An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker

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Editors Note:  Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the podium to declare victory in November, Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education – including the appointee representing the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut Chapter – voted to request funding to open eight more charter schools in Connecticut.  The vote was unanimous, with absolutely no discussion of how to make existing charter schools accountable for their activities or the fact that Connecticut’s public schools are underfunded and additional funding will not be forthcoming anytime soon since Malloy’s fiscal strategies have left the state facing a large budget deficit this year and a massive $1.4 billion budget shortfall next year.

With that as background, fellow education blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has written another “MUST READ” piece about the Malloy administration’s utter failure to oversee Connecticut’s charter schools.  Wendy Lecker’s piece appears in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.  The entire commentary piece can be found here: An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools

One aspect of the Common Core regime imposed on Connecticut schools by our political leaders is an emphasis, some say over-emphasis, on informational texts, based on the claim that reading more non-fiction will somehow make students “college and career ready.” While our leaders force children to read more non-fiction, it appears that they are the ones with trouble facing facts.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.

The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.

Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.

Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”

Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.

Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.

These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner school into the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.

After this inexcusable negligence by the board, one would hope that the board become more responsible stewards, calling for a moratorium on charters and turning their focus to devising sorely needed accountability for charter schools before any more public money is wasted and any more children’s lives are affected.

Yet, after the revelations about Sharpe’s crimes and lies, the board rushed through the charter application for Booker T. Washington school, originally intended for FUSE, without any investigation into the dubious record of the new leader or the questionable ties between the school and its contractor. In November, the State Board unanimously voted to open eight new charter schools, without any regard to whether there are state funds to support these schools.

And now Gov. Dannel Malloy approved $5 million dollars in taxpayer funds to be paid to “assist charter schools with capital expenses,” including helping privately run charters pay down debt on buildings they own. In the aftermath of the misuse of public funds by a charter for real estate shenanigans, the first thing Malloy does is give charters more money for real estate?

This administration and State Board of Education have an unacceptable “anything goes” approach to charter schools. This willful blindness must stop. Anything short of a moratorium on charters and specific, new clear and strict rules on charter approval and oversight is a continuation of the board’s dereliction of its duty to Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

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Teachers, Parents, Public School Advocates, it is probably best to sit down for this one….

That bizarre and disturbing statement was the headline in a piece recently posted by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) following this week’s meeting of a Connecticut State Department of Education Working Group.

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

“Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.”

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

The Common Core Standardized Testing Scam, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium (SBAC), is actually designed to ensure that about 70 percent of Connecticut students fail. [Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! and Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster and A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker]

Not only is the Common Core testing system created to generate the false impression that Connecticut and the nation’s public education system is failing, but by tying the Common Core SBAC test results to the new inept, illogical and counter-productive Connecticut Teacher Evaluation System, the incredibly expensive “golden nugget” of the corporate education reform industry aims to denigrate teachers and blow apart what is left of the teaching profession.

But despite this truth, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration remain wedded to the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core standardized testing program and a teacher evaluation process based on the results of those tests.

As the CEA’s January 21 2014 blog post explains,

“Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May.

[…]

This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.”

The CEA goes on to report that at this week’s Working Group Meeting,

“Members of the working group [said they] are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.”

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

It was Governor Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education who joined the other state education chiefs who voted to set the “cut score” so that 70 percent of Connecticut’s public school students would be deemed failures.

It was Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education that remain committed to linking the unfair test to the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

And it is because Malloy’s complete unwillingness to de-couple the Common Core SBAC test results from the teacher evaluation system that teachers across Connecticut are being coerced to teach to the very Common Cores Standardized SBAC test that their students will fail – and those failing scores will be used to “evaluate” the teachers.

The CEA article adds,

“Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.”

The article also noted that Joseph Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and one the most vocal supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiative, said the results from the Common Core SBAC tests could, “scare the hell out of parents.” He apparently added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

“The new testing program is still in “the developmental stage”???

“A level of precision that it does not have”????

These two individuals and everyone else involved in the discussions surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing debacle know perfectly well that the SBAC test is designed to fail 70 percent of the students and that the SBAC test will be used as a significant factor in determining which Connecticut teachers are deemed to be “good’ and which will be deemed “not good.”

Instead of raising these “concerns” at a State Department of Education Working Group, the CEA, AFT and the other Connecticut organization purportedly committed to Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools – such as CABE and CAPSS – should be demanding that the Common Core be halted, the Common Core Tests eliminated that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system should be fully de-coupled from the SBAC test or any other standardized tests.

As if all of this wasn’t clear enough, in what is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and shocking comments to come out of the Malloy administration yet, the representative of the State Department of Education told the SDE working group,  “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

OMG, What the____?????

Malloy, with the support of the Connecticut legislature is the one that MANDATED the expensive and wasteful Common Core SBAC tests be given and MANDATED that the Common Core SBAC test scores be used to evaluate teachers.

As the CEA post adds,

“Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores)…”

The real problem is that the Common Core Standards were developed without the proper participation of educators and experts in child development.

Furthermore, as has been widely reported, some of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and the foundation of the Common Cores Standards are demanding that students immediately perform at a level that is at least two grade levels above what students have been learning.

