While Malloy stays the course on the Common Core, Cuomo distances himself from it

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According to Truth in American Education (TAE), a national, non-partisan group of concerned parents and citizens, “Andrew Cuomo Says He’ll Delay Using Common Core Scores for Five Years.

Like Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a long-time, out-spoken proponent of the Common Core and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.  However, faced with mounting opposition to the Common Core and its associated Common Core Standardized Testing Scheme, Cuomo is changing his position and has even begun to run campaign television ads distancing himself from the Common Core.

The new Cuomo anti-Common Core ad can be seen here.

Truth in Education reports,

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a campaign ad yesterday that he will delay using Common Core assessment scores for five years and then only if New York children are ready.

[…]

The Stop Common Core Ballot Line delivered over 62,000 signatures.  Over 30,000 students opted-out of Common Core assessments last spring including Cuomo’s Republican challenger, Rob Astorino’s children.

The TAE article also pointed to a July 2014 Siena College Poll that reported that 49% of New Yorkers want Common Core implementation stopped, while only 39% want to see the standards implemented.

The Siena College Poll also revealed that opposition to the Common Core was across the entire political spectrum noting, “More moderates, conservatives, union households, non-union households, men, women, suburbanites, upstaters, whites, Catholics, and members of all age groups want to see the Common Core stopped.”

But here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, have remained dedicated to the implementation of the Common Core and its related Common Core SBAC Standardized Test.

Earlier this year, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the New Haven Register’s editorial board that postponing implementation of the Common Core would be “ill conceived” and would be a step backward.

And Malloy himself has said that it is too late to turn back on the Common Core and his corporate education reform industry agenda.

Malloy recently old the Waterbury Republican-American Newspaper, “What we’ve done needs to continue to be implemented and rolled out” and the editorial board of the Day newspaper of New London spoke with Malloy and wrote, “The governor assured us he will stay the course on education reform if re-elected.”

The Hartford Courant has also reported that following another meeting, “the governor emphasized that he is not backing off his support for the teacher evaluation system or the Common Core. It’s ‘not that either one isn’t the right thing to do,” Malloy said.”

As appalling as Malloy and Pryor’s support has been, even worse is the fact that Malloy and his Commissioner of Education have spent countless hours engaged in a campaign to mislead parents into thinking that they do not have the right to opt-out their children from the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.

It is worth repeating that while Governor Malloy and Commission Pryor claim that federal and state laws trump parental rights when it comes to taking the Common Core Standardized Tests, there are no federal or state laws that prohibit parents from opting their children out of the Common Core Tests nor is there any law that allows schools to punish parents or students for opting out of the tests.

Rather than protecting the rights of parents, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education sent out a memo to Connecticut’s school superintendents explaining how they should go about misleading, scaring and lying to Connecticut parents in an immoral effort to stop parents from opting-out their children.

Even if Cuomo’s “conversion” on the Common Core is nothing more than political self-preservation, it is certainly an interesting development that even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has come to recognize that parroting the Common Core and Corporate Education Reform Industry rhetoric is not the right thing to do.

The Charter School Hoax

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They call themselves “public schools” when they want to collect nearly $100 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds each year, but refuse to come clean about how they spend that money pointing out that they are “private companies.”

Furthermore, here in Connecticut, they predominately refuse to educate Latinos, bi-lingual students and students who have special education needs.

And when they do happen to get students they don’t want through their so-called “open lottery” system they have a sophisticated operation for “counselling” or pushing out students who have behavior issues or otherwise don’t meet their limited “criteria” for the type of student they want in their school.

In fact, according to the most recent data available on the State Department of Education website, Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, manages to “lose” about 50% of its high school students over the course of four years.

In her latest, “MUST READ” commentary piece, public school advocate Wendy Lecker writes in the Stamford Advocate that it’s time to confront the truth about the charter movement.

Wendy Lecker writes;

Almost daily, headlines are filled with stories of charter school fraud or mismanagement. Recent revelations about possible illegal practices in charter schools in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere have led even charter supporters to try to distance themselves from the “crony capitalism” fueling this sector.

It is cold comfort that Connecticut officials are not alone in allowing unscrupulous charter operators to bilk taxpayers. It is time to reassess the entire charter movement in Connecticut.

Recall the original promises made by charter proponents: that they would benefit all public schools — showing public schools the way by using “innovative” methods to deliver a better education to struggling students in an efficient, less expensive manner.

None of those promises have been kept. Charters cannot point to any “innovations” that lead to better achievement. Smaller classes and wraparound services are not innovations — public schools have been begging for these resources for years. Charter practices such as failing to serve our neediest children, e.g., English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and “counseling out” children who cannot adhere to overly strict disciplinary policies, are not “innovations” — and should be prohibited.

