Achievement First Inc. pledged to do better with special education students but didn’t

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Last week, Achievement First Inc. the large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island was hit with a lawsuit about its failure to fulfill its legal obligation to special education students at its Crown Heights, New York Charter School.

It was only two years ago that a Hartford Courant headline read, “Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.” The paper added, “Civil Rights Complaint Said Too Often Students With Disabilities Suspended, Given Demerits.”

The complaint against Achievement First Hartford was filed by Greater Hartford Legal Aid against Achievement First’s Connecticut operation.  The lawsuit alleged;

“Achievement First’s failure to provide accommodations, modifications, and specialized instruction per 504 plans or IEPs, and AF’s pervasive discriminatory discipline practices violated violate federal and state law.”

The specific allegations included Achievement First’s violation of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.

Following a federal investigation, Achievement First, Inc. signed a “Voluntary Resolution Agreement” on May 30, 2013 in which it promised to do a better job providing students with services and improving training for administrators, teachers and staff to ensure with special education requirements were treated appropriately.

Among the long list of action items in the Resolution Agreement was the overhaul of Achievement First Inc.’s “School Culture Manual” so that parents not only understood their fundamental rights but were properly informed on how to access services for their children.

But despite the promises to do better, Achievement First is back in the news with yet another failure to provide legally required special education services.

On November 5, 2015 the New York Times reported, Lawsuit Accuses Brooklyn Charter School of Failing to Provide Special Education Services

As fellow bloggers Diane Ravitch explained in her follow up blog;

A lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, claiming that the charter school did not provide mandated services “and were punished for behavior that arose from their disabilities.”

The lawsuit charged that the students did not get physical therapy and other services for weeks, and that a student with autism “was disciplined for not looking in the direction a teacher instructed or for hiding under his desk.”

Achievement First is a “no-excuses” charter chain with schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Its backers include some of the wealthiest supporters of privatization.

The families are also suing the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department for permitting Achievement First to avoid its legal responsibilities to the children.

Pedido Street School, another leading education blog added,

The suit, filed on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, described a “systemic failure to provide them a free appropriate public education, in violation of their rights.”

The systemic failure to provide services is especially troubling considering the Hartford Courant’s June 2013 story entitled, Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.

The Hartford Courant reported;

A new federal civil rights agreement aims to get better and more appropriate services for children with disabilities who have been continually suspended or excluded from class at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School for disciplinary reasons.

Maria Morelli-Wolfe, a lawyer with Greater Hartford Legal Aid Inc., which last year filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of children with disabilities at the public charter school, said that very often those students spend too many hours out of the classroom — suspended in school or out of school — because of behaviors they weren’t necessarily able to control.

“Many, many days, they couldn’t catch a break, particularly those kids with disabilities that result in behavioral issues,” said Morelli-Wolfe. “They would get caught up in the cycle of the rigid discipline policies of Achievement First and they just couldn’t break free of them, sometimes for very small behaviors, even like tapping pencils. … Some of the cases were just heartbreaking.”


As part of its agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, Achievement First has promised to train staff not only in the federal education requirements for disabled students, but in the characteristics of disabilities such as autism, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, and childhood trauma. It has also agreed to develop a centralized data system to track removal of disabled students from classrooms.


The agreement, which was released Monday, comes less than a week after the release of a report from the state Department of Education that showed that Achievement First charter schools have among the highest rates of suspension or expulsion in the state for all students, not just those with disabilities.

The report said that 49.4 percent of the students at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School had received at least one in-school or out-of-school suspension or expulsion — the highest percentage noted in the state report.

Johanna Rodriguez, whose eighth-grade son was included in the civil rights complaint, said her son was suspended and at home for most of last year, while this year she said he was suspended in school most of the time in a room set aside for students who are removed from class because of a behavior issue.

For lesser offenses, he was given “re-orientation” where he could remain in class, but had to wear a white shirt and other students were not allowed to talk to him.