The Common Core Test (SBAC) also discriminates against English Language Learners and students who require special education services…not to mention, as noted, that the absurd and warped system is actually designed with a pass/fail rate that will ensure that nearly 7 in 10 students fail.

The real problem with the entire situation lies with the Common Core itself and the way in which the Common Core standardized tests have been designed to undermine the stability of public education in America.

The solution is that the leadership of the two major teacher unions, and all of the others committed to public education, should be retreating from their support of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Yet even now, while the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers raise concerns and call for action, their fundamental position of support for the Common Core remains intact.

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

“NEA believes the Common Core State Standards have the potential to provide access to a complete and challenging education for all children. Broad range cooperation in developing these voluntary standards provides educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”

At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers says,

That if implemented carefully and with the needed supports and resources, these new standards will help improve education for all students.  At last July’s  AFT Convention, “AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. “

But the Common Core Standards are inappropriate, unfair, and discriminatory.  The Common Core standardized tests are inexorably linked to those Common Core Standards, and until we set aside the Common Core and the Common Core testing, our nation’s children, teachers and our entire system of public education system will remain the primary target for those who seek to destroy public education for their own financial and political gain.

And when it comes to the relationship between the Common Core, Common Core testing and the teacher evaluation systems, those who are responsible for speaking up for our children, our teachers and our schools simply say enough is enough and corporate education reform initiatives need to be dismissed and real action taken to reduce the barriers to academic success – poverty, language barriers, and unmet special education needs to name a few.

Perhaps the leaders of the CEA, AFT, CABE and CAPSS should also read or re-read the commentary piece published last year by Wendy Lecker, one of the state’s leading public education advocates.

Wendy Lecker’s piece entitled, “Solution to failed tests is not more tests,” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, and she wrote;

Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”

Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.

However, there is an even larger issue at play. Will the addition of more tests in a teacher’s evaluation help us measure whether a teacher is effective?

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Connecticut’s public schools must prepare children “to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

Thus, we want our children to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in college and in life. We want teachers who will help our children develop these skills.

Standardized tests have no bearing on college success. Moreover, although standardized tests are supposed to measure cognitive skills, research from MIT has shown that increasing test scores does not increase cognitive skills.

Even more striking is that cognitive skills, while important, are not the most important skills in determining success either in college or in life after college. Research has shown again and again that non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, taking responsibility, and listening skills are more critical.

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than two percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under ten percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.

Jackson also found that a teacher’s supposed effect on test scores is not related to how well that teacher can improve non-cognitive skills.

Moreover, a new statement by the American Statistical Association reminds us that ranking teachers based on test scores does not even work for measuring their effect on cognitive skills.

ASA notes that teachers account for 1-14 percent of the variability in student standardized test scores. The majority of variability in test scores results from “system-level conditions”; meaning everything affecting a student outside the teacher’s control: the child’s socio-economic status, parental background, language barriers, medical issues, student mobility, etc. Rating systems cannot eliminate the “noise” caused by these other factors.

ASA further states that test scores at best “predict only performance on the test.” This conclusion confirms Jackson’s results, i.e that tests cannot predict how well a student will succeed in school or life.

In the context of this evidence, what does the PEAC change mean?

By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.

Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school.

Meaningful evaluations systems can be developed, but relying on faulty measures is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

YES!  Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

CT Teachers Union against charter schools, except when the vote counts

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Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the stage to declare victory on Election Night 2014, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education met to unanimously endorse a proposal to open eight new charter schools in Connecticut.

A CT Mirror article at the time entitled “State education board wants to open eight new charter schools” reported that while the State of Connecticut faces a $1.4 billion projected budget deficit for next year, “The State Board of Education is asking the state for $11 million to fund eight new charter schools to open over the next two school years…The request, put forward by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and approved unanimously by the state board…”

The CT Mirror added that, “Allan B. Taylor, chairman of the 13-member state panel, said expanding school choice for students makes sense.”

The Hartford Courant covered the story as well noting;

Of the eight new charters proposed to open over the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, two proposals were approved by the board at a lengthy meeting in April amid much testimony for and against new charter schools.

The charters already approved to open in 2015-16 include Stamford Charter School for Excellence and Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport. Those proposals, however, are contingent on the availability of funding.

After funding for Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school, along with money for seven others charter schools, won the full support of the State Board of Education, Melodie Peters, the President of the Connecticut Federation of Teachers, submitted a hard-hitting commentary piece to the CT Mirror entitled, “Plan for more charter schools flawed in many ways.”

Peters, one of Malloy’s biggest supporters began her article by saying, “The state education department commissioner’s proposal last week to hand over more public education resources to privately managed charter schools deserves an ‘F’ as both ‘incomplete’ and tone deaf.”

Peters added,

“Now is not the time to ask taxpayers for another $21 million on an experiment whose record of ensuring a quality education for all has yet to be demonstrated.

It has been just six months since the scandal involving the charter management outfit Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) and the schools it operated in Hartford and Bridgeport made headlines. Recall that the extent of the alleged corruption and nepotism quickly led to a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of FUSE and its affiliated Jumoke schools that today is still ongoing.”

Having told members that Lt., Governor Nancy Wyman would be Malloy’s point person on education in Malloy’s second term, Peters added,

“In August, the Malloy-Wyman Administration rightly responded to the crisis by ordering a thorough review of the department of education’s policies governing charter management companies. The department quickly agreed to changes that echo what parents, educators, and advocates have been urging for years: charters should be held accountable to the same standard as traditional public schools.”

