copy of the signed contract, which was included in court filings, details the anticipated prices for painting and carpeting three bedrooms, installing engineered wood flooring in a handful of rooms, and other work.

The contract was signed June 30, 2011, and Panos Brothers completed the work by Sept. 8, 2011, documents show. On Nov. 29, 2011, Panos Brothers sent Carter an invoice for the outstanding $18,512.

The bankruptcy case was dismissed by the judge on July 19, 2012, because Carter “failed to file the required documents,” according to the court order. Carter’s repayment plan was not confirmed by the court and “appears to be unfeasible as the debtors disposable income is less than the proposed plan payments,” according to the order.

The contractor’s lien on Carter’s property was released on Sept. 25, 2013, after he and Panos Brothers agreed to a settlement, according to records from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

And in 1999, while Carter was living and working in California, he filed paperwork in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Northern District of California for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the chapter of the bankruptcy code that allows for the liquidation of the debtor’s property to repay creditors.

Court documents show that Carter filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 4, 1999, and was indebted to a number of banks, student loan companies and Saks Fifth Avenue.

On Dec. 22, 1999, the California judge dismissed the case because Carter had failed to appear at a meeting with his creditors, according to the court documents.

In an email Monday, Carter said, “These events are of a personal family matter, and have been settled. They were disclosed to the search and selection committees, and Board of Education.”

While many recognize that family and personal issues should not automatically prohibit someone for a public post, considering that a superintendent of schools is responsible for tens of millions of dollars in public funds, “Dr.” Terrence Carter is likely to face additional questions as he faces a contract vote on Thursday.

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The Beginning of the end for the Charter School Industry in Connecticut

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy ushered in the Charter School Industry to Connecticut as part of his corporate education reform initiative in 2012.  As part of his “education reforms,”

  •  Malloy became the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”
  • Malloy uttered his infamous observation that all teachers had to do was show up for four years and they’d get tenure.
  • In defense of his plans to implement the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, Malloy said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.
  • And Malloy handed Connecticut’s State Department of Education over to corporate education reform aficionados like Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski, education reformer extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we seen tens of millions of dollars in public funds diverted to feed the monster known as the emerging education reform industry.

Scarce taxpayer resources wasted on the Common Core, the Common Core Test, the unfair teacher evaluation program and for charter schools that fail to meet the most basic standards of accountability.

But over the past few months, the tide has been turning and the  truth about Malloy, Malloy’s administration, the “education reformers” and the charter schools have been coming out.

The collapse of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain was just the beginning – the time has come when the education reformers will finally be held accountable for their actions.

As the Hartford Courant is reporting today in an article entitled, More Federal Subpoenas In Hartford Charter School Probe,

HARTFORD — City and state educators said Monday that they had been served with subpoenas by a federal grand jury examining the expenditure of millions of dollars in public money by the troubled charter school management company FUSE.

The subpoenas were issued Friday to the Hartford Public Schools and the state Department of Education, both of which have had extensive dealings with the state-subsidized FUSE, short for the Family Urban Schools of Excellence.

FUSE was created in 2012 as a management company that used public and private money to take over failing, inner-city public schools and operate them as public charter schools. FUSE’s management agreements with public school systems gave it wide discretion over spending on salaries, rents, curriculum, equipment and other items.

A series of embarrassing disclosures in the past month appears to have crippled FUSE, costing the organization all its management business, worth more than $1 million a year. The closely affiliated Jumoke Academy fired FUSE as manager of its three Hartford charter schools. Schools in Bridgeport and New Haven severed ties with FUSE, and educators in Louisiana, concerned about events in Connecticut, pulled FUSE from a charter school set to open in Baton Rouge next month.

The public is learning the truth and the charter school industry and their public official allies will finally be held accountable for their actions.

