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 become 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 reform extraordinaire Paul Vallas and the charter school industry.

In the past two and a half years, Connecticut taxpayers have we’ve 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 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 being 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/

The Power of Truth (from a Concerned Parent in Windham)

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“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell 1984

This blog, like others that have been sent in from parents, shines the light of truth on the corporate education reform industry.

Read it and know that the time has come to either fight back or give up.  Silence is not an option.

From a Concerned Parent in Windham, Connecticut:

 “When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.” Humpty Dumpty must have been the Senior Marketing Consultant to those who are tasked with selling corporate education reform to the American public. Their taskmasters are undemocratic plutocrats like Bill gates and Eli Broad. The plutocrats are using their vast wealth to transform the public school system in accordance with their own political values and ideological vision. Marketing and public relations are so often about deliberate deception; and the marketing of “education reform” is no exception to this general rule. As used by the corporate propagandists, words like “reform,” “education,” and “opportunity” have taken on new, sinister meanings. “Reform” was once a concept that meant to amend, to change to better from worse–it was typically associated with progressive or liberal politics. The two great educational reforms of American history were the establishment of common schooling and the efforts to undo racial segregation of schoolchildren. Today, reform in education is almost exclusively a matter of privatizing schools and educational services. The root meaning of the word “education” is to lead out potential, to nurture native abilities. This once meant a focus on “child-based” pedagogy. Today, education means standardized testing, drilling and data collection and analysis. These are managerial, rather than student, concerns. “Opportunity” was once about social justice and racial equality; today it means “individual choice” in an “educational marketplace” based squarely in competition. When Humpty Dumpty, and his cohort in educational reform, get to redefine the meaning of words this is no simple linguistic matter; controlling words is an exercise in power, and when the powerful control the meanings, they tend to get control of other areas of social life–such as political power and economic resources.

When Alice goes down the rabbit hole with no inkling of “how in the world she was to get out again,” we are made to understand that she has entered a realm where the normal rules of language, reason and meaning no longer apply. As Alice says to herself: “what nonsense I am talking.” Nonsense–the absurd, the ludicrous, and the ridiculous–is the native language of Wonderland, and Alice gets caught up in it, despite her efforts to hold onto common sense. In the current universe of corporate education reform, where absurdity is passed off as a sound logic, many teachers, students and parents must feel like Alice: they see that nonsense has become normative, and that in order to get around in the new educational system, you have to speak a jargon devoid of rational meaning. In the Wonderland of privatized schools and data driven educational assessments, up is down and black is white.

Consider the Path Academy, a so-called “recuperative high school” that is due to open in Windham in August 2014. Path Academy is a charter school managed by Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), a youth development agency, “with the mission of helping urban youth become economically independent adults.” Path will primarily serve over-age, under-credited students. The curriculum at Path is designed to foster in students “the critical skills necessary for success in college, career, and community.” I am quoting from a promotional brochure for the Academy. The brochure says that many students “become disengaged [from high school] due to lack of understanding.” Path Academy promises to “re-engage” students through understanding, care and “active learning.”

Path Academy will provide “postsecondary preparation” and “workforce readiness.” It all sounds so great: a school with a focus on the socially disadvantaged; a school with an exciting curriculum and with caring knowledgeable staff. But the devil is in the details. When you take a close look Path’s pedagogical model that’s when you realize that you are being sold a bridge in Brooklyn, and that much in the promotional brochure is really nonsense.

Path will offer the “innovative education strategy” of “blended learning.” Whenever you hear the word “innovative” in corporate education reform be on your guard. In this instance, innovative pedagogy means “computer-based & teacher-led instructions” at “personal computer stations.” Translation: students will mostly be “taught” by electronic educational products; and students will complete their learning at private carrels, in virtual isolation from each other. The traditional classroom at Path will be a rarity. That is to say, a teacher in front of a group will probably be the exception rather than the rule. But education at Path is not really education in the sense most of us are familiar with. This is made explicit in a Norwich Bulletin article on the new school. The article quotes Path Principal Brooke Lafreniere on the hidden significance of the individual carrel: the carrel is not about a monastic space where the student can concentrate on reading Shakespeare; instead it will help prepare students for the office world, where employees are often placed in cubicles. Students will eat at their carrels, because, as Lafreniere notes, “when you have a job, there are days when you have to eat at your desk.” The use of space to drive home life lessons is also evident in the design of the classrooms. We are told that lower level classrooms will have small windows and low ceilings, whereas higher level classrooms will have larger windows, and higher ceilings. The point of the distinction is to force home the point that “hard work pays off.” I take it this means that students in lower level classrooms will find it so unpleasant there, that they will work their butts off in order to get into a better “learning environment.”  As LaFreniere says, “everybody wants to work toward the corner office.”

