FACT – Hunger is a major contributing factor to the Education Achievement Gap.

The corporate education reform movement is fond of claiming that poverty is no excuse for children failing to succeed in school.

Their level of ignorance is astounding.

Hunger is just one of the devastating outcomes related to the level of widespread poverty in the United States and these factors are keeping tens of millions of children from doing better in school.

Researchers recognize that “out of school factors” (OSF) have a significant and dramatic impact on a child’s level of academic success.  Although there are a variety of important steps the nation must take to improve its schools, children actually spend less than 15% of their time in school, meaning non-school issues have an incredible impact on a child’s in-school success..

And while quality education programs make a difference, there are a series of socio-demographic factors that have a profound impact on how well children actually do with their time in school.

One of the most pronounced impediments to learning is hunger, often called “food insecurity” in the parlance of public policy.

The evidence is overwhelming that the lack of sufficient food undermines an individual’s ability to function and it has an especially devastating impact on children.

And hunger is a very real problem in this country, especially when it comes to a significant number of the nation’s children.  According to the USDA, in 2015:

  • 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
  • 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure (meaning they suffered from inadequate food supplies on a regular basis).
  • 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security (meaning they were without sufficient food much of the time).
  • Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
  • Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%).
  • Twenty percent or more of the child population in 30 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2014.  According to the most recent data, Mississippi (27%) and New Mexico (27%) had the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food in 2014.

As of 2014 study, the rate of food insecurity in Connecticut was about 13.9% with approximately 6.0% being very food insecure. However, the percentage of people that went hungry, especially the percentage of children, was much higher in the state’s poorer cities and towns.

The academic studies prove, beyond a doubt, that hunger and poverty are major contributors to the school achievement gap in Connecticut and across the nation.

Closing the large achievement gap in the United States and Connecticut will not take place until out of school factors, like hunger, are successfully addressed.

Child Poverty – America and Connecticut are failing our youngest…

In 2001, a Connecticut Commission set the goal of reducing child poverty by 50% over the next decade.  Ten years later, the poverty rate hadn’t gone down, in fact it had doubled.

And the problem remains as severe today, a decade and a half after the state of Connecticut committed to make a profound impact on the level of child poverty in the state.

As Connecticut Voices for Children recently reported,

In Connecticut today, child poverty for non-Hispanic white children is 6 percent, compared to 33 percent for Latino children and 28 for black children. The child poverty rate in Stamford (6.7 percent) contrasts dramatically with that in New Haven (46.6 percent).

In 2015, 14.5 percent of the state’s children (more than 100,000) lived in poverty, more than three percentage points higher than pre-recession levels.

Child poverty rates across many cities and counties are more than double the statewide average and 25 times more than in the state’s wealthiest towns

But as CT Voices goes on to explain,

Over the past twenty-five years, the share of our budget dedicated to children has fallen by a quarter, from 40 to 29.5 percent. It should come as no surprise that as state policy priorities have moved away from children and families, the existing disparities in wellbeing and opportunity have only grown.

Failing our children is not only a Connecticut legacy, it has become the American Way.

In an Alternet article entitled, The Numbers Are Staggering: U.S. Is ‘World Leader’ in Child Poverty, college educator and activist Paul Buchheit wrote,

America’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

Buchheit noted that, “The U.S. has one of the highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world,” adding,

Over half of public school students are poor enough to qualify for lunch subsidies, and almost half of black children under the age of six are living in poverty.

Nearly half of all food stamp recipients are children, and they averaged about $5 a day for their meals before the 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program.

In 2007 about 12 of every 100 kids were on food stamps. Today it’s 20 of every 100.

For Every 2 Homeless Children in 2006, There Are Now 3

On a typical frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home.

That’s about the same number of households that have each increased their wealth by $10 million per year since the recession.

Of course, as some already know, The United States is one of only two nations that have refused to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The other failed state is South Sudan, a location on the verge of a major genocide.

As the leaders of the country and Connecticut go back to work on the federal and state budget, it would do well them to remember, when it comes to child poverty, the United States and Connecticut are failing the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

Connecticut’s outstanding public education system is undermined by its achievement gap crisis.

Many of Connecticut’s public schools are among the best in the nation but the massive achievement gap between wealthy and poor towns is a crisis of epic proportions in this state and across the country.

