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

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

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

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

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

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

From the local CBS affiliate in St. Louis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reclaiming Civic Duties of Schools

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

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

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

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

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

#FergusonSyllabus: Learning to Address Our Inadequate World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this afternoon’s Courant article, Lender writes;

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

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

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

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

Carter did not respond to Courant messages seeking comment Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Wendy Lecker writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Littman writes,

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

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

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

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

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

Except that it wasn’t.

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the obvious realities of public schools:

1. A disadvantaged family life negatively affects educational Achievement.

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

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

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

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

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

His message is clear and concise.

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

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

We can and must confront Connecticut’s achievement gap…

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

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

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

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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

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

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

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

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

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courant reporters Jon Lender and Kathy Megan write,

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

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

In several developments Tuesday:

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New London Superintendent candidate Terrence Carter’s Financial Problems

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

The Day of New London newspaper is reporting,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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