Charters often spend more than public schools. Charters in Bridgeport and Stamford spend more per pupil than their host districts. And while it appears that charters in New Haven and Hartford spend comparable amounts, they serve a less needy, and less expensive, population. Moreover, Connecticut charters need not pay for special education services, transportation, or, if they serve fewer than 20 ELL students, ELL services.

While Connecticut owes billions of dollars to our neediest districts, officials provide higher per-pupil allocations to charters. For example charter schools receive $11,500 per pupil from the state, but Bridgeport’s ECS allocation is only $8,662 per pupil. Bridgeport is owed an additional $5,446 according to the CCJEF plaintiffs, not including the cost of teacher evaluations, the Common Core, and other unfunded mandates imposed over the years.

Connecticut increased charter funding over the past three years by $2,100 per pupil, while our poorest school districts received an average increase of only $642 per pupil.

As former New York charter authorizer Pedro Noguera lamented recently, charter schools are a “black box”; fighting transparency in enrollment, educational, managerial and financial practices. It is time for taxpayers force the black box open. Charters receive billions of public dollars. We must ensure that these funds are spent to improve education for all children.

Connecticut officials do not help matters with their almost nonexistent oversight of charter schools. Our State Board of Education’s shocking blindness in the Jumoke scandal is only one example. In their rush to approve any new charter, the board fails to verify charter claims, ignores community opposition and disregards its own rules against segregation in and over-concentration of charter schools. While punishing poor school districts, SBE routinely reauthorizes charters with poor records, excusing their failure to meet academic targets. Connecticut’s state education officials clearly need a scripted curriculum.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform’s “Public Accountability for Charter Schools,” is a good starting point. The report outlines areas that demand equity, accountability and transparency: such as enrollment, governance, contracts, and management.

Connecticut must require, as a condition of continued authorization, that charters serve the same demographics as their host districts, through clearly delineated controlled choice policies.

Charter schools must maintain transparent and publicly available annual records and policies regarding enrollment, discipline and attrition. Charters must ensure that they do not employ subtle barriers to enrollment, such as strict disciplinary policies or requirements for parent participation as a condition of attendance. No such barriers exist in public schools.

Charters must prove that they meet the specific needs of the host community in a way the public schools do not. Charters must not be imposed over community opposition. State officials must assess the negative impact of charters on a district, including segregation and funding effects.

Charters must post all contracts and fully disclose revenues and expenditures. Charter officials, board members and employees must undergo background checks and disclose any relationships with contractors, state officials and others dealing with their school. Parents in charter schools must be allowed to elect charter board members.

Charters must show evidence annually that their unique educational methods improve achievement.

These are only some of the reforms that must be enacted — and enforced — for all charters, to ensure that these privately run schools are not shortchanging taxpayers, parents or children. In the meantime, Connecticut needs a moratorium on any new charter schools until this sector gets its house in order.

You can read the full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Reassess-the-charter-movement-5830482.php

Connecticut – Our children are not stupid

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However, that is EXACTLY what the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test is designed to tell us.

The shocking, truth is that parents who do not opt their child out of the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing regime this year will “discover” that approximately 70% of the state’s children are failing.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In a CT Mirror commentary piece entitled “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core,” Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Connecticut’s charter school lobbying group goes to great length to actually MISLEAD Connecticut’s parents about the false promise of the Common Core.

This pro-Common Core cheerleader and leading apologist for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda claims that,

…we must continue to implement consistent high standards like the Common Core across every classroom, every school, and every district in our state. It is a necessary step toward our goal of providing a high-quality education for every Connecticut child.

But what Jennifer Alexander, Governor Malloy and the other proponents of the Common Core fail to tell parents, and the public, is that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to ensure that only about one-third of our state’s public school students get passing marks.

How is that possible?

Because the Common Core Test uses what is called the NAEP “proficient” level as its passing grade.  NAEP is The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national testing entity.

According to NAEP, the “proficient” level is a standard that is equivalent to what is deemed “high performance,” rather than what would be considered grade-level performance.

So, in reality, the Common Core Test is not designed to determine whether our children are learning what is expected at that grade level, but is purposely designed to pretend that all students should be “higher performers.”

Of course, as every parent knows, while all children can learn and thrive with the right support, not all students are academic “high performers” each step of the way.

But proponents of the Common Core testing system like Jennifer Alexander and Governor Malloy won’t tell parents that their children will be deemed failing if they don’t score at the “high performer” level.

When New York State implemented the Common Core Test, student scores across the state dropped by nearly 50 percent from the scores those same students had received in previous, more grade level-oriented, standardized tests.

The result of the Common Core Test was that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts  Common Core tests.

Did New York students suddenly become stupid?

No, of course not!

Even worse, the Common Core Test design is particularly unfair to African American and Latino American students.  In New York State, only about one in five Black and Latino students “passed’ and the Common Core test design ensured that only 3% of the English Language Learners achieved passing scores under the new Common Core scheme.

