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

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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

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

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

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

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

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (by Sarah Darer Littman)

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Charter Advocates Give New Meaning To ‘Chutzpah’ (CT Newsjunkie)

Sarah Darer Littman, pro-public school advocate, award winning columnist and parent has written one of the most powerful commentary pieces about the state of the state when it comes to the Charter School Industry and how the Malloy administration has allowed tens of millions in taxpayer funds to be diverted to people and companies that are literally felons, liars and cheats.

If there is one article to read about Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and the rise of the corporate education reform movement in Connecticut, this is the one.

Sarah Darer Littman writes,

The traditional definition of chutzpah  is someone who kills his mother and father and then claims being an orphan as a mitigating circumstance.

I’ve been reminded of this word constantly as the FUSE/Jumoke charter scandal unfolded over the last two weeks.

L’Affaire Sharpe has been quite astonishing, because as a mere mortal, not a Crony of Dan Malloy or part of the Charter Chicanery Circus, I underwent more due diligence than Sharpe to become a creative writing instructor for an after-school program at one of the local elementary schools for the non-hefty fee of a few hundred bucks.

To teach this Afters program, run by the Cos Cob Elementary School PTA, I had to undergo a criminal background check.

Last year, when I was hired as an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and we know how well adjuncts are paid), before my appointment was confirmed I underwent another criminal background check, and also had to have my transcript sent from the institution where I’d received my Masters Degree. Funnily enough, it was New York University, the educational establishment where Michael Sharpe received his fictional doctorate.

Yet the members of the state Board of Education, all appointed or re-appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, required no such due diligence before forking over $53 million of our taxpayer dollars to “Doctor” Sharpe’s organization. Just to make things even cozier, Gov. Malloy appointed FUSE’s chief operating officer, Andrea Comer, to the state Board of Education. Comer resigned earlier this week, in order to avoid being a “distraction.” I’m afraid it’s a little too late for that.”

Every word of Sarah Darer Littman’s CTNewsjunkie commentary piece paints the ugly story surrounding Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Pryor’s hand-picked employees and high-paid consultants and the State Board of Education.

In addition, Littman traces the relationship to no-nothing policy makers who have allowed scarce public resources to be squandered on the make-a-fast-buck industry that has been the foundation of Malloy’s education reform effort.

As you read Littman’s piece, remember that these are the same people who have forced the Common Core on our children, promoted the absurd, unfair and expensive Common Core testing scheme and the equally absurd, unfair and wasteful new teacher evaluation program.

No amount of political spin coming from Malloy or his education reform industry allies will disguise the fact that by introducing a bill to do away with teacher tenure and repeal collective bargaining rights for teachers in “turnaround schools,” Malloy became the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation.

As Sarah Darer Littman concludes,

“I guess no one in Hartford was watching the cookie jar — too much cronyism and not enough good government.”

You can find this MUST READ piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_charter_advocates_give_new_meaning_to_chutzpah/

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

Libraries are so overrated… (Not)

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My children’s high school has a library and full-time library staff.  Their middle school had a library and a full-time librarian; even their elementary school had a library with a librarian.

But as a result of inadequate state funding (and outright stupidity on the part of some of our elected officials), many Connecticut children are attending schools that don’t have libraries or librarians.

In her latest CTNewsjunkie commentary piece entitled, College, Career and Democracy ready? Not without a trained librarian, fellow public-education advocate Sarah Darer Littman reveals the growing crisis of libraries in public schools.

Sarah Darer Littman opens here incredible piece with the following,

I had a conversation recently with a Connecticut politician in which I’d asked him if we truly care about literacy and improving reading skills, why are we spending so much money on testing while schools that most need functioning libraries don’t have any? Or if they do have a school library, why don’t they have up-to-date materials or a qualified media specialist to put the right book in the hands of a child at the right time?

When I’d asked the question, this politician asked me if research existed to justify the salary of a media specialist.

Littman goes on to examine the research about the efficacy of libraries, collects updates from Connecticut school librarians and reports that,

The sad fact is that in the districts that need them most, we are seeing school libraries underfunded or zero funded, and endorsed school librarian hours cut or eliminated.