The AFT -CT President went on to blast Pryor’s decision to seek funding for eight more charter school saying, “The state should not green-light more charters or expand their reach without first verifying that education department oversight of charters has actually improved.

Of the various issues associated with President Peters’ “blistering attack” on the decision to approve Pryor’s proposal for eight more charter schools, perhaps the most interesting is that Peters completely and utterly failed to mention that the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden Federation of Teachers President Erin Benham, voted IN FAVOR of the resolution to fund eight new charter schools.

In a political move to reward the AFT-CT for ramming through an endorsement of Dan Malloy, without even granting the other candidates [like myself] the opportunity to fill out a candidate questionnaire, meet with the AFT-CT PAC or address the AFT-CT Board of Directors, Malloy announced on August 21, 2014 that he was taking the unprecedented step of appointing Meriden AFT President Erin Benham to a four year position on the State Board of Education.

As the time, Peters wrote,

“We applaud the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman for selecting Erin Benham to serve on the State Board of Education. They have appointed a committed classroom educator and trusted labor leader with a long, successful record of direct engagement in grassroots efforts to improve schools in Meriden and across Connecticut.

“The SBOE, as well as the state’s education department, will greatly benefit from Erin’s experience in Meriden Public Schools. There, she and her fellow educators have proven that collaboration — not confrontation — is the way to form a productive working partnership with their district’s administration.

“Erin will bring tremendous value to the board with real-world teacher-student, educator-parent and labor-management experience. I have seen firsthand Erin’s passion for her vocation, and I have no doubt she will make a significant contribution to the board’s mission.

“We expect Erin to ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and to play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools.

“We congratulate Erin on her appointment and look forward to her service on the SBOE throughout her four-year term.”

Two weeks later, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten came to Connecticut to endorse Governor Dannel Malloy for re-election, despite the fact that Malloy was, and is, the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining rights for teachers in the poorest school districts in Connecticut, including some of the teachers who worked in Meriden.

And to drive home the special relationship between the AFT and Malloy – and Malloy and the AFT – AFT President Weingarten, AFT-CT President Peters and Malloy started their day with a tour and press conference at a Meriden public school, with none-other-than the newest member of the State Board of Education, Meriden AFT President Erin Benham.

Yet exactly sixty-one days later, Erin Benham, the teacher who Peters promised would, “ensure that the voices of educators are heard and respected, and [who would] play a role in helping to shape policy in all our state’s schools,” joined Malloy’s other political appointees on the day after the election to vote in favor of diverting millions of dollars to even more privately run, publicly funded charter schools.

In her commentary piece a week after the vote, AFT-CT Peters wrote,

Another unanswered question is why we aren’t investing education resources in community schools that will educate all children, instead of cherry-picking students to boost standardized test scores. An investigation by Reuters in 2013 found charters across the country imposing “significant barriers” that result in “skimming the most motivated, disciplined students and leaving the hardest-to-reach behind….Wouldn’t we all be better served investing our tax dollars in traditional neighborhood schools that do not exclude our special education, ELLs, and children with behavioral disorders?”

And AFT President Peters concluded her commentary piece with the observation, “And until the department can demonstrate that it can, the State Board of Education should deny the outgoing commissioner’s request.”

Over the course of Malloy’s 2014 campaign for re-election, the American Federation for Teachers Federal Political Action Committee donated $10,000 to the Committee Democratic State Central Committee “Federal Account,” the fund that the Malloy campaign used to launder lobbyist, state contractor and political action committee funds into a program to assist the Malloy campaign.

In addition, the American Federation of Teachers Federal Political Action Committee threw in $600,000 to the Democratic Governor’s Association’s $5.7 million Independent Expenditure campaign to support Malloy’s re-election.

But putting aside, for the moment, AFT President Melodie Peters’s anti-charter school editorial of November 17, 2014, when the real vote on the motion to adopt the Malloy administration’s proposal to fund eight more charter schools was taken, it passed the State Board of Education unanimously….with the support of AFT’s representative along with Chairman Allan Taylor, Vice Chair Theresa Hopkins-Staten, Charles Jaskiewicz, Patricia Keavney-Maruca, Maria Mojica and Joseph Vrabely.

That is a lot of teacher’s money for an investment that appears to be ending in disaster.

Some would even call the whole thing yet another Wait, What? moment.

Today’s MUST READ PIECE – Where’s the Accountability? Anyone? By Sarah Darer Littman

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Quite simply it is the single best assessment of the issues surrounding the Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.

The article, written by Sarah Darer Littman is called, “Where’s the Accountability? Anyone?” and it can be found in its entirety on the CTNewsJunkie website – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

Read it and ask yourself…. Where is the accountability?

Sarah Darer Littman open with;

Dumping embarrassing news on the eve of a holiday is becoming a habit for the Malloy’s administration — and there’s been plenty of it to ring in the inauguration of his second term.