To put it bluntly, the Common Core Test is designed to send students of color, students who have English Language barriers and students with special education needs home with a report that indicates that they are failing.

The underlying problem with the Common Core Testing is not a secret, although many politicians wish that it was.  As has been widely reported, the Common Core Test gives fifth graders questions that are written at an 8th grade level.

The harsh reality is that the “cut score” or passing number on the Common Core Test has been purposely set so that approximately 30 percent of the test takers pass and 70 percent fail.

Jennifer Alexander, who is paid a six-figure income to speak for the charter school industry, doesn’t reveal that the real reason the corporate education reform industry loves the Common Core Testing is because it produces an almost unlimited list of failing schools.

And thanks to Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, federal law provides that failing schools can be handed over to charter school management companies…and with it hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds going to private charter school corporations to run public schools.

For the truth about the Common Core Testing system one need only go back to a 2011 article in the Washington Post in which James Harvey, the executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, explains what the NAEP proficient level really means.

Harvey says,

“Proficiency remains a tough nut to crack for most students, in all subjects, at all grade levels. NAEP reports that only one third of American students are proficient or better, no matter the subject, the age of the students, or their grade level

[…]

NAEP’s benchmarks, including the proficiency standard, evolved out of a process only marginally better than throwing darts at the wall.

That’s a troubling conclusion to reach in light of the expenditure of more than a billion dollars on NAEP over 40-odd years by the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessors. For all that money, one would expect that NAEP could defend its benchmarks of Basic, Proficient, and Advanced by pointing to rock-solid studies of the validity of its benchmarks and the science underlying them. But it can’t.

Instead, NAEP and the National Assessment Governing Board that promulgated the benchmarks have spent the better part of 20 years fending off a consensus in the scientific community that the benchmarks lack validity and don’t make sense. Indeed, the science behind these benchmarks is so weak that Congress insists that every NAEP report include the following disclaimer: “NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] has determined that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

So the Common Core score is tied to a system that even the United States Congress admits should be “used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

Harvey goes on to explain,

“Proficient Doesn’t Mean Proficient.

Oddly, NAEP’s definition of proficiency has little or nothing to do with proficiency as most people understand the term. NAEP experts think of NAEP’s standard as “aspirational.” In 2001, two experts associated with NAEP’s National Assessment Governing…made it clear that:

“[T]he proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”

Despite the mountains of evidence about the problems with the Common Core and Common Core testing, corporate elitists like ConnCAN have the chutzpah to say we should implement the Common Core and the unfair Common Cores tests because, “many national studies that show wide support for clear, high standards to help ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, are ready for the challenges of college and career.”

As parents of public school children, we all recognize that there is nothing wrong having “clear, high standards.” Standards are good and Connecticut has its own process for updating and enhancing our state’s academic standards.

Yet rather than using Connecticut’s process and respecting the values inherent in the local control of education, the Common Core was developed using a system that did not include the full involvement of teachers, parents and the community.

Governor Malloy, ConnCAN and the corporate education reform industry have thrown their support behind an inappropriate set of national standards that were not developed by teachers, parents or those who know what is developmentally appropriate for children.

Furthermore, had the proponents of the Common Core been genuinely interested in enhancing educational standards in the United States they would have developed those standards using the appropriate people and then phased in those goals over a period of ten years, thereby allowing our schools to ramp up what we expect of our children and our public education system.

Instead, in a grotesque effort to grab as much public funding as possible for the testing companies and the rest of the education reform industry, these people, with the help of our government officials, mandated the Common Core standards and then mandated that our children be tested against those standards immediately.

So what have we been given?

Connecticut has been served up a system that is designed to tell 70 percent of our students that they are failures.

And that is nothing short of child abuse.

Rather than pushing the flawed Common Core testing program on our students, teachers and public schools, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Pryor, and Connecticut’s public school superintendents and principals should be standing up and protecting our children from this unwarranted abuse.

But since they won’t, it is up to parents to take on the task of stopping this abuse by opting our children out of the absurd Common Core Standardized Testing program.

And if your school district tells you that you can’t opt out your child, remind them that this is America and that there is absolutely no federal or state law that revokes your parental rights when it comes to standardized testing in our public schools!

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.

In this case, the Malloy administration and the proponents of the Common Core and its related testing apparatus are nothing short of bullies —– and they must be stopped before they do any more damage to our children and our public schools.

The charter school industry’s commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a clear reminder.

The time is now to tell your school district that your children will not be participating in this year’s Common Core Testing.

Special Master to free New London’s students, parents and teachers

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Hooray, add “emancipation” to the Malloy administration’s achievements!

Proving that election years tend to help some public officials see more clearly, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, went before Malloy’s State Board of Education today to announce that as long as New London continued to followed his directives, he would be willing to recommend that the state return full control of New London’s schools to the Board of Education that was democratically elected by the citizens of that community.

