Malloy administration’s farce of a hearing on Common Core

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The development and implementation of the Common Core and its related Common Core testing scam is one of the most important issues facing American public education.

The Common Core was developed in relative secrecy and forced upon the states by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Some of the people who developed the Common Core Standards were even required to sign documents swearing not to speak about the process.

The vehicle used to pull off this education disaster was the National Governors Association and a series of other organizations that were paid by the corporate education reform industry, along with hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds, that were funneled to private consulting companies to “develop” the standards and tests, while pushing their own profit-making efforts to sell more computers, new software, textbooks, and consulting opportunities.

After all, it was media mogul Rupert Murdoch who said that the America’s K-12 public education system was an $500 billion untapped market.

And support for the growing corporate education reform industry came from Democrats and Republicans alike.

In Connecticut, for example, it was Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy who introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation.  The bill not only passed, but it passed with overwhelming support from both Democratic and Republican legislators.

But after two years, when teacher’s concerns were finally being heard and more and more parents were speaking up, legislative attention returned to this vital issue.

The Democratic leadership decided to hold a sham “informational session” made up of pro-Common Core advocates.  In response, the Republicans, finally seeing the political advantage in speaking up, used a  little utilized parliamentary procedure to force a traditional public hearing on some of their bills related to slowing down the implementation of the Common Core.

The Democrat’s farce hearing took place on Friday, February 28th.

The two most amazing developments were the  lack of media coverage and the Malloy administration’s ability to keep their heads in the sand in the face of the disastrous impact of their policies.

For those who want to feel that emotion that allows one to laugh and cry at the same time you can watch the recording of the hearing by going to CT-N’s video on demand entitled, “Education Committee Informational Forum on Common Core State Standards.”

Warning:  The level of misleading statements and lies is enough to cause dangerous increases in blood pressure.

But equally disturbing is that the sham hearing received such limited media coverage.  In fact, most of Connecticut’s media outlets simply failed to cover it all together thereby leaving Connecticut citizens uniformed about the way in which the Malloy administration and the Democrats are trying to duck this important issue.

The best coverage of the hearing can be found in the Connecticut Post which wrote,

HARTFORD — Defenders of moving ahead with the Common Core learning standards spent four hours Friday explaining the controversial learning program and the test that goes with it before the Legislature’s Education Committee.

The invitation-only forum came after Republicans have forced public hearings on the matter. Those hearings have not yet to be scheduled.

Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, joined by Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which helped draft the standards, told the committee and a large audience that the road to fully implement Common Core in all classrooms may be a rocky one, but the state is headed in the right direction.

[Note: Pryor is a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers.]

The CT Post story includes Commissioner Pryor who said,

“Our youngsters are arriving at college unprepared for college. That is a problem,” he said. “We must aim for higher standards … Common Core goes about the teaching and learning process in the right way.”

[Note:  Connecticut's schools are incredibly successful.  As a result of poverty, language barriers and insufficient support for students who have special education needs, Connecticut has a significant achievement gap between suburban and urban schools that must be addressed, but to suggest that "our youngsters are arriving at college unprepared" is the statement of a liar or a fool.]

The CT Post highlighted the rhetoric coming from the Council of Chief State School Officers and other groups that are being paid to sell the Common Core and the Common Core testing adding,

Minnich, who has been traveling the country in defense of the standards — Thursday he was in Missouri — said none of the 45 states that have signed onto the standards were forced to do so, and 73 percent of teachers support a more challenging curriculum.

“It is surprising to me that it is controversial,” he said.

The new standards, adopted in Connecticut in 2010 and now being fully implemented across the state, teach reading and math in a deeper way and in a different order than in the past. Most districts in the state have agreed to try out the new test that goes along with the standards this spring instead of the traditional Connecticut Mastery Test.

Results of the new test won’t “count”; still many are fearful that students, teachers and schools have not had enough time and training in the new system and will be labeled as failures when students perform poorly on the test. They also said time was being wasted.

Pryor said the “test of the test” is required under federal law. He also argued that the standards are not a curriculum and do not dictate what needs to be taught in the classroom.

“But how flexible is Common Core if there is a test tied to it?” state Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, asked.

Minnich said the standards merely say, for instance, that third-graders will learn about multiplication and division and gain an understanding of fractions. How that is taught is up to the teacher.

Minnich maintained states ARE not under pressure to adopt the standards.

States that didn’t adopt the standards could not win federal Race to the Top dollars, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, pointed out.

Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, questioned the fairness of expecting students taught one way for so long to adjust in one year to a new set of standards.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gail Lavielle, also R-Wilton, wondered who decided the new standards are higher than what was already in place.

Minnich said national experts vetted the standards, and there are early indications in Kentucky and Tennessee, which have been using Common Core the longest, that student achievement is going in the right direction.

Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, said it is not the new, higher standards that bother him, but the way they have been implemented. He characterized the rollout as “crummy.”

The state now has a new website, training efforts and a committee to work on ironing out the problems, Pryor said.

From start to finish the Malloy administration’s arrogant, top-down approach on education reform has  been a disaster.   Malloy has failed on many fronts, but Stefan Pryor and his side-kicks like Paul Vallas, Steven Adamowski and Morgan Barth are on track to ensure Malloy is unelectable.

One would think that after two years of being told about the damage they are doing they’d change course.  But when it comes to issues like this, Malloy and his inner circle are tone deaf….or worse.

You can read the complete CT Post article at: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Common-Core-standards-defended-5277595.php

Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…

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Considering Governor Dannel Malloy won the last gubernatorial election with less than 50% of the 1.2 million votes cast and his margin of victory was only 6,404 votes, virtually anything could cost him his re-election dreams.

But forget the Republicans and their propensity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…

Forget Malloy’s tax increases that have fallen disproportionately on the middle class…

Forget the combined $3.2 billion deficit that Malloy’s budget gimmicks have created for the three years following the next election….

Forget his warped “economic development” strategy that gives multi-million dollar companies scarce public funds that should be going to preserve vital services…

With nearly 500 teachers showing up at a Fairfield County meeting last night to meet with their state legislators we are reminded, yet again, that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his entourage of high-priced, out-of-state consultants and personal assistants is the factor most likely to put an end to Malloy’s political career.

Commissioner Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company has led Governor Malloy’s relentless effort to undermine Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public education system.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants that introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

And thanks to Malloy and Pryor, the Common Core freight train and the inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment testing scheme will end up costing Connecticut taxpayers tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars…while turning Connecticut’s public schools into nothing more than testing factories.

The truth be told; Every day teachers, along with more and more parents of public school students, understand that Malloy was brutally honest when he said that he didn’t mind teaching to the test, as long as the test scores go up!

Add in Malloy and Pryor’s absurd teacher evaluation system, along with Malloy’s failure to properly fund Connecticut’s Education Cost Sharing school funding formula and you have a situation that could easily cost Malloy ten times the number of votes he won by in the 2010 election.

In addition to the millions that Commissioner Pryor has wasted on no-bid contracts and his ongoing effort to divert scarce taxpayer funds to his charter school agenda, the record is clear.

Pryor hired his personal friend, Adam Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.  Goldfarb’s educational experience?  Serving on the board of directors of a New Jersey charter school.

And it was Pryor who turned over the State Department of Education’s School Turnaround Office to Morgan Barth.  This is the same Morgan Barth who worked illegally for six years as a teacher and administrator at Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc. Despite a state law requiring all teachers and administrators to hold state certification, Morgan Barth refused to go through process required to be in a Connecticut classroom or principal’s office.   What does Stefan Pryor do?  With six years of illegal teaching and administration under his belt, Pryor puts Barth in charge of the effort to undermine the teachers and schools in Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts

And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, Stefan Pryor is Steven Adamowski’s biggest supporter – Adamowski got a $225,000 no-bid contract from the Malloy administration to serve as “Special Master” of Windham and New London.  When the contract period ran out, Pryor gave Adamowski a six-figure state job without posting the position or going through the proper selection process.  And all this time, “Special Master” Adamowski is wreaking havoc with the public schools in two of Connecticut’s poorest communities.

Malloy’s popularity has been in the tank since he was elected.  There are many challenges to his re-election plans, but none more serious or significant than his the way and his Commissioner of Education have treated Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public schools.

Those aren’t guinea pigs; those are our children!

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Alternatively known as we don’t need no stinkin learning… we need more standardized testing!

As an increasing number of parents, teachers, school boards and citizens are learning, the message from Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor and their corporate education reform industry allies is clear and concise.  Connecticut needs more standardized testing to ensure that our children are learning.

Their solution is more tests, more expensive tests, new textbooks to prepare students for those tests and more computers, since the new tests must be taken on a computer rather than the old fashion way of actually reading and writing down or marking the answer.

And the impact of their massive standardized testing scheme is equally clear; cut back on instructional time, reduce “specials” like art, music, physical education and devote more time to test prep and standardized testing.