Late last Friday it was the release of the FUSE/Jumoke investigation report, which revealed financial mismanagement, nepotism, and misuse of public funds by a charter operator lauded by the Malloy administration. But the most disturbing part of this whole affair is that it reveals how millions of our taxpayer dollars are being handed out to private entities with little or no due diligence based on the recommendation of a closed, closely entwined loop of foundations, political allies, and corporate beneficiaries.

What investigating attorney Frederick L. Dorsey left out of his report, perhaps because he was hired by the state Department of Education, is how the department and the state Board of Education and so many others enabled Michael Sharpe in his unethical endeavors.

Take for instance, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who appointed former FUSE Chief Operating Office Andrea Comer to the state Board of Education. Or the state Ethics Commission, which ruled that there was no conflict in having Comer, the chief operating officer of a charter management company benefiting from millions of dollars of public funds, serving on the board that grants them. Then we have our state legislators, who unanimously confirmed Comer to the position. Maybe they were too busy playing solitaire when the vote was taken.

What about Stephen Adamowski, Paul Vallas, and the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education who voted to bring FUSE to Bridgeport as part of the Commissoner’s Network? The Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr. said he was “honored” to have Sharpe and FUSE in the district. Moales, of course, has — according to education reform critic Jonathan Pelto — had his own ethical challenges when it came to overbilling the state for daycare slots.

And she then closes with;

Last April, the state Board of Education voted to authorize the Booker T. Washington/FUSE charter school in New Haven. Perhaps they were influenced by glowing letters of recommendation from well-known political figures in the state: New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander, to name a few.

With messaging consistency that would make Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz proud, both Mayors DeStefano and Harp opened with exactly the same phrase: “I enthusiastically support the application for the Booker T. Washington Charter School, here in New Haven, CT. The proposed school will teach our young moral character, self advocacy, and common core standards, in order to impact their success in our diverse global environment.”

Having read Attorney Dorsey’s report on what took place at Jumoke Academy, there are definitely lessons to teach our young, but “moral character” isn’t the one that springs to mind.

Here’s ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander: “Two key reasons for my support for the Booker T. Washington [school] is its collaboration with a proven high-quality provider, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) . . . FUSE has a track record of success.”

That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013,  I guess FUSE did have that track record.

Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.

The commentary piece written by Sarah Darer Littman is, as they say, “on point.”

Go to CT Newsjunkie right now and read the complete article at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

 

Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

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Thanks to Governor Malloy, his out-going Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry, well over 300,000 Connecticut public school students will be taking the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) standardized test in just a couple of months.

Not only will it cost Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and mean thousands of hours of lost instructional time, but the Common Core SBAC test is literally designed to ensure than almost seven out of ten students are told that they have failed.

Yes….the Common Core SBAC test is designed in such a way as make sure that nearly 70 percent of public school students are told they are failures.

As part of the ongoing effort to inform students, parents, teacher and Connecticut citizens about the absurd, unfair and inappropriate Common Core testing scheme, the Wait, What? blog post of January 2, 2015 is being re-posted below.

The fact is that while Stefan Pryor will be gone by the end of the week, Malloy and his political appointees on the State Board of Education are charging forward with their Common Core Testing strategy and, to further that effort, have decided to appoint Dianna Roberge-Wentzell as Connecticut’s Interim Commissioner of Education.

Dianna Roberge-Wentzell has been serving as the Department of Education’s chief academic officer for about two years.  When appointed to that position, it was explained that her role would be to “lead the Common Core curriculum development work at the state level.”

And Roberge-Wentzell has proven to be a stellar cheerleader for the Common Core and its related Standardized Testing Program.

In a Connecticut Association of Boards of Education meeting last year, Roberge-Wentzell proclaimed, “There is some anxiety about content readiness, like, ‘Will our kids really be ready?’ ‘Have we fully made that transition in our curriculum and instruction?’ And I think that people need to recognize that this is a multi-year transition.”

But for Connecticut’s public school students and teachers, there is no “multi-year” transition.

The guaranteed failing test rates are a part of THIS YEAR’S Common Core Test!

And those corrupt results will then be used to “evaluate” and punish Connecticut’s public school teachers.

While many of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and neither Connecticut’s public school teachers nor our public school students have been given the appropriate time and materials to “transition” to these new standards, the punishing Common Core test will occur starting in March unless the Connecticut General Assembly moves quickly to dismantle the massive testing apparatus or parents take matters into their own hands and opt their children out of taking the inappropriate tests.

But as if to reiterate her fidelity to the corporate education reform industry and their Common Core testing scheme, Roberge-Wentzell told the audience at that CABE meeting that everything was moving forward nicely and there was no need to even worry about the technological problems that have plagued the Common Core testing program in Connecticut and around the nation.

The person who will now take over management of the Connecticut State Department of Education told the group at CABE last year that it was full steam ahead, that the State Department had been using the “technology readiness tool” that has been provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and that “Our districts input all of their data and then we are able to constantly monitor kind of a dashboard of tech readiness for the state…And we are very close to 100 percent tech readiness in Connecticut—we are lucky. But some communities still have some investments that need to be made and this will help us support them in bridging that gap.”

The truth is Connecticut’s public school students have become guinea pigs for the Corporate Education Reform Industry and implementing a test that is designed to ensure failure for the vast majority of our children is nothing short of child abuse.

