A Better Connecticut Education Reform Lobbying Group, Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Corporate Welfare, Doug McCurry and Dacia Toll, Education Reform, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Hartford, Jonathan Sackler, Malloy, Matt Poland, Mayor Bill Finch, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Morgan Barth, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Teach for America Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Matt Poland, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Teach for America
There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.
While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford.. In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.
Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education. All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.
In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.
Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.
Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.
The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,
According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.
Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors. Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America. Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.
Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors. Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry. Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.
In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr. Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain. KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.
Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.
Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island. Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.
Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors. Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.
Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor. Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.
ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative. These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport. They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas. (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday). Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.
Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country. Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors. 50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.
Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr. That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.
Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,
“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.
Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.
Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.
Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”
While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.
Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.
Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.
Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.
Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Malloy, Matt Poland, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Stefan Pryor, Teach for America Hartford, Malloy, Matt Poland, Mayor Pedro Segarra, Stefan Pryor, Teach for America
Last week’s Hartford Board of Education meeting has been re-scheduled for tonight.
At tonight’s meeting, the Hartford Board of Education, led by Mayor Pedro Segarra, is expected to throw an additional $650,940 at Teach for America.
Despite the fact that there are hundreds of unemployed and underemployed Connecticut residents who are certified teachers and hundreds of other Connecticut residents who have recently graduated or will be graduating from Connecticut’s public and independent colleges with teaching degrees, Hartford’s Mayor Segarra will likely give Teach for America a $650,000 “finders-fee” to bring in up to 210, mostly out-of-state, recruits to take teaching positions in Hartford public school classrooms.
The action being taken by these Hartford leaders is an extraordinary and disturbing statement about their fundamental lack of commitment to Connecticut citizens.
Instead of providing jobs for people here at home, these “leaders” will use scarce Connecticut taxpayer dollars to hire an out-of-state, nonprofit company who will bypass qualified Connecticut residents, recruit primarily out-of-state people, give them five weeks of training and then place them in a Hartford classroom where they will receive the same salary and benefits as a Connecticut resident who have gone through one of our college’s teacher training programs.
This vote isn’t about whether Teach for America is a good program, it is about how Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials are using public funds.
In her memo to the Hartford Board of Education,Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto writes,
“Teach for America recruits teachers from the top colleges and universities across the country. Each teacher, corps member, commits to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the United States. Teach for America’s mission is to recruit, select, train and support outstanding recent college graduates to serve as highly qualified and effective teachers in urban schools.”
TFA may be a great program, at least for its corps members. With a mere five weeks of training, TFA recruits are paid the same rate as Hartford’s fully trained beginning teachers and the federal government allows the TFA recruits to write-off their federal student loans for each year they teach.
However, as noted in an earlier blog, 136,500 Connecticut residents remain unemployed including many trained teachers who already hold Connecticut teacher certificates.
Furthermore, as a direct result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s policies, there are about 8,200 FEWER jobs in state and local government since he took office. Those jobs disappeared as a result of targeted budget cuts to various government programs, including education at the state and local level.
In addition, hundreds of new Connecticut residents have graduated over the past couple of years or will be graduating from the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University and other Connecticut colleges and universities after completing four and five-year teacher preparation programs.
These students and their families have spent tens of thousands of dollars to prepare for a teaching career in Connecticut.
But rather than give unemployed teachers and the fully-trained recent graduates an opportunity to get a job in Connecticut’s capital city and contribute to the well-being of their home state, the Hartford Board of Education appears ready to throw away another $650,000 on Teach for America’s fees to recruit non-Connecticut residents.
Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Windham, New London and other cities have already paid out millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to Teach for America so that they can recruit and place inexperienced teachers in our state’s urban classrooms.
The fact that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor haven’t stepped in to put Connecticut citizens first is even more outrageous.
Once again, we are left to ask, are there any elected or appointed state or municipal officials who will stand up for Connecticut’s families?
You can contact Hartford Board of Education members by using the following links;
Our Board of Education members include:
Matthew K. Poland, Chairman
Robert Cotto, Jr., Secretary
Honorable Mayor Pedro Segarra, Board Member
Jose Colón-Rivas, Board Member
Richard F. Wareing, Board Member
Beth A. Taylor, Ph, D., Board Member
Craig Stallings, Board Member
Michael Brescia, Board Member
Bridgeport, Corporate Welfare, Ethics, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Sarah Darer Littman Bridgeport, Connecticut Politics, Corporate Welfare, Ethics, Mayor Bill Finch, Sarah Darer Littman
As measured by the number of college graduates Connecticut is among the most educated states in the nation. As measured by per capital income Connecticut is wealthiest state in country, and if we were our own country we’d be one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world.
And yet there is a sickness that is increasingly evident in Connecticut politics. It takes the form of elected and appointed officials who display a level of arrogance, greed, entitlement, and what appears to be an growing level of outright corruption…in both political parties.
In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruption” in this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.
The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.
By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.
Sarah Darer Littman introduces her piece with the following,
If the window of government transparency in Connecticut has become foggy lately, in Bridgeport it’s turned into a funhouse mirror.
The latest to come from Mayor Bill Finch’s Carnival of Corruption was a vote Thursday evening to proceed with phase one of a deal to build a new Harding High School on 17.2 acres of a 78-acre brownfield site on Boston Avenue, currently owned by General Electric. This would enable Finch and his allies to sell the current Harding High site to Bridgeport Hospital.