As Governor Malloy said himself … He doesn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores go up.

Now enter the Common Core and the new Smarter Balanced Test which is being designed to measure whether children are proficient in the so-called Common Core Standards.

Of course, we have the Common Core Standards and they are developing the Common Core Tests, but our schools and teachers haven’t actually had the time to develop effective Common Core curriculum or, more importantly, teach it to our children.

But never mind that, we’ve got standardized tests to give!

Recognizing that it is an election year, Malloy and Pryor gave school districts the option of making students take the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test or the regular Connecticut Mastery Test.

But the message to school districts was clear.  They were expected to fall in line and give the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test.

Those that didn’t, especially the 30 Alliance Districts, might even lose some state funding if they failed to make their students take the new Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test.

And as the following chart indicates, most districts did exactly that – choosing to subject their students to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test.

A small number had the courage to tell Malloy, Pryor and the State Department of Education that they were going to do the right thing and stick with the Connecticut Mastery Test until the Common Care Smarter Balanced Test had actually been finalized.

And three towns, two of them under the control of “Special Master” Steven Adamowski, decided they’d just make their students take all the various tests ensuring that all instructional activities in those communities came to an abrupt end in March when the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Smarter Balanced Field Test would begin.  For Bloomfield, New London and Windham, three towns whose children face some of the greatest educational challenges, including poverty and language barriers, the decision was simply to stop teaching and keep testing from March till the end of the year.

But the “dirty little secret” is that Connecticut’s students aren’t taking a tested and completed version of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Test, they are being used as guinea pigs to “field test” something called the Smarter Balanced Field Test.

As the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the group putting together the new test, explains right on their website:

The Smarter Balanced Field Test will take place from March 18 – June 6, 2014. The Field Test is a trial run of the assessment system that helps ensure the assessments are valid, reliable, and fair for all students. It also gives teachers and schools a chance to gauge their readiness in advance of the first operational assessment in spring 2015.”

While the companies developing the tests will make hundreds of millions of dollars from these new tests, the website explains;

“The field test will evaluate the performance of more than 20,000 assessment items and performance tasks—as well as the performance of the online testing system. For test developers, the Field Test will show which questions work well and which ones need to be improved so that they contribute to a fair and accurate assessment of student achievement.”

And the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium adds;

Each Smarter Balanced state individually determined how schools and students would be selected to take the Field Test. In some states, only a representative sample of students will participate—10 percent of students for each subject area. In others, the Field Test will be administered more broadly…”

Connecticut was one of the states that pushed all of its districts to participate.

So now, thanks to Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor, from March through June hundreds of thousands of Connecticut students will morph from being school students to being test subjects, while thousands of teachers will go from being instructors to test proctors.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, here is the most shocking piece of information of all;

As the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium reveals;

“Because the Field Test is a “test of the test,” students will not receive scores.”

So towns that utilize the Smarter Better Balanced Field Test will not have test scores to even measure how students are doing because the test itself is nothing but a test of a test and the result will not be released.

Normally test subjects are provide full disclosure and are often paid to participate in industry tests.  But in this case, they test subjects are only our children…

Here is a chart of which Connecticut school districts are giving the Smarter Balanced Field Test, which are giving the Connecticut Mastery Test and which are giving both. (The code “No HS” means students from that school district attend a regional high school so you have to look for that separate entity.)

School District

Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test (Grade 3-8)

Common Core Smart Balanced Field Test (Grade 11)

CMT (Grades 3-8)

CAPT (Grade 10)