However, the corporate education reform movement would have us believe that America’s education system is failing.  In fact, here in Connecticut, corporate funded charter school front groups are quick to condemn Connecticut’s public schools en masse.

Their false news rhetoric is beyond inaccurate, it is downright disgraceful and misleading.

Connecticut does have a severe academic achievement gap which is a result of the extreme poverty that is preventing many children from reaching their potential.

But by nearly every measure, Connecticut’s public schools excel compared to those in most other states.

The scores Connecticut’s students received on the 2015 NAEP scores tell the story.

As the United States government explains, the “National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”

While the absurd Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme is a “high-stakes” test designed to fail students, the NAEP has sought to reflect whether a random group of students have a basic understanding of the key concepts that are actually being taught at each appropriate grade level.

When it comes to the NAEP scores, Connecticut has always been among the highest scoring states in the United States.

In 2015, for example, more than 8 in 10 Connecticut students who took the NAEP test scored at or above the goal level.  By comparison, only about 60% of the students in Louisiana scored at or above the goal level.

2015 NAEP – Percent of students scoring at or above goal

Connecticut   82% at or above goal

Louisiana        63% at or above goal.

The detailed results from the Connecticut NAEP testing reveal just how successful that state’s public schools are and where the problems exist.

Connecticut NAEP Results (2015)

8th Grade Reading Score on NAEP Percent at or above Goal Level
Connecticut Students 82%
Connecticut – White Students 89%
Connecticut – African American Students 60%
Connecticut – Latino Students 69%
Connecticut – Low Income Students 67%

Compare and contrast Connecticut to Louisiana.  Nearly all of Connecticut’s lowest performing cohorts score at or above the average student in Louisiana and all student sub-groups do significantly better in Connecticut than they do in Louisiana.

8th Grade Reading Score on NAEP Connecticut

Percent at or above Goal Level


Percent at or above Goal Level

All Students 82% 63%
White Students 89% 79%
African American Students 60% 49%
Connecticut – Latino Students 69% n/a
Connecticut – Low Income Students 67% 55%


The data from the NAEP test reiterates the core reality that Connecticut’s public schools are among the best in the nation but that poverty remains the most insidious barrier to academic achievement.  Since poverty and race are closely tied in the United States, African-American and Latino students are at a significant disadvantage to the White students who tend to live in more affluent communities.

That said, the truth is hardly a concern when it comes to the slick marketing and public relations tactics of the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform movement who consistently – and wrongly – claim that American public education is a failure.

Rather than allow them to hide behind their false news efforts, elected and appointed officials should be clear about the problems facing public schools in Connecticut and the United States.

The real and substantive answer is not more privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools, corporate entities that refuse to accept and educate their fair share of students who face additional challenges.

The correct policy is for Connecticut officials to step up and address the growing impact of inequity, poverty and a lack of resources that are limiting the success in many of Connecticut’s schools.

The factors undermining public education in the United States can be dealt with but it will take a level of commitment and responsibility that many officials have yet to display.

Without A Net – The challenge of learning in chaos

Education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker has yet another – MUST READ – piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and on the Hearst Media website.  You can find the original at: Wendy Lecker: The challenge of learning in chaos.

The challenge of learning in chaos

The notion of equal educational opportunity was explained clearly by Kansas Judge Terry Bullock in a 2003 school funding decision: “If a child lives a great way from school, the transportation cost for that child will be greater than for another child nearer to school — just to provide him or her the same educational opportunity. Similarly, if a child cannot speak English, it may cost more to teach that child English as a second language before the child can learn math and other subjects.”

In other words, providing equal opportunity means meeting children where they are — helping them overcome their individual obstacles to learning. Judge Bullock recognized that although those obstacles often exist outside the school walls, overcoming them is part of the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a free public education.

A new UCLA report centers on those out-of-school factors that interfere with learning. The report, titled “It’s About Time,” found that community stressors such as economic distress, hunger, lack of medical care, family problems, unstable housing and violence, result in lost learning time three times as often in high poverty schools as in low poverty schools.

While the report focuses on California, I have heard identical stories from teachers, principals and district officials in Connecticut and New York. Children in impoverished districts often arrive at school hungry, without coats, socks or with broken glasses. High school students miss the first few periods of each school day because they must ensure their younger siblings get to school safely. Children bring to school the instability they experience in their lives.

