A Better Connecticut Education Reform Lobbying Group, Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Ethics, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst, Teach for America, Wendy Lecker A Better Connecticut, Achievement First, ConnCAN, Ethics, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst, Wendy Lecker
Pro-public education commentator Wendy Lecker has written another “must read” piece, this time pointing out the fact that corporate education reformers are either unwilling or unable to tell the truth as the spin their political stories to try and convince elected officials and the public to support their “education reform” agenda.
Lecker, like many of us, has heard the latest round of ads that side-step the truth in a politically self-righteous attempt to convince us that we can improve out public education system by handing it over to private corporations and charter schools.
This new $1.5 million advertising campaign by a front organization called, ironically enough, A Better Connecticut, is just one more step in the most expensive lobbying effort in Connecticut history.
Here are the latest numbers;
To date, since Governor Malloy took office, the corporate education reform industry has spent at least $4,650,721.54 on lobbying, breaking all Connecticut records for the most expensive effort in history to buy up Connecticut Public Policy.
The following chart reveals the players in this scheme.
Following the chart is a link to Wendy Lecker’s latest piece in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst media outlets.
|Corporate Education Reform Organization
||Amount Spent on Lobbying
|Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN)
|Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD)
|A Better Connecticut
|Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee)
|Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor)
|Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)
|Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee)
|Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network
|Teach For America
|EDUCATON REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES
Wendy Lecker: Imagining where all that money could have gone
“Proponents of corporate-driven education reforms seem to believe that the notion of telling the truth is a low priority. Take for example the false claims being made by charter school advocates about the size of waiting lists for charter schools.
In as diverse locations as Massachusetts and Chicago, charter lobbyists having been pushing charter school expansion by claiming lengthy waiting lists. In both locations, investigations by journalists at the Boston Globe and WBEZ revealed that the waiting list numbers were grossly exaggerated, often counting the same students multiple times. As a Massachusetts legislator noted, raising the charter cap based on artificial numbers “doesn’t make sense.” Unless, of course, your main goal is charter expansion rather than sound educational policy
Another common theme promoted by charter schools is the questionable claim of amazing success. Recently, Geoffrey Canada of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone gave an online seminar in which he boasted a 100 percent graduation rate at his schools. However, if one looks at HCZ’s attrition rate, the true graduation rate is 64 percent. Many have also noted that Canada kicked out two entire grades of children because of sub-par test scores.
Here in Connecticut, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby, is the prominent peddler of shaky claims and half-truths about charter schools.
Recently, in an effort to promote the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Inc. declared that nearly 80 percent of charters outperform their host districts. However, data from the State Department of Education reveals that about 90 percent of Connecticut’s charters serve a less needy population than their host districts: fewer poor children, fewer English Language Learners or fewer students with disabilities, with most having a combination of two or three of these categories.
Considering poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the prominent factors influencing standardized test scores, it is not much a feat to have higher test scores with a less challenging population. ConnCAN’s claim is hardly an indication of success or innovation.”
Read the rest of Lecker’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Imagining-where-all-that-money-4526450.php#ixzz2TlStOU64
Budget Cuts, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Office of State Ethics, Paul Vallas, Steven Adamowski, Teach for America Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Stevan Adamowski, Teach for America
Yup, the Connecticut Director of Teach for America has submitted an application to open a charter school in Bridgeport.
Nate Snow arrived in Bridgeport in 2007 as a new TFA recruit.
Today he serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and President of the Board of Directors of Excel Bridgeport, Inc., a corporate funded education reform organization that he co-founded with Meghan Lowney, an aide to billionaire, hedge fund owner Steven Mandel.
Excel Bridgeport serves as the primary advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch and “Superintendent of Schools” Paul Vallas’ education reform policies.
After graduating from Texas A&M University, Snow joined TFA and taught for two years in Bridgeport. He then joined TFA’s fundraising operation and then made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Snow and Vallas recently signed a three-year contract between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Teach for America for $777,000, although the contract was never provided to the Board for their review and approval. Team Vallas is claiming he has the authority to sign the contract without Board involvement.
