Malloy administration recruits “Dream Team” to sell Common Core to Connecticut teachers

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The Malloy administration is implementing a new Common Core PR extravaganza.

Initially Malloy and his team wanted to run a $1 million Connecticut taxpayer funded pro-Common Core advertising campaign.

But when a political firestorm forced them to back down, the Malloy team came up with a different publicly funded campaign to sell the Common Core.  This time the brainchild is from an out-of-state company hired by Commissioner Stefan Pryor to manage the effort.

The company hired to lead Connecticut to the Common Core Promised Land is called Learnzillion.com.

Learnzillon.com will train teachers on how to persuade their fellow teachers to better appreciate the Common Core and become proficient at utilizing the Common Core to prepare students from kindergarten to high school to become “college and career ready.”

According to Learnzillion, the Common Core Dream Team is;

 “…a group of extraordinary teachers from around the country. They represent district, charter, and private schools, and bring with them a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. This group is united in their goal to develop themselves and each other, through a collaborative process of creating, curating, and sharing high-quality resources for use with students.

But being on the Dream Team is about more than creating great content—it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

We’re currently recruiting talented teachers of math and ELA in grades 2-12 to join the 2014 Dream Team. Dream Team members are selected through a highly competitive application process. We’re looking for teachers who are not only content-area experts, but also those who are eager to share and collaborate with others, hungry for feedback, and excited about growing their leadership skills.”

Dream Team members will be trained and then paid to bring the Common Core to Connecticut’s public schools.

In this case, 97 Connecticut public school teachers have been recruited.

In addition to the taxpayer funds, LearnZillion has been raising funds on Wall Street.  According to Techcrunch.com, just a year ago, “To help it scale and continue to add content to its free resource, [LearnZillion announced] that it has raised $7 million in Series A financing.”

According to the company, “Teachers and parents can get access to the LearnZillion platform for free, while schools and districts are required to subscribe to a paid, enterprise-level plan, which gives them access to premium professional development content, teaching insights and analytics, among other things.” 

So Learnzillion is collecting money from the state taxpayers so it can train public school teachers to better appreciate the Common Core.  Then company, in turn, can then cash in by getting school districts to subscribe to a “paid, enterprise-level plan” to access their information paid for my Wall Street investors.

And what gives Learnzillon.com the skills to take on this herculean task?

Just take look at the classroom experience the company’s Board of Directors brings to the effort…

  • Robert J. Hutter is a Managing Partner of Learn Capital. Rob is chairman of Edmodo, a leading social learning network for K12, and he also serves on the boards of several Learn Capital portfolio companies including Schooltube, BloomBoard, MobLab, and LearnZillion. Rob was co-founder of Edusoft (acquired by Houghton-Mifflin). 

  • Commissioner Pryor not only retained the services of Learnzillion.com but Hutter’s Learn Capital Portfolio Company, BloomBoard, also snagged a lucrative Connecticut contract. 
  • Mark Jacobsen has advised companies and entrepreneurs for over 25 years. According to his website, “He loves working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies.” Mark was a co-founder of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures in 2005. Mark is currently a board member of AMEE, Betabrand, CollabNet, Planet Labs, Fast.ly, LocalDirt, LearnZillion, OpenSignal, O’Reilly Media, Path Intelligence and SeeClickFix. 
  • Andrew Klingenstein has over 15 years of experience investing in and providing legal and business assistance to start-up companies in the DC area.  For many years, he was a principal and co-founder of Fairfax Partners, a Virginia-based venture capital firm specializing in IT and healthcare companies. 
  • Peter Moran currently focuses on Digital Health (Augmedix, Covered, Rayvio) and Tech Enabled Education (LearnZillion). Over the past 15 years, he led DCM into new sectors including interactive Gaming (Trion Worlds), altering Consumer Experience (FreedomPop, Slice), and a diverse array of Enabling Technology including novel energy storage solutions (Enovix), companies focused on improving energy efficiency via LED lighting (Bridgelux), and next gen semiconductors (Analogix). 
  • Joanne Weiss recently resigned her position as United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Chief Staff.  She was in charge of Race to the Top Funding. Before joining the Department of Education, Weiss was Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy firm.   Prior to her work at NewSchools, Weiss was Chief Executive Officer of Claria Corporation, “an e-services recruiting firm that helped emerging-growth companies build their teams quickly and well. 