Business leaders want our kids to be “college and career ready.” I want that but more, I want them to be life ready, with the socio-emotional and media literacy skills that they’ll need to be good citizens in our democracy.

It doesn’t look like our kids will be getting these skills under the self-styled, “Education Governor.”

The truth is that Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece should be required reading for every public official.

Why?

Because as Littman explains

Students can’t be ready for college, career, and democracy without being taught these important [library] skills. Handing them a shiny Chromebook and testing them more isn’t going to do the trick. Politicians from Washington on down need to recognize that current education policy is deeply flawed and must be revised before we waste more taxpayer money and send more children into the world woefully unprepared.

Take the time to read this important piece at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_college_career_and_democracy_ready_not_without_a_trained_librarian/

Kneecapped’ Malloy Has Only Himself to Blame

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Last night, Democratic Party leaders and delegates met to re-nominate Dannel “Dan” Malloy to run for a second term as Connecticut’s Governor.

Having won by 6,400 out of more than 1.1 million votes cast four years ago, the most recent public opinion poll indicates that only 44 percent of Connecticut voters think Malloy deserves to be re-elected.

Over the past four years, the percent who say Malloy should get another four years in office has never risen above 45 percent.

Compare that to New York where 59 percent of voters think Andrew Cuomo should get another term as that state’s governor.

In her latest CT News Junkie commentary piece, award winning columnist Sarah Darer Littman returns to the issue of whether it is a good idea to have 3rd party candidates or whether dissatisfied voters should simply “suck it up” and choose between what they are offered by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Littman, in here piece entitled,”Kneecapped’ Malloy Has Only Himself to Blame,” writes;

As the Democrats go to their convention, presumably to re-nominate Malloy as their candidate for governor, they should consider this: at a time where money dominates politics, the one thing citizens have left to us to attempt to level the playing field — in the fact only thing — is our vote. If the candidates from the two major parties are a choice between the devil you know, and the devil you know enough about to not want to vote for (the need to reform Connecticut’s closed primary system to break the two party stranglehold is the topic for another column), then choosing to vote for a third party isn’t being “spoiler.” It’s called exercising one’s constitutional right to vote. If Connecticut Democrats are so worried about losing, perhaps they should think about nominating a more electable candidate.

In response to Littman’s observation, many Democratic Party leaders insist that any diversion from a vote for Malloy is nothing more than a vote to plunge Connecticut into the hands of a right-wing, Republican governor.

And for his part, Malloy tried to use his convention speech to paint a rosy picture of his accomplishments.

“In a speech to the delegates, Malloy pointed to fiscal progress achieved since he took office in 2011…”

  • But Governor Malloy failed to fess up to the fact that his latest gimmick laden budget leaves Connecticut with a $1.4 billion budget deficient next year and his pledge never to accept or propose any tax increase in a second term ensures that Connecticut will be facing drastic cuts while the wealthy continue to get away from having to pay their fair share.

And

“On Friday night, [Malloy} touted a budget investing an additional $237 million dollars in education.”

  • But the Governor failed to admit that he used those scarce funds to push his corporate education reform industry agenda that includes privatizing public schools, taking away local control, implementing the Common Core and its massive Common Core testing scheme, and diverting scarce funds to charter schools rather than actually helping Connecticut’s public school system.

And

Malloy summed up what he called his successful term in office by saying, “This isn’t just my record, this is your record, too. It’s the people of Connecticut’s record because it was their sacrifice that allowed us to begin turning our state around.”

  • But Malloy simply skipped over the fact that his definition of “shared sacrifice” was one in which Connecticut’s middle class families faced higher income tax rates while those making more than $1 million a year walked away without having to pay more in income taxes.

And

Top labor leaders used the Democratic convention to speak out on behalf of Malloy’s re-election campaign.  For example, the former head of the AFL-CIO said he thinks that “Malloy has an extraordinary record with the labor movement.”

  • But the truth is Malloy’s “education reform” bill was the most anti-teacher, anti-union legislation proposed by any Democratic governor in the nation.  Malloy’s bill eliminated collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround schools, called for the destruction of teacher tenure and shifted public funds from schools with unions to schools that have kept employees from unionizing.