For more of the background about the Common Core testing, read the following;

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

This initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

What’s missing from the damning Jumoke/FUSE report – Part 1

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Released late Friday afternoon (January 2, 2015)  to ensure minimal media coverage, the report issued by the investigator appointed by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees on the State Board of Education leaves some of the most important issues completely unaddressed.

While the Malloy administration’s investigation notes, among other issues, that there were;

(1) No FUSE Board of Directors meetings until June 2014,

(2) That All FUSE employees were “processed through Jumoke payroll, under Jumoke’s payroll tax number, and received Jumoke paychecks,”

(3) There was “extreme intermingling of funds” between Jumoke and FUSE.

And that the fault for all the issues lies with the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe.

Read the report – Jumoke/FUSE Charter and Turnaround Operation – and you won’t find any mention of FUSE’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrea Comer.

The same Andrea Comer who was appointed to the State Board of Education by Governor Malloy in the Spring of 2013, despite the obvious conflict of interest between working as an officer for a charter school management company with state contracts and serving on the board that sets state policies concerning charter schools.

In fact, while the report states that interviews were conducted with present and former FUSE employees, it isn’t even clear whether Andrea Comer was even interviewed.

But Andrea Comer is a key witness to the crimes, violations and misdeeds conducted by Jumoke/FUSE.

For example, in her capacity as Jumoke/FUSE’s COO, Andrea Cromer (along with Hartford’s Superintendent of Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, and Kishimoto and Pryor’s top aides) sat through every important meeting related to handing Hartford’s Milner School over to Jumoke/FUSE.

While the new report blasts how Sharpe handled the oversight of Jumoke at Milner, and even highlights the fact that significant funds remain missing, the report fails to even mention the deal-making that led to Jumoke/FUSE getting a no-bid contract to control a Hartford public school.

Nor does the report explain the role Comer, Kishimoto, Pryor or their top aides played in the scam.

And it wasn’t like any of these issues should have come as a surprise …The State Department of Education’s investigator could have started with the following blogs;

On April 10, 2013, the Wait, What? post began as follows:

“BY A VOICE VOTE SO THAT NO ONE WOULD NEED TO BE ON RECORD, the Connecticut House of Representatives confirmed Governor Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer to serve a four-year term on the State Board of Education.

Comer, who works as the Chief Operations Officer for the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company, and previously worked for Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc, one of the nation’s largest charter school management companies, will be filling the State Board of Education seat that was most recently held by an official from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

[…]

As a member of the State Board of Education, Comer will be in a unique position to directly and indirectly help her employer and the charter school industry continue their ongoing privatization efforts.

FUSE/Jumoke Inc. already collects millions of dollars in state funds distributed by the State Department of Education and has major expansion plans.  Just last year, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education directed that Hartford’s Milner elementary school be handed over to Jumoke to manage.

The decision to give one of Hartford’s public schools to the Jumoke Academy was not only lucrative for the Jumoke Academy but was even more noteworthy because the Milner elementary school has been one in which half the students come from households that didn’t speak English and fully one in four students weren’t fluent in English.  The Jumoke Academy, by comparison, has never had a single bi-lingual student during its many years of existence and has consistently failed to provide educational services to its fair share of special education students.”

The issues were clearly laid out in the following articles as well;

Pelto to Malloy – Dump Pryor and Comer now before they do even more damage to public education in Connecticut (June 25, 2014)

The Malloy/Pryor Jumoke Charter School Gravy Train (March 10, 2014)

House sticks it to the 99% of public school students who attend public district schools by confirming charter school executive to the State Board of Education (April 10, 2013)

Will the Connecticut House vote tomorrow to confirm a Charter School Executive to the State Board of Education? (April 9, 2013)

Oops, Malloy’s nominee to the State Board of Education didn’t quite tell the whole story (April 1, 2013)

The complex issue of stealing public education…Just ask Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education (March 25, 2013)

One Adam-12, One Adam-12, we have a COI in progress (March 19 2013)

Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education (March 15, 2013)

FUSE re-lights Connecticut’s Charter School Scandals

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Before the Hartford Courant revealed that the CEO of the FUSE/Jumoke Charter School Chain wasn’t the “Dr.” he claimed to be and had served time in prison for embezzling money from a public agency in California, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration had given the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe and his company, FUSE/Jumoke Academy, lucrative “no-bid” contracts to run neighborhood schools in Hartford and Bridgeport, as well as granting him approval to open a new charter school in New Haven.

All that largess came on top of the $53 million that Sharpe and his company had already collected in taxpayer funds to pay for the Jumoke Academy, a charter school in Hartford.

As Sharpe’s sordid past came to light, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school management company collapsed and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor (aka the fox guarding the hen house) put the charter school management company on probation and ordered an investigation.

Interestingly Pryor and the State Board of Education’s action was aimed solely at the “FUSE” portion of the charter school management organization as the charter for the Jumoke Academy was left untouched.  In his capacity as CEO of the Jumoke Academy it was Sharpe who once told a legislative panel that reason the charter school had virtually no special education students was because they had a special program that went into their kindergarten classes and cured the students of their special education needs.  [But even statements like that didn’t stop the Malloy administration from pouring even more money into the charter school.]

Now, months after the investigation was called for, an incredibly damning report has been made public.

