A special opportunity to hear the truth about “Education Reform”

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

Hosted by Robert Hannafin, Dean of Fairfield University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions comes a unique opportunity to hear from Wendy Lecker, Jonathan Pelto, Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice and nationally renowned Education expert and advocate Yohuru Williams.

In their one and only joint appearance

 

March 31, 2015

6:30 p.m. -8:00 p.m.

Oak Room

Barone Campus Center

Fairfield University

Open to the public and free [Very much the corporate education reform industry]

 

Teachers Matter

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True, teachers don’t matter to the Corporate Education Reform Industry and the people who are pushing the Common Core and the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Testing Scheme.

And teachers don’t seem to matter to people like Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who is not only an adherent to the Common Core and the Common Core Testing fiasco but remains the only Democratic Governor in the nation to propose eliminating tenure for all public school teachers and rescinding collective bargaining rights for teachers working in the state’s poorest school districts. [Although it is valuable to note that New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is certainly a top contender for being the most anti-teacher governor in the country.]

But people out here in the real world know that teachers matter.

Teachers matter a lot…

We all remember teachers that mattered to us when we were young, and for those of us with children, we treasure and appreciate the teachers that matter and have made a difference in our own children’s lives.

Teachers matter when they make international headlines, like the incredible individuals who gave their lives trying to protect their students over in Newtown, Connecticut.

But the amazing thing about teachers is that they matter when their deeds are deemed truly heroic and they matter when they are simply “doing their jobs.”

Sadly, disturbingly, shockingly, the United States is witnessing the greatest assault on public education in our lifetimes. Greed, stupidity, ignorance, and even more greed are behind the historic effort to denigrate teachers, turn our schools into little more than Common Core Testing factories, and destroy the concept of a true and comprehensive public education system.

In the name of preparing children to be “college and career” ready the forces behind the corporate education reform industry are undermining the very essence of the teaching profession and public education in the United States.

And the root of their ignorance (or stupidity) is their failure to truly understand that teachers matter.

As the founder, along with leading public education advocate Diane Ravitch, of what is called the Education Bloggers Network, I’ve had the tremendous honor of working with, getting to know and regularly reading the writing of more than 230 education bloggers who are collectively and individually fighting for public education and against the destructive tactics of the so-called “education reformers.”

Many of these bloggers and commentators have used their voices to help remind their readers that teachers matter.

One such article was posted earlier this week by an educator and teacher from Washington State who goes by the name of Teacher Tom.  And while he was simply telling about a moment in his day, this post, like many that Teacher Tom writes, served as a an extraordinary reminder that teachers matter…

Please take a moment and read Teacher Tom’s blog post entitled, You Want Mommy To Come Back.”  I am confident that it will remind you, like it reminded me, that teachers matter.

Sometimes mommy has to leave and you don’t want her to leave.

When I started teaching, I was a distractor. In fact, I considered myself a master distractor. I had every confidence that I could calm any kid down in less than five minutes through a combination of goofing, enthusiasm, and “Look what those kids are doing over there!” Today, I’m more inclined to simply sit with a crying child, to listen to any words they might be trying to say, to show warmth and empathy, to assure them that mommy always comes back, and to allow them the full arc of their strong emotion. Most kids still stop crying in less than five minutes, but that’s no longer the goal now that my priority is their feelings rather than my discomfort with their feelings.

So when mommy left last Friday, when he reached out to mommy as she walked away, when he screamed and cried and pulled himself from my arms, when he dropped to the floor to kick his feet in outrage, I sat there with him, blocking out the whole world but him.

I could hear he was saying words as he screamed, but they weren’t at first discernible, so I said, “You’re mad that mommy left,” and “You’re sad that mommy left.” No one can truly tell another how they feel, but I was pretty sure I was close to the mark in this case. He was still saying the words through his tears, repeating them. Finally, I thought I made out, “I want mommy to come back.”

I wanted him to know that he had been heard, that I understood and empathized, and I wanted it to be something that was true, so I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

He shout-cried at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

I nodded. I worked on keeping my voice gentle. I said, “I want your mommy to come back too.”

And he said back, “I want mommy to come back!”

We went back and forth like this several times. He seemed to really wanted me to know that he wanted his mommy to come back.

Other children tried to sooth him: one girl brought him a costume, another tried to hand him a construction paper fire truck. He didn’t accept their overtures, although he was by now present enough to shake his head “no” at them rather than simply scream as he was doing at me.

By now he was very clearly saying, “I want mommy to come back!” And I was replying, “I want your mommy to come back too,” to which he always shout-cried back, “I want mommy to come back!”

I continued to attempt to put a name to his feelings, using words like “mad,” “sad,” and “angry,” as well as to state the truth that “mommy always comes back.” But whenever I said, “I want your mommy to come back too,” he shouted at me, “I want mommy to come back!”

Then, finally, I really heard him. He said, “I want mommy to come back!” stressing the pronoun for his tin-eared teacher.

This time I answered, “You want mommy to come back.”