As Sarah Darer Littman reiterates, as Governor ramps up his 2014 campaign for re-election, he only has himself to blame for the anger and frustration felt by tens of thousands of voters who cast their ballot for him in the 2010 gubernatorial election.  The fact that he faces likely defeat rests on his shoulders, not on those who want a candidate that they can proudly support.

You can read Littman’s piece here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/oped_kneecapped_malloy_has_only_himself_to_blame/

For more on the Democratic Convention go to: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_nominated_to_second_term/ and http://ctmirror.org/democrats-insist-drama-free-state-convention-wont-sap-their-enthusiasm/ and http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-democratic-convention-20140516,0,1771967.story

‘The Other Guy is Worse’ Is A Tired Strategy (By Sarah Darer Littman)

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In her latest CT News Junkie commentary, fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman confronts THE ISSUE that faces Connecticut voters in 2014.  Are we left with the “choice” of voting for one candidate over another — because we are told the other is “worse” or do we break out of the trap that the two major political parties have created and demand choices that allow us to actually vote for someone we support.

As Sarah Darer Littman explains,

During the 2012 presidential campaign, I got a phone call from Obama for America asking for money. At the time I was still a registered Democrat, and I’d given frequently during the 2008 campaign, so the ask wasn’t a stretch.

But things had changed since 2008, particularly in an issue of great importance to me.

“I’m sorry — I will not give anything to Barack Obama until he commits to getting rid of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education,” I told the operator. “Please feel free to pass that message on.”

He persisted, with this line: “But Mitt Romney will be worse.”

That’s when I went ballistic. By the end of my rant, in which I told him just how very sick I was of Democrats asking me for money over the years using that pathetic, negative argument, he probably would have preferred if I’d just hung up on him.

When it comes to my potential run for governor, Littman observes,

That attitude has become even more apparent since April 18, when Neil Vigdor reported that former state representative and Wait What? blogger Jonathan Pelto might be considering a third party or independent run for governor. Instead of acknowledging there are real problems with their candidate, the Dems are doubling down on the “you have nowhere else to go” message. And instead of looking at why there is support for what would surely be a long-shot Pelto bid — a bid that is being fed by the widespread anger at Malloy that has people considering voting for a third party candidate and which might affect the broader Democratic ticket — they are instead focusing their energies on propaganda and attacks on Pelto. Nothing we haven’t seen before from the Malloy folks. Remember the infamous John DeStefano in a dress ad?

Littman closes with,

The Democratic Party needs to take a good long look in the mirror. If they decide to stick with the “status quo” and re-nominate Dan Malloy at the upcoming convention, they should seriously consider how that’s going to affect the ability to get an angry and frustrated electorate out to vote. “The other guy is worse” isn’t a winning strategy, and they’ll only have themselves to blame for losses in November.

Sarah Darer Littman’s latest commentary piece truly confronts the fundamental question of 2014.

Is choosing a candidate because the other may be worse really a choice?

You can read Littman’s important and powerful piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_other_guy_is_worse_is_a_tired_strategy/

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

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Here we go again!

Instead of fulfilling their legal, moral and ethical duty as a superintendent of a public school system in Connecticut, yet another public school superintendent has decided to join the Malloy’s administration’s ongoing efforts to mislead Connecticut parents into thinking that they do not have a right to opt their children out of the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test.

This time it is Greenwich Superintendent William McKersie.

Yesterday, April 24, 2014, Superintendent McKersie sent a letter to Greenwich parents, students and teachers saying;

Over the past several days, there has been discussion about students being able to “opt out” of the Smarter Balanced Field Test.  One or more unofficial flyers…have been circulating in the district and at Greenwich High School.

Let me be crystal clear:  Per Federal and State regulations, students do not have an “opt out” option with the Smarter Balanced Field Test.

With that letter, Greenwich’s superintendent of schools has decided to knowingly and intentionally mislead the parents that are paying his salary and the students that he is obligated to protect.

In response to Superintendent Mckersie’s outrageous letter, public education advocate, award-winning columnist, and Greenwich parent, Sarah Darer Littman, wrote a letter to the members of the Greenwich Board of Education that stated,

I would like to draw your attention to the underlined phrases in Superintendent McKersie’s email, which was sent to parents of Greenwich Public School students earlier today. I assume you are aware of this memo. Are you also aware that the information Supt. McKersie gave out to parents is patently untrue?