Rodriguez said she got called “just about every day” and told that her son was being removed from class because he had been fidgeting or not promptly carrying out directions or talking to himself or humming in class.

She said her son has a variety of disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other problem behaviors. She said she warned Achievement First before her son enrolled in the sixth grade. “I told them he’s a handful,” Rodriguez said. She said she asked “Are you sure you can handle him?”

Over the past two years, she said, the academy had promised special accommodations for her son in various ways but didn’t follow through.

According to the complaint filed by the Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Achievement First has a “no excuses” philosophy that says, “We must refuse to make excuses for our students because of their prior education, their family situation, their community, or other potential excuses.”

The complaint said that “based on our experiences with Achievement First, learning, emotional or behavioral disabilities are often viewed as just another ‘potential excuse.'”

Achievement First Inc., like most charter schools, consistently fail to enroll their fair share of students who require special education services.

The following chart using data from 2012-2013 provides just a glimpse of Achievement First’s unwillingness or inability to accept and service special needs students in Connecticut.  In addition, when it comes to the special education students that Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools do accept, they are tend to be special education students who require fewer services.


Hartford Public Schools   14.2%
Achievement First Hartford  7.8%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.7%
Achievement First Bridgeport 8.0%
New Haven Public Schools 11.1%
Achievement First – Elm City 6.5%
Achievement First – Amistad 5.0%

NOTE:  Considering THAT charter schools get reimbursed for any and all special education expenses, in addition to their per pupil grant, there is absolutely no excuse for charter schools to refuse to enroll students with special needs or push out those who require additional services.

The harsh reality is that while Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools like to apply a “no excuses” mantra for students, the record of lawsuits and media reports make it clear that when it comes to their own policies and actions these charter schools like to “talk the talk” but utterly fail to “walk the walk” when it comes to being real public schools.

BEWARE: 9 in 10 Children who utilize special education services will fail the inappropriate Common Core SBAC Test


While the Malloy administration continues its immoral and unethical attempt to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test, a growing number of parents are stepping forward and utilizing their unalienable right to protect their children from a standardized testing program that is designed to ensure that as many in seven in ten public school children are deemed failures following this year’s Common Core SBAC Testing charade.

The failure rate is projected to be significantly higher for children who utilize special education services, children who aren’t fluent in the English Language and children who face economic and social challenges.  The SBAC testing organization’s own report projects that 9 in 10 special education students and English Language Learners will be labeled failures when the tests are completed.

But in what may be the crassest move yet, the Malloy administration sent a “DRAFT LETTER” to local school superintendents today that they are supposed to use to quell the growing movement of parents who are opting their children out of Common Core SBAC Tests.

Among other absurd statements, the “DRAFT LETTER” states;

The Smarter Balanced assessments will be administered on computers and are designed to measure these skills through reading comprehension, writing, and math questions that require students to demonstrate that they truly understand the content. Additional supports are available for some students with special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

But the letter fails to provide parents with the truth about just how harshly the Common Core SBAC Test will judge those students with “special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has provided members states with a study that includes the projected results of this year’s Common Core SBAC Test.

The projected results are based on Pass/Fail “Cut Scores” that the Malloy administration approved, while the officials from Vermont and New Hampshire – the other two New England States using the Common Core SBAC Test – refused to endorse.

To force special educations students to take a test that is designed to fail 9 in 10 of those children is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal!

The projected results of the Common Core SBAC test for children requiring special education services are as follows;

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%


3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

Tracing the Malloy Administration’s deceit on Opting Out of the Common Core SBAC Testing


Late yesterday afternoon, Dianna R. Wentzell, Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education issued a directive to Connecticut school superintendents reiterating the lie the Connecticut parents do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

For information about the letter see Wait, What? Post: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

After months of silence and despite the overwhelming fact that there is no federal or state law that allows the government or school districts to punish children (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core Testing Scam, Malloy’s interim Commissioner of Education incredibly instructed school superintendents to continue their unethical and immoral harassment of parents who are seeking to protect their children by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC Tests – A test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 Connecticut public school students are deemed failures and that more than 90 percent of special education students and English Language Learners have “fail” attached to their academic records.