Andover

X

No HS

   
Ansonia

X

x

   
Ashford    

x

No HS

Avon

x

x

   
Barkhamsted

x

No HS

   
Berlin

x

x

   
Bethany

x

No HS

   
Bethel

x

x

   
Bloomfield

x

x

x

x

Boton

x

x

   
Bozrah

x

  NO HS    
Branford

x

x

   
Bridgeport

x

x

   
Bristol

x

x

   
Brookfield

x

x

   
Brooklyn

x

No HS

   
Canaan

x

x

   
Canterbury

x

No HS

   
Canton

x

x

   
Chaplin    

x

No HS

Cheshire

x

x

   
Chester

x

No HS

   
Clinton

x

x

   
Colcehster

x

x

   
Colebrook

x

No HS

   
Cornwall

x

No HS

   
Coventry

x

x

   
Cromwell

x

x

   
Danbury    

x

x

Darien

x

x

   
Deep River

x

No HS

   
Derby

x

x

   
Eastford

x

No HS

   
East Granby

x

x

   
East Haddam

x

x

   
East Hampton

x

x

   
East Hartford

x

x

   
East Haven

x

x

   
East Lyme

x

x

   
Easton

x

x

   
East Windsor

x

x

   
Ellington

x

x

   
Enfield

x

x

   
Essex

x

  NO HS    
Fairfield

x

x

   
Farmington

x

x

   
Franklin

x

  NO HS    
Glastonbury

x

x

   
Granby

x

x

   
Greenwich

x

x

   
Griswold

x

x

   
Groton

x

x

   
Guilford

x

x

   
Hamden

x

x

   
Hamden

x

x

   
Hampton

x

No HS

   
Hartford

x

x

   
Hartland

x

No HS

   
Hebron

x

No HS

   
Kent

x

x

   
Killingly

x

x

   
Lebanon

x

x

   
Ledyard

x

x

   
Lisbon

x

x

   
Litchfield

x

x

   
Madison    

x

x

Manchester

x

x

   
Mansfield

x

No HS

   
Marlborough

x

x

   
Meriden

x

x

   
Middletown

x

x

   
Milford

x

x

   
Monroe

x

x

   
Montville

x

x

   
Naugatuck

x

x

   
New Britain

x

x

   
New Canaan

x

x

   
New Fairfield

x

x

   
New Hartford

x

No HS

   
New Haven

x

x

   
Newington

x

x

   
New London

x

x

x

x

New Milford

x

x

   
Newtown

x

x

   
Norfolk

x

No HS

   
North Branford

x

x

   
North Canaan

x

x

   
North Haven

x

x

   
North Stonington

x

x

   
Norwalk

x

x

   
Norwich

x

No HS

   
Old Saybrook

x

x

   
Orange

x

No HS

   
Oxford

x

x

   
Plainfield

x

   

x

Plainville

x

x

   
Plymouth

x

x

   
Pomfret

x

No HS

   
Portland

x

x

   
Preston    

x

No HS

Putnam

x

x

   
Redding

x

x

   
Rocky Hill    

x

x

Salem

x

x

   
Salisbury

x

x

   
Scotland    

x

No HS

Seymour

x

x

   
Sharon

x

x

   
Shelton

x

x

   
Sherman

x

No HS

   
Simsbury

x

x

   
Somers

x

x

   
Southington

x

x

   
South Windsor

x

x

   
Sprague

x

  NO HS    
Stafford

x

x

   
Stamford

x

x

   
Sterling

x

 NO HS    
Stonington

x

x

   
Stratford

x

x

   
Suffield

x

x

   
Thompson

x

x

   
Tolland

x

x

   
Thomaston    

x

x

Torrington

x

x

   
Trumbull

x

x

   
Union

x

  NO HS    
Vernon

x

x

   
Voluntown

x

 NO HS    
Wallingford

x

x

   
Waterbury

x

x

   
Waterford

x

x

   
Watertown

x

x

   
Westbrook

x

x

   
West Hartford

x

x

   
West Haven

x

x

   
Weston

x

x

   
Westport    

x

x

Wethersfield

x

x

   
Willington

x

 NO HS    
Wilton

x

x

   
Windham

x

x

x

x

Winchester

x

  NO HS    
Windsor    

x

x

Windsor Locks

x

x

   
Wolcott

x

x

   
Woodbridge

x

 NO HS    
Woodstock

x

  NO HS    
Region 1

x

x

   
Region 2

x

x

   
Region 3

x

x

   
Region 4

x

x

   
Region 5

x

x

   
Region 6

x

x

   
Region 7

x

x

   
Region 8

x

x

   
Region 9

x

x

   
Region 10

x

x

   
Region 11    

x

x

Region 12

x

x

   
Region 13

x

x

   
Region 14

x

x

   
Region 15

x

x

   
Region 16

x

x

   
Region 17

x

x

   
Region 18

x

x

   
Region 19

x

x

   
Norwich Free Academy  

x

   
Woodstock Academy  

x

   
School District Common Core Smarter Balanced Field Test (Grade 3-8) Common Core Smart Balanced Field Test (Grade 11) Connecticut Master Test (Grades 3-8) CAPT (Grade 10)

 

“I am in control here” – A day in the life of Special Master Steven Adamowski

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 “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House.” – Alexander Haig, Secretary of the State

It was March 30, 1981 and an assassination attempt sent President Reagan to the hospital.

Secretary of the State Al Haig called a press conference at the White House to announce, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”

But of course, Al Haig had his facts wrong since the US Constitution requires that the line of succession is the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and then the Secretary of State.