These are not isolated stories. These are the barriers many poor children encounter every day when they try to learn, and teachers encounter when they try to teach. Before a child can focus on learning, she needs to be fed and clothed and have a way to deal with any trauma she may have experienced the night before. This is why social workers, behavioral specialists, psychologists, counselors and other therapists are essential educational resources. “Support staff” is a misnomer.

More than half of American public schoolchildren live in poverty. Consequently an increasing number of schools must contend with the chaos that surrounds the lives of their students. However, as the number of poor public schoolchildren rises, schools have fewer resources to help. Most states provide schools with less funding today than they did before the recession hit. And the number of federal dollars, a very small percentage of a school district’s budget to begin with, has also shrunk considerably. The poorest districts are least able to fill in those chasms with local tax dollars.

The result? Every year, our poorest school districts must slash millions of dollars from their budgets. That means cutting services.

Teachers pick up the slack. They find jackets for students, feed them, buy school supplies and give up their lunch periods to counsel them. The UCLA report found that teachers in high poverty schools spend time “addressing a variety of important academic, social, and long-term planning issues with their students more frequently than teachers in Low Poverty schools.”

The report dispels the “absurd notion,” as former Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville once said, that “all the incompetency in our education systems has coincidentally aggregated around low income students.” Teachers in high poverty schools go above and beyond to meet their students’ needs. It is not about incompetence. It is about lack of resources.

One has to wonder why the Obama administration pushes policies that not only fail to correct the inequalities in educational resources, but instead exacerbate them.

The UCLA report revealed that poor schools lose three times more instructional days than low poverty schools to standardized testing and test prep — more than four weeks of instructional time.

It is now well-established that standardized tests do not improve learning, and narrow a school’s curriculum. It is also well-known that yearly testing is unnecessary, since a child who passes a test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next.

Yet U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan clings to the faulty conviction that children must suffer through standardized tests every year so that children “do not fall through the cracks.” How absurd. Teachers know which children are struggling academically.

If policymakers were truly concerned with children falling through the cracks, they would make sure that every school had a safety net to catch them. Too often, our neediest children must face life’s harshest realities. It is time politicians stop ignoring how those realities impact our schools.

For more go to: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-challenge-of-learning-in-chaos-6093176.php

The key factor driving academic performance is poverty…

And a new study from the Southern Education Foundation reports that low income students are now a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools.

Using data from the 2012-2013 school year, the study determined that 51 percent of all students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible under the federal program for free and reduced-price lunch, a standard measure of the number of children living in poverty.

The Southern Education Foundation also reported that, “In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students in 2013.”

According to the report, even in Connecticut, the state with the highest per capita income in the nation, more than one in three public school students come from homes in poverty.  That number of public school students coming from poor households skyrockets in many of Connecticut’s poorer cities and towns where more than 8 in 10 students qualifying for free or reduced school lunches.

The Washington Post article covering the new study quoted Michael A. Rebell, the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University, who explained, We’ve all known this was the trend, that we would get to a majority, but it’s here sooner rather than later…A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing better at all.

Kent McGuire, the president of the Southern Education Foundation, which according to the Washington Post is the nation’s oldest education philanthropy, discussed the harsh reality associated with reaching a point where a majority of school children are now living in poverty.  McGuire said, “The fact is, we’ve had growing inequality in the country for many years, it didn’t happen overnight, but it’s steadily been happening. Government used to be a source of leadership and innovation around issues of economic prosperity and upward mobility. Now we’re a country disinclined to invest in our young people.”

The Corporate Education Reform Industry claims that the Common Core, more standardized testing, doing away with teacher tenure and privatizing public education by shifting to privately owned, but publicly funded charter schools will solve the biggest problems and challenges facing public education in the United States.

But the real truth is that the root problem is the fundamental lack of adequate resources for public schools, which in turn, prevents public schools from providing the breadth of support and services that would be needed to give poor children a real opportunity for academic success.

The recent Washington Post highlighted the funding problem reporting,

The amount spent on each student can vary wildly from state to state. Vermont, with a relatively low student-poverty rate of 36 percent, spent the most of any state in 2012-2013, at $19,752 per pupil. In the same school year, Arizona, with a 51 percent student-poverty rate, spent the least in the nation at $6,949 per student, according to data compiled by the National Education Association. States with high student-poverty rates tend to spend less per student: Of the 27 states with the highest percentages of student poverty, all but five spent less than the national average.