You can read the full Hartford Courant story on this developing situation at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-fuse-0722-20140721,0,3308874.story

Meet the latest Corporate Education Reform Industry Charlatan “Dr.” Terrence Carter

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Incoming School Chief Called Himself Ph.D. For Years Without An Accredited Doctorate

For more than eight years, “Dr.” Terrence Carter, the incoming New London superintendent of schools and self-described education reform expert, bragged that he had a Ph.D.

At one point, Carter’s bio materials claimed that he had a doctorate from Stanford University.

In another article his doctorate came from a joint program between Stanford and Oxford.

And more recently he claimed his doctorate was from Leslie University.

But it was all a lie.

Interestingly he also claimed that he was hand-picked to be an education reform leader by none-other than the Arne Duncan, President Obama’s anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-Common Core Secretary of Education.

In a breaking news story written by the Hartford Courant’s investigative reporter Jon Lender, we now learn that the incoming New London superintendent of schools is an expert —- an expert at falsifying his resume.

And just watch how the Malloy administration, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Special Master Steven Adamowski try to explain this embarrassment.

After reading the Courant article, one thing is clear.

The New London Board of Education is scheduled to vote on “Dr.” Terrence Carter’s lucrative contract on Monday night.

Before that meeting, Malloy and Pryor need to make sure that Carter withdraws his name from consideration.

And if Malloy and Pryor fail to do that, then the New London Board needs to reject Carter and re-open the search.

To actually hire “Dr. Terrance Carter for the post would be to telegraph to every student, teacher, parent and taxpayer in Connecticut that doctoring one’s resume is just the way things are done when it comes to the corporate education reform industry in Connecticut.

The Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender writes,

Terrence P. Carter, the highly touted Chicago education administrator hired to start Aug. 1 as the superintendent of New London‘s troubled school system, recently completed requirements for a doctorate he’s scheduled to receive next month.

“Soon I will be able to be called ‘Doctor’,” he said he recalls telling job interviewers.

But a Courant review of records available in the public domain shows that Carter has called himself “doctor,” or identified himself as a Ph.D, for more than five years prior to his very recent completion of requirements for a doctorate.

The titles show up next to his name more than a dozen times, including a 2008 listing of “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” on an attendance list for a symposium. He’s called “Dr. Terrence Carter” on IRS documents filed from 2010-2012. He used “Ph.D.” when he reviewed a 2012 book on “Common Core” educational standards.

Those documents don’t indicate where that doctorate came from. Carter said they’re not references to his anticipated doctorate from Lesley University in Massachusetts. Instead, he says he obtained a doctorate in 1996 from an unaccredited school, Lexington University.

When asked about the degree Tuesday, Carter first had told The Courant that he earned a doctorate in theology from Hamersfield University in London. In a phone interview, he said that the doctorate would enable him to “practice in the ministry.”

On Thursday when pressed further on the Hamersfield degree, Carter sent The Courant a printed transcript from Lexington University. The transcript listed no campus address or Internet website for online studies.

A web search turned up a site headed “Lexington University,” which advertises for people to get their degrees at prices of up to several hundred dollars. It’s unclear if that website is connected with the transcript sent by Carter – and he declined to answer more questions.

“I have nothing further to say on this matter,” he wrote late Thursday in response to a follow-up email.

Carter said in his email that Lexington University was “formerly known as Hamersfield University back in the 90s when I attended.” He had said Tuesday he had to be in London for several weeks annually during the three years he was pursuing his doctoral studies at Hamersfield.

The Lexington University transcript said that Carter, now 49, received an A in each of 45 graduate courses on the way to a Ph.D.

The transcript indicates the degree was in Human Resource Management and Organizational Learning, not theology. Many of the course listings related to human resources, organizational leadership and management – and at the time Carter was employed in corporate human resources.

None of the course listings appeared related to theology.

Carter’s situation arises a month after a key figure in Connecticut’s school “turnaround” movement, Michael Sharpe, resigned on June 21 as CEO of the Hartford charter school management group FUSE. His exit followed his admission that he had falsely claimed to have a doctorate.