The Haig moment is often used as a metaphor when someone inappropriately attempts to take power or control.

Just such a moment occurred earlier this week when Governor Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and Windham, Steven Adamowski, informed the New London Board of Education that he and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were the ones truly in charge when it came to selecting a new local superintendent of schools for New London.

As reported by The Day newspaper of New London, Peg Curtin, the head of the New London Board of Education explained, “I would like to see the community be involved…”I would just want to make sure everyone is heard.”

The newspaper then goes on to report that, “As a result of the state’s involvement in the city’s school system, Adamowski said, he or the state commissioner of education could review the candidates the board decides to interview and eliminate any they find to be unqualified.”

Adamowski explained, “We will not be in a situation where I or the commissioner is in a position of having to veto something the board wants to do or tell you not to do something…We would like to simply make sure that the depth and quality of the candidates that go before you as finalists is sufficient.”

What?

The Connecticut General Assembly authorized the State Board of Education, in very limited circumstances, to name a “Special Master” to help communities improve their schools.  The Malloy administration has used that authority in two cases – Windham and New London.

In both cases the result has been a disaster.

While the title “Special Master” is absurd and insulting, the law was never intended to create a dictator who would be in position to destroy a community’s right to control its schools.

And yet is exactly what has been happening in the two communities.

Adamowski’s rhetoric is nothing short of an “Al Haig moment” and the citizens of New London and Windham better reach out to their local state senators and representatives to insure this modern-day Al Haig doesn’t get away with claiming powers he does not have.

A perfect example of the problem appears in the very same Day article.  The paper reports, “Adamowski has previously recommended that the new superintendent’s salary be set to a competitive level, that he or she be given a three-year contract and that the renewal of the superintendent’s contract be determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets established in the district’s strategic operating plan.”

A superintendent evaluation “determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets?

(AKA standardized test scores).

With that approach, New London parents and their local representative must move quickly to take back control of their schools so they can hire a superintendent who has the ability to fulfill all the duties associated with the job.

Because, as every parent, teacher and school board members understands, a superintendent’s job is so much more than improving test scores.

Superintendents are responsible for recruiting and retaining good administrators and teachers, for making sure special education student get the additional help they need and deserve, for developing and implementing effective bi-lingual and English Language Learning Programs, for improving early education opportunities, for reducing bullying and creating safer school climates, for seeking ways to reduce racial isolation, for ensuring scarce resources are well spent and the list goes on and on.

Despite Steven Adamowski’s apparent wish, Connecticut’s “Special Master” Statute was never intended to allow Pryor, Adamowski or anyone else to make decisions that are solely within the purview of the local Board of Education.

And if Adamowski claims he has special powers then citizens need to ensure legislators act to protect them from that power grab.

Al Haig’s comments that day in 1981 made him the laughing-stock of the world.

Adamowski’s claim that as “Special Master” he has “super powers” is equally absurd.

Or as the case may be, hey Steven, “you’re doing a heck of a job.”

You can find the latest Day article here:  http://www.theday.com/article/20131206/NWS01/312069954/0/SEARCH

Malloy calls his “educational reform” initiative “part of this grand experiment.”

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In the United States you can’t take medicine unless it has been fully tested and determined to be safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Heck, you can’t even sell or buy genetically modified salmon without it going through a comprehensive independent assessment process.

But for reasons that are extremely hard to comprehend public officials seem perfectly satisfied to upend our public education system and force local schools districts to adopt a one-size fits all corporate education reform industry agenda that is expensive and appears to be extremely ineffective, at best.

In 2012 Governor Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education reform agenda of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Two years later, Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and a cadre of out-of-state consultants, along with people like Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski, are pushing full steam ahead with their plans to force Connecticut’s school districts to implement very expensive standardized testing and evaluation systems, along with “turnaround programs,” that are untested, unproven and divert scarce resources away from the very instruction programs that are working with the vast majority of students.

Instead of systematically testing targeted strategies and then implementing those that work, Malloy, Pryor and their entourage are experimenting with Connecticut’s students and forcing Connecticut’s taxpayers to pick up the cost.

At yesterday’s grand opening of the Connecticut River Academy Magnet School in East Hartford, Governor Malloy had a moment of incredible honestly or uttered what could only be described as a true Freudian slip.