He nodded as if to say, “Finally,” and in one motion picked himself from the floor, stepped up to the art table, still crying, and got to work gluing construction paper shapes to a red fire truck pre-cut, his hands not fully under his own control. As he wadded and creased the paper, it looked almost as if he were wrestling with it, his fingers clenching and curling from the emotion that was still coursing through his whole body.

After a couple minutes, he became silent as he concentrated on manipulating the small pieces of paper, the last of his strong emotion going into this construction project.

I said one more time, “You want mommy to come back.” This time he ignored me.

You can read more of Teacher Tom’s posts at http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/

And you can find out more about the Education Bloggers Network on our emerging website at: http://edubloggers.org/

And remember, no matter how much the anti-public education forces deny it, teachers matter.

Not my daughter: How one dad opted out his kindergartner from standardized testing

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Steven Singer is a teacher in Pennsylvania and a fellow education blogger and pro-public education advocate.  As a father of a kindergarten student he recently wrote a very moving piece about his decision to opt his child out of the absurd standardized testing craze.

Published initially on his blog which is entitled GADFLYONTHEWALLBLOG, his article was then picked up and reposted last week  by Valerie Straus of the Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/03/24/not-my-daughter-how-one-dad-opted-out-his-kindergartner-from-standardized-testing/

Steve Singer’s commentary piece is a powerful reminder that we can fight back and beat back the corporate education reform industry that is working so hard to undermine our public schools, denigrate our teachers and turn our classrooms into little more than testing factories.

Not my daughter: How one dad opted out his kindergartner from standardized testing By Steve Singer

I’ll admit it – I was scared.

I’m a Nationally Board Certified Teacher with a masters degree in education. I’ve taught public school for over a dozen years. But I’ve only been a dad for half that time. Would making this call get my little girl in trouble?

I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want my daughter to suffer because her old man is making a fuss. I didn’t want her teachers and principal giving her a hard time because of something I did. But I couldn’t deny what I know.

I think standardized testing is destroying public education. It’s stressing kids out by demanding they perform at levels they aren’t developmentally ready to reach. And its using these false measures of proficiency to “prove” how bad public schools are so they can be replaced by for-profit charters that will reduce the quality of kids’ educations to generate profits.

No. There was no doubt about it. I had to make this phone call. I used my most professional voice on the line with the principal. I introduced myself and said about my daughter, “I know she’s just in kindergarten but it’s come to my attention she’s taking standardized tests, and I’d like to opt her out.”

Before my little girl started school, I hadn’t even realized there were standardized tests in kindergarten. She takes both the DIBELS and the GRADE test.

He seemed surprised, perhaps even a bit fearful, but he quickly suggested a meeting with me, my daughter’s teacher, the counselor and a few others to get it done.

It was my turn to be surprised. I had expected to be asked to review the tests before writing a formal letter citing my “religious” reason for refusal. But I guess things are different before students reach third grade. Without legislation mandating a formal process,  we needed to meet and discuss like adults.

A few weeks later, here I was waiting for that meeting to begin. It wasn’t long before my daughter’s teacher arrived. We chatted briefly about a fire drill and how my sweetheart hadn’t been afraid. Then the counselor, principal and others came in and ushered us into the conference room.

Most of the space was taken up by a long rectangular table surrounded by black leather chairs on wheels. It looked like the kind of place where important decisions are made – a bit imposing really. We sat down and the principal introduced me to the team and told them I had some concerns about standardized testing.

He paused letting me know it was my turn to speak. I took out my little notebook, swallowed and began.

“Let me start by saying I think the education my daughter is receiving here is top notch,” I said. “Her teacher is fabulous, the support staff do a wonderful job, and I could not be happier with the services she’s receiving here. My ONLY concern is standardized tests. In general, I’m against them. I have no problem with teacher-created tests, just not the standardized ones. “It’s come to my attention that my daughter takes the DIBELS and GRADE test. Is that correct?”

They nodded.

“As you know, I teach at the secondary level and proctor the GRADE test to my own students. I’m sure the version given to elementary children is somewhat different, but I know first hand how flawed this assessment is. Put simply, it’s not a good test. It doesn’t assess academic learning. It has no research behind it to prove its effectiveness and it’s a huge waste of time where kids could be learning.”

I paused to see them all nodding in agreement.

In many ways, the GRADE is your typical standardized test. Vocabulary, sentence completion, passage comprehension – fill-in-the-bubble nonsense.

The principal blushed in agreement. He admitted that he probably shouldn’t be so candid but the district probably wouldn’t give the GRADE test if it didn’t receive a Keystone to Opportunity Grant for doing so. When and if the grant runs out, the district probably would stop giving the test, he said.

It’s an old story – the same as at my own district. Two school systems serving high-poverty populations bribed with extra money if they spend a large chunk of it on Pearson testing and remediation.

“As to the DIBELS,” I went on, “I had to really do some research. As something that’s only given at the elementary level, it’s not something I knew much about. However, after reading numerous scholarly articles on the subject, I decided it wasn’t good for my daughter either.”