State and local education officials say that they have verified Carter’s claim to have completed the requirements for Aug. 25 award of a Ph.D in educational studies from Lesley University.

But they never checked into Carter’s use of the title “doctor” and “Ph.D.” in past years, because they say that it didn’t turn up in the national search that a consultant conducted to fill the New London job.

The recruiting consultant, Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, said in March that it would be “conducting extensive background checks on the candidates.” One of the firm’s team members says that said she did several Google searches on Carter, but failed to turn up even one of the numerous “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” references that the Courant found.

Carter, whose contract in New London will be voted on by the school board Monday, said he didn’t believe it was misleading to have called himself a “doctor.

And it gets worse…

Be sure to go read the entire Hartford Courant article at: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-carter-resume-0716-20140718,0,7548087.story

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Connecticut’s Gubernatorial Race Will Be Influenced by Education, Teachers (CT Magazine)

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Connecticut Magazine has posted a new article entitled, “Connecticut’s Gubernatorial Race Will Be Influenced by Education, Teachers.”

As Connecticut Magazine explains,

For the Democratic party, the full-throttled support of teachers’ unions in Connecticut is a given rule—like “I before E, except after C.” But now, when topics such  as Common Core, teacher evaluations, charter schools and the “achievement gap” are added, Gov. Dan Malloy risks becoming that “after C” exception.

Malloy must claw his way to a second term. He is tied with Republican candidate Tom Foley in the most recent (May 9) Quinnipiac University poll of this year’s governor’s race. He barely beat Foley in the 2010 governor’s race, and now faces a challenge from his left flank as former Mansfield state representative Jonathan Pelto is running as a third-party candidate focused almost entirely on the education issue.

The balance could be tipped this year if some of the people who were excited to elect Malloy in 2010 fail to work with as much fervor for him again—or even choose to sit out the election due to his connection to education-reform issues.

Malloy’s relationship with teachers has been occasionally tense and pockmarked with terse exchanges. He’s haunted, for example, by a comment he made to the General Assembly in February 2012. Advocating for tenure reform, Malloy said for teachers to earn tenure, “the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.”

Before that, Malloy appointed Stefan Pryor as the state education commissioner. Pryor, a cofounder of Amistad Academy charter school, has taken heat from teachers’ unions which point out that he has never worked in a capacity as a teacher and lacks teaching credentials. Malloy, like many governors, initially supported all aspects of the federal Common Core public education standards and new teacher evaluation systems based on them. He has since softened his stance on these issues as it became clear that he might lose reelection without the support of teachers. Malloy also supported the installation of known urban-education reformer Paul Vallas as Bridgeport’s superintendent, and then the re-installation of Vallas after a judge’s initial ruling that he did not meet the criteria to be superintendent. Malloy’s backing of Vallas created further friction with the unions. Vallas has since left the district to run for lieutenant governor of Illinois.

[…]

“We do have a respect for each other,” says Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the state’s biggest teachers’ union. “His door is open to us, and over this past year we’ve been able to iron out some of the legislation that may have been well-intentioned and implemented badly.”

[…]

“When teachers think they aren’t being heard, there is going to be frustration, anger, there is going to be anxiety, and frankly, maybe, a lack of a cast of a vote,” says CEA President Sheila Cohen. “They’ll probably go to the polls, the question is who will they vote for? There are a lot of people on that ballot, and (some teachers) could skip a line.”

Malloy’s missteps with teachers offer a natural voter base to Pelto, a liberal firebrand who doesn’t mince words when it comes to characterizing the governor’s positions on education reform.

[…]

On his blog Wait What? and in interviews, Pelto has said Malloy is committed to the “corporate education reform agenda” and criticized the governor for his support in the expansion of charter schools in the state. “We’re not Chicago, Philadelphia,” he said, pointing to places where charter schools have an established foothold. “But there’s something going on in Connecticut that is very different than anything we’ve ever experienced.