The whole scam is a dream come true for the corporate education reform industry and they have Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor to thank for the business opportunity.

Check back for  more about Malloy’s use of taxpayer funds to persuade us that the Common Core is the “solution” and the array of out-of-state consultants the Malloy administration has hired to “educate” us about the benefits of the Common Core.

Corporate Education Reform Industry group starts radio campaign in support of new charter schools

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Surprise, surprise… An out-of-State charter school advocacy group has started an advertising campaign to support the Malloy administration’s decision to give Steve Perry his own privately run, but taxpayer funded, charter school in Bridgeport.

According to a reports from the CT Mirror and Hartford Courant, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc., a charter school advocacy group based in New York, has begun a Connecticut radio advertising campaign in support of the Malloy administration’s decision to approve two new charter schools in Bridgeport.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is running the radio spots to defend Commissioner Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education’s underhanded effort to approve the proposed charter schools.  One of the charter schools will be run by the out-of-state Great Oaks charter school chain while the other is Steve Perry’s Capitol Preparatory Harbor school.

The advocacy and lobbying group is also behind the multi-million dollar advertising campaign to undermine New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to make New York City’s public schools a high priority compared to the Bloomberg administration’s approach that diverted tens of millions in public resources away from the public schools and to the city’s privately run charter schools. In New York, the Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. campaign pushed to allow privately run charter schools virtually unlimited and free access to public school space.    

The group’s New York advertising campaign is designed to help New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Like Malloy, Cuomo has received more than $100,000 in campaign donations from charter-school supporters in recent months.

Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. was formed by corporate education reform industry allies in 2011 and has recently expanded into Connecticut. Four of the organization’s five founding board members are Wall Street hedge fund executives.  The group also shares space in New York City with the New York chapter of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Inc.

As one would expect, the corporate education reform industry has been dumping millions of dollars into Families for Excellent Schools, Inc.

Among its biggest donors is the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Family’s Foundation) which has given the charter school group more than $700,000 in start-up funds.  The organization has also received at least $200,000 from the Eli Broad Foundation during that same period.

Here in Connecticut, the Wal-Mart Political Action Committee gave Governor Malloy’s political operation a check for $5,000 and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad chipped in another $8,000 for Malloy.  

One of the other foundations that have given Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. is none other than the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.

As Forbes Magazine explains, Ray Dalio is the “king of the rich hedge fund industry.”  Forbes adds that Dalio, “lords over the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, Bridgewater Associates, with about $150 billion in assets.”

Ray Dalio is the individual who was paid $2.3 billion last year.

Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is the company that Governor Dan Malloy rewarded with more than $120 million in Connecticut taxpayer funded tax breaks in return for moving Bridgewater’s “world headquarters” from Westport to Stamford.

In addition to giving money to the charter school advocacy group now running advertisements in Connecticut, Dalio’s foundation is also a major donor to Teach for America.

For public school teachers, parents and advocates it is becoming even clear is that with the 2014 gubernatorial election less than seven months away, Dannel “Dan” Malloy is using every opportunity to show his unending support for expanding charter schools at the expense of Connecticut’s public schools.

You can also read more about this story at CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/up-next-charter-group-that-battled-nyc-mayor-comes-to-ct/

Even more students lose as the “cost” of the Common Core Testing grows

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The Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test means more testing and less learning.

The Common Core test will cost Connecticut’s students and teachers hundreds of hours of lost instructional time.

The Common Core test will cost schools and taxpayers tens of millions in computer and internet upgrades so that students can take the inappropriate computer-based test.

And reports are coming in from around the state that another major problem is undermining our students, teachers and public schools.

As schools divert their computers and internet to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test, students who take computer related courses are being pushed aside, unable to even complete the courses that require access to those computers.

As everyone but the proponents of the Common Core Smarter Assessment Field Test scheme understand, there are literally dozens of courses that require access to computers.

In addition to classes that teach an array of computer skills, there are a wide variety of business and art classes that require daily access to the computer.

But in the name of getting students “college and career ready,” Connecticut’s school systems are being forced to commandeer the schools’ computers for the Common Core testing; leaving students without the equipment they literally need to become “college and career ready.”