According to federal law, a brownfield site refers to “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
The aforementioned brownfield site is, according to a piece in the CT Post, “contaminated with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile compounds.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful information about School Siting Guidelines, and why they are so important:
“Children, particularly younger children, are uniquely at risk from environmental hazards. They eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time — school and home.”
As might be expected, parents and those representing the community have concerns — especially since most of the process for this deal (like so much of what goes on in Bridgeport) has taken place behind closed doors. Indeed, in the minutes from the Bridgeport School Building Committee meeting on January 3, 2013, Finch Deputy Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe reports that GE asked the administration to keep their conversations confidential. Thus both the sunlight and the community were kept out. Helping to keep things under wraps was the fact that the School Building Committee failed to file their statutory notices with the town clerk’s office until February 2014, evidenced by this email from Frances Ortiz, assistant City Clerk.
There’s been some gob smacking chicanery involved, because, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be Bridgeport if there weren’t.
A petition to the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission was filed in the name of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education (File 13-74). It was signed on Dec. 3, 2013, by John Eberle of Stantec Consulting Services and on Dec. 18, 2013, by Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Transactions & Brownfields at General Electric.
On Jan. 13, 2014, Sauda Baraka, chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education (in whose name the Planning Petition was apparently being made) wrote to Melville T. Riley, Jr, the acting chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that the item not go forward with a public hearing for the application because the education board hadn’t voted to approve a site plan nor a special permit concerning that property. In what is a reflection of the incredibly sad state of affairs in Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport, she was forced to ask the Planning Commission for copies of any application filed on the behalf of the Board of Education. How ridiculous is it that an elected Board of Education should have to ask another city body for copies of planning applications being filed in its name?
Probably as a result of Baraka’s letter, the planning application was withdrawn from the Jan. 13 meeting.
But by Jan. 16, the Finch administration was able to work magic with fairy dust — or White Out — and Lo! The exact same application with the exact same signatures (on the original you can see the correction fluid) and now guess what? It reads “City of Bridgeport School Building Committee”! Suggested new campaign slogan for Bill Finch: “If you can’t beat ‘em, erase them!”
And Sarah Darer Littman’s column goes on from there with some of the most disturbing elements of the story yet to come.
You can read her whole column at via the following link,
As you read the piece ask yourself, is this Connecticut our citizens deserve?
Common Core, Malloy, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Kindergarten, Malloy, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor
Of all the negative and bad public policies being pushed by Governor Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and their corporate education reform allies, none are more offensive, inappropriate and disgusting than their on-going effort to force their “education reforms” on Connecticut’s youngest citizens.
While everyone recognizes the vital importance of expanding early childhood education programs, a growing number of parents and other citizens are catching on to the fact that the Malloy administration, backed by the Obama administration, is using its so-called commitment to early childhood education as a cover to force the Common Core and abusive standardization testing and assessment on our state and nation’s four and five year olds.
In this week’s MUST READ column in the Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Connecticut Media Group papers, Wendy Lecker shines the light of truth on that unholy assault on our children.
The disturbing transformation of kindergarten (by Wendy Lecker)
One of the most distressing characteristics of education reformers is that they are hyper-focused on how students perform, but they ignore how students learn. Nowhere is this misplaced emphasis more apparent, and more damaging, than in kindergarten.
A new University of Virginia study found that kindergarten changed in disturbing ways from 1999-2006. There was a marked decline in exposure to social studies, science, music, art and physical education and an increased emphasis on reading instruction. Teachers reported spending as much time on reading as all other subjects combined.
The time spent in child-selected activity dropped by more than one-third. Direct instruction and testing increased. Moreover, more teachers reported holding all children to the same standard.
Is this drastic shift in kindergarten the result of a transformation in the way children learn?
No. A 2011 nationwide study by the Development found that the ages at which children reach developmental milestones have not changed in 100 years.
For example, the average child cannot perceive an oblique line in a triangle until age 5 1/2. This skill is a prerequisite to recognizing, understanding and writing certain letters. The key to understanding concepts such as subtraction and addition is “number conservation.” A child may be able to count five objects separately but not understand that together they make the number five. The average child does not conserve enough numbers to understand subtraction and addition until 5 ½ or 6.
If we teach reading, writing, subtraction and addition before children are ready, they might memorize these skills, but will they will not learn or understand them. And it will not help their achievement later on.
Child development experts understand that children must learn what their brains are ready to absorb. Kindergarten is supposed to set the stage for learning academic content when they are older.
Play is essential in kindergarten. Through play, children build literacy skills they need to be successful readers. By speaking to each other in socio-dramatic play, children use the language they heard adults read to them or say. This process enables children to find the meaning in those words.
There is a wide range of acceptable developmental levels in kindergarten; so a fluid classroom enables teachers to observe where each child is and adjust the curriculum accordingly.
Two major studies confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development.
Yet current educational policy banishes play in favor of direct instruction of inappropriate academic content and testing; practices that are ineffective for young children.
The No Child Left Behind Law played a major role in changing kindergarten. Upper-grade curricula were pushed down in a mistaken belief that by learning reading skills earlier, children would fare better on standardized tests. Subjects not tested by NCLB were de-emphasized. Lawmakers insisted that standardized tests assess reading at earlier ages, even though standardized tests are invalid for children under 8.