[…]

As Malloy courts the support of traditional parts of his political base, including the teachers’ unions and Connecticut’s Working Families Party, whose members have also strongly criticized education reform, he will have to choose whether to further distance himself from organizations such as Families for Excellent Schools (FES), which made a name for itself in New York City when it ran a slick advertising campaign attacking Mayor Bill de Blasio’s opposition to charters. It has been very active in Bridgeport’s education battles.

“We expect at some point to make an endorsement—we’re checking in with members constantly. For now, there’s no question Governor Malloy has been a tremendous advocate for kids and families, and I believe our members recognize that,“ FES cofounder and CEO Jeremiah Kittredge said in a statement.

But that kind of endorsement could do more harm than good for Malloy’s reelection hopes if it risks driving teachers’ union members to Pelto.

FES backed Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s controversial referendum to change the governance of the Bridgeport school board. It was a move opposed by the Working Families Party and Pelto.

In 2010, Malloy did not win enough votes on the Democratic Party line alone—but combined with the votes he took as the Working Family Party’s cross-endorsed candidate, he narrowly beat Foley.

The Working Families endorsement has yet to be determined, but the party has openly expressed nervousness about Malloy’s positions on charter schools. “We have been pretty concerned ourselves with the governor’s education agenda,” said Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Working Families Party.

To read the entire Connecticut Magazine piece go to: http://www.connecticutmag.com/Blog/Connecticut-Politics/July-2014/Connecticuts-Gubernatorial-Race-Will-Be-Influenced-by-Education-Teachers/

Step #1 – Dump the Common Core and its testing mania

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Step #2 – Focus on properly funding our schools and helping children overcome the educational challenges associated with poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense [or wasteful education reform industry junk] than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

Common Core Opponents Voice Their Opposition (CT Newsjunkie)

 A handful of parents — some of whom were wearing red T-shirts that read “Stop the Common Core in CT” — expressed their opposition to implementation of the Common Core State Standards at the state Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

“We will have wasted billions of dollars on children’s education on an experiment which is not supported by any real evidence that it will succeed,” retired teacher Kathy Cordone said.

Cordone does not agree with the Common Core standards, which were written by the National Governors Association, the Council for Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc. Instead, she would like for the rules to be written by Connecticut teachers.

[…]

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform, pledged his support for the Common Core and said that the Common Core Task Force offered a rubric that will help track implementation of these changes.

Read the CTNewsjunkie story at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/common_core_opponents_voice_their_opposition/

 

Common Core? Try common ground for Pelto, Visconti

Coming from the left and right, the paths of two petitioning candidates for governor intersected Wednesday outside a state Board of Education meeting, where a dozen people staged a protest of the Common Core curriculum standards.

“We’re here to make a statement,” said Joe Visconti, a conservative Republican petitioning for a place on the ballot as an independent. “This is probably issue number one in Connecticut.”

Jonathan Pelto, a liberal Democrat also petitioning as an independent, said the concern over Common Core has blurred the standard left-right division in politics, bringing him and Visconti to the same place.

“There’s such frustration with government in Washington and Hartford, the establishment, that it’s redrawing the traditional lines,” Pelto said.

Read the full CT Mirror article at: http://ctmirror.org/common-core-try-common-ground-for-left-right/

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Malloy and Pryor:  The Connecticut Charter School Debacle Expands

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Thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s charter school industry has been sucking up tens of millions of dollars in public funds that could have been going to help Connecticut’s real public schools.

Malloy’s unlimited commitment to charter schools runs so deep that when he brags that he has increased spending on “public schools” during his time in office, he actually has the hubris to include the millions he and his administration have handed out to the corporate education reform industry.

The former charter school operator formerly known as “Dr. Michael Sharpe,” who turns out not to have even finished his academic training, but did serve about five years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, is but the tip of a much larger iceberg of lies, deceit and corruption that surround the charter school industry in Connecticut and across the nation.