And The Southern Education Foundation concluded their report with a stark warning;

 “No longer can we consider the problems and needs of low income students simply a matter of fairness…  Their success or failure in the public schools will determine the entire body of human capital and educational potential that the nation will possess in the future. Without improving the educational support that the nation provides its low income students – students with the largest needs and usually with the least support — the trends of the last decade will be prologue for a nation not at risk, but a nation in decline…”

You can access the full report at: http://www.southerneducation.org/Our-Strategies/Research-and-Publications/New-Majority-Diverse-Majority-Report-Series/A-New-Majority-2015-Update-Low-Income-Students-Now

Governor Malloy: Blessed are the Poor

At yesterday’s press conference at the State Capital, Governor Malloy bragged about the extraordinarily positive impact Connecticut’s new minimum wage law will have when it takes effect at midnight tonight. 

“As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people … will actually lift themselves out of poverty,” Malloy said during a press event and rally.

Malloy was referring to the mandated .45 cent an hour increase in the State’s minimum wage that will be taking effect.

The federal poverty level for a family of three in Connecticut is about $18,400.  For the 70,000 to 90,000 Connecticut residents living on minimum wage, a full-time job brings in $17,160 per year.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman joined Malloy in “celebrating” the raise in the minimum wage.  It will, according to Wyman, mean Connecticut’s minimum wage workers will make an extra $18 hours a week as long as they don’t miss a single hour of work.

That increase translates into an extra $936 a year — leaving most minimum wage families still living below the poverty line; this despite the fact that Connecticut remains the wealthiest state in the nation.

The notion that the “generosity” of the increased minimum wage allow many people to “lift themselves out of poverty” is beyond absurd.

However, yesterday’s performance was particularly insulting considering the “wage inflation” that has occurred among some of Malloy’s key allies and appointees.

One example of the double-standard can be found just down to street from the Capital at the Connecticut Board of Regents, the entity Malloy created when he pushed through the ill-conceived merger of the Connecticut State University and the Connecticut Community College System.

While Connecticut’s minimum wage earners wallow in their additional $18 more a week, Elsa Nunez, the Board of Regents’ Vice President of State Universities and President of Eastern Connecticut State University has seen her pay increase by $1,125 per week since Malloy become governor.

Nunez is one of the Board of Regent administrators who received the inappropriate and illegal bonuses that led to demise of the new agency’s president and executive vice president in 2012.  Although Nunez’ bonus was among those rescinded, it was later reinstated.

Despite Malloy’s record budget cuts to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities and the resulting massive tuition increases that have taken place, Nunez and other senior executives at the Board of Regents (and the University of Connecticut) have seen their salary and benefits grow and grow and grow.

Nunez, a Malloy ally in his corporate education reform initiative, is now making more than $377,000 this year, an increase of nearly 20% since Malloy took office.

And that salary doesn’t even include the massive compensation package that includes retirement funds, the use of a historic home in Ashford, Connecticut and a wide variety of other benefits.

With that as the background, it is hard to know what is more insulting.  Celebrating an $18 dollar a week increase in the minimum wage or claiming that, “As the clock strikes 12 in this state, many people … will actually lift themselves out of poverty.”

Connecticut: Poverty in the state with the highest per capita income

Connecticut Children living in Poverty

  • CT 2001          10.2% live in poverty (82,000)

  • CT 2012:        14.8% live in poverty (117,000)

According to a study conducted by Connecticut Voices for Children, the independent research and advocacy organization, “At the start of the Great Recession, Connecticut experienced the largest increase in child poverty of any state in the nation, rising from 7.9% in 2007 to 9.3% in 2008.  Data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that the official end of the Great Recession has had no real impact for the most vulnerable children in our state, who experienced a net increase in poverty from 2008 to 2012.

In fact, the number of children living in poverty has grown by almost 20% since 2008.