These changes have the harshest effect on our most vulnerable children. The UVA study found that in schools with the highest percentage of children of color and children eligible for free-and-reduced-priced lunch, teachers had the most demanding expectations for student performance.
To make matters worse, the drafters of the Common Core ignored the research on child development. In 2010, 500 child development experts warned the drafters that the standards called for exactly the kind of damaging practices that inhibit learning: direct instruction, inappropriate academic content and testing.
These warnings went unheeded.
Consequently, the Common Core exacerbates the developmentally inappropriate practices on the rise since NCLB. Teachers report having to post the standards in the room before every scripted lesson, as if 5-year-olds can read or care what they say. They time children adding and subtracting, and train them to ask formulaic questions about an “author’s message.” All children are trained in the exact same skill at the same time. One teacher lamented that “there is no more time for play.” Another wrote “these so-called educational leaders have no idea how children learn.”
It may satisfy politicians to see children perform inappropriately difficult tasks like trained circus animals. However, if we want our youngest to actually learn, we will demand the return of developmentally appropriate kindergarten.
Wendy Lecker’s full piece can be read at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-The-disturbing-transformation-of-5256686.php
Common Core, Diane Ravitch, Malloy, Privacy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Diane Ravich, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor
Once again, Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading public education advocate has honored me by re-posting one of my Wait, What? blog posts.
This one about Governor Malloy’s decision to put $25 million more on the state credit card to buy computers for the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing extravaganza.
Jonathan Pelto reports that Connecticut districts are spending lavishly on Google Chromebooks, while Google admits it is data mining to promote advertising and sales.
Here is the original post from last week:
“Google explicitly admits for the first time that it scans the email of Google Apps for Education users for ad-serving purposes even when ad serving is turned off.” – Safegov.org 1/31/14
Late last year, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor, like governors and education commissioner across the country, proudly announced that they were charging an additional $24 million to the state’s credit card to buy computers and expand internet capabilities so that Connecticut’s public school students could take the inappropriate and absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.
Much of the money is being used to purchase Google’s Chromebooks.
The wild cheering could be heard across Connecticut.
For example, from Bridgeport’s came the news;
“Superintendent Paul G. Vallas today announced that Chromebooks for every student have been installed in Bridgeport high schools as the district completes its citywide technology upgrade. The upgrade includes 5,220 new Google Chromebooks to ensure every high school student has laptop access… Additionally, Google Apps for Education accounts are now available for all teachers and staff in order to fully operationalize the benefits of using online technology in the classroom.”
From Farmington came the report;
A grant of $350,000 from the state will help implement the state’s new computerized smarter change assessment. The money will be used for getting computers and wireless Internet access in all schools.”
And from Cheshire the announcement;
The Cheshire Board of Education will use a $202,575 technology grant funds from the State Department of Education to purchase laptop computers for 7th and 8th grade students to support our work in transitioning to the Common Core State Standards and SMARTER Balanced (SBAC) assessments.”
“All seventh and eighth grade students will receive Chromebooks to use throughout the school day in order to access the learning resources, Google Drive, and the Internet as needed in every class.”
But as Malloy, Pryor and their corporate education reform industry allies high-five each other for a job well done, there is new and extremely disturbing news from SafeGov.org, a “forum for IT providers and leading industry experts dedicated to promoting trusted and responsible cloud computing solutions for the public sector.”
The January 31, 2014 headline from SafeGov.org read;
Google admits data mining student emails in its free education apps
Take a look at what these industry experts discovered.
This issue has come to the fore as companies like Google and Microsoft have launched a worldwide race to introduce their web application suites into as many schools as possible.
While Google pledges not to serve ads to students without schools’ permission, its Google Apps suite, which is a repurposed version of Google’s Gmail and other consumer services, was designed from the ground up to include ad-serving as well as highly sophisticated user profiling and data mining capabilities. Google explicitly offers schools the option of enabling ad serving to student users of Google Apps for Education. Although it does not yet offer to share the resulting ad revenues with schools that choose the ad-serving option, it has clearly left the door open to such revenue sharing in the future. Indeed, it is hard to see why Google would explicitly write the ad-serving option into its standard contract with schools if it did not hope one day to make ads for students a default and perhaps even mandatory feature of Apps for Education.
The uncanny power of Google’s data mining and user profiling algorithms to target ads effectively has made it the world’s largest advertising company. To cite just one data point, the Mountain View giant last year generated more ad revenue in the American market than the entire U.S. newspaper industry. While we take Google’s word that it does not serve ads to its student users unless it has permission from schools, an important question that until now has gone unanswered is whether the targeting algorithms that power Gmail are still running in Google Apps for Education even when ad serving is turned off. Google’s own web site once supplied an explicit and quite satisfactory answer to this question. Specifically, in a FAQ on its web site devoted to Google Apps for Education, the firm promised that:
‘If you are using Google Apps (free edition), email is scanned so we can display contextually relevant advertising in some circumstances. Note that there is no ad-related scanning or processing in Google Apps for Education or Business with ads disabled.’
However, at some point during the past year the crucial second sentence in this statement was deleted from Google’s web site.