Business teachers, art teachers, and computer teachers have all written to say that access to their computers has been restricted for weeks at a time.  Teachers are being prevented from teaching course content and students are being prevented from completing their coursework.

Teachers report that as computer labs and classrooms with computers have been converted to testing factories, students taking courses that require access to those computers have been sent to the library, cafeteria or hallways to wait for the testing periods to come to an end.

As the end of the school year comes into sight, one school reports that rather than having fifteen class periods to work on their semester projects and prepare for their required presentations, students will have less than half that number.

Another school is reporting that as result of the Common Core testing frenzy, business and graphic art students have been prohibited from using their classroom computers for more than a month during the spring Common Core testing period.

As a result of the massive standardized testing program, students are losing out.

College and career skills are NOT being developed, knowledge is NOT being acquired, and precious opportunities ARE being lost.

The Common Core testing debacle is truly undermining our public schools and the students they serve.

It leaves parents, teachers and taxpayers asking… Why won’t Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, or the General Assembly stand up, step forward and put an end to this travesty.

Malloy’s public school privatization effort hits Stamford

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Malloy administration gives Bronx charter school chain a green-light to “save” Stamford.

The Malloy administration’s extraordinary efforts to increase the number of charter schools and privatize even more of the state’s public education system took a giant leap forward at the last State Board of Education meeting.

In a farce that included Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, just happening to have a written resolution approving four new charters rather than the promised two, the corporate education reform industry drive to undermine Connecticut’s public schools surged forward.

Malloy’s “hometown” of Stamford was one of the latest victims in the inappropriate and under-handed strategy that has been displayed by Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education.

When it comes to “education reform” the Malloy administration’s watchwords seems to be, “grab the candy before you are thrown out of the shop.”

The following piece was written by Stamford Board of Education members Jackie Heftman and Polly Rauh.  It was first published in last Friday’s Stamford Advocate.

Democracy loses in charter school fight

On April 2, we went to a show trial in Hartford. Actually it was a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE). Sitting in the audience and later watching it on CT-N, we were reminded of the trials held in places with authoritarian dictatorships, where the outcome is decided long before the meeting begins.

The resolution that the SBOE was considering was for one more state charter school in New Haven and Bridgeport. The public agenda listed a discussion item of an additional charter school in Stamford and one more for Bridgeport. We were there to speak in opposition to another state charter school in Stamford. The Stamford Board of Education had passed a resolution at its March meeting not supporting the charter school application.

The SBOE approved the two charters in New Haven and Bridgeport, and then Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor magically produced a resolution for approval of another charter school in Bridgeport and Stamford. Both were unanimously approved. Indeed a sad day for democracy in Connecticut.

Some of the things that were put on the record were simply wrong and some were outright lies, and they should not go undisputed. If Stamford is going to be dragged into a fight over a charter school, we should begin with an understanding of the facts.

Pryor was adamant that the funding for charter schools is a separate stream of money and does not take funding away from the traditional public schools. In fact he proudly asserted that more money has been allocated to the Alliance Districts. Alliance Districts are the 30 lowest performing districts in the state. Stamford, New Haven and Bridgeport are Alliance Districts. For Stamford the allocated amount is less than $3 million dollars which is less than 1 percent of our budget. Is he kidding? What is there to be proud of? That money will get eaten up in additional transportation and special education costs for the new charter school.

The money that comes to cities and towns to help fund public schools is based on an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula which is grossly underfunded to the tune of almost $700 million dollars this year.

[A Wait, What? note to readers:  According to the CCEJF school funding lawsuit and other experts, Connecticut’s school funding formula is actually $1.5 to $2 billion underfunded leaving an unfair and disproportionate burden on local property tax payers and severely limiting resource in many Connecticut school districts].

But there seems to be money to fund state charter schools. Between Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2015, $233 million has been set aside to fund state charter schools. That money could have been added to the ECS stream bringing it closer to what the formula requires.

The second sad occurrence that afternoon was when Charlene Reid, head of the state charter school that wants to open here, told the SBOE that in her meetings with Stamford BOE members over the past couple of months it was suggested that because she was black she was incapable of writing the application. She also said she was accused of being a racist because she wants to open a segregated school and had experienced “micro aggression” during her time in Stamford.