And you can almost see and hear Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor looking into the TV cameras and saying – “who me?…If we had only known that they were crooks and liars we’d never have given these people no-bid contracts to run public schools or permission to open lucrative new charter schools on top of the $53 million we’ve already given them.”

The only problem is that if Malloy and Pryor did not know the truth about Jumoke/FUSE then it is an even greater indictment of their incompetence and inability to manage the State of Connecticut on behalf of our citizens.

Here is the latest on the Jumoke/FUSE scandal.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE (Hartford Courant)

A community outreach coordinator for a Bridgeport school run by FUSE, the embattled charter school group, has a criminal conviction background that includes drug offenses and a listing on the Texas sex offender registry.

The record of Mack Allen, 49, of Bridgeport, surfaced in a confidential background check that FUSE had a law firm perform in January after he had begun working. But the organization didn’t inform Bridgeport schools Supt. Frances Rabinowitz about it until Tuesday night, after she requested background information on several FUSE employees as part of an audit.

[…]

Allen, a member of the city of Bridgeport’s ethics commission, told The Courant Wednesday that he fully disclosed his criminal past to Sharpe and others at FUSE when they hired him for the job that he said paid him less than $30,000 this past year.

[…]

“I don’t hide my past. What I’ve done, I’ve done,” he said, adding that he had been a gang member heavily involved in the cocaine trade, and had served several prison stretches totaling more than nine years, the last one ending in Texas in 2001.

But Allen said he never should have been in the Texas sex offender registry because it resulted from a conviction as a juvenile in California, in the 1970s, of a charge he described as “accessory to attempted rape,” and that he never tried to sexually assault anyone.

[…]

FUSE’s agreement with the state for its operation of Dunbar includes a provision that the Jumoke charter organization “agrees that no employee of Jumoke who will work at Dunbar or who will work directly with Dunbar students is listed on any Sex Offender Registry.”

It was not clear what led FUSE to have the background check done on Allen after the start of the 2013-14 school year. Lawyer Andrew R. Crumbie, whose Hartford firm performed the check and submitted it Jan. 6, declined comment Wednesday.

Check reveals another criminal record at FUSE  (CT Post)

A Dunbar School aide who is listed as a sex offender in Texas — and who has felony drug convictions — is the latest Family Urban Schools of Excellence employee found to have a criminal record.

Mack Henry Allen, 49, who in addition to working at Dunbar this year was appointed in March to the city’s Ethics Commission, has first-degree drug convictions in Houston and is listed as a low-level offender on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.

“It’s a scathing background,” Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz said Wednesday. “Just scathing. I have major difficulty with it.”

The news is the latest in a series of revelations that has prompted a local and state investigation of FUSE, a private group entrusted by the state Department of Education to run charter schools and two public schools in Bridgeport that are part of the state’s Commissioner’s Network. One of the schools is Dunbar.

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“Disruptive innovation’ policies hurting state’s children” (By Wendy Lecker)

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The Corporate Education Reform Industry calls it “Disruptive Innovation.”

Translated into English, it describes the process by which an “education reformer” claims that they are improving the quality of education for our children by blowing up and undermining our public schools, turning them over to private companies to run, allowing a bunch of non-educators and private companies to divert scarce public funds into their pockets, all the time hoping that no one will notice.

Their fallback position is to simply walk away if things go bad, laughing all the way to the bank as teachers, parents, and local property taxpayers try to put their schools back together.

Here in Connecticut, the poster children for this outrageous scheme include Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s State Board of Education and a variety of individuals and private companies including Jumoke Academy/FUSE and its disgraced CEO, Michael Sharpe.

In her latest column for the Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group, public education advocate Wendy Lecker shines the light on how the Malloy administration is using our children as lab rats to further then “Disruptive Innovation” approach to public education in Connecticut.

Wendy Lecker writes,

Education reformers love the notion of “disruptive innovation.” Borrowed from the business world, the theory contends that rather than make incremental progress, industries must be shaken up. This idea has been embraced by the Obama and Malloy administrations, pushing “turnaounds” in which the administration and most or all of the staff of a school with low test scores is replaced — often by a charter school management company.