But in a typical move designed to limit political fallout and protect the guilty, Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education failed to release the stunning report until late in the afternoon on Friday, January 2, 2015.

The Hartford Courant, which has led the investigative work on FUSE/Jumoke didn’t get a full news report up until 8 p.m. and the CT Post, another media outlet that has followed the story, produced their updated report after 10:30 p.m.

Oh, and try as you might, you won’t even find the press release or the report listed on the Department of Education’s “Media Page.”

But you can get the news via the Hartford Courant’s piece entitled, “Probe Of Charter School Group Blasts ‘Suspect’ Conduct, ‘Rampant Nepotism.’”

Also, the CT Post stories can be found at, “State releases investigative report on FUSE/Jumoke,” and “State report details problems with FUSE management.”

The CT Post has also provided a link to the actual report: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/files/2015/01/Jumoke-FUSE-Invest-2014-2.pdf

And Diane Ravitch has quickly produced an excellent summary of the issues at,Connecticut: State Investigation Finds Rampant Nepotism and Lack of Oversight at Charter Chain.”

There will be much more about this report in the coming days, but the facts reveal the complete lack of oversight of charter schools in Connecticut and the way the report was released provides a firsthand look at the Malloy administration’s dedication to keeping citizens from knowing just how bad the situation is and how much of the people’s tax dollars are being wasted by these privately-run, publicly-funded charter school companies.

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

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The initial Wait, What? post of 2015 may very well be the most important of the year because it reiterates the disturbing truth about the Common Core, the Common Core testing scheme and what students, parents and teachers will be facing in the next few months.

The shocking truth is that Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have agreed to a Common Core testing program that is designed to label the vast majority of our children as failures.

Of the highs and lows of 2014, a primary contender for the lowest of the low points was when Governor Malloy’s administration, through outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, agreed, in a closed door meeting in Washington State – on Friday night November 14, 2014 – to intentionally set the “passing” grade on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test at a level that ensures that most of Connecticut’s children will unfairly fail the upcoming Common Core test.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one of the two consortia that were given $360 million in federal funds to design the new Common Core standardized tests. Governor Malloy’s representative on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy administration is mandating that every public school in Connecticut give the Common Core test this year.

The sad truth is that while Connecticut willingly threw our children and teachers under the Common Core testing bus, other states like Vermont have refused to participate in this Common Core testing charade and abstained on the November “cut score” setting vote.  New Hampshire abstained as well.

But Connecticut joined other corporate education reform industry groupies, and in a shocking display of arrogance and abuse, decided to set the “cut score” on the Smarter Balanced Consortium Common Core Test to ensure that only 41 percent of 11th graders will show proficiency in English/language arts, and 33 percent will do so in math.

Imagine, a standardized test that is designed to ensure that 6 in 10 students fail English/language arts and nearly 7 in 10 fail math.

The so-called group of “state education leaders” also voted to define the “passing mark” on the Common Core tests so that 38 percent to 44 percent of the elementary school children will “meet the proficiency mark” in English/language arts, and only 32 percent to 39 percent will do so in math.

Try as you might, you won’t find Connecticut’s “education” governor being quoted much about this outrage.

This decision made 3,000 miles away and behind closed doors will dramatically impact our children and their teachers, since Malloy’s education reform initiative requires that teachers be judged on how well their students do on these unfair tests.

While the action didn’t get a lot of news coverage in Connecticut, fellow public education activist and commentator, Wendy Lecker, did explained the situation in detail in a commentary piece published in the Stamford Advocate and posted here at Wait, What?  The article here was entitled, “A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker.”

While the vote was taken on Friday, November 14th, 2014, safely after the 2014 gubernatorial elections, the PR operation at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t issue their press release until Monday, November 17, 2014.  SBAC wrote,

OLYMPIA, WASH. (November 17, 2014) —Members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have voted to approve initial achievement levels for the mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) assessments that will be administered in 17 states and one territory this school year. The vote marks an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.

But Connecticut’s Wendy Lecker laid out the real truth in her recent commentary piece, explaining,

A widely acknowledged flaw of the No Child Left Behind Law is that its accountability system based on inaccurate and narrow standardized test scores unfairly, even if unintentionally, labels schools and students as failures.

So it is unconscionable that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s outgoing Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, would agree to a new testing program that intentionally deems Connecticut’s children failures. But that is exactly what Pryor and other leaders from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (“SBAC) did…”

Wendy Lecker added,

Standardized test passing rates are based on arbitrary and political decisions about how many students decision-makers want to fail. SBAC admits it cannot validate whether its tests measure college readiness until it has data on how current test takers do in college. In fact, SBAC declares that the achievement levels “do not equate directly to expectations for `on-grade’ performance” and test scores should only be used with multiple other sources of information about schools and students.

Since the vast majority of factors affecting test scores occur outside school, test scores are poor measures of school quality, teacher quality and student performance.

Yet, with his November vote, Pryor guaranteed that many successful Connecticut students and schools will now arbitrarily be declared failures.

High-stakes testing has proven to be ineffective and damaging to learning. The only way to reduce their effect is to lower the stakes. Vermont’s educational leaders recognize this and advocate abandoning unnecessary yearly testing.