When taking the DIBELS, the teacher meets with a student one-on-one while the child reads aloud and is timed with a stopwatch. Some of the words the child is asked to read make sense. Some are just nonsense words. The test is graded by how many words the child pronounces correctly in a given time period.

“My concern is that the test doesn’t assess comprehension,” I said. “It rewards someone who reads quickly but not someone who understands what she’s reading. Moreover, there is a political side to the test since it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch. Cut scores are being artificially raised to make it look like more students are failing and thus our schools aren’t doing a good job. Finally, focusing on pronunciation separate from comprehension narrows the curriculum and takes away time from proven strategies that actually would help my daughter become a better reader.”

I closed my notebook and looked around the table.

I thought that maybe I hadn’t done enough research. I had been too quick and simple.

But the team quickly agreed with me. And when the principal saw that, I noticed his cheeks darkening.

He stuttered a few words before giving up. “I’ve never had a parent ask to opt out of the DIBELS before,” he said.

He said the DIBELS is a piece of the data teachers use to make academic decisions about their students. Without it, how would they know if their children could read, were hitting certain benchmarks?

“I know I teach secondary and that’s different than elementary,” I said, “but there is not a single standardized test that I give my kids that returns any useful information. “I don’t need a test to tell me if my students can read. I don’t need a test to know if they can write or spell. I know just by interacting with them in the classroom.”

The fear was still in his eyes. He turned to my daughter’s teacher. “I don’t mean to put you on the spot here, but what do you think? Does the DIBELS provide you with useful information?” he asked.

The look on her face was priceless. It was like someone had finally asked her a question she had been waiting years to answer.

“No,” she said. “I don’t need the DIBELS to know if my kids can read.”

It was all down hill from there.

I agreed to revisit the situation if a problem arose but teacher recommendation will take the place of the DIBELS in the meantime.

Conversation quickly turned to hilarious anecdotes of my daughter’s school antics. What she said to get in trouble last week. How she tries to get adults to put on her coat when she’s perfectly capable of doing it herself.

I left the building feeling really good. This is the way it’s supposed to be.

Before we signed up my little girl for school, I had been nervous about her attending my home district. I wasn’t sure it was good enough for her. The papers said it was a failing school. I wanted so much to ensure my baby would have the best of everything – the best I could provide.

My district may not have the most up-to-date facilities. It may not have the smallest classes. But it has a team of dedicated educators and administrators who are committed to meeting the needs of their students.

Even the principal’s hesitancy is understandable. I don’t blame him one bit. He probably thinks DIBELS scores make an elementary principal like him look good. Kids starting from scratch only can go up. The scores can only improve.

Moreover, he sat down with me and heard me out. He may not have entirely agreed with me – in fact at times he looked at me like I had a third arm growing out of my forehead – but he respected my parental rights.

It wasn’t until then that I realized the power parents truly have. The principal Smith might have refused a TEACHER who brought up all of the concerns I had. He’s their boss. He trusts his own judgment. But I don’t work for him. In fact, he works for me. And – to his credit – he knows that.

I know everyone isn’t as lucky as me. Some people live in districts that aren’t as receptive. But if parents rose up en masse and spoke out against toxic testing, it would end tomorrow.

If regular everyday Dads and Moms stood up for their children and asked questions, there would be no more Race to the Top, Common Core or annual standardized testing. Because while teachers have years of experience, knowledge and love – parents have the power. Imagine if we all worked together! What a world we could build for our children!

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

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Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education.  The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.

Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”

Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…

Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.

The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.

However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.

Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.

But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.

Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text.  Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.

Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.

Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.

And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.

Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.

TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078

AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is  Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.

I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.

 I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

 With this being said,  I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take  regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that  we have made in Connecticut and  in particularly, in  East Hartford Public Schools, specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment, and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children,  and making sure that we are “doing right” by  Connecticut’s future.

Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010.  Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.”   The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens.  As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.

 Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.

Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of  our  children, I  ask  you  to  think  of  the  second  grader  who  will  only  have  second  grade  one  time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.  When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better.  While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact.  When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy, in the past  to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.

Hear and Be Heard about Common Core SBAC Testing and “Education Reform”

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Please consider joining me at these upcoming events to hear about and talk about the Common Core SBAC Testing Scheme and other “Education Reform” Issues

Both events are open to the public and your attendance and participation would be great!

 

Monday, March 23, 7:00 to 8:30 pm

Jonathan Pelto

Westport Library, 20 Jesup Road, McManus Room

 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 6:30 p.m.,

“Add Tests and Stir: Education ‘Reform’ in the 21stCentury,” Hosted by Robert Hannafin, Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

Panelists include, Jonathan Pelto, Wendy Lecker, Thomas Scarice and Yohuru Williams

Fairfield University, Barone Campus Center, Oak Room

You can reserve by sending an email to [email protected]

 

Connecticut education needs clearer vision, better objectives

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A commentary piece written by A dozen of Connecticut’s most forward thinking school superintendents:

This commentary piece as first published in CTMirror and can be found at:  http://ctmirror.org/2015/03/16/op-ed-connecticut-education-vision-lacks-clarity-coherence-superintendents-say/

Connecticut education needs clearer vision, better objectives

The journey of education reform, which has at times moved in a deliberate direction and at other times wandered in many directions, is currently at a very important and, potentially exciting, crossroads. At this moment, a narrow window of opportunity has presented itself.