We have neither met Ms. Reid nor been asked to attend a meeting with her and could find only one board member who did meet with her. No one who spoke at the public hearing in Stamford maligned Ms. Reid. Our opposition to the charter school has never been personal. She also said parents were “petrified” to publicly state their support, but when parents had the opportunity to speak at the SBOE meeting, where there is obvious support for charter schools, no one spoke. No one from Stamford said they wanted this option for their children. In fact Stamford Parent Teacher Council members came to the SBOE meeting with more than 700 petition signatures in opposition to the charter school.

Ms. Reid accused unnamed Stamford officials of having no plan to address inequities and only wanting to ignore the problem. That flies in the face of our Alliance District Improvement Plan, approved by the SBOE, which directly addresses the closing of the achievement gap. In fact in the past six years the achievement gap in the Stamford Public Schools has been reduced by 13.5 percent. Ms. Reid says the Bronx Charter School for Excellence has closed the achievement gap for all subgroups. The achievement gap is the difference between the standardized test scores for White students vs. Black and Hispanic students.

Her claim that the gap has been closed at her school is meaningless when there are no white students attending. She can claim that she has boosted the achievement of her students, but she can’t claim she has closed the achievement gap. She also belittled Stamford Superintendent Winifred Hamilton’s commitment to diversity in spite of the fact that our schools are balanced to within 10 percent of the district average, 31 percent of our administrators are minorities and we are constantly working to increase our minority teaching staff. It is obvious that she hasn’t visited any of our schools. Ms. Reid told the SBOE that she is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with SPS and our superintendent! Really?

Ms. Reid acknowledged that her school in the Bronx is 100 percent minority and 85 percent economically disadvantaged and this is the model she would bring to Stamford. If for no other reasons, we oppose this charter school coming to Stamford.

We care about all public school students receiving a high quality education in a diverse setting of students of all colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. All Stamford students deserve no less.

Corporate Education Reform Industry pours money into Malloy campaign operation

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation…And to see how appreciative the corporate education reform industry is, one need only look at Malloy’s campaign fundraising program which has already raised more than $100,000 from the anti-public education industry.

As a participant in Connecticut’s public financing system, candidate Malloy is only supposed to rely on the taxpayer dollars that he will receive as a qualified candidate for governor.  But thanks to a gigantic loophole in the law, the Malloy political operation has been raising money for the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee in order to augment the millions in public funds he will get to pay his campaign expenses.

By the end of February 2014, Malloy’s fundraising program had already collected more than $2.4 million into just one of the two accounts managed by the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, Malloy has turned to the corporate funded pro-charter school, anti-teacher, anti-public education forces to help him raise record amounts of money.

The infamous Democrats for Education Reform, an anti-public education political action committee based in Washington D.C., has already provided Malloy with a check for $5,000.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife have donated a total of $36,000 to Malloy’s operation in just the past six months.  Sackler is the one who helped Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, create and expand Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company.  Sackler was also a co-founder of the Connecticut charter school advocacy group ConnCAN and went on to create the national charter school advocacy group called 50 CAN.  When Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch tried to eliminate the democratically-elected board of education in that city, he turned to Sackler for a last-minute campaign donation of $50,000 to help pay for what proved to be his failed effort to undermine democracy.

Another nationally-recognized corporate education reform advocate to pour money into Malloy’s campaign is billionaire Stephen Mandel Jr.  Mandel, who was behind the creation of the corporate-funded education reform advocacy group, Excel Bridgeport, Inc., has already written two $10,000 checks for Malloy’s political activities.

Los Angeles, anti-public education billionaire Eli Broad has also gotten in on the act donating $8,000 to Malloy so far in this campaign cycle. Broad’s foundation is one of the three major national foundations funding the corporate education reform effort across the country.

And Sackler isn’t the only member of Achievement First Inc. and ConnCAN’s Board of Directors to have ponied up for Malloy.

To date, board members of these two Connecticut-based education reform groups have donated well in excess of $50,000 to Malloy’s political aspirations and that doesn’t even count another $50,000 that these same people dumped into another political action committee affiliated with Malloy.