As reported in the Hartford Courant, Malloy, speaking to a crowd of students, staff and community leaders at the school’s opening told the students that they are “part of this grand experiment that we have underway in the state of Connecticut…”

Malloy added, “This is our gamble, our bet, our investment in your future, that is saying that we want Connecticut to be as successful as it ever was, in fact we want it to be more successful.”

Malloy said, when it comes to Connecticut, “In fact we want it to be more successful…”

Truer words have never been spoken.

But if our government leaders actually meant what they said, and said what they meant, they’d be engaged in a very different form of “education reform,” a reform that was not based on a corporate education reform industry agenda but one that was based on strategies that were properly assessed and deemed appropriate for the students of our state.

As the saying goes, “All students can learn and succeed, but not all on the same day, in the same way.”

We do the right thing when it comes to medicine; we even do it for salmon.

Our children deserve no less.

Freedom of Information Watch…. Hello Commissioner Pryor? It is the law!

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Here is what the law says:   Connecticut State Statutes:   Sec. 1-212 – “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.”

And yet another day has gone by with no response from the Connecticut Department of Education to Freedom of Information requests dating back more than 100 days days.

Is there no one in the Malloy administration that is willing to follow Connecticut law?

  • A September Freedom of Information request related to Stefan Pryor’s decision to shift Special Master Steven Adamowski from a consultant to a state employee without going through any public hiring process remains unanswered. 
  • An October Freedom of Information request for information related to potential work Stefan Pryor has given to another out-of-state consultant named Heidi Ramirez remains unanswered. 
  • Another October FOI request related to communication between Pryor’s agency and Steven Perry, Principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Academy remains unanswered. 
  • Another October FOI request for communication between Pryor’s Director of School Turnaround, Morgan Barth, and consultants being paid through a $1 million contract with an out-of-state company called MassInsight remains unanswered. 
  • A November FOI Request for state-related emails sent to or from Pryor’s private email account or that of his chief of staff, an agency practice first reported by investigative columnist Kevin Rennie, remains unanswered. 
  • Another November FOI request concerns public documents related to the Sheff desegregation lawsuit remains unanswered. 
  • A December FOI request for information about a bullying corrective action plan that was developed this past summer by the State Department of Education for Capital Prep Magnet School, but has yet to be implemented by Capital Prep. Principal Steve Perry remains unanswered. 
  • Two recent FOI requests concerning the process parents and others should use to report violations by Capital Prep Magnet School of federal and state special education laws remain unanswered. 
  • And two other FOI requests about a meeting that took place between Commissioner Pryor, former Malloy advisor Roy Occhiogrosso and a corporate education reform lobbying group called the Connecticut Council on Education Reform and for any emails from “Special Master” Steven Adamowski or State Department of Education Turnaround Director Morgan Barth about emails related to the ongoing effort by certain state officials to force Windham to open a Montessori Charter School that will provide direct financial benefits to people associated with those proposing the new program .

Connecticut was once known for having one of the most powerful Freedom of Information Acts in the nation.

The Malloy administration, especially Stefan Pryor (and Malloy’s State Department of Education), has turned that law into a nothing more than a sad joke.

Arne Duncan is an idiot (and a liar)

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Earlier this week, some data about the results of some international standardized test scores were released.  Diane Ravitch put them in perspective in a piece published by the Huffington Post.  (See: What You Need to Know About the International Test Scores).

But quite frankly, more interesting than the results was the way the corporate education reform industry tried to spin the data to foster the belief that America is failing.

The “education reformers” message continues to be that America’s public education system is failing and the solution is to hand our public school system over to private corporations who will “turnaround” our schools by introducing the miracle of competitive capitalism in the way in which schools are governed and managed.

(Remembering that conservative corporate champion Rupert Murdoch called American’s public education system a $500 billion market)

The corporate reform spin was exemplified by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who, upon the release of the results, tweeted,

“The bad news from #OECDPISA: US is running in place while other countries lap us. Good news: We’re laying the right foundation to improve.” (Arne Duncan)

Diane Ravitch responded on her blog which is posted at www.dianeravitch.net.

Ravitch wrote;

This is very sad. If PISA shows anything, it is that the policies of the Bush-Obama administrations have not reached their one singular goal: higher test scores.

NCLB was signed into law on January 8, 2002. Since that time, every public school in the nation has followed the same federally-mandated prescription. It doesn’t work.

A reporter asked me last night whether the US performance over the past half century shows that no reforms work. I disagreed strongly. There was never any nationwide school reform that affected every school and every district until NCLB. Only since 2002 have we had a single federal policy. Before we had different districts adopting different programs and reforms, as they chose. PISA shows that the past decade of annual testing of basic skills in grades 3-8 failed. No other country in the world tests every child every year. No other country places as much value on test scores as we do. No other country fires principals and teachers and closes schools based on test scores.