As the federal government debates renewing the failed No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB), our state is set to submit our latest plans to be held harmless from the sanctions of NCLB through a federal waiver, last done in 2012, and due for renewal on March 31, 2015.

Any effective system is best served by knowing when an important juncture presents itself and identifying, at that precise moment, the changes necessary to travel down the road of continuous improvement.

Our public school landscape is littered with initiatives, while the vision for learning in Connecticut lacks clarity and coherence.  In this “vision void” our measures (i.e. test scores) have become our goals, confounding the purpose of schooling and perpetuating yet another round of piecemeal initiatives.

The path we should avoid taking is the one that implements the NCLB waiver plan as the de facto vision for the education of Connecticut’s children. Instead we should identify a clear and compelling vision for education in our state and employ all of our resources to achieve it. Staying the course of current reform efforts without a deep analysis of the effects in actual classrooms across the state will further cement the system of compliance and “one size fits all” that grips our very diverse school districts like a vise.

One way to clarify the vision is to answer the direct and simple questions:

  • What are the most worthy outcomes of our public education system?
  • Are we preparing our students for the world they will enter when they graduate?
  • Is our public education system positioned for continuous improvement, as opposed to ranking, sorting and punishing?
  • To what extent do our laws increase conformity at the expense of innovation?

The answers to these questions imply the need to foster the cognitive, social/emotional and interpersonal student capacities for work, citizenship and life.  Additionally, they demand a deep analysis of the systemic efforts to continuously improve.  Confronting these questions, and others, will require:

  • A redefinition of the role of testing,
  • An accountability model (mandatory in the NCLB waiver) matched to a clarified vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut
  • Statewide systems that incentivize innovation and a broad sharing of innovative programs

Standardized tests … do not measure our highest aspirations for our students. They do not measure the quality of a school or the performance of an individual teacher, and are corrupted when misused for these purposes.

The following steps can be taken immediately and considered prior to submitting our NCLB waiver, particularly in the absence of a compelling vision for learning in Connecticut.

  1. Take action to redefine the role of testing in our schools.

Standardized tests play a critical role in validating local assessments and giving a broad view of the limited range of student outcomes they intend to measure.  They do not measure our highest aspirations for our students.  They do not measure the quality of a school or the performance of an individual teacher, and are corrupted when misused for these purposes.  They can disrupt authentic learning for long periods of time.  Yet, some districts have oriented their practice and curriculum around these tests.  Some immediate steps to take include:

  • Reducing or eliminating the use of standardized test scores in the evaluation of individual teachers,
  • Adjusting the role these tests play in a school/district accountability model,
  • Broadening the “student learning objectives” (SLO) component of the state mandated teacher evaluation plans to encourage districts to creatively incorporate local measures of worthy student outcomes, thereby returning some measure of local discretion to individual districts and the communities they serve, and
  • Incentivizing districts to develop local formative and summative measures in collaboration with other districts, vetted by the Connecticut State Department of Education, similar to the longstanding exemplary “New York Performance Standards Consortium”, which was founded in 1997 on the premise that high stakes standardized tests do not measure what matters most.
  1. Develop an accountability model designed to drive continuous improvement, in contrast to the current model of ranking/sorting/sanctioning.

The current school/district accountability model relies heavily on standardized test scores to inform communities about the performance of their schools. This misuse of data is a disservice to each community and to the entire state because it fails to capture the many ways in which schools generate student success.  A transparent balanced scorecard designed to drive continuous improvement is imperative.  Some alternatives include:

  • Broadening the definition of student success and aligning indicators of success with a clear and compelling vision for 21st Century learning in Connecticut,
  • Leaving space for districts to incorporate local indicators of student growth specific to their communities in order to foster intrinsic motivation and ownership at the classroom teacher level,
  • Significantly minimizing the role of any single standardized test to its appropriate role as one data point in a series of overall performance criteria,
  • Focusing on the “opportunity gap”: the extent to which districts provide equitable access for all students to a rich curricular and extra-curricular educational program,
  • Incorporating a strong measure of student voice about their levels of authentic engagement in their learning experiences (genuine student engagement is not a “thing”, it is the only thing),
  • Integrating local, “real world” performance assessments designed by classroom teachers, scored at the local level and juried by a quality assurance program across all districts,
  • Surveying alumni to determine the extent to which they felt prepared for college, work, and life,
  • Assess funding patterns to determine if resource allocation targets are being met by federal, state, and local entities, and
  • Employing an external “peer review”/”school quality review” process administered by current classroom practitioners and administrators in which districts engage in a deep analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, in order to benchmark district performance, to diagnose problems of practice, and to commit to improvement strategies (accreditation models, such as that of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, could serve as ideal partners in developing a school quality review process with the state) in place of current accountability measures

In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization.