So when you strip away the rhetoric and confront reality, this is what Path Academy is offering:  online learning in controlled, off-putting settings. The real education at Path is not in academic matters, but in the social and cultural values that make one a “good employee.” John Dewey famously distinguished between a pedagogy that focused on “disciplinary training” and a pedagogy that nurtured “personal development.” Dewey thought that “disciplinary training” was not really education as its true purpose was social control. He argued that “personal development” was always something more than job training. And that it was the goal of personal development that made education properly humanistic. The language of Path Academy is a species of nonsense because it pretends that a corporate managerial model of the school as a learning factory can bring to fruition the ideals of humanistic education. Indeed, the very word “academy,” as used by the reformers, has almost no real meaning.

Path Academy is a privately managed charter school, but it would never survive without public funding. Like so much of corporate education reform, its real purpose is not to help the needy, but to steer the educational debate in the preferred direction of more privatization of public schools. The school described in the OPP promotional brochure is a veritable wonderland. It is wise to be skeptical of people who claim too much, and who are ready to sing their own praises. For the sake of the students who enroll there, I hope Path Academy turns out to be a success. But given the sorry and duplicitous “performances” of so many charter schools, I am definitely not counting on Path’s success.

 

CT’s Choice of Evils (by Peter Greene)

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Peter Greene claims to be, “a grumpy old teacher trying to keep up the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”  Peter is also one of the most important education bloggers in the nation and part of the team who have been working to shine the light of truth on the corporate education reform industry as we try to take back American’s public education system.

Peter’s blog is called CURMUDGUCATION and can be found at http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/.

Bookmark it and read it.

He will make you laugh, he’ll make you cry, and if  you have any doubt about the truth surrounding the education reform movement, he’ll convince you to sharpen your pitchforks and join us as we fight to take back our public schools.

Peter Greene generously focused his wit on our situation here in Connecticut…

Here is his latest blog entitled, CT’s Choice of Evils, Peter writes – Connecticut teacher-voters are facing the Choice Between Evils for the gubernatorial race, and the AFT isn’t making things any easier.

ICYMI, Connecticut voters face a choice between current Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and GOP challenger Tom Foley. This problematic because Malloy is co-president with NY Governor Andrew Cuomo of the So What If I’m a Democrat; Public Schools and Their Stupid Teachers Can Smooch My Tuchus Club. Put another way, if being a Democratic supporter of public education were a crime, it would be impossible to convict Malloy.As it turns out, Connecticut voters actually have a third choice. Jonathan Pelto, whose blog Wait! What? has long served as an encyclopedic chronicle of Malloy’s misbehavior, has mounted a third party challenge. And union leaders would rather you didn’t hear about it.

At the AFL-CIO gathering, it qualified as news that Randi Weingarten actually mentioned Pelto’s name. Barred from speaking and blown off by CT teacher union leaders, Pelto has not exactly been welcomed as a voice in the political conversation. Said the head of Connecticut’s AFL-CIO, “Third party candidates don’t win. They spoil.”

The spoiler label always strikes me as an admission that the political system is seriously messed up. After all, we’re not arguing that a spoiler’s platform is too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The spoiler label is a tacit admission that the candidate will be taken seriously, that in fact the spoiler candidate is speaking to real concerns that the “real” candidate is not.

Put another way, labeling someone a spoiler is an admission that your “real” candidate cannot win on his own merit. And if that’s your problem, maybe you’d better address it. If Malloy can only win the election by sweeping up the “Well, he’s better than voting for my dog” vote, then here’s a hot flash for you– he sucks.

The proper response to a credible threat from a third party “spoiler” candidate is to say, “Damn– this guys speaks to some concerns that a lot of people apparently share. Maybe we should address those concerns.” The proper response is not, “Somebody shut that sumbitch up!”

I get the concerns here. Dems are claiming that Foley would Wisconsinize Connecticut and crush labor laws left and right. But, again, if your candidate can only beat him if you basically force a bunch of people to vote against him, you have problems, serious problems, huge problems that cannot be papered over with a highly manufactured election win.

The AFL-CIO did not even wring any concessions from Malloy in exchange for their fealty. At least Working Families in NY got a promise from Cuomo to act as if he’s sort of a Democrat, a pledge that he honored for almost a full 24 hours after commandeering their endorsement.