Trying to explain away their action, the press release issued by the Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) sought to explain why it was a good thing that parents will soon be told that their children are failures.  The Executive Director of the Smarter Balanced Consortium wrote,

“Because the new content standards set higher expectations for students and the new tests are designed to assess student performance against those higher standards, the bar has been raised. It’s not surprising that fewer students could score at [a proficient level]. However, over time the performance of students will improve.”

So the action taken by the Malloy administration and other Common Core aficionados’ blithely claim that everything is fine because, “over time the performance of students will improve.”

Of course, they never even mention the fact that the primary factors influencing standardized test scores are poverty, English language barriers and the failure to address children’s special education needs.

The SBAC “policy paper” setting the absurd scoring system doesn’t even call for additional efforts to address those key factors nor does it even mention how inappropriate and unfair it is to evaluate public school teachers on these flawed test scores.

Instead, the consortium celebrates this outrage calling it, “an important milestone in the development of the assessment system.”

Adding insult to injury, the Smarter Balanced Consortium had the audacity to claim that the action taken by Stefan Pryor and the other state “education leaders” represented a “consensus”.

The Smarter Balanced Consortium’s PR operation claim that,

“Teachers, parents, higher education faculty, business leaders, and other community members from all of the Smarter Balanced states took part in a highly inclusive, consensus-based process that asked participants to closely examine assessment content to determine threshold scores for each achievement level. Educators who work with English language learners and students with disabilities also were included to help ensure that the achievement levels are fair and appropriate for all students.”

If parents and teachers across Connecticut fully understood how the education frauds, including those in Connecticut, have set up our children for failure, parents would be opting their children out of these unfair tests, going before local boards of education to demand immediate action and calling upon their legislators to adopt legislation requiring Connecticut to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Consortium.

But alas, the education reform proponents were among Governor Malloy’s largest campaign contributors and with the Common Core testing craze only a couple of months away, Malloy and his administration remain committed to a Common Core testing plan that will ensure that majority of Connecticut’s children are told they are nothing short of failures.

In the real world, it is called child abuse.

So was their decision to set up our children up failure one of the low points of 2014?

No, let’s amend that phrase.  When it comes to our children and their future, the decision by the Malloy administration to join a testing system that is designed to ensure that our children are deemed failures was nothing short of the lowest of the low points in 2014.

It is a long-shot, but perhaps when the new Connecticut General Assembly is sworn in next Wednesday it will find the courage to say enough is enough on the outrageous Common Core testing scheme and the legislature will actually take definitive action to put the needs of our children first.

Hartford Courant Editorial just plain wrong on Charter Schools

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Late last week the Hartford Courant began their annual series of recommendations about what our government must confront in the coming year.  The Courant’s observations are usually well thought out and on-track, but in their first piece entitled, “Agenda 2015: Ambitious Goals For The State,” they mistakenly bought into the rhetoric espoused by Governor Malloy, the corporate education reform industry and the spin coming out of Connecticut’s charter schools and their lobbyists.

In their editorial, the Courant wrote,

It became clear in 2014 that the state wasn’t good at checking on the people running charter schools. That’s changed, with new rules on criminal background checks and barring nepotism. But it took a few embarrassments. Schools need better vetting of those entrusted with young minds.

Most charters, however, are outperforming other schools in their districts. The state must carry on with the plan laid out in the 2012 education reform act to intervene in low-performing public schools

First off, the truth is that the state has done virtually nothing to hold Connecticut’s charter schools accountable for their use of taxpayer funds and rather than develop and implement a new set of accountability standards, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and his political appointees to the State Board of Education recently recommended the state fund eight new charters despite the projected $1.4 billion deficit in next year’s budget.

Even more offensive was the Courant editorial’s claim that, “Most charters, however, are outperforming other schools in their districts.”

The claim is just plain wrong when one considers that these privately-owned, but publicly-funded schools are consistently “creaming off” selected students from their communities and openly discriminating against Latinos, student who face English language barriers and students who require special education services.

That State Department of Education’s own data provides a stark assessment of how Connecticut’s charter schools are doctoring their test results by refusing to accept the diversity of students who make up the communities that these schools are supposed to be serving.

As the Courant editorial board should know by now, when it comes to opening their doors to the full breadth of their communities, Connecticut charter schools are truly failing.

If real public schools discriminated against students based on their ethnicity, language skills or special education needs, the Courant and every other respectable media outlet, as well as every education and community advocacy organization would be calling for investigations and prosecutions.

But since Connecticut’s charter schools have convinced policymakers and the media that they have better results, their discriminatory, and I would argue illegal, practices are going unchallenged and unaddressed.

The truth is that the real barriers to educational achievement are primarily due to poverty, language barriers and unmet special education needs and a look at the tables below reveal just how the charter schools are able to corrupt their test results by refusing to take their fair share of the students who face the greatest challenges.

Charter schools are notorious for bragging about their test scores, but as the evidence proves, the tests themselves are designed to fail students who don’t speak English and students who have more severe special education needs.

By refusing to admit students who would score lower on standardized tests, Connecticut’s charter schools, and most charter schools across the country, artificially create the impression that they do significantly better.

For example, take a look at the infamous Jumoke Academy Charter School in Hartford.

According to the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Tests, only 5.6% of Hartford’s non-English speaking students (categorized as English Language Learners),who took the 4th grade CMT reading test scored at or above goal… 94% of Hartford’s 4th grade ELL students scored below goal on Connecticut’s mastery test.