In a remarkable pretrial document filed by Google’s lawyers, Google explicitly admits for the first time that it scans the email of Google Apps for Education users for ad-serving purposes even when ad serving is turned off. The issue at stake in the case is whether Google has properly informed its users and obtained their consent for data mining and ad serving in Gmail and, by extension, in Google Apps for Education. In the filing in question Google’s lawyers seek to prove that email users must have consented to Google’s email scanning practices – if only “impliedly” – because these practices have been widely discussed in the press and can thus be considered to be universally known. The lawyers seek to establish this point by supplying a long list of published articles that discuss these practices.
In other words, Google’s own lawyers here confirm in a sworn public court declaration that even when ad serving is turned off in Google Apps for Education, the contents of users’ emails are still being scanned by Google in order to target ads at those same users when they use the web outside of Google Apps (for example, when watching a YouTube video, conducting a Google search, or viewing a web page that contains a Google+ or DoubleClick cookie).
In sum, then, we have learned from Google’s own statements that:
- Ad serving remains a standard option in Google Apps for Education,
- Even when ads are turned off (as they currently are by default) Google still data mines student emails for ad targeting purposes, and
Considering governors all across the nation are picking up the tab for all the new Google Chromebooks, perhaps the could force Google to come clean about exactly how much data mining they are doing when it comes to our public school students.
Getting the truth from Google is certainly the least Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor can do in Connecticut considering the damage they have done by opening up the Pandora’s Box known as the Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Test (SBAC).
You can read the full safegov.org article at:http://safegov.org/2014/1/31/google-admits-data-mining-student-emails-in-its-free-education-apps
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Common Core, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Mercedes Schneider, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor Bill Gates, Common Core, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor
The Democratic controlled Education Committee has scheduled an Informational Forum on the Common Core on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 10:00 A.M. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.
As presently designed, only invited guests will be allowed to speak.
A number of sources have confirmed that at this point the speakers will be Governor Malloy’s Commissioner Stefan Pryor and two unnamed representatives, one from the National Governor’s Association and one from the Council of Chief State School Officers.
As an aside, Stefan Pryor is also a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
That fact that they General Assembly’s Democratic leadership would hold a forum in which the only speakers were Malloy’s Commissioner and representatives from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers is beyond belief and beyond insulting.
Such a forum would be insulting to the other members of the Connecticut General Assembly since legislators deserve to hear the various opinions that are out there about the Common Core.
And more importantly, a farce of a forum undermines the rights of the students, teachers, school administrators, parents and citizens who make up Connecticut’s public education community and need elected officials who are better informed about the Common Core and Common Core testing.
These Democratic leaders are well aware that the Common Core Standards were put together by the two organizations that have been invited to speak at the informational forum on February 28, 2014.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers were paid by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the Common Core standards and the unfair and inappropriate Common Core standardized testing scheme that goes along with those so-called standards.
As fellow education blogger Mercedes Schneider has reported, “The Gates Foundation underwrote the organizations writing the Common Core standards: the National Governors Association, Student Achievement Partners (David Coleman), the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve.”
According to Schneider, whose research was confirmed and published in the Washington Post and other media outlets around the country, “In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS — NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners — have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.”
The press conference releasing the Common Core Standards featured the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officials.
“American competitiveness relies on an education system that can adequately prepare our youth for college and the workforce,” commented Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. “When American students have the skills and knowledge needed in today’s jobs, our communities will be positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”
“Strong schools are the surest path to our nation’s long-term economic success. America’s students are now competing with children around the globe for jobs and opportunities after graduation. We need to maintain a national focus to ensure our kids are ready to compete and ready to win. That’s why our nation’s governors committed to this effort to create a common set of high expectations for students across the country. The Common Core State Standards reflect what can come from cooperation to improve student achievement,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who joined via satellite from Delaware.
Gates provided this statement for the press conference:
”With the states’ release today of a set of clear and consistent academic standards, our nation is one step closer to supporting effective teaching in every classroom, charting a path to college and careers for all students, and developing the tools to help all children stay motivated and engaged in their own education. The more states that adopt these college and career based standards, the closer we will be to sharing innovation across state borders and becoming more competitive as a country.”
Those interested in the ugly details can track the hundreds of millions that Gates has spent to develop and sell the Common Core by lobby and bribing the federal government, individual states, school districts, universities and organizations.
Here are the links to read:
By refusing to allow the public to speak out on this important issue and then stacking the deck by only featuring paid pro-Common Core ambassadors turns the Education Committee’s “informational hearing” into nothing short of a bad joke and makes it clear that the Democrats have joined Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor on their path of self-destruction.
Check back for more details as they become available.
Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Education Funding, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Bridgeport, Capital Prep Charter School, Charter Schools, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry
When Dan Malloy was running for governor he pledged to make adequate funding for Connecticut’s public schools a priority.
Instead Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education corporate education reform industry initiative of any Democratic governor in the country.
Rather than use state education funds to support local schools and take some of the pressure off local taxpayers, Malloy has used scarce public funds to push his own initiatives including implementing the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing scheme and an unfair and inappropriate teacher evaluation system.