Last year, attorney Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, made it extremely clear in his testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly that these was no mechanism to punish students (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

With that background, the Interim Commissioner’s action is not only highly inappropriate but suspect.

What is going on behind the scenes that would lead Malloy’s Commissioner to issue a threatening letter that seeks to limit parental rights?

As John F. Kennedy said,

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

Considering the decisions are being made by public employees, who are paid with taxpayer funds, Connecticut parents have a right to know who and why their government is seeking to limit their rights.

To that end and pursuant to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, the Interim Commissioner of Education (and her staff) is being asked to turn over all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015.

Parallel requests are being submitted to a select group of school superintendents who have maintained that parents do not have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.  This list includes the school superintendents of Westport, Fairfield and Ridgefield Connecticut, as well as others.

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws require that the receipt of these requests be acknowledged within twenty-four hours and that the materials requested by provided in a rapid and appropriate time frame.

Furthermore, since the requests are for electronic copies of all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015, these public officials are required to provide the information free of charge.

As the information is provided, it will be posted here so that Wait, What? readers and the public can learn the truth about why government officials are engaged in an ongoing effort to prevent parents from utilizing their constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children from the damage that will be caused by the Common Core SBAC testing.

At the State Department of Education, the Freedom of Information request will be directed to Interim Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell, her Executive Assistant and Kelly Donnelly the State Department of Education’s Director of Communications and Community Partnerships.

Superintendents receiving the Freedom of Information Act requests include;

Westport Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon

Fairfield Superintendent of Schools David Title

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Deborah Low

To illustrate the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the Common Core SBAC test, a parent need only look at the projected “Failure Rate” for students with disabilities that require special education services.

These pass/fail “cut scores” were adopted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in November 2014 with Governor Malloy’s administration voting in favor of the “cut scores,” while the representatives of the governors’ of Vermont and New Hampshire (the other two SBAC states in New England) abstained in the vote, refusing to support the discriminatory pass/fail “cut scores.”)

As readers can see, the projected “Failure” rate for special education students on the Common Core SBAC Test [A rate that mirrors that of other demographic sub-categories of students] is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal.

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

Common Core SBAC Test Designed to ID 9 in 10 Special Education Children as Failures


The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test is intentionally designed to ensure that the vast majority of students are deemed failures.  [The Common Core PARCC test is no better]

According to SBAC’s own official policy, the Common Core SBAC test is designed so that almost 7 in 10 children who take the “mandatory” test fail to reach “goal” in math and about 6 in 10 are deemed failures in English Language Arts.

Making the Common Core SBAC test even more inappropriate is that the fact that the 2014 SBAC Field Test results prove that the test discriminates against students who come from poor households, students who are not proficient in the English Language (English Language Learners) and students who need special education services.

Perhaps the most outrageous reality of all is that the Common Core SBAC test is rigged to ensure that the almost all students who require special education services are deemed to be failures.

Not only is the Common Core SBAC test unfair and inappropriate, it is nothing short of immoral and unethical.

According the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Disaggregated Field Test Data for 2014, the cut scores that have been set for this year’s test are designed to produce the following results:

Projected Failure Rate for Special Education Students with IEPs on the Common Core SBAC Math Section

4th Grade Math – Special Education Students with IEPs 87.1% WILL FAIL
6th Grade Math – Special Education Students with IEPs 91.3% WILL FAIL
8th Grade Math –  Special Education Students with IEPs 90.3% WILL FAIL
11TH Grade Math –  Special Education Students with IEPs 92.5% WILL FAIL


Projected Failure Rate for Special Education Students with IEPs on Common Core SBAC English (ELA) Section

4th Grade Math – Special Education Students with IEPs 83.6% WILL FAIL
6th Grade Math – Special Education Students with IEPs 90.1% WILL FAIL 
8th Grade Math –  Special Education Students with IEPs 91.5% WILL FAIL
11TH Grade Math –  Special Education Students with IEPs 91% WILL FAIL


These are the official projected results based on the SBAC Field Test of 2014 and the Pass/Fail “cut scores” adopted by the SBAC Committee in November 2014.