Let me be crystal clear: There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests. If you would like confirmation of this, please watch the video below, in which State Board of Education Chairman Allen Taylor confirmed this point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY

I question why the superintendent, who is being paid with our taxpayer dollars, is lying to parents, and my question to you is: Did the Greenwich Board of Education condone this dissemination of false information?

 

Sarah Darer Littman is absolutely correct…There is NO legal provision to prevent parents from opting out of the SBAC field tests.

As many readers know having read the following Wait, What? posts,

Pryor: Enough! Read the statute and back off the lie that students must take the common core test

Malloy, Pryor, Superintendents – Stop lying about the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field!

Connecticut parents – Don’t let them lie to you on opting your children out of the Standardized Testing frenzy

And Who on earth would require HS juniors to take the Common Core Field Test in the spring?

Here are the facts;

First, as Littman explains, the chairman of the State Board of Education admitted – on tape – that parents have the right top opt their children out of the Common Core test.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLm9gaCkNjY.)

Second, Commissioner Pryor office sent out a memo late last year instructing superintendents on how to mislead parents into thinking they could not opt their children out, but even that memo ended with the instruction that;

[IF] “Parent writes back to the district a letter explaining that they have read and understood the district’s letter, but insist that the child not be tested.”

[THEN] “In these cases, the district generally does not test the student and the student is counted as “absent” (for purposes of testing)…”

(See http://www.scribd.com/doc/206539705/Connecticut-State-Department-of-Education-on-Opt-Out-State-Testing-Requests-2014.)

 

Third, the law that Pryor and now Greenwich Superintendent McKersie are claiming requires that public schools conduct the “Mastery Test” is Section 10-14n of the Connecticut State Statutes.  However, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a tests is, by its own definition, not a Mastery Test as defined under the law so under no circumstance does that law apply to this year’s Common Core testing scheme.  [And even if it did, the law fails to give school districts any authority to punish parents of students for opting out].

Fourth, the reference to federal law limiting parental rights is totally inaccurate.  There is absolutely nothing in federal law preventing parents from opting their children out of standardized test.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and superintendents like William McKersie need to stop lying to Connecticut’s parents and students about the Common Core and its related testing.

In this case, Greenwich Superintendent McKersie needs to issue an apology and inform Greenwich parents and students that his recent letter was wrong.

If he fails to take that appropriate step, then on behalf of the parents and students of Greenwich, the town’s elected representatives should demand McKersie’s resignation.

Another MUST READ column – Are Wall Street Values Right for Schools?

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Fellow public school advocate and award-winning columnist Sarah Darer Littman had another “MUST READ” column posted on this past weekend’s CT News junkie website.

Sarah Darer Littman reminded readers that while Governor Malloy and the corporate education reform industry are fond of claiming their reforms are all about the children, the reality is far from that.

Here piece traces the “education reformers” and their on-going effort to bringing Wall Street values to our local public schools.  Her column could also have been entitled, “Beware: Their preoccupation with data is destroying our schools.”

Littman reminds readers that President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently said,

 “Data is an essential ingredient in the school reform agenda. We need to follow the progress of children from preschool to high school and from high school to college and college to career to see whether they are on-track for success . . . I look forward to the day when we can look a child in the eye at the age of eight or nine or 10 and say, ‘You are on track to succeed in colleges and careers.’ . . . Data systems are a vital ingredient of a statewide reform system . . . Data can help us unleash the power of research to advance reform in every school and classroom in America. Data can help us identify the teachers and principals all across America who are producing miracles in the classroom every day . . . Data can help us identify outdated policies and practices that need to change so our children will succeed in school and in the workforce.”

And she added Bill Gates’ comment that,

“Aligning teaching with the common core — and building common data standards — will help us define excellence, measure progress, test new methods, and compare results. Finally, we will apply the tools of science to school reform.”

But then Littman turned to the real experts, the ones who actually understand that value and role of data.

In this case it was the American Statistical Association, one of the nation’s leading academic experts on the role of data and statistics.  The organization recently blasted the education reformers and their failure to recognize the very real problems associated with their junk science.