  1. Create systems to incentivize innovation.

Districts and teachers are suffocating from a “one size fits all”, compliance-based approach to schooling.  One size does not fit all in education, no more than it does in medicine, social work or any other endeavor in which human beings are at the core of the enterprise. In an era that rewards and requires innovative thinking to solve complex problems, public schools have endured a stifling of professional autonomy through increased standardization and homogenization.  As a result, energy is drained, a passion for teaching and learning evaporates, and many teachers and leaders question the lack of purpose to their work.    Some ways to foster innovation include:

  • Creating a “Districts of Innovation” program through which the State Department of Education would administer a rigorous process identifying various district approaches to current challenges faced by schools, such as, reducing bullying, improving school climate, evaluating the performance of individual teachers and administrators, etc. These districts would apply for a waiver or modification from state requirements in order to innovate their practices, while analyzing the impact.  These districts could be required to partner with a university, commit to sharing their results, and, if successful, serve as a provider of professional development for other districts.  The incubation of fresh, innovative ideas, by classroom teachers and administrators would exponentially grow the capacity of educators in the state.
  • Working with Regional Education Service Centers (RESC) to develop an “expert in residence” program with area districts. Districts could grant a yearlong sabbatical to individual teachers to share their innovative work and provide professional development to schools across the state.
  • Pairing schools to work across different districts to collaboratively confront professional challenges. These partnerships could foster such promising practices as “lesson study”, peer to peer observations, and collaborative analysis of student work.

The window of opportunity is closing.  As in 2012, the waiver for NCLB dictates the overly prescriptive education laws that compromise innovation and promote a compliance-based malaise among Connecticut’s best educators.

Some states have foregone the NCLB waiver (e.g. Vermont, Washington), choosing instead to absorb the draconian NCLB consequences in order to spare their opportunity to chart their own course through a compelling vision for learning in their states.

The opportunity for Connecticut to establish a dynamic vision for its 21st Century public schools is now.

The piece was authored by the following 12 Connecticut superintendents of schools. They are Thomas Scarice, Madison Public Schools; Jody Goeler, Hamden Public Schools; Jan Peruccio, Old Saybrook Public Schools; Kathy Veronesi, Region 13 Public Schools; Jack Cross, Clinton Public Schools; Jerry Belair, Waterford Public Schools; Patricia Ciccone, Westbrook Public Schools; Paul Freeman, Guilford Public Schools; Howard Thiery, Region 17 Public Schools; Ruth Levy, Region 4 Public Schools; Kevin Smith, Wilton; and Diane Dugas, East Hampton Public Schools.

CT Superintendent to go with unethical “sit and stare” policy for students opted out of Common Core Test

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Since unethical government policies lead to unethical actions, it was only a matter of time before some education official turned the whole Common Core SBAC testing farce into something even more reprehensible.

Enter West Haven Connecticut School Superintendent Neil Cavallero who earns an “F” for his proposed policy on handling children whose parents have opted them out of the Common Core SBAC testing.

As the saying goes, the story pretty much says it all when it comes to the state of public education in Connecticut.

As readers of this blog know, Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his State Department of Education continue to claim that federal and state laws prohibit parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Just last week, Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education, Dianna R. Wentzell, issued a directive to all local school superintendents informing them that the Common Core SBAC testing program was mandatory and that, “These laws do not provide a provision for parent’s to ‘opt-out’  their children from the taking these tests.”

However, with more and more serious questions being raised about the validity and appropriateness of the Common Core SBAC tests, record numbers of Connecticut parents and guardians are informing their local school districts that their children WILL NOT be participating in the destructive Common Core SBAC tests.

Some towns are reporting that the number of parents opting their students out of the Common Core testing is three times higher than last year when students were told they were taking the SBAC test of a test.

Connecticut parents know, or are coming to realize, that no edict from a government official can take away their inalienable and constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children  when it comes to deciding whether their public school student will or will not be taking the Common Core SBAC tests.

In addition, there is absolutely no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or school district to punish the child (or the parent) should the parent decide to refuse to allow their child to participate in the SBAC testing.

Unlike the state’s truancy laws that do hold children and parents liable for failing to go to school, there is simply no mechanism for the state or school district to require students to take the Common Core SBAC test.

That said the Malloy administration’s untenable position that opting out is “against” the law has put local school superintendents into an extremely difficult position.

Do school superintendents follow orders from above and turn their backs on the parents whose fundamental rights cannot be abridged or do they stand up and fulfill their moral, ethical, and I would argue legal, responsibility to create healthy, safe and productive learning environments for all of their students, including those whose parents have opted them out of the Common Core testing.

Sadly, the reaction of Connecticut’s local superintendents varies significantly.

Many Connecticut superintendents are simply hiding behind the Commissioner’s inappropriate directive and continue to tell parents that they may not opt their children out of the Common Core tests.  It is a stance that is not only unethical but places them and their school boards in significant legal jeopardy as they violate parental rights.

Other superintendents are moving forward with the Common Core SBAC testing program while accommodating parents who want to opt their children out of the SBAC testing.