Disruptive innovation was popularized by Clayton Christensen, who promoted its spread to other sectors, such as education. Christensen’s theory was built on handpicked case studies he claimed proved that disruptors were successful and existing companies who could not adapt failed. In her recent Yorker critique, historian Jill Lepore observes that the emphasis on innovation marks a fundamental shift in focus. “Replacing `progress’ with `innovation’ skirts the question of whether a novelty is an improvement.”

Upon investigating Christensen’s cases, Lepore found that his claim was untrue. The companies that focused on sustained improvements fared better and most of the time, disruptors disappeared. In the long run, incremental progress prevailed.

However, as Lepore also notes, a quick buck — not long-term consequences — is the focus of disruptive innovation. As one advocate advised, “if you start a business and it succeeds, sell it and take the cash. Don’t look back.”

Lepore writes that this discredited theory is misapplied to sectors such as public education because public education has different values and goals than those of business.

Indeed, this country’s highest court deemed education the “most important state and local function;” and the loss of even a week of learning is a significant deprivation. Under our state constitution, Connecticut has a 13-year obligation to provide every child with an education that enables her to be a productive and responsible citizen and proceed to higher education.

However, educational reformers’ goals diverge from their duties to our children. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter school promoters. The result is his embrace of “disruptive innovation” in education.

Disruption is bad for schools and for children — especially for vulnerable children, who experience daily turbulence in their lives outside school. Teacher and administrator turnover hurts student achievement, as does student mobility. The turnaround strategy has proven unsuccessful.

Recent shocking developments involving Jumoke/FUSE charter school illustrate the harm caused by Malloy’s “disruptive innovation.”

Hartford’s Milner elementary school was the first target of charter chain founder and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s commissioner’s network. The commissioner’s network to “turnaround” struggling schools was a key feature of Malloy’s 2012 education reform legislation.

Milner suffered from a chronic shortage in staff serving its large population of English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Its building required major repairs. The school also already underwent an unsuccessful redesign in 2008. Rather than provide Milner with necessary additional resources, Pryor announced a takeover of the school by Jumoke — a charter school in Hartford with no ELL students and few students with disabilities.

Only after the takeover did Milner receive additional funding, including an annual $345,000 management fee to Jumoke. Curiously, after the takeover, roughly 20 percent of the students disappeared from the school.

Michael Sharpe promised that his “Jumoke model” would help Milner. However, after two years under Jumoke management, Milner’s scores have dropped precipitously and are now “rock bottom.” Hartford accuses Jumoke of nepotism, and of hiring an ex-convict. Sharpe admitted that there was no plan for Milner — they were “winging it.”

As part of the commissioner’s network, Milner/Jumoke was supposed to be subject to heightened accountability by Pryor. Yet, despite this ongoing failure, since 2012, Pryor and the State awarded Jumoke another commissioner’s network school, Bridgeport’s Dunbar elementary, and another charter school in New Haven.

This week, it was revealed that Sharpe falsified his academic credentials. Even worse, he spent several years in federal prison for embezzling public funds and conspiracy to commit fraud, and has two forgery convictions.

Sharpe has been paid about $53 million in taxpayer dollars in the past few years. It is unconscionable that neither Pryor nor Malloy bothered to discover Sharpe’s lies or his felony convictions.

The damage done to Milner’s children cannot be undone. They have lost years of learning. They are forced to build new relationships with staff that has been replaced twice in six years. Instead of necessary resources, the state has given these families only empty promises.

Unlike business disruptors, Malloy’s failed education ventures will not disappear. His callous “disruptive” education policies cause lasting damage to Connecticut’s children and their communities.

You can read wendy Lecker’s complete column at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Lecker-Disruptive-innovation-policies-hurting-5585477.php

Madison Public School Superintendent Thomas Scarice makes national waves – again.