All of those who are fighting to save our schools should definitely read Sarah Darer Littman’s latest piece which can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_are_wall_street_values_right_for_schools/

When you read it, you’ll also find that Littman ended her column with a paragraph worth clipping and saving.  She wrote,

Teaching is a collaborative profession, something that the current administration and the billionaires who guide its actions don’t appear to understand. What’s more, as parents we want our children to receive a well-rounded education that prepares them not just to be “college and career ready” but to be life ready — to develop the critical thinking skills, the creativity, the social skills, and the ability to advocate for themselves that they’ll need as citizens in what’s left of our democracy post-Citizens United and McCutcheon. Perhaps that’s what the billionaires are afraid of?

Teacher Barth Keck adds his voice to the debate about the Common Core and related testing

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As Connecticut’s public school students begin taking the Common Core Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test this week, more and more serious questions are being raised about the Common Core and its associated testing charade.

As evidenced during the recent public hearing held by the General Assembly’s Education Committee, apologists for the Common Core and Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiatives desperately defend the indefensible policies related to the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test and the absurd teacher evaluation system.

At the recent hearing, the most irrational support for Malloy’s education reforms came from Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and organizations such as the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

CABE and CAPSS are two examples of groups that are funded in large part by taxpayer funds but rather than spend their resources protecting Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers, school administrators and taxpayers they are kowtowing to an increasingly unpopular governor and his increasingly unpopular so-called “education reforms.”

This weekend’s trifecta of columns about the failures of Malloy’s education reforms include Wendy Lecker’s “Charter school pitch not about helping community,” Sarah Darer Littman’s “Politicians Underestimate Common Core Opposition at Their Peril” and Connecticut teacher Barth Keck’s column entitled, Criticism of Common Core Is A Misunderstanding That Will ‘Dissipate’ After Adoption?.”  

The commentary piece Barth Keck wrote in this week’s CT NewsJunkie lays out some of the most profound issues.

Keck writes,

“To listen to the leaders of the leaders of Connecticut public schools, the controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards is merely a misunderstanding that will be clarified once the standards are adopted.

Bob Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said “there’s a lot of misinformation about the teacher evaluation system and how it’s going to work together with the Common Core,” according to a CTNewsJunkie report.

“What we’re trying to do is give a little cooling off period so we can implement Common Core,” Rader said during the legislature’s hearing on March 12. “Then I think you’ll see this all dissipate.”

Regarding a survey that found 97 percent of Connecticut teachers “believed there should be some sort of moratorium on the implementation of the standards,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said that he didn’t know where “the approximately 1,500 teachers surveyed by the Connecticut Education Association came from because that’s not what he’s hearing from the leaders of school districts.”

Note to Mr. Cirasuolo: I know where at least one of them came from.

What we have here is a classic case of “decoupling.” That is, proponents of the Common Core have separated themselves from the pushback simply because it’s an impediment to their agenda.

“Moratorium says to me: You stop,” said Cirasuolo. “All of that just stops. Our members are saying, ‘We can’t do that. What do we do if we stop? Do we go back and get the stuff we used to use four years ago?’ You’re not going to improve a process if you stop it.”

Cirasuolo’s attitude is mirrored at the national level.

“The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress, so broadly represented of beliefs in the educational community,” writes respected author and literacy expert Thomas Newkirk in a must-read essay, “that they cease to be even debatable.”

Problem is, adds Newkirk, these bold attitudes “hide their controversial edges.”

Newkirk outlines multiple reasons why — despite the self-assurance of Common Core supporters — the current resistance should not be so readily dismissed.

For one, many standards are “developmentally inappropriate.”

“[T]he CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm,” writes Newkirk. “What had once been an expectation for fourth graders [has] become the standard for second graders, as in this example:

Write informative/explanatory texts in which they [i.e., second graders] introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points and provide a concluding statement.

“Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.”

Newkirk also has concerns about the connection between standardized testing and the Common Core, a situation that ultimately limits what is taught: “These tests will give operational reality to the standards — in effect they will become the standards; there will be little incentive to teach to skills that are not tested.”

Perhaps most significantly, the full-speed-ahead attitude of the CCSS proponents “drowns out” all other educational discussions.