Compounding the problem has been Malloy’s devotion to diverting money to Connecticut’s charter schools. In fact, the single largest beneficiary of Malloy’s charter school largesse has been Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
But Malloy and Pryor have been shoveling public funds to other charter school companies as well.
The charter school management company known as Jumoke Academy/FUSE has been given additional money and control of two neighborhood public schools. The executives of Jumoke Academy have been given management control of the Milner Elementary School in Hartford and the Dunbar Elementary School in Bridgeport. The Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy/FUSE was even appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education by Governor Malloy.
Meanwhile, other charter school companies have already been approved or are seeking approval to open new schools in Connecticut.
Last month, nine new charter school applications were submitted to the State Department of Education.
Despite the inadequate funding for existing public schools and a projected $1 billion state deficit for the year following this November’s gubernatorial election, Malloy’s budget includes funding for at least two new charter schools.
A primary target for the expansion of charter schools has been Bridgeport, in part because Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is considered a strong charter school advocate. Bridgeport already has four charter schools.
As the Connecticut Post recently reported;
“BRIDGEPORT — An outspoken Hartford magnet school principal, a Rhode Island education reform advocate and a longtime city teacher who also happens to be the mayor’s ex, all want the same thing: open the state’s next charter school here.
The three applications represent a third of nine applications received by the state to open charter schools this fall or next….”
The new plans include two schools prepared to open next fall if they receive approval — the Capital Prep Harbor School, modeled after a Hartford magnet school run by Stephen Perry and the STEAM Academy for Girls, started by Claire Mastromonaco, a fifth-grade teacher at Johnson School, who is also the ex-wife of Mayor Bill Finch.
A third contender is Great Oaks Charter School, a school spearheaded by Maryellen Butke, founding director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now.”
Charter school companies see Connecticut as a prime target for expansion because not only does the state give charter schools money for every student they take in, but the cost to transport those charter school students and the cost to provide them with special education services continues to be paid by the local school district.
The Connecticut Post article goes on to summarize the three new Bridgeport charter school proposals;
Charter School Proposal #1
Mastromonaco said she has always wanted to start a school for girls. A classroom teacher for 18 years, Mastromonaco also runs the Children’s Center for the Arts. Her background is in the arts, but she loves the sciences and math and said she sees too many of her female students lose confidence and “check out” by the time they reach middle school.
She said a single-gender school that focuses on science, math and the arts will help them more feel confident.
STEAM would open in the former Holy Rosary School near Washington Park with 108 pre-kindergarten through first-graders and grow to a 252 pre-K to fifth-grade school by its fifth year. The school would strive to be racially balanced, draw from the suburbs and city. Its preschool would be Montessori-based.
Christopher Finch, her son and a teacher in New York City, would serve on her governing board along with several Bridgeport educators and parents.
In a letter of support for STEAM, Bruce Ravage, director of Park City Prep, a charter school that has won permission to add a fifth grade, said Mastromonaco knows the student population well and is in a unique position to address its needs.”
Charter School Proposal #2
“Capital Prep Harbor School
Asked why he’d want to come to Bridgeport, Perry, a lightning rod for school reform issues, talks about the city’s waterfront location, proximity to New York City and its potential.
“Bridgeport has always been one of those cities you heard about,” Perry said. The charter school he would form here would be modeled after the public magnet school he has run in Hartford for nearly 10 years.
It would have a theme of social justice, a longer school day and year, require students to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities, and would strive — according to the 600-page application — to send all graduates to four-year colleges.
“Running it as a charter would be different,” said Perry. “It would create the opportunity for us to be more creative. Quite frankly, there are limits within the structure of a large school system. Even when people don’t want it to, it has to be the same. That sameness presents a challenge to schools like ours.”
Something else that is different is that Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., a private management company run by Perry, would get 10 percent of the fee, $2.5 million over the first five years of the contract. Perry said that is common when charter firms run more than one school. It also remains unclear how much the school would pay for rent.
The Harbor School application said the city has dedicated space in the Bridgeport Technology and Trade Center on Barnum Avenue and the proposed budget shows no rental expenses. The city, however, doesn’t own that property.
Among supporters of the plan are Kenneth Moales Jr., a member of the city school board.”
Charter School Proposal #3
Great Oaks would be a college preparatory school geared largely toward English language learners, who make up more than 13 percent of students in the district.
The school day would be long, stretching from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., followed by after-school activities. The school year would be 200 days, compared to the normal 180 days a year.
There are already Great Oaks schools in New Jersey and New York, said Christina Grant, vice president of the Great Oaks Foundation, who acts a chief academic officer for both schools. The school would start with 100 sixth-graders and work its way up, providing two hours of individualized tutoring to students every day, according to the application.
It would also be located in the former Singer Factory on Barnum Avenue, where three other city charter schools (Bridge Academy, New Beginnings and Park City Prep) all got their start. Great Oaks would pay $10 a square foot for 6,366 square feet. It wants to open in the fall of 2015. Its management fee built into its budget would amount to $1.6 million over the five years.
One of the many letters of support for the proposal came from Meghan Lowney, executive director of the Zoom Foundation, and a behind-the-scenes player when the city school board was taken over by the state in 2011. Great Oaks’ plans, she wrote, are aligned with her efforts to rapidly improve public education opportunities for underserved children by pooling and leveraging financial, human and political capital.”