For example, after a rocky start on the issue, local education officials in Bristol Connecticut have become a model on how to handle this entire situation.

With SBAC testing beginning next week for those who have not opted out, the Bristol school system is handling parental opt out requests in a mature and responsible manner.

Bristol Schools recently sent the following email to a parent who had informed the school that their child was opting out of Common Core SBAC test:

“This email acknowledges receipt of your request to exempt your son ****** from the SBA assessments. Although our testing schedule has not been finalized, we plan to test students during their English and Math classes. We will provide **** an alternative setting where he can work on homework or read silently, while his classmates are testing. We will also exempt him from the SBA classroom activity. If you have any additional questions, or concerns, feel free to email me. Thank you. — Bristol Central High School

The word is there are a number of other enlightened and dedicated superintendents who are taking a similar approach.  These Connecticut school superintendents are actually developing alternative programing for students who are opting out of the testing or, at the very least, providing students with access to the school library or a particular resource room where they can attend to their school work.

But then there is the example being set by West Haven, Connecticut Superintendent Neil Cavallero who wrote the following to one of his community’s parents:

As Mrs. XXXXX stated in her initial response to you, local school districts do not have the authority to permit parents to opt-out their children from mandated testing, as testing all students is required by state and federal law.  She also points out the applicable language that requires our district to participate.

Please understand that every student attending school during the administration of the state test will be required to participate in them.  Students who choose not to participate will be marked in attendance and will be required to remain with their class in the test room.  There will be no alternated instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate.

For more information, please consult the following websites:  www.SmarterBalanced.org and www.sde.ct.gov.”

Really?

 “…every student attending school during the administration of the state test will be required to participate in them.  Students who choose not to participate will be marked in attendance and will be required to remain with their class in the test room.”

In the real world that policy is known as “sit and stare” and is  typically seen as a way to punish and humiliate students while creating unnecessary resentment from those students who will be sitting there for the eight to eight and a half hours of inappropriate Common Core SBAC testing.

In the real world that policy would be considered a prime example of what is called bullying, a dangerous and illegal practice that leads to anxiety, depression and disastrous outcomes.

It is quite a commentary on our times and the notion of “education reform” when West Haven Superintendent Cavallero writes,

 “There will be no alternated instructional activity provided for students assigned to the test session who refuse to participate.”

Like Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who once said that he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up, West Haven Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallero has become a poster boy for the Corporate Education Reform Industry and their stance that you will take the tests or you will sit there.   To them, school is no place for alternative instructional activities when students are supposed to be taking the inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests.

If it was my kid being forced to sit and stare, my first call would be to the Department of Children and Families and its Office of Child Advocate.  My second would be to the police department.

As a society, we can never, ever accept behavior or policies that reek of child abuse.

And making a child, as young as nine years old, sit for eight hours or more in a room while everyone else around them is taking the test because an administrator doesn’t want to allow them to go to the library or some other room to engage in some educational activity is, in my mind, a form of child abuse.

Here is a prime example of why the Common Core is just plain wrong

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As has been noted here on at Wait, What? on a regular basis, there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to improve academic standards and phasing in greater expectations for our children’s educational achievement.

While the fundamental concept of local control remains critically important, there certainly isn’t anything wrong with seeking to align standards across political boundaries so that all of the nation’s children are provided with the knowledge and skills necessary to live their lives to the fullest and be capable of becoming active participants in our egalitarian society.

What is unproductive, even immoral, is to promote the notion that we can increase academic achievement without recognizing that the greatest barriers to academic success are poverty, language challenges and a failure to provide the extra or special educational services that individual child need in order to grow and prosper.

The Corporate Education Reform Industry and its allies like Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, along with Governors including Connecticut Democrat Dannel Malloy, New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo and former Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush, would have us believe that the Common Core and the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core testing scheme will produce a better educated citizenry, or at least one that will be more “college and career ready.”

But of course, the more we learn about the Common Core and its related Common Core testing system the clearer it gets that the path they are promoting is leading us quickly and steadily away from what our children need and deserve in order to be prepared to face the challenges of today’s world.

The nation’s leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, along with a host of teachers, parents, academics and public education advocates have been heroic in their efforts to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry and its truly un-American political agenda.

Today Diane Ravitch posted a series of article on her blog that highlight the very problem associated with the Common Core and Common Core Testing.  If you don’t read Diane’s blog you are missing out.  It can be found at http://dianeravitch.net/.

In one post Diane reports on a piece by fellow education blogger Peter Greene who responds to the Common Core’s requirement that:

“All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten.”

Peter Greene takes on the Common Core proponents by saying

“There is a world of difference between saying, “It’s a good idea for children to proceed as quickly as they can toward reading skills” and “All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten.”

“The development of reading skills, like the development of speech, height, weight, hair and potty training, is a developmental landmark that each child will reach on his or her own schedule.