So much for campaign contribution limits…and with Election Day still seven months away, we can be sure that Malloy will continue to cash in on his anti-public education agenda.

“When we buy something, we should get what we pay for”

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Ann Policelli Cronin is a consultant in English education for school districts and university schools of education. She has taught middle and high school English, was a district-level administrator for English, taught university courses in English education, and was assistant director of the Connecticut Writing Project. She was Connecticut Outstanding English Teacher of the Year and has received national awards for middle and high school curricula she designed and implemented.

In a powerful commentary piece posted on the CT Mirror website and entitled, “When we buy something, we should get what we pay for,” Ann Cronin begins by laying out the harsh reality that faces our public schools.  She writes,

We, as U.S. taxpayers, spent $350 million for standardized tests to assess if students are mastering Common Core standards, and we are spending millions more at the state level to implement that testing. What we have been asked to buy is that teaching those standards and assessing them will make our students “college and career ready.”

But who knows? We need a warranty so we can return the standards and tests and get a new education for our children if they don’t work.

“Readiness for college and careers” will be measured by standardized tests given in Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 11. As a parent, good standardized test scores were not what I asked of my children’s public schools. Instead, I asked that their teachers tap into my children’s love of learning, motivate them to want to learn more, and help them to grow in both their knowledge and their skills in building their own knowledge.

Cronin adds,

Standardized tests give a very limited picture of a student, limited by the goals of the test-makers. What seems much more important, even in terms of college and careers, is that children enjoy a stimulating and challenging year in school and have ideas and skills in June they didn’t have in September, rather than receive a high score on a standardized test.

This standardized test of “college and career readiness” is particularly inappropriate and unreliable because not one teacher was involved in setting the learning goals. Of the 29 writers of those goals, called Common Core standards, 27 were employees of testing companies. People who know how to test but not how to teach decided exactly what our children need to be “ready” for and how they demonstrate that “readiness” each year, kindergarten through high school.

And Cronin concludes with,

But we in Connecticut are still buying the idea that learning can be measured by standardized tests. The cost is high – not just in money but also in the education our children are not receiving. As Carol Burris, an award-winning high school principal who first supported the Common Core but changed her mind after a year of implementation and testing in New York, said:

Eventually all of it will fail. But your child will not get another chance to be a third grader. We are on our way with the Common Core to creating a generation of students who will despise school before they get to college, ready or not. Our country and our children deserve better. (The Washington Post, April 7, 2013)

There is no warranty for the Common Core and its testing. Let’s look the governor, the commissioner of education and the State Board of Education in the eye and say: No Sale.

This MUST READ article can be found in its entirety at: http://ctmirror.org/op-ed-buyers-beware-of-common-core/

Hartford Courant story highlights bizarre effort to privatize Clark Elementary School.

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A Hartford Courant article entitled, Hartford School Board Asks Education Commissioner To ‘Impose’ Turnaround Plan reveals some of the contradictions and bizarre actions taken by the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, senior Hartford board of education officials, and corporate education reform industry advocacy groups in Hartford.

The Hartford Courant reports,

“Despite objections from the teachers’ union, the city board of education asked Tuesday night that state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor use his statutory power to impose a “turnaround” plan for Clark School that would include management by an outside group.

[…]

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, contended that Clark teachers and parents were given inadequate information throughout the turnaround process, which she said amounted to “bullying and intimidation” in favor of Friendship.

“Unfortunately, the Hartford BOE just can’t allow the process to proceed as it should,” Johnson said.

Although senior staff in Governor Malloy’ State Department of Education have consistently denied that they had any role in pushing the effort to direct a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Courant now reports,

“The state had recommended Friendship, which operates four public schools in Baltimore in addition to its charter schools, to the turnaround committee that has been developing an improvement plan for the prekindergarten-to-eighth-grade-school on Clark Street…”

In the days leading up to last night’s Hartford Board of Education vote, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, his hand-picked board Chairman, Republican Richard Wareing, and the corporate education reform groups, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART), Hartford Parents University and others tried to claim that the Clark School parents and community unanimously supported the move give the school to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

However, no such consensus ever existed.