Arne’s tweet is like a basketball coach who tells his team to use the same game plan again and again and again. It fails every time. Yet he says we must stick to his game plan anyway.

It makes no sense. We need a game changer. We need reduced class sizes for the students who struggle. We need bilingual teachers for English learners. We need experienced teachers but we are losing them. We need medical care for the students who never get a check-up. We need pre-K to help kids get a good start. We need after school programs and summer programs. We need healthy communities and healthy families and healthy children.

We need a national commitment to the well-being of all our children. Our children are our society’s future. We must treat them as our own.

It must really annoy Duncan and the other corporate education reformers when Diane Ravitch and the other truth-tellers provide the public with information about what is really going on.

But of course, as we know from our experience here in Connecticut, education reformers like Governor Malloy, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Special Master Steven Adamowski and their supporters don’t let something like the truth get in the way of their public policy agenda.

Wait, it’s not cheating if the students don’t know you are changing their answers right?

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Some Hartford school officials have apparently joined the ranks of those who have engaged in cheating to make their students’ standardized test scores look better.

The Hartford Courant has the latest news in a story entitled “Investigators Confirm Test-Tampering At Hartford School.”

Major cheating scandals have already rocked Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Hartford is just the latest in a series of school districts across the country where school administrators have doctored test results to make it appear that their students are doing better on standardized tests such as the Connecticut Mastery Test.

In Connecticut, former Hartford Superintendent of Schools, Steven Adamowski, introduced the “bonus for the improvement of standardized test results scheme” when he ran Hartford’s schools for five years.

As a result of Adamowski’s policies, many of which have been continued under present Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, school officials receive bonuses if they can show improvement in standardized test results.

Apparently, the scheme leads some school administrators to take matters into their own hands…literally.

According to the Hartford Courant story written by Kathy Megan and Vanessa De La Torre,

“An investigation has confirmed that dozens of Connecticut Mastery Tests taken earlier this year at Betances Early Reading Lab School in Hartford were tampered with by unknown individuals.

The investigation by the Hartford law firm of Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck concluded that “testing irregularities are present in the CMT reading content area test booklets, completed by third-grade students” at Betances.”

The Courant goes on to report, “’Changes were made to students’ 2013 CMT reading content area test booklets by an individual or individuals that were not the students,’ the investigators state in a report for the Department of Education dated Nov. 5.”

According to the investigation, a number of teachers identified potential problems with their student’s test scores.

The Courant explained that;

“The report contained many examples of teachers saying that students’ scores were much higher than could be reasonably expected, as well as statistics showing that the number of answers changed from wrong to right was well beyond what might be expected.

For instance, one teacher, describing ‘Student D,’ noted that the student had ‘an extremely hard time recognizing words and comprehending text.’ She expected the student to score poorly on the test.

When the teacher was advised that the student changed answers 26 times and that 25 of those times were from the wrong answer to the right answer, the report says, ‘she could not believe it. Based on her experience with Student D, she did not feel it was possible.’

The timing of this cheating scandal is particularly noteworthy because starting this year, as a direct result of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” law, there is a new state-mandate that schools, teachers and many school administrators be evaluated based, in part, on whether standardized test results improve.

In Hartford, Superintendent of Schools Christina Kishimoto called the test tampering “really poor judgment that I want to really get to the bottom of.”

And not to be outdone, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, told the Courant that the state was discussing what steps to take with Hartford school leaders regarding the cheating scandal.

Considering Stefan Pryor’s record and overwhelming fondness for massive amounts of standardized testing, in what might have been misinterpreted as a joke, Commissioner Pryor’s PR operation released a statement to the media yesterday which read;

“Testing irregularities are rare in our state. In general, Connecticut teachers, administrators and students display great integrity around the administration of statewide assessments… However, when such instances of possible tampering do occur, we take the matter very seriously… Unfortunately, the investigators’ report concludes that tampering has occurred in this case. We are in communication with Hartford’s board and central office leadership regarding this matter.”

You can read the Courant article and get more of the ugly details at: http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-betances-cheating-1107-20131106,0,5846511,full.story.

The man with no teaching experience calls himself “America’s Most Trusted Educator.”

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Connecticut law requires that all public school teachers must hold proper teaching certification in order to be educators.