According to the Day newspaper of New London,

“Steven J. Adamowski, the special master appointed by the state to oversee the city’s school system, is expected to recommend to the state Board of Education today that the state lift its involvement in New London by July 1, 2015.

‘Giving several caveats that would occur during this school year, that remains my recommendation,’ Adamowski said Tuesday. “One caveat would be that the commissioner feels that this district is continuing to make good progress and another would be having a permanent superintendent in place.”

The tidbit about Adamowski’s dedication to finding a permanent superintendent may well be one of the funniest developments of the whole Special Master charade.

The Day newspaper goes on to report that, “Adamowski called choosing a new superintendent the ‘most important decision for the future of New London schools.”

As Wait, What? readers know, pushed by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Special Master Steven Adamowski, the New London Board of Education was about to hire the man formally known as “Dr.” Terrence Carter before the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender (and the New London Day) published a series of scathing investigative reports revealing that Carter did not have the various academic doctorates that he claimed that he had, that he “plagiarized sections of his job application,” and that he mislead the board of education on a variety of other issues.

Now, weeks later, in a modern lesson on the Malloy administration’s dedication to “revisionist history,” the Day newspaper added that, “Though Pryor interviewed Carter and gave the city his blessing, Carter was not pre-approved by his office.”

It is a s statement that would be hard to defend considering the written correspondence and actions taken by Pryor and his staff.

But regardless, with less than five weeks to go until the election, it is good to hear that the Malloy administration has decided that it is time to announce that they will eventually recognize the democratic rights of New London ‘s voters and return control of New London’s schools to the people who were actually elected to oversee them.

Of course, let’s remember…Freedom isn’t Free… And New London’s elected officials must still meet those various and somewhat vague “caveats” before Malloy’s Special Master will actually FREE the students, parents and teachers from his authoritarian grip.

A portion of the Day’s coverage can be found at: http://www.theday.com/article/20141001/NWS01/141009975/1047/NWS

Tom Foley’s bizarre move on Education Policy and its potential impact on the CEA endorsement

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In what appears to be an ongoing effort to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor, has proposed an education policy that looks eerily similar to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives.

Over the past four years Governor Malloy has earned the reputation as the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation and remains the only Democratic governor to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the state’s poorest schools.

However, instead of providing Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public school advocates with appropriate policies that would support and strengthen public education, Tom Foley has proposed an education plan that appears to be designed by the very same corporate education reform industry groupies that are behind Malloy’s ill-conceived education initiatives.

In fact, elements of Foley’s plan appear to be a virtual copy of the proposals being pushed by Steven Adamowski, one of Malloy’s top advisors who presently serves as Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and formerly worked in the same capacity in Windham.

While Foley’s plan is vague and lacks details, the foundation of his education agenda, according to media coverage, would “mandate that parents in struggling schools be allowed to move their students anywhere within their local school systems, with money following the child.”

It is a system that has been tried and failed repeatedly around the country and is a particular favorite of Steven Adamowski, who previously served as superintendent of schools in Hartford before taking that same inappropriate approach with him to New London and Windham.

Tom Foley is quoted as saying,

“What I’m hoping is that when you have in-district public school choice and money follows the child that the marketplace starts to exert pressure on schools to perform better…So, right away, that schools are on notice that if I’m governor, I’m going to try to make sure this gets passed and implemented, so if they should start trying to be better schools right away, to the extent they can.”

The Foley plan would be a disaster for Connecticut, but in what may be one of the biggest ironies of the entire 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Malloy and his legislative supporters have blasted Foley for announcing his plan…despite the fact that Malloy and the Democrats in the General Assembly have supported very similar policies.

In a story entitled, Malloy sees, seizes opportunity in Foley’s school plan, the CT Mirror reported,

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved quickly Thursday to exploit what Democrats say is an ill-considered and impractical proposal by Republican Tom Foley to allow urban parents to pick the local public school of their choice and strip money from failing schools as their children go elsewhere.

Malloy said the education proposals Foley made Wednesday as part of a larger urban agenda show that the Greenwich businessman has no grasp of current education policies and resources, nor does he appreciate how devastating it would be to urban school systems to begin denying funds to schools that need more resources.

“You can’t treat a school like a factory. You don’t sell it. You don’t close it. You have an obligation to make it work,” Malloy said.”

This from the Democratic governor whose “Commissioner’s Network” program has undermined local control, handed public schools over to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain in Hartford and Bridgeport and devastated a number of urban schools by implementing a “money follows the child” system that has left troubled schools without the resources they need to even serve the students that have remained in those schools.

According to the news article, Malloy went on to blast Foley saying,

“It’s a bunch of mush. It’s a mouthful of mush is what it is, except it’s dangerous,” Malloy said of what he called an ill-defined plan. “It’s defeating. It underlies an absolute lack of understanding of how education works in Connecticut. He gets an F for homework. He gets an F for plagiarism. And he gets an F for new ideas.”