Explains Newkirk: “The principle of opportunity costs prompts us to ask: ‘What conversations won’t we be having?’ Since the CCSS virtually ignore poetry, will we cease to speak about it? What about character education, service learning? What about fiction writing in the upper high school grades? What about the arts that are not amenable to standardized testing? What about collaborative learning, an obvious twenty-first-century skill? We lose opportunities when we cease to discuss these issues and allow the CCSS to completely set the agenda, when the only map is the one it creates.”

The history of our country is filled with examples of cognitive dissonance created by people who question the so-called “conventional wisdom.” Newkirk cites Martin Luther King, Jr., who stated in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that it is never “untimely” in a democracy to scrutinize policies.

The leaders of the leaders of our public schools would do well to remember this lesson. King’s “Letter,” after all, is included in Common Core Standard 10 as a “Text Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading 6-12.”

You can read Barth Keck’s full column at CT NewsJunkie by clicking here:  Criticism of Common Core Is A Misunderstanding That Will ‘Dissipate’ After Adoption?

Another MUST READ comment from the Wait,What? reader known as jrp1900

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One of yesterday’s Wait,What? posts was entitled, “Election Year: Incumbent or challenger – You MUST READ this column.” The article re-posted a column written by Sarah Darer Littman and began with the statement.

In a stunning piece written by pro-public education advocate and CT Newsjunkie columnist Sarah Darer Littman, Connecticut’s elected officials and anyone considering running for office are provided with a MUST READ substantive, educational and powerful piece entitled, “Politicians Underestimate Common Core Opposition at Their Peril (by Sarah Darer Littman).

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece generated a number of incredibly thoughtful comments both on CT Newsjunkie and here at Wait, What?

One of the most powerful came from jrp1900, an extraordinarily articulate parent whose children attend one of Connecticut’s urban school districts.

jp1900 wrote,

It was Alexander Pope who said: “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” The truth of Pope’s observation can be seen in certain aspects of the Common Core ELA standards.

To be fair, the standards are not uniformly bad: the authors recognize that text complexity is a crucial matter and that it has to be approached in grade-specific ways, as a child’s mind is constantly developing.

The unfortunate thing about the ELA standards is that they are too heavily weighted towards non-fiction, and thus they give short shrift to more imaginative literary creations.

And it may well be that in the lower grades, the standards are too exacting, asking for certain kinds of knowledge that a child is unlikely to have under any circumstance. In this regard, some of the standards are open to the charge of being developmentally inappropriate.

It seems that the authors of the Common Core (leaving aside the politics for a moment) were moved by a scientific model of educational psychology. In the background to the standards are certain assumptions about cognitive and emotional development in growing children.

And here is where we run into the dangers of a “little learning”; it is assumed that the prototypical child develops “naturally,” and not socially, and that, in principle, what works in the Upper West Side should also work in East Harlem.

But as pointed out by Sarah Darer Littman in her powerful essay, real children in the real world face very different challenges. In the context of social inequality, common standards are insidious precisely to the degree that they lead away from thinking about social matters.

Once you have common standards, you have to have a “no excuses” philosophy of the school, because the very idea of the common standards supposes that there are no real uncommon differences worth talking about.

As Sarah Darer Littman notes, this kind of wishful thinking is preposterous and, more to the point, it is devastating to the well-being of poor children, who end up being labeled (by educational science!) as “failing students.”

I am convinced that while education theory may have scientific moments, and while it might well be able to draw upon some scientific methods, at bottom, in terms of an essential significance, education theory is closer to the humanities than to the social sciences. For Plato, for John Locke, for Bertrand Russell and Maria Montessori, education theory was a branch of moral philosophy, because its central concern is the developing human person. Today, this insight has been lost.

The Common Core authors pay some respect to the humanistic tradition of education, but they are ready to sacrifice it for a science of learning wherein all children can be accurately–meaning mathematically–assessed. They seem not to realize that a standard approach implies that you are dealing with standardized children. This is surely the biggest flaw of the whole scientific outlook.

When Ms. Littman writes of the “qualitative difference” in instructional time after the advent of the Common Core, it is not by chance that her complaint centers on quality. The scientism embraced by the corporate reformers knows nothing of quality. Quality is about value, taste, feel, experience, aesthetics.