A civilized society does not produce a Common Core testing system that is designed so that 9 in 10 special education students are deemed failures…. But then again, the Corporate Education Reform Industry does not reflect the values of a civilized society.

Check out the results based on the SBAC cut score system at:

And after you read what is going on – then do everything you can to opt your children out of this unfair and inappropriate Common Core SBAC test and derail their criminal system of unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized testing.

The Paul Vallas Legacy: “Bridgeport systematically violated special education laws”


Paul Vallas hasn’t even left Bridgeport…In fact; the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport are picking up his salary and benefits for another month… But his legacy is already becoming clear.

Late last week, the Connecticut State Department of Education released a report blasting the Paul Vallas’ leadership and the Bridgeport School System because, among other violations, it “systematically failed to identify a number of students determined to be eligible for special education…”

The damage done to significant number of Bridgeport’s special education students and the violation of federal and state laws that are in place to ensure special education students get the services they need and deserve, is a direct result of Paul Vallas’ policy of arrogance and deceit.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember a series of blog posts about the outrageous and inappropriate changes that Paul Vallas, in the name of cutting costs, was making to Bridgeport’s special education program.

The posts specifically highlighted items that the State Department of Education has now deemed illegal and inappropriate.

For background read;

UPDATE: Bridgeport’s Assault on Special Education: Time for Commissioner Pryor to intervene… (August 28, 2012)

News Flash: Team Vallas Addresses Special Education Funding Issue (sort of) (August 23, 2012)

What is Paul Vallas doing to Bridgeport’s Special Education Students? (August 21, 2012)

As the Connecticut Post reported this week:

“In response to an October 2013 complaint filed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy against the district, the state conducted an investigation and determined that the district violated its obligations to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Most of the examples cited in the complaint were from the 2012-13 school year, when under outgoing Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas there was a concerted effort to bring down special education costs.”

The report is a chilling reminder of what happens to individual students when administrators are allowed to disregard their legal and moral duties to children.

The Connecticut Post highlighted a few examples including;

One of the students cited in the complaint had struggled academically since first grade, failed and repeated sixth grade. Because of his age was advanced to high school last year, where he failed every subject. Even so, the district never held a meeting to discuss the student’s suspected educational or emotional disabilities or potential support services that might help him academically.

Another student was placed on homebound instruction for most of the 2012-13 school year due to mental health issues, but a placement meeting was not convened until July 2013.

Students at Harding, Bassick, Marin [schools] went without receiving a Planning and Placement Team assessment as is required under a federal Child Find mandate.

Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Schools literally put some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable students at risk… all so that he, along with the former Board of Education, Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor could crow about Vallas’ miraculous ability to balance he school budget.

A copy of the State Department of Education’s finding can be read here:

You can read the Connecticut Post story here:

Take the time to skim the actual State Department of Education report.

The sad truth is that as terrible as these stories are, if the State Department of Education does its job and investigates Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School, the results will be disturbingly similar….if not worse.

Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students


Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here:

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

Vallas “no bid” special education software deal in Bridgeport continues to be a disaster


It was one of the first non-bid contracts that Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas pushed through.  Using a half-baked “sole-source” rationale, Vallas hired a company that he had worked with in Chicago and Philadelphia without using any bidding process.

The contract promised Bridgeport a state-of-the-art special education software program “for free,” as long as the Public Consulting Group was given a lucrative Medicaid reimbursement contract.

The new software was scheduled to come on-line July 1, 2012.

Soon, free became $100,000 plus with more “option costs” to come.

July 1, 2012 came and went…with no Easy IEP software

Then August, September, October, November, December 2012 and still no software.