Malloy’s quote is truly incredible considering the ideas that Foley is “stealing” come from Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, and the gaggle of education reform industry supporters that surround Malloy.

As the CT Mirror reports, Malloy and his campaign operatives are hoping that they can use Foley’s blunder on education to persuade the Connecticut Education Association to endorse Malloy tonight when they meet to decide whether to endorse a candidate for governor or make no endorsement in this year’s election.

The fundamental problem with Malloy’s latest strategy is that it would require the CEA leadership to overlook Malloy’s record of failure and destruction when it comes to his own policies on public education.

To endorse Malloy, the CEA would be throwing their members “under the bus” since Malloy’s record includes the following:

  • Governor Malloy is the ONLY Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest school districts.
    • To date, Malloy has never publically renounced his anti-tenure, anti-collective bargaining position nor has he admitted that he made a mistake when he originally introduced the proposal.
  • Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.
    • To date, Malloy has not committed to “de-coupling” the teacher evaluation program from the unfair and inappropriate standardized tests.
  • When running for governor in 2006 and 2010, Malloy admitted that Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate (even unconstitutional).  As Mayor of Stamford, Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in the critically important CCJEF v. Rell court case, but as governor he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.
    • To date, Malloy has not promised to settle the CCJEF lawsuit and develop a constitutionally appropriate school funding formula.
  • As Governor, Malloy has increased state funding for privately-run charter schools by 73.6% while providing Connecticut’s public schools with only a 7.9% increase in support.  Connecticut has learned from the Jumoke/FUSE Charter School debacle that charter schools are not held accountable and it took a raid by the FBI to ensure that charter schools are held responsible for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.
    • To date, Malloy has not announced a moratorium on additional charter schools until mechanisms are developed and put in place that will ensure that taxpayer funds are not being misused, wasted or stolen.
  • And while tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on the massive Common Core Standardized Testing Program, Malloy and his administration have repeatedly lied and misled parents about their fundamental right to opt their children out of the new tests.
    • To date, Malloy and his administration have FAILED to tell parents that they do have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core standardized testing scheme.

Despite Tom Foley’s decision to join Malloy in backing the corporate education reform industry’s agenda, any endorsement of Malloy – prior to him publicly reversing course on the issues listed above – would be an insult to every Connecticut teacher and the tens of thousands of parents and public school advocates who are counting on the Connecticut Education Association to stand up for public education in Connecticut.

You can read more about Foley and Malloy’s antics in the following articles:

CT Mirror:  http://ctmirror.org/malloy-sees-seizes-opportunity-in-foleys-school-plan/ and http://ctmirror.org/foleys-urban-agenda-something-borrowed-something-new/

CT NewsJunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_stands_his_ground_on_education_policy/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/democratic_lawmakers_criticize_foleys_education_policies/

Courant: Malloy, Unions Criticize Foley’s Education Plan

 

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

Malloy’s administration to tout Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda at National Conference

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While wooing teachers with false promises of a change in policy here at home, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration continue to trumpet their Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda far from the gaze of Connecticut voters.

Next month Connecticut taxpayers will pick up the tab to send the Connecticut delegation to the annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting in Colorado. Of course, ever year, the taxpayers also pick up the tab for Connecticut’s membership in the organization.

The National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE) claims that it “exists to serve and strengthen State Boards of Education in their pursuit of high levels of academic achievement for all students.”

How do they go about doing that? Well just last year the NASBE accepted an $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spend the next two years pushing the Common Core with state boards of education and other “stakeholders” involved with running public education around the country.

So while Malloy will spend his October trying to persuade Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is “softening” his pro-corporate education reform stance, his delegation will be jetting off to Colorado to showcase Malloy’s “record of success” when it comes to dramatically increasing the use of standardized tests, expanding the role of charter schools and undermining the role and rights of parents, teachers and school boards.

One session at the NASBE national conference is entitled “State Policy and Practice for Turnaround Schools.” Lead presenters include Morgan Barth, one of Stefan Pryor’s top appointees at the State Department of Education and State Board of Education member Stephen Wright.

Barth is the former Achievement First Inc. employee who, with no state certification, illegally taught and worked at Achievement First for at least six years before Achievement First’s lobbyists managed to get the law changed to allow charter schools to have up to 30% of their teaching and administrative staff be non-certified.

Although repeatedly warned by the State Department of Education that Barth’s lack of appropriate certification meant he was teaching illegally, Achievement First, Inc. kept him on the payroll and in the classroom the entire time.

When Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Pryor hired Barth to play the key role in the SDE’s “turnaround office” where he has spent his time getting Alliance Districts to turn over their schools to charter companies, most notably, to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain.

Connecticut’s other representative at the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting is Steven Wright, a Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education who served as chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education.