Just over a decade ago, Connecticut set an official policy goal of reducing child poverty by 50% over the next ten years.  Instead, child poverty has grown by nearly 50% since 2001.

n  Child poverty is the highest in our state’s urban areas: Hartford (53.1%), Waterbury (40.0%), New Haven (37.9%), Bridgeport (37.6%), New Britain (31.0%), Norwalk (13.0%), Danbury (11.0%) and Stamford (9.7%)

n  At 53.1%, Hartford has the highest child poverty rate of any city with a population of over 100,000 in the United States.

The prevalence of poverty among children varies significantly along racial and ethnic lines;

  • White children living in poverty in Connecticut = 5.8%
  • African American children living in poverty in Connecticut = 24%
  • Hispanic children living in poverty in Connecticut = 28%

Note that in 2012, the federal poverty threshold was $23,283 for a two-parent household with two children.

What does this data mean when it comes to improving academic performance in our state’s public schools?

Considering poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services are the three most important factors that influence standardized test scores; there can be no fundamental success when it comes to closing the “achievement gap” and “turning around” standardized test scores in Connecticut until we successfully confront that monumental influence that poverty is having on our children and their schools.

If so-called education advocates aren’t talking about combatting poverty and providing all poorer schools with the resources needed to help children overcome the effects of poverty then they aren’t true education advocates.

With well over 300-400 schools in “Alliance Districts,” (that is districts that are facing the greatest challenges); the solution is not cherry-picking 8-10 schools to become guinea pigs in the Commissioner’s Network experiment.

Instead, the Governor and General Assembly should be instituting systemic changes that ensure the State of Connecticut, and especially the State Department of Education, provide the resources and support necessary to help all the children in those Alliance Districts.

The policies being pushed by Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor are exactly the wrong solution for the very real problem facing many of our state’s school districts and the children that these districts have a constitutional obligation to serve.

Connecticut must re-do its education funding formula and develop real and effective teacher professional development programs rather than rely on the absurd notion that you can use test scores to force teachers out of the teaching profession and pummel those teachers who decide to remain.

Recognizing and accepting reality is the first step towards developing a solution.

And recognizing and accepting reality begins with the understanding that Connecticut, the state with the highest per capita income in the country is facing a major poverty crisis.

You can read more about the extremely disturbing trend in Connecticut at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-median-income-and-health-insurance-connecticut-summary-2012-american-community-


Wealthiest Americans donate 1.3% of their income; the poorest, 3.2%…

As so many religions celebrate this season of renewal and rebirth, it would seem that some among us have forgotten the core teachings and guidance of the Wise.  Whether those words come from the Holy Books or the Holy Visionaries, they follow a common theme;

“A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” – Proverbs 22: v 9

“For it is in giving that we receive.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“The believer is not the one who eats when his neighbor beside him is hungry.” – Prophet Muhammad

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

“The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.” – Lao Tzu

Yet according to a recent article in the Atlantic magazine, the wealthiest are often the stingiest.  In fact, you could call them miserly when it comes to paying their fair share in taxes and even more miserly when it comes to their level of generosity.

The article explains, “In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.”

Or as Paul Piff, a professor at the University of California – Berkeley wrote in a New York Magazine article, “The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people…more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

The Atlantic Magazine will leave you shaking your head as it reveals that the truth that surrounds us;

“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.”

Furthermore, the Atlantic writes, “More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).”

The full article can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/

The Parasites known as Charter Schools

Bruce Baker is a professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education at Rutgers.  He is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts on school financing.  He has written extensively on the subject, including serving as a lead author of the definitive graduate text book called Financing Education Systems.  He is also the author of a blog called School Finance 101.

A couple of days ago Baker posted a “MUST READ” article on his blog that drives home one of the most important points Wait, What? readers have been learning about over the past year.

Charter schools cream off the students.  They cream off students because they are trying to get the “right students” so that can “produce higher standardized test scores” so they can continue to mislead government, foundations and wealthy donors to give them money.

Then, when their test scores come out, they completely fail to explain that those scores are not a product of the quality of the education these schools provide, but are a direct result of selective, discriminatory enrollment policies they have and their increasingly well-known system of forcing out (often called migrating out) those students that won’t produce the results they want.

While Baker’s latest blog looks at charter schools in multiple states, the Connecticut data he presents makes the strongest case yet for the intentional fraud being perpetrated on Connecticut’s public schools, our students, teachers, state government and taxpayers.