In order to maintain the fantasy that the Clark School community unanimously selected Friendship Charter Schools, Inc., the Hartford Board of Education had to vote without allowing public input and systematically overlook information such as an email from the co-chair of the School Governance Council and member of the Clark Turnaround Committee who wrote,

“PLEASE VOTE NO TONIGHT,” adding, “our unified voice was to see other [school] models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us.”

And to make the charade complete, the Hartford Courant reported that Commissioner Pryor was up for his part of the whole scam when his spokesperson concluded,

“We’re grateful for the thoughtful dialogue and respect the local process in Hartford,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We will certainly take the views of the Hartford Board of Education, Mayor Segarra, and the Clark school governance council into account as we consider the potential paths forward.”

Thoughtful dialog?

Respect for the local process?

The truth is that State law requires that the district school turnaround process be driven by parents, teachers and the local community.

In the case of Clark Elementary School, that process was still on-going.

In fact, Clark School parents were supposed to go see schools in New York City last week and in Cincinnati this week, but those trips were suddenly cancelled.

Faced with the potential that their hand-picked private vendor would not be selected by the local community, the Mayor of Hartford, the Hartford Board of Education, corporate education reform industry advocacy groups AND the Malloy Administration conspired to concoct a strategy that effectively eliminated appropriate parent involvement.

Instead of following the law and doing the right thing, Malloy et. al. simply aborted the process and will use a no-bid contract to hand the out-of-state charter school management company a Hartford public school along with millions of dollars in state and local taxpayers’ funds.

The Clark Elementary School process has become a quintessential example of Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-public school, pro-privatization political agenda.

In this case the winner is a private out-of-state charter schools company, while the losers are the students, parents and teachers of Clark School along with the taxpayers.

You can read the Hartford Courant story here: http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-clark-school-0409-20140408,0,3652613.story

UPDATED AT 7:30 PM – Malloy administration and Hartford Mayor team up to undermine American Federation of Teachers and Clark Elementary

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UPDATED with Hartford Board of Education vote.

With Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra leading the way, the Hartford Board of Education voted 7 -1 (With only Working Families Party Robert Cotto Jr. voting no) to ask Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to short-circuit the legislative mandated school turnaround process and give Friendship Charter School, Inc. a no-bid contract to take over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School.

During the course of the discussion, the Hartford Board of Education chairman read letters from Clark Parents in favor of the move to give Friendship their school but failed to read letters from parents who opposed the give-a-way program.  In addition, the Board of Education dismissed the first hand reports that the so-called 10-1 vote in favor of Friendship  Charter Schools by the Clark School Governance was actually a vote in favor of having Friendship as an option but WAS NOT a vote exclusively in favor of the out-of-state charter school company.

Perhaps the single most important development at the meeting was the fact that the Mayor and administers with the City of Hartford admitted that the Malloy administration was behind the Friendship and that the city was told that Clark would lose the funds state funds if the parents, teachers and local officials did not agree to the Commissioner’s demand.

The Malloy administration’s willingness to abuse its powers and its commitment to privatizing Connecticut’s public schools apparently has no bounds.

UPDATED with email to Hartford Board of Education from Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member)

When Paul Hozler, the Executive Director of the corporate funded education reform group Achieve Hartford! wrote to two high-ranking Hartford Board of Education administrators that he was concerned that,

“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT,” 

Hozler revealed far more than he probably meant to about the strategy behind the on-going effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to an out-of-state charter school management company called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

As reported yesterday on Wait, What?, in a hastily called special Hartford Board of Education meeting scheduled for late this afternoon, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his appointed majority on the Hartford Board are expected to vote in favor of a resolution asking Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to step in and unilaterally eliminate the involvement of the parents and teachers of the Clark Elementary School.

The rush to put an end to the legally mandated school turnaround process is part of a broader effort to ensure that Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. gets a lucrative state taxpayer funded management contract to take over the Clark Elementary School.

Sources inside the State Department of Education and within the Hartford School System now confirm what internal emails had already revealed.

Prior to the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Commissioner Pryor, his turnaround team, the Hartford school administrators and a group of corporate education reform organizations were intending to allow the Clark parents and teachers to complete the legally mandated turnaround committee process.

The privatization proponents have envisioned a process in which the steps to reach consensus about Clark School would be achieved with a site visit to New York City and Cincinnati to provide the Clark School community with an opportunity to explore other turnaround options, in addition to Friendship Charter School.