Wright has been one of Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s strongest allies and safest votes on the State Board of Education.  Reporting on another national conference earlier this year, the conference wrote,

“Wright hailed the state’s work to adopt Common Core standards, saying the standards are the best thing for students and teachers…’They are empirically superior and age-appropriate — developed by educators,’”

And in 2012 when the Trumbull Education Association refused to accept an “award” from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, Wright, in his role as Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, attacked the union saying,

“I read with no small measure of disappointment the letter of the Trumbull Teacher’s Association rejecting the prestigious recognition the high school received from ConnCAN… through an obvious display of ignorance of the goals of ConnCAN and an undertone of an elitist attitude, the authors of the letter have managed to alienate trusted allies and provided the missing ingredients that will sway those who were on the fence with the education reform legislation to side with the Governor and give wholesale support to the reforms proposed in Senate Bill #24.”

And if Barth and Wright’s participation wasn’t telling enough, another speaker at the October National Association of State Boards of Education will be a senior corporate officer from Global Strategies Group, the political consulting group that serves as Malloy’s lead campaign consultant while running the public relations program for Connecticut’s corporate education reform groups.

In the past year or so, Global Strategies Group has collected at least $297,000 from the Malloy campaign and his shadow political operation at the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

During the same period, Global Strategies Group has billed ConnCAN and A Better Connecticut, Connecticut’s two leading education reform groups, more than $2.5 million for consulting services and media costs.  Global Strategies produced and broadcast nearly $2 million in television advertisements “thanking Governor Malloy” for his leadership on the education reform effort.

And what will the Global Strategies Group representative be speaking about?

“What’s in Store on Election Day and What Does It Mean for Education?”

One wonders how many times he’ll mention Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the most pro-education reform, anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation.

But one thing will be certain — While Malloy’s operatives will be singing his praises at the NASBE meeting in Colorado, Malloy himself will be here, at home, telling teachers, parents and public education advocates that he has “seen the light” and will spend his second term supporting teachers and Connecticut’s public education system.

The pro-Common Core Standardized Testing governor throws students, parents and teachers a bone.

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With election day in sight, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, one the of country’s leading corporate education reform supporters, recently issued a press release announcing that he was writing a letter to Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to “explore” reducing the use of the Common Core standardized testing for 11th graders.  (Malloy’s pro-corporate education reform industry initiatives have earned him more than a quarter of a million dollars in campaign donations from the state and national education reformers so far this year).

Pro-public education advocate and Hearst Media Group columnist Wendy Lecker takes on Governor Malloy’s standardized testing ploy in an commentary piece entitled, “Malloy’s empty words about testing

Wendy Lecker writes,

Throughout his administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s education policies have been characterized by a disdain for evidence of what helps children learn, and a refusal to listen to those closest to students — parents and teachers. While it has been proven that test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning, and has increased stress in children of all ages, Malloy callously maintained, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores.”

Now, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the governor has suddenly declared an interest in the welfare of children — or some children. In a self-congratulatory news release, the governor announced that he wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to begin a “dialogue” about how to reduce one standardized test for 11th graders.

Malloy’s newly discovered concern for over-testing for one grade must be understood against his record on standardized testing. Just two years ago, the Malloy administration rushed through an application for an NCLB “waiver,” which exchanged some of NCLB’s mandates for many other mandates — including massively increasing standardized testing. The waiver obligated the state to administer the Common Core tests, including moving the high school test from 10th to 11th grade, and to use the widely discredited method of including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Recognizing the potential for an explosion in standardized testing, parents, school board members and teachers implored the Malloy administration not to apply for the NCLB waiver until it assessed the impact on our children and the cost to taxpayers. Yet, the Malloy administration ignored these warnings and submitted the application.

A year before the administration of the SBAC field tests statewide, I and others wrote about the lunacy of moving the high school test to 11th grade, a year when most students have a heavy course-load, AP tests, ACTs and SATs. Again, the Malloy administration disregarded the public and charged ahead.

When the statewide SBAC pilot tests were to be administered last year, parents expressed reluctance to state and local officials about subjecting their children to this experiment. Rather than consider their genuine concern, the Malloy administration employed a strategy to intimidate parents. It called for presenting parents with threatening letters and half-truths. Finally, if a parent persisted through the gauntlet of misrepresentations and insisted on opting her child out, the Malloy administration would relent and admit there is no penalty for doing so.

Some parents defied the Malloy administration’s bullying and sat their children out of the field tests. Eleventh graders sat out in the largest numbers. Hence Malloy’s new-found concern for over-testing — for 11th graders only.

Though Malloy professes concern about over-testing 11th graders, in reality he plans to increase testing for everyone. In May, his PEAC commission announced a plan to use multiple standardized tests in teacher evaluations going forward. Not only does this plan double down on the flawed practice of using standardized tests to measure a teacher’s performance, it also vastly increases testing for children. The SBAC interim tests, which the Malloy administration recommends, will likely double the standardized testing that already exists.