Yet Steve Perry, the principal of Hartford’s Capital Preparatory Academy promotes himself as “America’s most trusted educator.”  In fact, he often starts his speeches and tweets by saying, “As an educator…”

But Steve Perry has NO TEACHING EXPERIENCE and no state teaching certification.

Like Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas and Special Master, Steven Adamowski, Steve Perry does not even have the state certification required to teach in a Connecticut public school.

Not only wouldn’t these so-called champions of education reform last a day in a classroom, they don’t even have the legal right to serve as a Connecticut teacher.

But despite all their self-promotion, these guys hardly represent the broad array of administrators who are running Connecticut’s schools on a day-to-day basis.

Just take a moment to compare Steve Perry’s qualifications with Hartford’s other magnet school principals:

Capital Preparatory Magnet School:
Principal: Steve Perry
Administrative Certification:  “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification:
NONE
 
 
Hartford Classical Magnet School
Principal:  James Mott: 
Administrative Certification: “PROFESSIONAL”
Other state certification:
021-LATIN AND CLASSICAL HUMANITIES
015-ENGLISH, GRADES 7 THROUGH 12
110-UNIQUE SUBJECT AREA ENDORSEMENT
 
Richard J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts
Principal:  Ken O’Brien
Administrative Certification: “PROFESSIONAL”
Other state certification:
165-SPECIAL EDUCATION: COMPREHENSIVE, GRADES K THROUGH 12
110-UNIQUE SUBJECT AREA ENDORSEMENTS
 
Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) 
Principal:  Sally Brigs
Administrative Certification:  “PROFESSIONAL”
Other state certification:
044-PHYSICAL EDUCATION, PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 12 
 
Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (Grades 6-12)
Principal:  John Laverty
Administrative Certification: “PROFESSIONAL”
Other state certification 
001-PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 8
026-HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES, GRADES 7 THROUGH 12 
 
Hartford Journalism and Media Magnet School
Leonard Epps
Administrative Certification:  “PROFESSIONAL”
Other state certification:
026-HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES, GRADES 7 THROUGH 12
 
Breakthrough Magnet School
Principal:  Julie Goldstein
Administrative Certification:  “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification
044-PHYSICAL EDUCATION, PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 12 

Environmental Sciences Magnet at Mary Hooker
Principal: Peter Dart:
Administrative Certification:  “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification:
002-PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 6
006-GRADES 4 THROUGH 8
 
Betances Magnet School
Principal:  Melony Brady
Administrative Certification: “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification:
043-HEALTH, PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 12
044-PHYSICAL EDUCATION, PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 12
 
Montessori Magnet at Moylan School
Principal: Carolyn Havrda
Administrative Certification: “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification:
001-PRE-K THROUGH GRADE 8
039-SECONDARY SUBJECT
102-REMEDIAL READING AND REMEDIAL LANGUAGE ARTS, GRADES 1 THROUGH 12
 
University High School of Science and Engineering (Grades 9-12)
Principal:  Martin Folan
Administrative Certification: “PROVISIONAL”
Other state certification: 
068-SCHOOL COUNSELOR
229-MATHEMATICS, MIDDLE SCHOOL

And the list goes on and on.

Being an effective school administrator requires real-world teaching experience.

Steven Perry and his ilk have little to none.

Capital Prep Principal and No-Excuse Champion Steve Perry: Too big to follow rules?

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Note:  Steven Adamowski, not Christina Kishimoto was Hartford’s superintendent of schools when Perry was away from his school despite a written rule that prohibited Perry from using vacation or personal days to leave the school unattended.

So did Perry violate the policy of the City of Hartford school board or did Superintendent Steven Adamowski give Perry a special deal.

Every Hartford principal knows that rules when it comes to being at work in the weeks leading up to the Connecticut Mastery Testing…

“FURTHER, NO VACATIONS OR PROFESSIONAL LEAVE WILL BE APPROVED FOR PRINCIPALS DURING THE PERIOD FEBRUARY 22 THROUGH MARCH 22, 2011”

-Hartford Public Schools; The Office of Talent Management 2011-2012
http://talent.hartfordschools.org/index.php/component/content/article/69
 

 The date:         Friday, February 25, 2011

The location:  The University of Virginia
Darden School of Business
Black Business Student Forum
Annual Conference
 
LUNCH KEYNOTE – 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Dr. Perry, CNN Education Correspondent

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISC4bzYtz8Y.

So did Steve Perry violate City of Hartford rules or did Superintendent Steven Adamowski or his side-kick Christina Kishimoto give Perry a special deal?

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