You can read Backer’s full article here (see link), but the key Connecticut findings are as follows;

Using data from the State Department of Education and the NCES Common Core, Baker summed the “total number of public & charter school enrolled children by City (school location in CCD) and the total numbers of free lunch, ELL and special education enrolled children.”

Here is a chart highlighting the data – and once again – the data makes the situation absolutely clear.

We know the greatest predictors of standardized test score performance are poverty, language barriers and special education needs.  We also know that in case after case after case after case, Connecticut’s charter school educate children that are less poor, have far less language barriers and need fewer special education services.


Student Demographics  Charter Schools Vs. The City those schools are in

In fact, Connecticut’s charter schools are particularly brutal on locking out students who are not fluent in English – which are usually the children who come from homes where English is not the primary language.

If Charter schools educate children who are less poor, have fewer language barriers and few special education needs, they will, by default, end up with high standardized test scores.

So what has Governor Malloy, Education Commission Pryor, the Connecticut Board of Education and the Connecticut General Assembly done?

They have given more funds to those that are discriminating while making things worse for the schools that are actually trying to what every child deserves under the Connecticut Constitution – a few, high quality, public education.

As Dr. Bruce Baker puts it, “In a heterogeneous urban schooling environment, the more individual schools or groups of schools engage in behavior that cream skims off children who are less poor, less fewer language barriers, far less likely to have a disability to begin with, and unlikely at all to have a severe disability, the higher the concentration of these children left behind in district schools.(see for example:http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/effects-of-charter-enrollment-on-newark-district-enrollment/).

Baker goes on to speak the absolute truth when he said, “…with independent charter expansion, districts lose the ability to even try to manage the balance. Sadly, what may initially have been conceived of as a symbiotic relationship between charter and district schools is increasingly becoming parasitic!

In a “competitive marketplace” of schooling within a geographic space, under this incentive structure, the goal is to be that school which most effectively cream skims – without regard for who you are leaving behind for district schools or other charters to serve – while best concealing the cream-skimming – and while ensuring lack of financial transparency for making legitimate resource comparisons.”

Baker calls the impact the “Collateral Damage of the Parasitic Chartering Model” and writes, “In previous posts I showed how the population cream-skimming effect necessarily leads to an increasingly disadvantaged student population left behind in district schools. High need, urban districts that are hosts to increasing shares of cream-skimming charters become increasingly disadvantaged over time in terms of the students they must serve.”

Baker’s post goes into far greater detail.

He uses the data to explain and highlight the problem.

It is an issue Wait, What? readers know well.

And if the policies are left unchanged, it will be the legacy that haunts Governor Malloy and those who support the discriminatory policies that are undermining our schools and destroying our public education system.

Read the full post here:  http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/from-portfolios-to-parasites-the-unfortunate-path-of-u-s-charter-school-policy/

Windham’s Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy: The problem is even greater than it first appeared

As noted in previous Wait, What? posts, Windham, Connecticut’s Board of Education is building the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy.  Seventy percent of the students at the new K-8 STEM magnet school are scheduled to come from Windham and thirty percent from adjoining towns.

Over the past few days we’ve been on a mission to track down the source and meaning of a clause in the Magnet School’s Operating Agreement that says, “New students entering beyond grade 3 must be reading at grade level.” 

The staff at the State Department of Education refused repeated requests to explain the source and meaning of that language.  Then, the staff at the Windham Schools refused to explain the source and meaning of that language.

Finally, in response to a letter I sent yesterday to a wide variety of Windham education officials, the Chairman of the Windham Board of Education took the time to provide an answer to my question.

While I appreciate his willingness to respond to my request for public information, his answer highlights a situation that is even worse than I had originally imagined.

Connecticut’s education laws and policies state that, “No student may be denied enroll­ment because of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, genetics, age, religion or any other basis.”

In addition, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that Article eighth, § 1 of the State Constitution guarantees all students an adequate education.  As a plurality of the justices explained in the state’s most important education case, the state of Connecticut must provide “an education suitable to give them the opportunity to be responsible citizens able to participate fully in democratic institutions, such as jury service and voting… [and] to progress to institutions of higher education, or to attain productive employment and otherwise contribute to the state’s economy.”

However, the response I received from the Chairman of the Windham Board of Education makes clear that the sign outside the Windham STEM Magnet will say, in essence, “The poor, minorities, non-English speaking students and students who need special education services need not apply.