January, February and March 2013 came and went without a working version of the Easy IEP special education software.

Finally, Easy IEP was scheduled to go live on April 1, 2013 with a complete shift by the end of April.

Here we are in May 2013 and multiple Bridgeport teachers and professional staff have reported that the “state-of-the-art” software is such a mess that special education teachers are relegated to hand-writing their IEPs and producing reports in the same way they were doing it 40 years ago.

This is the most important part of the year for updating IEPs and meeting state and federal mandates for special education reporting.

Instead of the promised comprehensive system, teachers and staff are reporting chaos.

Not only are students in need of special education services being short-changed but the cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers could be astronomical.

Just take a look at the news out of New York City when the software system implemented by the Bloomberg Administration fell apart;

NEWS: Overtime bill for staff using special ed system totals $38.5M


The city doled out $38.5 million in back pay to schools staff who were wrongly required to work overtime on a buggy special education data system, according to payment details released today by the education department.

Nearly 30,000 therapists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists received the overtime payments this month after an independent arbitrator ruled in January that the Department of Education violated the United Federation of Teachers’ contract. The first round of payments, on April 12, totaled $2.6 million for 1,700 occupational and physical therapists and the second and final payment — $35.9 million — went out to the rest of employees today.

The total number of educators who qualified for overtime far exceeded UFT’s estimates, which hovered at around 10,000. The UFT filed the labor complaint in mid-2011, charging that staff should not have been required to work outside of their contractual school day.

The unintentional overtime centered on time that educators spent plugging data into the Special Education Student Information System. According to teachers and union staff, the program does not have basic functions that are routinely found in other computer programs, such as an ‘auto save’ feature.

In a statement today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that SESIS continues to be unnecessarily time-consuming for teachers and a wasteful example of the city’s pricey technology contracts.

“Thousands of hours that teachers could have spent helping kids were wasted trying to get this boondoggle of a computer system to work,” Mulgrew said. “But just as CityTime cost the city millions of dollars year after year, until SESIS is fixed or scrapped it will continue to be a money pit.”

Department of Education officials defended SESIS, which tracks student attendance and keeps a record of services that special education students receive.

“Keeping accurate and complete records on services provided to special needs students is necessary to ensure that we are providing quality services, and we are working to ensure that all staff are properly compensated in accordance with the arbitration award,” Connie Pankratz said.”

Meanwhile in Connecticut, neither Mr. Vallas nor the Bridgeport Board of Education has explained what is actually happening with Vallas’ “no-bid” special education software system in Bridgeport.

Welcome back to Vallas’ world of “no-bid contracts” – Special Education software goes “live” eight months late


It started as one of Paul Vallas’ notorious “no-bid” contracts.

Vallas signed the contract with the Public Consulting Group on April 23, 2012. Vallas had worked with the Public Consulting Group (PCG) numerous times in his previous positions.  As a result of those contracts, the Public Consulting Group has made millions of dollars.  In fact, the firm highlights their experience with Vallas in Chicago and Philadelphia as a way to showcase their accomplishments on their company website.

When Vallas arrived in Bridgeport he was so sure that he wanted the services of the Public Consulting Group that he sidestepped Bridgeport’s contracting laws by using a “sole-source” procedure to make sure no time was lost to the cumbersome and pesky process of having to solicit bids or compare products.  In this case, he went so far as to purchase a new special education software system for the City of Bridgeport without even properly involving special education teachers in that software selection process.

On April 23, 2012, a contract was signed, all with the promise that Bridgeport would have access to the “best product” in the entire country.

Wouldn’t you know it; the software was even called Easy IEP.  In honor, one supposes, of how easy it was going to be to use… [Or maybe how easy it was to fleece the unsuspecting taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut who would be paying for the software].

In any case, the software failed to materialize.

Instead, email after email went out informing Bridgeport’s special education teachers that they were to use the old, “outdated” product until the issues with Easy IEP were resolved.

July 2012 came and went.