And meanwhile, despite having no experience in school administration, Snow is the lead name on a charter school application that is pending before Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Snow’s proposal is to create a Montessori Charter School for children between the ages of three and thirteen.
As to Snow’s connection to TFA and Excel Bridgeport, a recent CT Post article reported that “The charter school idea, he said, is his own.”
According to their proposal, “Whittier’s Montessori program is inspired by the design and implementation of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School (AFMMS), a high-performing public Montessori school in Hartford, Connecticut. Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School has distinguished itself by meeting high standards of student achievement through a meticulous, fully implemented Montessori program.”
Stephen Adamowski, who according to emails acquired through a Freedom of Information request, worked with Snow around Malloy’s education reform bill, was a strong proponent of Hartford’s Montessori school and now, as Malloy’s Special Master for Windham and New London has been working hard to get Windham to switch one of its elementary schools over to a Montessori school.
In the new Montessori charter school application, the proponents explain how they developed the plan saying, “Prior to preparing for this submission, none of the founders had worked with a Montessori school, but they knew that it was a good brand with an excellent reputation. Starting with a visit to the acclaimed Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, then undertaking conversations with parents who have children in private Montessori school in Fairfield County, and ending with informal consultations with Montessori leaders from around the country, the Founding members became convinced that Montessori should be an option for all children in Bridgeport. Nate Snow contacted the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), located in Hartford, for further information on what was necessary to start a public Montessori school. These discussions led to an eventual contract with NCMPS to assist in school design and to aid in writing the charter application.”
The charter school proposal aims to start with 69 students next fall and reach 209 students in its fifth year. Their budget calls for expending $1.7 million in year one and at least $3.8 million in year five.
While state charter schools get their money primarily from a state grant, Snow and his colleagues are trying to open a “local” charter school, meaning the funds would come mostly from Bridgeport’s school budget, with an extra $3,000 per student coming from a new state “local charter grant” that was part of Malloy’s education reform law. Malloy’s education reform law also included a series of $500,000 “start-up grants” that charter schools could get from the state. Snow and company are counting on getting one of those grants, as well.
In addition, the cost of transportation and special education costs would be paid for by the Bridgeport Board of Education.
Bridgeport is already well into the 60 day local charter review process. The application, if approved, would then go to Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the state Board of Education.
As to the various players behind the proposal, Wait What? readers may recall that starting in January 2011, Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Excel Bridgeport worked to persuade the Connecticut State Board of Education to take over the Bridgeport School System. Over the course of the six months leading up to the State Board of Education’s illegal takeover, Lowney, Snow and Excel Bridgeport engaged in numerous communications with state officials.
Despite their ongoing lobbying, both before and during the illegal takeover and throughout the effort to persuade legislators to support Malloy’s education reform bill, neither Lowney, Snow nor Excel Bridgeport registered to lobby with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, as required by law.
More than two weeks after the end of the 2012 Legislative session, Excel Bridgeport finally filed the required papers, listing Jorge Cabrera as the organization’s lead lobbyist.
Excel Bridgeport, a group initially called the Bridgeport Partnership for School Success, Inc., was created in December 2010 and then changed its name to Excel Bridgeport Inc. in September 2011.
According to its incorporation papers, Meghan Lowney, the Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation, (the personal foundation of Fairfield County billionaire Stephen Mandel), was registered as Excel Bridgeport, Inc.’s founding president and Nathan Snow, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Teach for America Chapter served as the organization’s founding vice president.
Snow then took over the role as Excel’s president. A board was also created made up of Jonathan Hayes (Executive, Meetinghouse Productions), Joel Green (Partner, Green & Gross, PC), Robert Francis (Executive Director, RYASAP), Carl Horton, Jr. (Consultant, Accenture), Scott Hughes (City Librarian, Bridgeport Public Library), Meghan Lowney (Executive Director, ZOOM Foundation) and Joseph McGee (Vice President, Fairfield County Business Council). Like Snow, Francis, the Executive Director of RYASAP, also has a contract with the Bridgeport Board of Education.