How has this outrage come to pass?

The Windham Board Chairman’s letter explained that the language I quoted – New students entering beyond grade 3 must be reading at grade level” – only applies to students who transfer into the STEM Magnet School after the 2nd Grade.

He wrote, “It does not apply to ANY student applying to enroll in initial classes during the startup period nor to students applying to pre-school or kindergarden once the school is fully enrolled.”

The Chairman added, “Once the school is fully enrolled, the only new students will be the annual entering pre-K class and children who transfer into openings that result from students who leave the district or choose to transfer to another school. Students who transfer into grades 4 to 8 will be expected to meet the required STEM standard; however, no admitted student will be dismissed from the school because they are not reading at grade level by the end of grade three or thereafter. Instead, resources will be directed as required to assist students to achieve and maintain reading at grade level.”

So as long as a parent with a child entering Pre-Kindergarten know that their child wants to attend a Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) Magnet School, they will not have to prove that their child can read at grade level and will be provided support services if they have reading issues later in their school career.

In addition, if openings exist, children attending kindergarten or first through third grades can transfer into the school or move into the community and attend the school without proving they are at grade level.

However, after third grade the public school WILL NOT ALLOW any child to transfer into the program who doesn’t read at grade level.

Apparently, the reason this policy is in place is because someone has decided that reading at grade level is necessary to be successful at a Science, Technology, and Engineering & Math (STEM) Magnet School.

But of course, reading at grade level is a result of a wide variety of factors that don’t have anything to do with intelligence or future ability.

As with test scores, poverty, a lack of fluency in English and special education needs are the greatest predictors of test scores and those same factors correlate with the likelihood that a child may not be reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.

These factors, and others, are not related to intelligence or an ability to succeed and to imply that they do is ridiculous and disgusting.  

But one thing we definitely know and that is that study after study reveals that those reading below grade level are overwhelmingly students who are poor, Black, Latino or those who have special education needs.

The people who inserted this language into the new Windham STEM operating agreement can say what they want, but a policy that prohibits children from transferring into this public school if they are not reading at grade level is defacto discrimination against the poor, minorities, those who aren’t fluent in English and those who need special education services.

As the Connecticut Supreme Court wrote in the Sheff decision, “Racial and ethnic segregation has a pervasive and invidious impact on schools, whether the segregation results from intentional conduct or from unorchestrated demographic factors.”

Whether intentional or not, the policy about the 3rd grade reading requirement at the Charles H. Barrows STEM Academy forces a discriminatory outcome and has no place in the public education system of Connecticut.

More than 73 percent of Windham’s students receive free or subsidized lunches.  70 percent of Windham’s students are minorities, 35 percent of Windham’s students go home to households in which English is not the spoken language, 25 percent of the students are not fluent in English and 16 percent of students need special education services.

If the Windham STEM Magnet’s discriminatory policies are allowed to stand, the vast majority of Windham students will be prevented from attending the Magnet unless they happen to get in early enough to sidestep what amounts to an unfair and discriminatory regulation.

The impact of this policy is equally upsetting for parents in neighboring towns who might want to make use of this new STEM Magnet School. 

The policy ramification is clear.  No matter how interested you and your child may be in attending a Science, Technology, Engineering & Math program, they will be prohibited from transferring into the Windham STEM Magnet, even if there is room, if they aren’t reading at grade level.

They can get the support services they need, as long as they stay in their home district school, and give up their desire to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering or Math.

In Connecticut, interdistrict magnet schools receive special funding BECAUSE they are supposed to “reduce, eliminate or prevent the racial, ethnic or economic isolation of public school students while offering a high-quality curriculum that sup­ports educational improvement.”

The Windham STEM Magnet has begun to recruit students for next fall, and yet a discriminatory, outrageous, insulting and disgusting policy has been put in place.

The policy must be removed – immediately – and the question of who was behind this inappropriate effort must be investigated and appropriate action taken to ensure that the person or persons are not in a position to develop more policies of this nature.

The burden to act rests on the Governor, the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, Windham’s Special Master and the Windham Board of Education.

If they refuse to take any action, a lawsuit should be filed against these entities and their members to force the repeal of this discriminatory and outrageous policy.