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Thomas Scarice, the superintendent of Madison Public Schools in Connecticut, has been identified as a “Public Education Hero” by Diane Ravitch, the nations’leading public education advocate.  Scarice has been a leading Connecticut voice against “high-stakes test-based school reform.”

A few months ago, Thomas Scarice received national attention for a letter he sent to Connecticut State Legislators explaining why these “reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research.”

His latest commentary piece, “The greatest ‘crime’ committed against the teaching profession” was featured on Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post’s education blog this week.

Thomas Scarice writes,

On May 25th, 2006, former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in perhaps the most high profile scandal of corruption as a consequence of high stakes measures.  Lay and Skilling fraudulently inflated the company’s stock price to meet the high stakes demands of Wall Street’s expectations.  Not only did Lay and Skilling conspire to inflate stock prices, but they also distorted standard accounting practices to solely meet targets.  The seeds of high stakes schemes yield corruption and distortion.

The Enron case does not stand alone in the history of corruption and distortion amidst high stakes indicators, such as stock prices.  As academic scholars Dr. David Berliner and Dr. Sharon Nichols demonstrate in their work, the annals of corporate history are tattered with similar cases of corruption and distortion driven by high stakes pressures.  High stakes accountability and incentive system failures, as well as blatant fraud, at Dun and Bradstreet, Qwest, the Heinz Company, and Sears auto repair shops, illustrate that such schemes inevitably bring unintended consequences.  As people, we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the intended or unintended consequences of such actions.  As author Steven Covey has written, “When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other end.”

The ubiquity of this principle is evident in the fields of medicine, athletics, higher education, and politics.  Quite simply, as the stakes rise, so do the occurrences of corruption and distortion.  Sadly, education is not immune to this principle.  Over a decade of high stakes accountability schemes thrust upon students, teachers, and schools have yielded sordid tales of outright corruption and cheating scandals.  Although such acts of indignity garner ornate headlines and self-righteous accusations about the lack of moral character, to which there is truth, given the inescapable unintended consequences of high stakes schemes, such corrupt behaviors and distortions of a given professional practice are inevitable and of no surprise.  Yet, we march on in the high stakes test-based accountability era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

Beneath the surface of these obvious problems lies a more insidious threat to the quality of public education for all children.  This threat begins with the redefinition of a quality education and ends with a decimating blow to the professional practice of education.  While frivolous topics related to the common core are debated in the open arena, e.g. whether or not the common core is a curriculum, a redefinition of quality education has destructively taken root.  This redefinition, one that feebly defines quality education as good high stakes test scores, and quality teaching as the efforts to produce good high stakes test scores, leaves well-intended educators consequentially conflating goals with measures.  Without question, measures, qualitative and quantitative, representing a variety of indicators that mark the values of an organization, are necessary fuel for the engine of continuous improvement.  High quality tests, specifically used for the purposes for which they were designed, can and should play a productive role in this process.  But, measures are not goals.  Regrettably, just as Lay and Skilling did in bringing a multibillion dollar corporation to its knees, in this era, the shallowest of thinkers have passively accepted the paradigm that measures are goals.

And finally, we are left with the greatest crime committed against the professional practice of education as a result of the corrosive effect of the high stakes testing era.  In an effort to thrive, and perhaps, just to survive, in a redefined world of quality education, a soft, though sometimes harsh, distortion of pedagogy, has perniciously spread to classrooms, just as the Enron executives distorted sound accounting practices to meet high stakes targets.  This will indeed be our greatest regret.

Corruption and distortion as a result of high stakes schemes sealed the fate of Enron and many other organizations like it.  History will tell the story about the future of the high stakes test-based accountability era and its unintended consequences.  And again, we march on in this era with the high probability that posterity will ask an indicting question of how a generation of educators could commit such offenses when they knew better.

You can read the piece on-line at the Washington Post by going to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/06/20/superintendent-the-greatest-crime-committed-against-the-teaching-profession/

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