As of now, Lowney and Snow have still not registered to lobby despite their ongoing efforts to influence public policy.
Meanwhile, faced with inadequate state resources, and Mayor Finch’s need to come up with $3.2 million more just to meet the state’s minimum local expenditure law, it will be interesting to see if Paul Vallas, the Bridgeport Board of Education and Commissioner Stefan Pryor divert dollars to their colleague Nate Snow and his proposal for a new Montessori charter school.
Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America
CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman published another “must read” piece in last weekend’s CTNewsjunkie (see link)
In it, Littman tackles the issues surrounding the efforts to enhance the teaching profession, provide opportunities for young people to serve their communities by teaching in urban and poor schools systems and the political/lobbying apparatus that is known as Teach for America.
During a recent college tour, Littman and her daughter, who wants to be a teacher, ran straight into the paradox that one path to teaching is through investing, “four, possibly five years pursuing a double major in a subject area and education” or simply graduating from college and trading a two-year commitment to Teach for America in return for a brief training program and a guaranteed job in a classroom as a teacher.
Teach for America bristles at the notion that they are anything but a force for good, but as Littman notes, the issues are far more complex than that.
She cites a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University who recently wrote in the Washington Post that TFA’s message is that college grads can “use teaching in high-poverty areas as a stepping stone to a career in business.” Littman correctly writes that such an approach is “not only disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it effectively advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.”
And the evidence lays out the case that it is our poor, urban districts that are the petri dishes for the experiment. As Littman writes, “Back in February 2012, as part of his Education Reform Bill, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for tougher standards for teacher education programs. Yet the most troubled districts in Connecticut, the “turnaround” districts, are the ones where one finds the most TFA corps members, who show up in classrooms after five weeks of training.”
Littman goes on to examine the evidence about the effectiveness of the TFA program.
Agree or disagree about what the future of the TFA and TFA like programs should be, everyone interested in the subject should take the time to read Littman’s latest piece. Here complete Op. Ed. can be read here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_tfa_contracts_ignore_the_evidence_-_and_malloys_own_rhetoric/
Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Edushyster, Jersey Jazzman, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, StudentsFirst, Teach for America Democracy, Education Reform
(Cross-posted from http://dianeravitch.net)
A big thank you to the nation’s leading pro-public education blogger Diane Ravitch for allowing me to write a guest post for her daily blog. I’m re-posting it here on Wait, What? or you can read it here: http://dianeravitch.net/2013/02/02/beware-education-reformers-are-coming-for-your-school-board/
During the 2012 election cycle, we saw the corporate “education reform” lobby begin to play their hand when it comes to the notion of local control of public education. Their approach is a simple one. If you don’t agree with our position, we’ll simply change the rules or work to defeat your local elected board of education.
As far as the corporate education reformers are concerned, the end justifies the means and if the cost of getting what you want requires destroying our nation’s age-old commitment to local control of education, so be it.
And we certainly aren’t talking about local parents banding together to ensure that their voices are heard. We are talking about billionaires and millionaires and the major education reform companies, organizations and foundations dumping tens of millions of dollars into state and local efforts to elect handpicked accomplices or even, where necessary, changing the rules to make it easier to open charter schools and dismantle the core elements of a broad-based public education system.
Take for example the political involvement of education reformer and New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg has been a very busy guy. Not only is he the Chief Executive Officer of New York City where he is leading a successful effort to privatize much of that city’s public education system, but he has become a leading example of this “my way or the highway” approach to destroying local public education.
In Bloomberg’s case there was his $20,000 check for Residents for a Better Bridgeport, a political action committee seeking to do away with the democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the local pro-education reform mayor. There was also the $75,000 check to California Charter Schools Association Independent Expenditure Committee, and on the same day in October, Bloomberg wrote a check for $10,000 to Neighbors for School Board 2012 (Oakland). The three “education reform” candidates that the group was supporting in Oakland also received checks from Bloomberg for the maximum allowable amount.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg dropped a check to Education Voters of Idaho for $200,000 to defend a set of reform proposals and $80,000 to Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, reformer Tony Bennett, who has now moved his destructive activities to the State of Florida.