Against the reality of his policies, Malloy’s letter to Duncan proves to be nothing more than political posturing.

Contrast Malloy’s empty rhetoric with the actions of Vermont’s state officials. As Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe explained to parents in a letter in August, Vermont chose not to apply for the NCLB waiver because of the voluminous evidence demonstrating that including test scores in teacher evaluations is inaccurate; and the evidence that over-emphasizing standardized tests discourages teaching a rich curriculum.

In this letter, Holcombe explained that Vermont disagrees with federal education policy around standardized testing. She declared that NCLB’s reliance on test scores as the main measure of school quality “does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being.” Noting the failure of test-based accountability to narrow learning gaps between poor and affluent children, Holcombe wrote: “We need a different approach that actually works.”

Vermont’s State Board of Education followed with a resolution carefully reviewing the evidence on testing; calling on the federal government to reduce testing mandates and to stop using tests to evaluate teachers; and calling on state and national organizations to broaden educational goals and ensure adequate resources for schools.

The actions of Vermont’s state government remind us that the purpose of education policies is to benefit children. Sadly, Governor Malloy only seems to acknowledge the welfare of children when he is trying to snag votes.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s full commentary piece in the Stamford Advocate at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Lecker-Malloy-s-empty-words-about-testing-5768147.php

Another MUST READ column on Jumoke/FUSE by Sarah Darer Littman

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Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens.  She is also one of the most important voices on behalf of public education in Connecticut.

This week Sarah Darer Littman’s commentary piece on  CTNewsJunkie is a key addition to the discussion about the impact the corporate education reform industry is having in Connecticut and how key players in the Malloy administration, the City of Hartford and various pro-education reform entities are undermining Connecticut’s public education system.

In a piece entitled, “Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse,” Sarah Darer Littman writes,

“…I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner…

[…]

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws , the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012  — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

[…]

What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions  when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

And the stunning, disturbing and incredible story gets worse…. Much, much worse…

The entire “MUST READ” article can be found at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_dont_let_foundation_money_be_a_trojan_horse/

Sarah DarerLittman ends her piece with the observation,

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Editor’s Note:

While Sarah is absolutely right about the need for greater transparency and accountability, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that various players within the Malloy administration and the City of Hartford violated the spirit and the letter of Connecticut law.  While great transparency and accountability is vitally important, when it comes to the Jumoke/FUSE issue, indictments and convictions are also in order.

But please take the time to read the commentary piece – Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse.

Jumoke Charter School Company back in the news due to missing computers

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The disgraced charter school company that got tens of millions of taxpayer dollars thanks to no-bid contracts from the Malloy administration is back in the news.

Apparently the constant flow of checks from Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Department of Education wasn’t enough to appease the charter school company and its management.

The Hartford Courant is reporting that Jumoke may have removed more than $40,000 worth of “technology and equipment” before being booted out of Hartford’s Milner School earlier this year.

The Malloy administration gave Jumoke/FUSE charter school company no-bid contracts to run public schools in Hartford and Bridgeport and was granted management of a new charter school in New Haven.  There are also reports of a secret deal that fell through to give the charter school company control of a public school in Waterbury.

After a series of scathing investigative news stories written by the Hartford Courant, the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company collapsed, although the Malloy administration has allowed Jumoke to continue to run its original charter school in Hartford.  To date, Jumoke’s Hartford Charter School has cost Connecticut taxpayers over $50 million.

Now, according to a report in the Hartford Courant, when the Hartford Public School System re-took control of the Milner School this past summer, “among the 30 assets that cannot be found at Milner are 19 computers with monitors, including nine Lenovo computers that were acquired by Milner in January 2013 at a price of $900 each.”

The Hartford Courant reports that Hartford School officials wrote to Jumoke saying,

“If the Hartford Public Schools does not receive notice that Jumoke Academy, Inc./FUSE is returning the items or paying for the full replacement value of the identified missing materials, we will have no alternative but to treat the matter as a theft with the appropriate authorities,” wrote Paula Altieri, Hartford schools’ chief financial officer, in a certified letter dated Sept. 9.”

[…]

Hartford school officials said the district conducted a physical inventory of all schools in May 2013, then reviewed Milner’s assets again in late February and noted 54 “unaccounted for” items totaling $70,391.90 in value, including 11 laptops and five electronic SMART Boards.

School officials said they informed Michael M. Sharpe, then the CEO of FUSE, of the results of the second Milner inventory during an early March conference call. Sharpe has disputed the district’s findings.

At some point along the way, the Hartford Courant apparently asked Michael Sharpe, Jumoke/FUSE’s former CEO, about the missing equipment.  According to today’s Courant news story, Sharpe “blamed the Hartford school system for losing the equipment.”