None of this can be quantified. None of this can measured. The corporate reformers therefore assume that quality is meaningless or even unreal. But to abolish quality, or even to assault it, is to rob education of its very humanistic aspects. No wonder children are bored to tears by quantitative standardized tests!

The triumph of quantity over quality, of “facts” over value, of “science” over poetry, is comically revealed in Ms. Littman’s discussion of the Lexile Framework for Reading. The Lexile model is explicitly (notoriously?) quantitative. It is not an instrument that is very useful for talking about quality.

Thus, it may not be all that surprising that “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has a higher lexile rating than Ray Bradbury. Apparently, Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” scores higher than Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” Such ridiculous results are a direct outcome of ignoring quality–that is to say, questions of content, context, meaning and significance. For example, it’s well known that Hemingway deliberately sought to limit his diction in texts for specific aesthetic and philosophical purposes.

The lexile computer can do nothing with, because it does not even recognize that such a choice has been made, let alone the reasons behind it. All the computer can do is read the words and sentences “on the page.” Obviously, this is not REAL reading. As Ms. Littman says, by basing their notion of text complexity on the lexile framework, the Common Core authors court utter absurdity.

For me, the following is the most important observation in Ms. Littman’s essay: the Common Core standards are largely about “testing for a benefit that accrues to testing companies rather than our children.”

AMEN!

The two “MUST READ” columns of the weekend

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Fellow pro-pubic education advocates and commentators have done it again – with two more MUST READ pieces.

Sarah Darer Littman with “The Brave New World of being ‘College and Career Ready

and

Wendy Lecker with “A crisis of low standards

Wendy Lecker writes,

Not poverty. Not inadequate resources. Not toxic stress. Not segregation. According to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, low standards are the cause of America’s educational disparities. The solution, he maintains, is national standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the accompanying national tests.

“For far too long,” Duncan declared, “our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” Duncan claimed states’ low standards made “educators, administrators and especially politicians” look good but did not prepare students for the rigors of college work.

Before the Common Core, according to Duncan, high school success was a “lie” — it certainly did not mean that students were “college ready.”

What a compelling, but false, narrative. A new peer-reviewed longitudinal nationwide study confirmed that the most reliable predictor of cumulative college GPA and college graduation is a student’s high school GPA.

Read the Wendy Lecker’s entire piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-crisis-of-low-standards-5298374.php

 

Sarah Darer Littman writes;

One of the oft-stated goals of education reform is to ensure that students are “college and career ready.” Like “excellence,” it’s probably one of the most over-used phrases in the education reform movement.

But as I’ve asked before,  what does this phrase really mean? Do our policy makers even know? Judging by their actions of late, I’m starting to think they don’t.

On March 18, the window opens for field tests of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the computer-based adaptive test that will go live next year to replace the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).

SBAC, or the Smarter Balanced Consortium, is one of the two consortiums that states have signed up with to develop new assessment systems for the Common Core State Standards. Funded by a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (which runs out in September of this year), SBAC claims its system “will measure mastery of the Common Core State Standards and provide timely information about student achievement and progress toward college and career readiness.”

But there’s a slight catch. They haven’t yet defined “college and career ready.”

“The Consortium also will establish performance benchmarks that define the level of content and skill mastery that marks students as college- and career-ready. These performance benchmarks will be determined through a deliberative and evidence-based standard-setting process, which will include input from K-12 educators and college and university faculty,” the website says. “Preliminary performance standards will be established in 2014 after student data have been collected through pilot and field testing. Following the Field Test in spring 2014, the Consortium will conduct standard setting for the summative assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 in ELA/literacy and mathematics. These performance standards will be validated in July/August 2015 using spring 2015 operational data.”

So basically the people who are pushing Common Core — Mssrs. Gates, Obama, Duncan et al, need our kids to be lab rats for this project, while their kids are safely ensconced in private schools, immune from such pedestrian concerns.

What does being an unpaid test subject for SBAC entail, exactly?

Sarah Darer Littman’s entire piece can be found at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready/

As Wait, What? readers know, Wendy and Sarah are playing the pivotal role in the battle against the corporate education reform industry and in the on-going effort to re-take control of our public education system.

Please take the time to read these two key commentary pieces.

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