“We would like all children to grow up to be tall and strong. It does not automatically follow that we should therefore set a height standard that all children must meet by their fifth birthday– especially if we are going to label all those who come up short as failures or slow or developmentally disabled, and then use those labels in turn to label their schools and their teachers failures as well. These standards demand that students develop at a time we’ve set for them. Trying to force, pressure and coerce them to mature or grow or develop sooner so that they don’t “fail”– how can that be a benefit to the child.

“And these are five year olds in kindergarten. On top of the developmental differences that naturally occur among baby humans, we’ve also got the arbitrary age requirements of the kindergarten system itself, meaning that there can be as much as a six-month age difference (10% of their lives so far) between the students.”

Peter Greene goes on to note,

“Children’s development is highly variable, making it impossible to set a hard and fast deadline, such as, they must be able to read at the end of kindergarten. My own children learned to read before they started kindergarten (I read to them and with them daily), but others in their class started reading in first grade; a few became readers as late as second grade.”

And as someone who also read to their children on a daily basis from their earliest days, I can certainly attest to the notion that the developmental issues related to become readers is highly variable.  Both of my daughters excelled at comprehension at an early age but neither became “successful” readers until first grade, at best.

In my younger daughter’s kindergarten class, one of her best friends was actually eight months younger than she was.  I don’t know whether her friend was able to read by the end of kindergarten or not, but both are now in high school and their grades and test scores define them as being extremely academically “successful.”

In the real world, there is simply no useful place for a Common Core Standard that requires that, “All students must demonstrate the ability to read emergent reader texts with purpose and understanding by the last day of kindergarten.”

But equally bad, or perhaps even worse, is the Corporate Education Reform Industry’s insistence that the only way to determine who is winning and who is losing is through a system of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Cores standardized tests.

Diane Ravitch raises this very issue in a second post which begins by noting,

“High-stakes testing has reached down into kindergarten, where it is developmentally inappropriate. Kindergarten is supposed to be the children’s garden. It is supposed to be a time for learning to socialize with others, to work and play with others, to engage in imaginative activities, to plan with building blocks and games. It is a time when little children learn letters and numbers as part of their activities. They listen as the teacher reads stories, and they want to learn to read.

But in the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, kindergarten has changed. Little children must be tested. The great data monster needs data. How can their teachers be evaluated if there are no standardized tests and no data?”

Ravitch then introduces us to an article in Slate by Alexandria Neason where she describes the kindergarten classroom of Molly Mansel, a New Orleans teacher.

Remember this is kindergarten – 4 and 5 year olds!

“Mansel’s students started taking tests just three weeks into the 2014–15 school year. They began with a state-required early childhood exam in August, which covered everything from basic math to letter identification. Mansel estimates that it took between four and five weeks for the teachers to test all 58 kindergarten students—and that was with the help of the prekindergarten team. The test requires an adult to sit individually with each student, reading questions and asking them to perform various tasks. The test is 11 pages long and “it’s very time-consuming,” according to Mansel, who is 24 and in her third year of teaching (her first in kindergarten).

The rest of the demanding testing schedule involves repeated administrations of two different school-mandated tests. The first, Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, is used to measure how students are doing compared with their peers nationally—and to evaluate teachers’ performance. The students take the test in both reading and math three times a year. They have about an hour to complete the test, and slower test takers are pulled from class to finish.

The second test, called Strategic Teaching and Evaluation of Progress, or STEP, is a literacy assessment that measures and ranks children’s progress as they learn letters, words, sentences, and, eventually, how to read. Mansel gives the test individually to students four times throughout the year. It takes several days to administer as Mansel progresses through a series of tasks: asking the students to write their names, to point to uppercase and lowercase versions of letters, and to identify words that rhyme, for example.

Although more informal, the students also take about four quizzes per week in writing, English, math, science, and social studies. The school’s other kindergarten teacher designs most of the quizzes, which might ask students to draw a picture describing what they learned, or write about it in a journal.

“By the end of the school year, Mansel estimates that she’ll have lost about 95 hours of class time to test administration—a number inconceivable to her when she reflects on her own kindergarten experience. She doesn’t remember taking any tests at all until she was in at least second grade. And she’s probably right.”

Whoever made this happen should be arrested for child abuse and theft of childhood.

And if there is anyone who thinks this doesn’t or can’t happen here in Connecticut…Watch for the Wait,What? series of articles this week reporting on the testing madness associated with Governor Malloy’s K-3 reading mandates.

The Common Core, Common Core testing program and the related efforts to “reform education” are turning our schools into little more than testing factories.  These forces are on track to undermine and destroy Connecticut’s public schools.

Every parent should consider taking immediately steps to protect their children from this inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory testing system.

For parents with children in grades 3-8 and 11 that starts by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

For parents with younger children, it means telling their local superintendent and board of education that they must take immediate steps to distance schools from the harmful effects of the testing and assessment frenzy.

For a draft opt out letter click on: Sample opt out letter for Connecticut parents

Corporate Education Reform Industry – Just too important to follow the ethics laws

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Watch the bouncing ball… as the Corporate Education Reform Industry, Families for Excellent Schools, the Coalition for Every Child, Governor Malloy’s former press secretary Andrew Doba, Achievement First Inc. and the other charter school lobby groups try to divert even more public funds away from Connecticut’s public schools and into the coffers of charter school companies…

This weekend’s CTNewsJunkie features an extraordinary piece of investigative journalism written by fellow public education advocate Sarah Darer Littman.