However, growing concerns about the possibility that the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) and the community organization known as Hartford Rising might convince parents to choose another management model for Clark Elementary School led the supporters of privatization to a last minute change of strategy.

Starting with a meeting on Sunday evening, March 30th, the public and private funded groups promoting Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. met with a small group of Clark parents to scare them into thinking that if they did not choose Friendship Charter Schools immediately, they would lose out on the Malloy administration’s promise to allocate $1.5 million to help enhance the Clark Elementary School.

The Clark School parents were told that the site visit to New York was postponed and that Clark parents needed to attend the State Board of Education Meeting on April 2nd and speak up in favor of additional funding for Clark. 

In an interesting twist, apparently Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART) and the other groups failed to cancel the trip and a coach bus actually showed up at the Clark School to take parents to see the New York City schools, but the bus was turned away when there were no parents to go on the trip.

At the Sunday meeting, and in the days that followed, the corporate education reform groups also planned a demonstration that is set for this afternoon in which Clark Parents were told to come to the school, put on tee-shirts and march to the Board of Education meeting to demand that the Hartford Board of Education vote to ask the Commissioner to unilaterally give the management contract to Friendship Charter Schools.

The fact that the demonstration planning has been going on for days is particularly noteworthy since the notice of the Board of Education’s special meeting wasn’t even released until 5pm last night.

The coordinated effort to give Friendship Charter School a no-bid contract is not only evident in the package of internal emails but the effort has now been independently confirmed by people directly involved in the process.

And perhaps the most disturbing development in this whole, bizarre charade is that it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Hartford Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers despite state laws that not only allow, but require, the full participation of teachers and their union in the turnaround process.

Making the situation even more disgusting, in an effort to cover-up the privatization strategy, the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the corporate education reform groups are trying to make it appear that the whole effort to close down the turnaround committee process is simply a response to “service” the Clark parents.

As part of that strategy, Mayor Pedro Segarra released a statement earlier today claiming that the vote to request Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to stop the turnaround process and simply hand pick Friendship Charter Schools is at the request of the Clark Parents.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s statement was as follows,

MAYOR SEGARRA statement on parents decision regarding turnaround plan for clark elementary school

— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—

 (April 8, 2014) Today, Mayor Segarra made the following statement regarding the proposed turnaround plan for John C. Clark Elementary School:

“It has always been my belief that when a school partners with its families and community groups, children will stay in school longer and have a better chance of success.  A critical component of a providing a quality education is making sure the parents have a voice in the school process.  Parents who are actively involved in their children’s education are helping to build a foundation for their children’s future success.  The parents at Clark Elementary School have actively engaged in discussions surrounding the reform process for the school and have made their desires clear.

“The Clark School Governance Council voted unanimously in favor of partnering with the Friendship Public Charter Schools to assist in the school’s turnaround work.  It is disappointing to see that despite this clear recommendation from the School Governance Council, the Clark Turnaround Committee failed to reach consensus on a plan that would have provided the Clark Elementary School with the resources that are needed for a successful turnaround plan.  As Mayor, I support the School Governance Council’s recommendation to partner with Friendship Public Charter Schools to undertake this important work.

“I am asking that Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut, exercise his statutory authority and contact Friendship to formally request that they reconsider being the lead partner with Clark Elementary School.”

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Mayor Segarra’s claim that he is “doing it for the parents” is particularly insulting since Hartford parents that have been directly involved in the process have made it clear that the purported vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools was not intended to be a vote in favor of giving the contact to Friendship Charter Schools but only a vote that Clark parents wanted Friendship Charter Schools as one of the options on the table as they explored other potential management models.

But as we have learned over and over again, when it comes to the privatization of our public schools, the truth is a dispensable commodity for the Malloy administration.