Although public hearings are required on each proposal, the decision to approve or reject a proposal rests with the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education. The charter school law severely limits the role of local boards of education.
Common Core, Democratic Legislators, Malloy, Republicans, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Evaluations Common Core, Democratic Legislators, Larry Cafero, Malloy, Republican Legislators, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor, Teacher Tenure
Rather than hold a full, traditional public hearing in which any citizen could come and speak out about the implementation of the Common Core and its corresponding unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment testing scheme, it now appears that the Connecticut General Assembly’s Democratic leaders will do nothing more than hold a meeting on these issues with a group of invited guests.
Over the last week, the General Assembly’s Education Committee has held two meetings to select what legislative proposals will have public hearings. At the Education Committee’s meeting on February 10, the Committee raised 23 bills for a regular public hearing. Today the Education Committee raised an additional 8 bills for a public hearing.
A vote was not taken to hold a public hearing on any proposals related to the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Testing program or revisions to the unfair teacher evaluation program.
If the Democratic leadership does not change its position, Connecticut residents would be blocked from being heard on the single most important issues facing public education in the state.
Why the Democratic leadership would take such an inappropriate position is not clear.
Maybe Democrats believe that the Common Core is a federally mandated program and therefore public input at the state level is unimportant?
Or maybe they don’t want to be bothering with sit through a long hearing on the Common Core and the Common Core test when they have no intent to change the state’s policies on this issue?
Or maybe they think that the best strategy is to duck the issue and hope it all blows over before this November’s election?
Or maybe Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor or representatives of the Malloy Administration have ordered legislative leaders not to allow a debate on the issue?
But none of those explanations serve as a remotely reasonable excuse to prevent a public hearing on the Common Core, the Common Core testing or the warped teacher evaluation system.
And, of course, it didn’t take long for the Republicans to take advantage if the Democrat’s arrogance or misstep.
Earlier today, House Republican Leader Larry Cafero put out a press release calling upon Democrats, “to stage a full public hearing in the Education Committee on the controversial Common Core curriculum and teacher evaluation standards that have caused upheaval in state public schools.”
In a strongly worded letter to the Democratic Chairs of the Education Committee, the Republican House Leader wrote;
“We have heard from thousands of educators and parents outside the legislature on these matters. As lawmakers and their elected officials, we owe the public the chance to address these issues in a formal setting within the General Assembly,’’
Cafero opened fire on the Democrats asking, “…after lawmakers have been deluged from the public, not a single bill regarding Common Core or teacher evaluations was raised by the Education Committee.”
Carfero concluded his letter with;
“This is exactly why teachers, administrators, parents and their children find themselves in the situation they are in now: Common Core was adopted outside of the legislative process which meant that too many voices were left out of the debate…”
In the face of the Republican’s criticism, it is hard to understand what the Democrats could possibly say to explain their behavior and strategy.
For the record, here are the bills that the Education Committee has decided are worthy of a public hearing.
On 2/10/14 the Education Committee raised 23 bills for a public hearing including;
1. AAC Minor Revisions to the Education Statutes
2. AAC the Recommendations by the Legislative Commissioners for Technical Revisions to the Education Statutes
3. AAC Authorization of State Grant Commitments for School Building Projects
4. AAC Education Issues
5. AAC State Education Resource Center
6. AAC Uniform Regional School Calendar
7. AAC Education Mandate Relief
8. AAC the Technical High School System
9. AAC the Minimum Budget Requirement
10. AAC Boards of Education
11. AAC the Academic Achievement Gap
12. AAC Special Education
13. AAC Magnet Schools
14. AAC School Safety
15. AAC Chronic Absenteeism
16. AAC the Storage and Administration of Epinephrine at Public Schools and Public Institutions of Higher Education
17. AAC Collaboration Between Boards of Education and School Resource Officers
18. AAC Social Media Education
19. AAC Teen Dating Violence
20. AAC Access to Quality Pre-K for Children in the Care of the Department of Children and Families
IV. PREVIOUSLY RAISED GOVERNORS BILLS
21. HB 5043 – AA Implementing the Budget Recommendations of the Governor Concerning Education
22. SB 025 – AA Establishing the Office of Early Childhood
23. SB 026 – AA Expanding Opportunities for Early Childhood Education
And today, 2/19/14, the Education Committee raised 8 more bills for a public hearing including;
1. AAC Alternative Schools
2. AA Establishing a Task Force to Study Paraprofessional Staffing and Pay Equity
3. AAC Student Privacy and the Administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery
4. AAC the Availability of an Online Study Skills Curriculum
5. AAC School Readiness Funding
6. AAC State Funding for Education and the Budgets of Boards of Education
7. AAC Student Internships
8. AAC Local and State Charter School Accountability and Transparency
Alliance Districts, Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Malloy, Office of State Ethics, Stefan Pryor
As Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and his agency must adhere to the Connecticut ethics laws that apply to public officials and public agencies.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that is working to support Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives. As a lobbying group, CCER must adhere to the ethics laws that apply to lobbying organizations.
But when it comes to the relationship between the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Pryor’s state agency, something is significantly amiss.
CCER was part of the $6 million record-breaking lobbying effort that led to the passage of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative in 2012.