You can read the full Hartford Courant story at: http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-81386037/

CEA Education Forum 2014 – September 13, 2014

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The Connecticut Education Association will be holding their forum with the gubernatorial candidates on Saturday, September 13, 2014 with a follow up CEA Political Action Committee meeting scheduled for September 17, 2014.

Having fallen short on the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, I will not be participating, but I do know the CEA endorsement process includes giving candidates a questionnaire and allowing them an opportunity so speak and answer questions, all before the CEA leadership endorses a candidate.  It is certainly an improvement over the AFT-CT’s “candidate endorsement” process.  In their case, they refused to allow candidates to fill out a questionnaire, interview with the PAC committee or even address the executive committee before they endorsed Dannel Malloy, the most anti-teacher Democratic governor in the country.  They have since provided him with even more member dues to help pay for his misleading campaign ads.

There are many questions that should be asked of the candidates for governor, but here are a few that will hopefully be asked at Saturday’s forum.

Question #1:  TENURE

Governor Dannel Malloy is the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with tenure for all public school teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers in the lowest performing public schools. 

To date, Mr. Malloy has not renounced his anti-tenure proposal.

In response to Malloy’s remark that public school teachers need only show up for four years and they’ll get tenure, Malloy recently told the audience at the Norwich Bulletin Candidate Debate, “I should admit that was bad language. It wasn’t about them. It was about tenure… I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.’”

Apparently as late as this month, Governor Malloy is saying that his anti-teacher statement wasn’t meant to denigrate teachers but was meant to disparage tenure?

Q:  What is your position on teacher tenure?

Question #2:  TEACHER EVALUATION

Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative requires teacher evaluation programs to be linked to standardized test scores despite the fact that academic resources show that standardized tests scores are primarily influenced by poverty, language barriers, and the lack of special education services for students rather than teacher performance.  On the other hand, there are multiple teacher evaluation programs around the country that do not tie teacher evaluations to unfair, inappropriate and misleading standardized test results.

Q:  Will you commit to decoupling teacher evaluation programs from standardized test scores and replacing the present plan with one that actually ties teacher evaluation to factors that successfully measure teacher performance?

Question #3:  CCJEF SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT

Connecticut’s present Education Cost Sharing Formula is outdated and inadequate.  In fact, Connecticut’s present school funding formula fails to meet the provisions of Connecticut’s Constitution.  The state’s failure to revamp its school funding system has led to the CCJEV v. Rell school finance lawsuit.  As Mayor of Stamford, Governor Malloy was one of the original plaintiffs in this critically important case, but as governor, he has spent the last four years trying to get the case dismissed and then postponed until after this year’s election.

Q:  Will you commit to settling the CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit and use the CCFEF Coalition’s expertise to fix Connecticut’s broken school funding system.

Question #4:  EXISTING SCHOOL FUNDING

Over the past four years, state funding for privately-run charter schools has increased by 73.6% [from $53 million to $92 million], while Connecticut’s public school districts were provided with a 7.9% increase in support.  Virtually all of the new funding was allocated to the state’s 30 alliance districts (with major strings attached).  The result has been a loss of local control for Connecticut’s poorest towns and no meaningful support for middle-class towns that have become even more reliant on regressive local property taxes.

Q:  Since shifting to a new funding system will take time, as governor, how will you handle school funding during in the short term?

Question #5:  COMMON CORE AND THE COMMON CORE TESTING SCHEME

The Common Core and its associated massive Common Core Testing Scheme has become particularly controversial.  The state, local school districts, teachers, students and parents are being faced with rapidly adopting an extremely expensive, educationally questionable system.

Q:  Can you outline your opinion on the Common Core and Standardized Testing?      

Question #6:  COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION

Commissioner Stefan Pryor has announced that he will be leaving his position at the end of 2014.  Mr. Pryor’s tenure has been steeped in controversy, due in part to his commitment to the corporate education reform agenda, his leadership style and his relationship with charter schools, most directly with Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that has been the largest single financial beneficiary of state funds to charter schools over the past four years.

Q:  As Governor, what type of person would you appoint as Commissioner of Education and can you give us some names of people you think would be worthy of your consideration?

Question #7:  MANAGING THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Over the past four years, the Department of Education has been restructured.  Commissioner Pryor upended the Department’s “turnaround office” by eliminating the Leaders in Residence Program, removing three experienced former  Connecticut superintendents and four other expert administrators, as well as transfer out a number of nationally-recognized experts including one in English as a Second Language, one in Multi-cultural Education and one in School Climate and Bullying.  In their place, these tasks were outsourced to an inexperienced, out-of-state company for nearly $2 million dollars.  In addition, a series of other no-bid contracts were given to other out-of-state companies to perform tasks in which Connecticut expertise was available.

Q:  As Governor, what would be your vision for the State Department of Education and what is would be your approach to outside contracting?

There are many more questions that should be asked as well, please feel free to add them to the list:

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