So did August, September, October, November and December.

Team Vallas explained that various issues had come up, but the special education software would be ready on this date or that date.

January 2013 came, but the New Year didn’t bring the Easy IEP software.

February came and went.

So did March.

But rest assured, all the problems have finally all been resolved and Team Vallas recently wrote to tell Bridgeport’s teachers that EasyIEP would “go-live” today, April 1, 2013…nine months after the software was supposed to come on line and one year after Vallas signed the “no-bid” contract.

And although it is eight months into the school year, Team Vallas is pleased to announce that “in addition to the previous school-based embedded trainings, there will be weekly supplemental trainings. The trainings will occur based on staff request and locations will vary throughout the district…Finally, a number of technical supports are in place to further support the development of a strong foundational knowledge relating to EasyIEP and to assist with any questions you may have”  Those trainings include: “ A Webinar will be made available to all staff, which addresses the overall EasyIEP process, A district-wide technical support email where staff can send their questions to have them answered by a team of Bridgeport-trained EasyIEP users – the email address is [email protected] and an EasyIEP Reference Guide.”

Meanwhile, the Board of Education has never been fully informed about the mess nor provided any details about the additional cost, if any, that the City will have to pay for things like the extra training.

Freedom of information requests will now be submitted to see what documents and payments are hidden away.

And this was only one of at least a dozen “no-bid” contracts Vallas signed.

State must take serious look at school funding (according to Wendy Lecker)


It is time for a real, serious and honest look at Connecticut’s school funding crisis, not the cop-out  version that has been recently proposed as part of Connecticut’s budget plan.

Fellow pro-public education blogger and commentator, Wendy Lecker, has another “MUST READ” column this week in the Stamford Advocate, CT Post and the other newspapers that are part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

You can find her full post here; Wendy Lecker: State must take serious look at school funding

As Lecker notes, “Connecticut is a study in contrasts. We have pockets of incredible wealth, and areas struggling with entrenched poverty. We have school districts with few needy children, and those with high concentrations of children living in poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities. There are districts with gleaming labs, large marching bands, theater, and foreign language offered in kindergarten, while in other districts, children sit in overcrowded classrooms with inadequate libraries, no electives, insufficient books and not even enough paper. This resource disparity translates into a disparity of educational opportunity, with some districts sending scores of children to elite colleges while others have alarmingly low graduation rates.

Connecticut has allowed this chasm in educational opportunity to exist for years, in part because we have never taken an honest look at what it costs to educate all children no matter what their need.”

Lecker recognizes that the process must begin with an “educational adequacy cost study.”

As she explains, “In such a study, experts first identify the basic educational resources needed to meet state standards. Then, they “cost out” those resources, taking into account the factors that affect the cost, such as student need, geographic differences, and population density. Different levels of student need, such as poverty, limited English proficiency and disability, affect the cost of resources necessary. Moreover, the severity and/or concentration of poverty and the level of disability can add to educational cost. For over 20 years states and courts have used these studies to devise rational school finance systems with a transparent relationship between state aid, student need and a district’s ability to raise revenue.”

But despite an across the board recognition that a cost study is needed, Governor Malloy failed to propose one as part of his recent changes to the State’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula.

Instead, as Lecker points out, Malloy ” proposed inappropriate changes to our school finance system that will render even more children invisible in the eyes of the ECS formula.”

Furthermore, she writes, “The governor’s plan to completely remove English Language Learners from ECS is a step in exactly the wrong direction. Such a move would have devastating effect on many municipalities. In a state with a growing Latino population, and others from non-English-speaking homes, this proposal is ludicrous. Moreover, Malloy’s proposal reduces the weight for poverty, providing fewer funds to educate poor children. To make matters worse, the proposal once again fails to include a weight for special education.”

Although Governor Malloy has failed to take the necessary steps towards fiscal transparency and adequacy, Connecticut’s legislators can correct that mistake.  

You can find Lecker’s full commentary piece at:

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:

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:

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