The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Board of Directors includes the retired Chairman and CEO of The Hartford Insurance Company, the President and COO of the Travelers Companies, the President and CEO of Yale New Haven Hospital, a Managing Director at First Niagara Bank, the Lead Director at Webster Bank, the Chair of Nestle Waters North America, former gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont and others.
The Executive Director of CCER is a registered lobbyist and the organization retains one of the state’s better known lobbying companies.
When it comes to their rhetoric and propaganda, CCER stays true to the corporate education reform industry’s agenda. Recently CCER put out a press release stating,
“We will oppose any delay in implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”
But as reported earlier this year on Wait, What? this education reform lobbying group has been playing an increasingly significant role in the internal functioning of the State Department of Education.
At last month’s State Department of Education’s quarterly Alliance District Convening meeting, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Jeffrey Villar, was a lead presenter at a session entitled, “District Strategic Planning.”
The meeting agenda read:
“CCER will share best practices and tools for district-wide, long-term strategic planning. This will include strategies to establish Board of Education goals, develop district indicators of success, and design a process to monitor implementation. Districts will also learn about how the CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”
Katie Roy, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Chief Operating Officer also presented to the group of local school administrators, teachers and parents.
This means that at an official meeting between the State Department of Education and officials from Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, participants were told that the lobbying group known as CCER “can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”
A lobbying organization can “help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications”?
That is more than a bit odd…
First off, CCER is a corporate funded lobbying group and has no expertise with Alliance Districts, the State Department of Education or the Alliance District and Priority District funding grants. Their expertise is trying to persuade legislators to support Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts.
Second, what makes the whole situation even stranger is that as a result of a series of Freedom of Information requests filed with the appropriate state agencies, it turns out that there is NO CONTRACT between the State Department of Education and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).
So how did CCER get the job of “helping” Alliance Districts and who is picking up the tab for these “services.”
The State of Connecticut isn’t paying CCER, but if the lobbying group is “donating” the services to school districts then that raises a slew of ethics and legal issues.
And to make matters even more suspicious, the lobbying reports that the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has submitted to the Office of State Ethics doesn’t come close to showing the time and costs CCER has already devoted to the task of “helping” Alliance Districts.
Stefan Pryor’s State Department of Education has instructed Alliance Districts that a lobbying group with no expertise is available to help them prepare grant applications that will then be approved or rejected by Pryor and the State Department of Education.
In the real world we call that a conflict of interest.
It is time for the Malloy administration and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to come clean on exactly what role CCER is playing at the State Department of Education and whether Commissioner Pryor or CCER are violating any Connecticut laws in the process.
Common Core, Education Reform, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Education Reform, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Stefan Pryor
A number of Connecticut legislators have told constituents that Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor are implementing education policies that are very different from what they were told during the 2012 debate that led up to the passage of Malloy’s “education reform” legislation.
Here is a letter that James D. Trifone recently sent to the members of Connecticut’s Education Committee. James Trifone is a teacher at Cheshire High School. Like his colleagues across Connecticut, he is a first-hand witness to the damage Malloy and Pryor are doing to Connecticut’s students, teachers and to our public schools.
If Connecticut legislators really care about their communities, they need to read this letter and others like this one, and act quickly to stop Malloy’s initiatives before even more damage is done.
A Letter to Members of the Connecticut Education Committee by James D. Trifone
As a young man I was encouraged by my father−an inspirational and masterful educator−who instilled in me a desire to share my passion and enthusiasm for learning with others. As my role model he further inspired me to follow in his footsteps as a public school educator. I have been a dedicated and impassioned educator for thirty-eight years. However, for the first time in my career I am disheartened with the current reform efforts that have been foisted upon public schools by education outsiders−businessmen and politicians. As a classroom teacher, I have been an educational innovator for over three decades in bringing about real and effective change in enhancing my teaching and learning. Therefore, change is no stranger to me. Today’s global society leaves the American student at a disadvantage that can only be remedied by a significant change in the way we structure and approach teaching and learning. Nonetheless, I believe the recent nationally inspired education reform efforts from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top to the most recent iteration of them−the Common Core State Standards−are leading American schools down the wrong path. Collectively these reform efforts have been regressive, repressive and oppressive, as well as dismissive of educators, who as highly educated professionals, are trained to know how best to develop young minds. The tragic irony of these reform efforts is based on a 19th century mindset that is intended to prepare students for success in the 21st century! However, to paraphrase Einstein “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. The current reform efforts are designed to systematize, standardize and align the learning process using a “factory” model of “one size fits all”.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium’s (SBAC) assessment of the Common Core State Standards is flawed in many ways.
First of all, it assumes that the learning process can be distilled to a few objective and quantitative measures. Moreover, these measures exclude those due to socioeconomic inequities, which cannot be remedied from within the educational system. Nonetheless, what matters most to fostering the learning process are intangibles that are not easily quantified. Einstein stated it more eloquently as “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Secondly, using the CCSS to assess student learning is a misguided approach that is not supported by any empirical studies that validate their use as substantive to measuring the skill and knowledge base proficiency requisite to be deemed “educated”. Moreover, the test is designed so that only 35-40% of students can pass it!
Thirdly, mandating the use of CCSS is insidiously undermining the development of imagination, creativity and innovation that made this nation a leading world power.