4 P.M. UPDATE:

Earlier today, Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member sent the Board of Education the following email;

Good Afternoon Mayor Segarra and Board Members,

My name is Lakeisha McFarland I am the PTO President, SGC member and turn around team committee member at Clark school. I feel it is necessary to inform you that the SGC 10-0 vote that everyone is talking and writing about was NOT to partner with Friendship but it was to ask them to return to the table to be considered as ONE of the options for Clark.  A couple of parents are being misled to change their voices completely. Our unified voice was to see other models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us as the option we must partner with. As the PTO President I am responsible for communicating with parents and the last meeting that was held we all agreed as a parent body that more options and other models needed to be visited.  It is unfair that an organization can change the minds of a couple and pretend that this is what the majority of parents want.  Despite the couple of parents that are being misled to believe that we must pick Friendship, parents at large still stand on our original demand of seeing more options other than Friendship. It is a sad day when an organization that is hired to get the consensus of the parents and stakeholders in the Clark community are doing the opposite and trying to deliver us to Friendship on a silver platter. Parents at Clark are asking you NOT to intervene in the process of the turn around team and PLEASE don’t take our voices away.

Sincerely,

Lakeisha

Trumbull postpones Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Testing for juniors

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Only 26 of Trumbull High School’s 530 juniors showed up to take last Friday’s Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test.  Earlier in the week, only 47 (less than 10 percent) of the town’s high school juniors participated in that day’s portion of the test.

In response, Trumbull has postponed this week’s Common Core testing for juniors.

This comes despite repeated claims by the Malloy administration and its apologists that the implementation of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test of a test is going well.

The truth is the attempt to force students to take the inappropriate Common Core test is an unmitigated disaster, especially when it comes to high school juniors.

The magnitude of the growing problems was laid out last week in a Wait, What? article entitled, “Opt out movement grows amid Common Core testing disasters.”

Despite the Malloy administration’s misguided program to intimidate parents into thinking that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the inappropriate Common Core Test of a test, towns across Connecticut are reporting that many parents aren’t being so easily intimidated.

The opt out or boycott effort is especially strong among parents and students who are in high school.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the other proponents of the Common Core and its associated Common Core Testing scheme continue to claim that the Common Core is the mechanism to ensure students are college and career ready.

However, in a display of their utter ignorance about the college prep and selection process, these non-educators decided try to force high school juniors to take the Common Core Test of a test at exactly the time of year when high school juniors are preparing for and taking the SATs, ACTs, and working to improve their grades, especially if they are taking more advanced AP, honors and other college credit courses.

By this time in the college prep process, high school juniors are well aware that only an idiot would try to require them to focus on the Common Core when they need to be engaged in the activities that will actually get them into college.

In response to the stupidity displayed by the developers and supporters of the Common Core Test, parents are opting their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test or students are simply not showing up for the faulty computer-based exam.

At last week’s State Board of Education meeting, Stephen P. Wright, who is a member of the State Board and the former Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, joined the Malloy administration in voting to re-commit the state and its public schools to the Common Core and Common Core Testing program.

But Malloy’s political appointees failed to even take the time to discuss the opt out issue or address the problems associated with trying to force juniors to take the Common Core test.

It is a telling statement about the State Board of Education’s lack of connection with reality that Trumbull’s own Board of Education Chairman either didn’t know or didn’t tell fellow Board members that parents and students in his community were leading the revolt against the Common Core Test.

Sadly, Trumbull’s Steven Wright isn’t the only official out of touch about the genuine problems and concerns about the Common Core and its testing program.

New Haven’s Superintendent of Schools, Garth Harries, recently joined the Malloy administration’s ongoing efforts to mislead Connecticut’s public school parents.

Parroting the letter supplied by Commissioner Pryor, New Haven’s Superintendent wrote,

 ”This letter is in response to your request to have your children out-out of mandated state testing, which will be administered this spring…please understand that federal and state laws required that all public-school students be tested, so New Haven Public Schools has no degree of freedom in matter.”

New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries adds,

 “…state law also does not permit parents to exempt their children from taking the state assessment”  

While Harries and the other superintendents who sent out the template letter supplied by Commissioner Pryor can claim they are only following orders, there is absolutely no excuse for their inappropriate and unprofessional effort to mislead the parents and children they are sworn to help.

To restate the obvious, any superintendent, principal or other school administrator who sends out the lies and misleading information provided by the Malloy administration should be held accountable for their decision to disregard their fundamental responsibility to their local schools, students, parents and teachers.

NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

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In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog – http://www.realhartford.org/2014/04/07/boe-to-vote-on-edu-colonialism-at-clark-school/

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