Sooner or later this kind of political charade needs to end. Believe it or not, I am not actually a hard-core die-hard union guy, but doggone it– if unions want to address their ever-dwindling membership and support, perhaps it might help to present themselves as something other than an extension of the political establishment, with no apparent function except to dole out endorsements and photo ops in exchange for, well, a sort of promise from politicians to consider punching union workers in the face instead of in the throat (and the chance for union leaders to be Really Important People).

Look, I’m not in Connecticut. I don’t know the territory. Maybe votes for Pelto will make Foley governor and bring on the apocalypse. But I’ve read more than enough to know that when it comes to education, Malloy sucks, sucks like an industrial shop-vac powered by a hundred black holes. Pro-VAM, pro-CCSS, pro-charters, anti-teacher, anti-tenure, pro-testing– is there anything about public education that he’s not dead wrong about?

I just dream of the day when a candidate waves he Democratic Party badge at teachers, followed by a song and dance entitled “Watch Out For the Scary Republican Over There- Booga Booga” and teachers reply, “No, sorry. That’s not enough.”

So, good luck to Jonathan Pelto. May he be a huge pain in the ass throughout this campaign.

Thank you Peter for doing what you do best – speaking the truth!

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

Don’t be fooled – Governor Malloy proposed doing away with teacher tenure

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Last week a California superior court judge ruled that California’s state’s teacher tenure law was illegal.

Public school advocates, teachers and teacher unions across the nation condemned the judge’s ruling as unfair, inappropriate and little more than a propaganda piece for the billionaires who are funding the corporate education reform industry’s attack on public education in the United States.

In response to the ruling that seeks to destroy the teacher tenure and due process law in California, the National Education Association wrote,

“California Superior Court judge today sided with Silicon Valley multimillionaire David Welch and his ultra-rich cronies in the meritless lawsuit of Vergara v. State of California. The lawsuit was brought by deep-pocketed corporate special interests intent on driving a corporate agenda geared toward privatizing public education and attacking educators.”

And American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten added,

“It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children.”

But let us not forget that on February 8, 2012, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, a Democrat, used his State of the State speech to eliminate teacher tenure as part of his corporate education reform industry initiative.

That day, on the fundamental issue of teacher tenure, academic freedom and the right of teachers to have due process, Malloy said,

“In today’s system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.  Do that, and tenure is yours.”

Following that speech, Malloy introduced his education reform bill that became known as Senate Bill 24.

Malloy’s proposed bill eliminated tenure and replaced it with a complex system that left teachers at the mercy of losing their jobs every 30 months.

As shocking as it was that a Democratic governor would propose ending teacher tenure, Malloy became the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for some public school teachers —- in Malloy’s case, his bill proposed ending collective bargaining rights for teachers in turnaround schools.

What makes this tenure debate particularly incredible here in Connecticut is that while the national president of the American Federation of Teachers was standing up for teachers and condemning the California anti-tenure ruling last week, the Connecticut Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers was endorsing the only Democrat governor in the country who proposed doing away with tenure and repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers.

As reported in the media late this week, the AFT-CT endorsed Malloy last Thursday night.  Melodie Peters, the AFT-Connecticut President explained,

“Our executive committee has spoken…Last night’s vote is the final step in our democratic process for considering candidates for statewide office. It follows a long-established policy of providing a voice for our diverse, large membership through their local unions.”

AFT-CT President Peters’ comment is an odd one to be sure, considering that the AFT-CT refused to allow me – a pro-teacher, pro-union, pro-public education 3rd party candidate running for governor – to even submit a candidate questionnaire, be interviewed by the AFT-CT endorsing committee or address the AFT-CT Executive Committee before they voted.

Upon receiving the AFT-CT endorsement, Malloy’s campaign released a statement yesterday that read,

“AFT’s support is a testament to the progress we are making together in education, health care and public services….I firmly believe that teachers, health care professionals, and all workers should have the right to collectively bargain — for good wages and benefits, due process and a voice at work.”

So let’s put the truth out there for all to see.

The governor who proposed doing away with tenure (the very system that ensures that public school teachers have due process) and who actually proposed eliminating the right for some public school teachers to collectively bargain, is now claiming that he “firmly believes” in the very rights he proposed taking away.

And next up is the AFL-CIO State Convention on Monday.  Although Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Dannel Malloy are both scheduled to speak, multiple requests to allow me to address the delegates have gone unanswered and, at this point, it appears that, as was the case with the AFT-CT, as the gubernatorial candidate for the Education and Democracy Party, I will be prevented from making my case to those who determine which candidates they will endorse on behalf of their rank and file members.

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

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