Lastly, linking student performance on the SBAC assessment to evaluating teachers is not only educationally unsound, but counterproductive to improving education in the first place. The major flaw inherent to this reform initiative is that it assumes that excellence in teaching and learning can be objectively measured. If we, as a society are going to survive, we need to embrace the emerging learning paradigm that views the mind, learning and thinking in a more holistic and integrated framework. What is needed, now more than ever, is a paradigm shift in what this country’s leaders recognize as the skill-set of thinking and learning processes requisite for success in the 21st century.
In the July 10, 2010 Newsweek article: “The Creativity Crisis,” the point is made that while America is moving more towards high stake testing, and away from the teaching of creativity and problem solving, the rest of the world is moving in the other direction, away from testing and increasing their emphasis on creativity and “whole-brain” real world skills. We need to promote a systemic change requisite to restore American educational praxis to the vanguard that other nations aspired to for much of the last century. The modern world is a very different place than the one in which previous generations of students were prepared to enter following their secondary or post-secondary educational schooling. With the advent of computers, podcasts, webinars and other technologies, today’s learners have access to the World Wide Web, social media, constant communication and global interaction, and through this, a myriad number of libraries, museums and informational sources of information across the globe.
Today’s learners have instant access to virtually millions of other learners throughout the world. Additionally, today’s learners are expected to be adept in accessing these resources and working collaboratively with others electronically. In his bestselling book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman attributes the Internet as one of many technologies that has changed the way we communicate, learn and do business. Thus today’s classroom is not exclusively confined to one inside a school or even a classroom. Rather virtual classrooms exist in the form of online cohorts, chat rooms etc. Furthermore, as Daniel Pink (Pink, 2005) discusses in his acclaimed book A Whole New Mind, the skills needed to survive in the 21st century workplace are no longer being developed in our classrooms. He suggests that the future depends on fostering a new set of creative and empathic “right-brain” skills to augment the “left-brain” dominant ones advocated and emphasized in the past two centuries. Howard Gardner offers similar notions in his book 5 Minds or the Future (Gardner, 2008).
Instead of relying on high stakes testing to help us assess and develop ways to improve learning in American classrooms, it is my contention that policy makers need to include professional educators in the dialogue. Government officials and corporate leaders may have the best of intentions in attempting to reform American education. However, authentic educational reform can only arise from professional educators whose honed skill-base, expertise, dedication and passion provides them with the ability to fully understand and respond to the needs and challenges of effectively educating children for success in the 21st century.
Teaching is an art that involves responding authentically to the needs of children, curriculum and the culture without rigidly adhering to a specific methodology. Characteristics such as: authenticity, empathy, mindfulness, and sensitivity to each unfolding moment in a child’s learning process, are qualities one might find in educators operating within what David Sobel and his colleagues at Antioch New England Graduate School calls “authentic curriculum”. Teaching from this perspective means being mindful to the myriad learning opportunities that typically occur during the day and employing them to foster students’ recognition and appreciation of learning as real-life and ubiquitous phenomena rather than a contrived process, whose content is driven by the intentional and manipulative designs of the teacher, or worse yet-the learning assumptions of high stakes standardized test designers. Students learning in authentic contexts begin to view nature as alive with potential opportunities to learn and grow and construct meaning. Taking time to momentarily follow the students’, rather than teacher’s, interests also promotes a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence in students’ ability to recognize and seize a learning opportunity and participate in the creation of their own personal meaning. Ken Robinson, internationally recognized expert on the nature of creativity and outspoken critic of the current educational reform efforts, succinctly summarizes this as follows: “The task of education is not to teach subjects: it is to teach students. No school is better than its teachers”(Robinson, 2011,p. 267).
Meaningful learning and thinking consists of integrating “hands-on” and “minds-on” real-life experiences that challenge learners’ preconceived assumptions and level of conceptual understanding. It is here that the 21st century educator can capitalize on the learners’ state of cognitive dissonance (confusion) to make a real difference in motivating them to transform misconceptions into valid conceptions. The 21st century educator embraces the notion that any individual can learn a given subject as long as he/she is provided with the opportunity to learn in a conducive (read as: loving and supportive) environment with experienced mentors willing in spirit to identify what they currently know and scaffold their conceptual development to a higher level of understanding. Meaningful learning and thinking processes foster the development of a unique and personalized relationship between the learner and the ideas and information under consideration.
In conclusion, the progressive educator, with a vested interest in educational reform that includes enhancing the way children are prepared for life in the 21st century, needs to integrate pedagogical strategies and practices into their classroom that foster learners in adopting more meaningful approaches to learning and thinking, rather than a scripted, linear and “conveyor belt” approach designed to produce more “widgets”. Our “products” are impressionable children and young adults who will be the workforce, as well as the captains of industry, and statesmen of the future. We have a moral, ethical and civic responsibility to do now what is in their best interests. In summary, please consider my plea to work with, not against, Connecticut educators to co-create a renewed vision of our mission−one that fosters the growth and development of authentic learners.
James D. Trifone Ph.D.
Cheshire High School
Cheshire, CT 06410
Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the future. Harvard Business Press, Boston, MA.
Pink, D. (2005). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. Riverhead Books, Penguin Group NY, NY.
Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative, Capstone Publishing Ltd, West Sussex, UK.