With absolutely no non-English speaking students, Jumoke Academy doesn’t have to face the reality of those students “pulling down” their artificially enhanced image when it comes to getting better test scores.

The same pattern is true when it comes to students needing special education services.  While upwards toward 1 in 6 Hartford students require some form of special education services, Jumoke Academy’s special education population is just over 3% and most of those have relatively minimal special education needs.

When explaining how Jumoke Academy managed to have such low numbers of special education students, “Dr.” Michael Sharpe, the charter school’s disgraced former CEO explained to a Connecticut legislative committee that he had a “secret program” that intervened at the kindergarten level and cured students of their special education needs.

But seriously, why would a school fail to take their share of special education students when the host city is obligated to pay for 100% of the costs related to providing special education students, above and beyond the generous grant the charter schools already receive?

Because, if you are a charter school and you want to appear successful, you don’t want to risk taking on the special education students since they will inevitably lower the school’s average Connecticut Mastery Test scores.

As the 2013 CMT results show, once again, only 14% of the special educations students in Hartford who took the 4th grade reading CMT test scored at or above goal.  So, of course, any school that is all about producing higher test scores will do all they can to duck their responsibility to special education students who need and deserve the same educational opportunities as every other child.

Rather than claim that “Most charters, however, are outperforming other schools in their districts,”  the Hartford Courant should have demanded that Connecticut state government  place a moratorium on any additional charter schools until the state’s existing charters stop trying to game the system and provide open and accessible education opportunities to all of their community’s students and families.

The following charts highlight how Connecticut’s charter schools discriminate against Latinos, students who face language barriers and students who require special education services.

Hartford Public Schools vs. Jumoke and Achievement First – Hartford Charters

2012-2103

English Language Learners Students from Non-English Speaking Homes Students with Special Education Needs Students who received Reduced/Free lunches
Hartford Schools 18% 40% 13.5% 85+%
Jumoke Charter School 0% 0% 3.2% 58%
Achievement First – Hartford 5.1% 7.3% 7.8% 68%

 

New Haven Public Schools vs. Achievement First -Amistad and Elm City – Charters

2012-2103

English Language Learners Students from Non-English Speaking Homes Students with Special Education Needs Students who received Reduced/Free lunches
New Haven Schools 13.8% 26% 11.1% 78+%
Achievement First  – Amistad 8.2% 19% 5% 82%
Achievement First – Elm City 5.1% 10% 6.5% 74%

 

Bridgeport Public Schools vs. Achievement First – Bridgeport Charter Schools

2012-2103

English Language Learners Students from Non-English Speaking Homes Students with Special Education Needs Students who received Reduced/Free lunches
Bridgeport Schools 14% 41% 13% 95+%
Achievement First – Bridgeport 11% 18% 8% 82%

Common Core and Charter Schools – When in doubt, try “Re-branding”

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Connecticut educator Barth Keck’s commentary pieces at the CT Newsjunkie are always a great read.

This week Barth Keck ponders the power of “re-branding” in a piece entitled, “The Year of Rebranding.” He uses his commentary piece to explores the antics of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy and the charter school industry as they try to explain away their unyielding commitment to  privatizing public education in Connecticut and pushing forward  to implement the Common Core and its unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory standardized testing scheme.

Keck is especially “on-point” with his observations, proven in part because his piece brings out some of the charter school trolls, who are always good for a laugh.

As Wikipedia explains,

“Rebranding is a marketing strategy in which a new name, term, symbol, design, or combination thereof is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, and competitors Often, this involves radical changes to a brand’s logo, name, image, marketing strategy, and advertising themes. Such changes typically aim to reposition the brand/company, occasionally to distance itself from negative connotations of the previous branding…”  Wikipedia add, “Rebranding has become something of a fad at the turn of the millennium…

Keck writes,

The world of education was similarly rife with examples of rebranding, a topic I addressed earlier this year.

As opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) grew, several states considered changing the name to deflect criticism. Officials in Iowa, for example, began calling the CCSS “the Iowa Core,” while legislators in Florida contemplated another moniker: “Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.”

Change the name, change the brand. Or so goes the thinking.

Closer to home, Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education decided this year to rebrand himself. Or maybe more accurately, to re-rebrand himself.

Keck then reminds readers,

When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Stefan Pryor as commissioner in 2011, he was lauded as a “turnaround leader” whose experience as co-founder and board president of New Haven’s Amistad Academy would “help him turn the Department of Education into an agency that helps prepare our state’s children for whichever path they may choose.”

After a tumultuous three years in the position, Pryor announced his resignation as Education Commissioner in August. Just four months later, he was nominated to become Rhode Island’s first Secretary of Commerce.

The curious transition from education commissioner to commerce secretary is not so curious to those familiar with Pryor’s previous work as Deputy Mayor for Economic Development in the City of Newark, New Jersey, and President of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

So after rebranding himself as an education expert to become an education bureaucrat, Pryor is branding himself for the second time as a business leader — a “re-rebranding” — to become a business bureaucrat.

And the best part of Keck’s piece is yet to come.  You can read the complete CT Newsjunkie Commentary piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_the_year_of_rebranding/

 

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