Entitled, Are Charter Advocacy Groups Skirting CT Ethics Laws?, Littman provides readers with a detailed look at some of the recent lobbying activities of the corporate funded charter school advocacy group known as Families for Excellence Schools.

Her article comes on the heels of the Wait, What? blog post entitled, Buying Public Policy in CT – Corporate Education Reform Industry spends $6.8+ million and counting which described the unprecedented lobbying effort behind Governor Malloy’s anti-public education, anti-teacher, pro-privatization “education reform” agenda.

While the Wait, What? article focuses on the outlandish amount of corporate money that has been spent to corrupt Connecticut’s public education policies, Sarah Darer Littman’s piece is a shocking reminder that the nearly $7 million that has been spent in support of Malloy’s policies are merely the tip of the iceberg because some of the key players and organizations that make up the corporate education reform industry simply refuse to follow Connecticut law when it comes to disclosure of their lobbying expenses.

To fully appreciate what is happening here in Connecticut the first step is to review a Crain’s New York Business article that was published one year ago.  The New York articles explains,

“In early March, charter school supporters held a huge rally at the state Capitol featuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo and hundreds of students it had bused to Albany for the protest. But the nonprofit that organized the charter rally is declining to disclose any of its spending on the event, maintaining none of it was actually lobbying.

The undisclosed spending is one omission from a lobbying disclosure by Families For Excellent Schools that sheds little light into the group’s millions of dollars in recent outlays.

[…]

The rally came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio nixed plans to co-locate three charter schools with traditional public schools, and more broadly, amid plans to charge rent to some charters occupying city school buildings. The rally, which dwarfed a long-planned de Blasio event to push for his prekindergarten plan, helped swing momentum to the charter supporters.”

And why didn’t Families for Excellent Schools report the fact that they were spending millions of dollars to push their pro-charter schools agenda?

Because their Spokesperson, Stu Loeser, simply claimed that their activities weren’t lobbying.

But according to Billy Easton, the executive director of the pro-public education Alliance for Quality Education, the charter group’s spending was exactly the type of expenditure that needed to be reported.

Easton told the newspaper, “It’s outrageous and unacceptable that these charter lobbyists refuse to disclose all the money they have spent on a lobbying campaign in the past month.”

After repeatedly ducking New York’s ethics laws, Loeser and his Families For Excellent Schools eventually reported that they also spent more than $4 million on a television advertising campaign to promote their pro-charter school agenda in New York.

And surprise – Families For Excellent Schools and Stu Loeser have now arrived in Connecticut.

One of the initial actions was to hire Governor Malloy’s out-going press secretary, Andrew Doba, to be their Connecticut point person.

Families for Excellent Schools also put up the money to pay for a multi-million dollar pro-charter school television advertising campaign here in Connecticut.

The only problem…Families For Excellent Schools failed to report their expenditure.

Enter Sarah Darer Littman who writes,

Earlier this week, a pro charter school organization called Coalition for Every Child sent a letter to Connecticut legislators complaining that the $20 million increase in funding for charter schools over the next two years in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget isn’t enough and that charter students are being treated like “second class citizens.”

Meanwhile, the Educational Cost Sharing Grant for public school districts is flat funded, which means that in real terms public school funding is being cut.

When I clicked on the link on the Coalition for Every Child website to read the letter, I was curious that its url started with www.familiesforexcellentschools.org. Curiosity led to further research.

If you haven’t heard of Coalition for Every Child, that’s because it appeared out of nowhere last December for a pro-charter rally on New Haven Green and then immediately announced a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign to highlight “an education inequality crisis barring 40,000 Connecticut children from good schools.”

According to the press release for the ad campaign, “The ads, which come on the heels of a major rally in New Haven last Wednesday with 6,000 people calling for ‘excellent schools for every child,’ urge viewers to ‘take a stand for Connecticut kids’ by joining the push to fix the crisis.”

That sounds like lobbying, doesn’t it? Yet the Coalition for Every Child isn’t registered with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics.

And the story only gets better…

To truly understand the magnitude of the corporate education reform Industry’s attack on public education in Connecticut go read Sarah Darer Littman’s MUST READ piece.

You can find it at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_are_charter_advocacy_groups_skirting_ct_ethics_laws/

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece will undoubtedly lead to ethics complaints being filed against these corporate education reform advocacy groups and those, in turn, should lead to fines being levied against the groups by Connecticut’s Office of State Ethics.

And last but not least, guess who is one of the corporations funding Families for Excellent Schools?

None other than Achievement First Inc, the charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor…

The very same Achievement First Inc. that is presently lobbying to get more Connecticut taxpayer funds for their charter schools, while using the funds that they have to help an charter school front group that won’t even follow Connecticut’s ethics laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer, sadly, is rather simple…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what about state legislators?

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

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

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

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

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