In state after state, the super-rich, corporate executives and education reform entities spent millions to influence local elections. When the final reports were filed in Bridgeport, the corporate education reform industry and its supporters spent more than $560,000, a state record, in their effort to take away the right of local citizens to elect their own board of education. In that case, they failed, but they are already moving forward on efforts to undermine what’s left of the democratically-elected board.
In “So You Wanna Buy a School Board Seat…,” fellow pro-public education blogger, Edushyster, wrote about the situation in Minneapolis, Minnesota while another pro-public education blogger Jersey Jazzman wrote “How To Buy a School Board Race 3000 Miles Away,” about the same thing happening in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
In Minnesota, the push to elect a pro-charter school, TFA alumnus came from Teach for America and 50CAN, a national charter school lobbying group, as well as, other corporate executives. 50CAN was set up by Connecticut resident and education reform activists Jonathan Sackler, a corporate director of Purdue Pharma. The present Chairman of 50CAN is Mathew Kramer, the President of Teach for America.
It will come as no surprise, but Sackler, with a check for $50,000, was also the largest donor to the Bridgeport effort that is mentioned above.
And in New Jersey, Jersey Jazzman asked, “Why would California multi-millionaires be interested in a school board race in the small city of Perth Amboy, NJ?
It seems absurd, and yet it’s true: four wealthy Californians and one wealthy Coloradan – heavy hitters in the tech, financial, and health care sectors – have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to a slate of candidates running for the school board in Perth Amboy, a city of 50,000 with a majority Hispanic population.
From Connecticut to California and New Jersey to Idaho, the story is the same. The charter school industry is spending record amounts to lobby government officials and buy local boards of education.
But their tactics are very clear. Backing up their lobbying effort is a broader strategy to change the rules and change the players as a way of ensuring they can build their charter schools and further privatize America’s public education system.
If General Eisenhower were alive today, it wouldn’t simply be the military-industrial complex he’d be warning us about, it would be the even more devious and dangerous education-industrial complex.
Keep your eyes open and don’t be surprised to find these corporate reformers playing their politics with your local boards of education.
Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Newtown, Standardized Testing, StudentsFirst, Teach for America, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Tenure, Unions Education Reform, Malloy, Newtown
Teach for America (TFA) provides some outstanding young people with a unique, short-term opportunity to teach in some of America’s poorest schools. Some of these dedicated individuals even use that opportunity as an alternative route to a longer-term career in the teaching profession.
But the founders and leaders of TFA have a very different agenda. First and foremost, they make a lot of money. TFA’s founder and CEO pulls in just under $400,000 in salary and benefits. Over a dozen of the top TFA executives make more than a quarter of a million dollars each.
In addition to making huge amount of money, TFA is about advocating and lobbying for “education reforms” that include a variety of anti-teacher positions including the excessive use of standardized testing, the expansion of charter schools and efforts to end tenure and seniority.
But most notably, like so many of the corporate education reformers, the top leaders and supporters of TFA are is viciously anti-union.
Take for their reaction to a recent blog post by Diane Ravitch.
Ravitch’ s post was a tribute to the teachers and staff of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, with special attention to heroic teachers and staff who died protecting the children.
After highlighting each hero, Ravitch noted that;
“Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that “reformers” (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores. Governor Malloy said, memorably, to his shame, that teachers get tenure just for showing up. No one at Sandy Hook was just “showing up.”
Governor Dannel Malloy has led the effort in his state to expand charter schools and high-stakes testing. He appointed a state commissioner of education who co-founded a charter chain. He said, memorably, that he didn’t care how much test prep there was so long as scores go up. Sandy Hook is not that kind of school.
Let us hope Governor Malloy learned something these past few days about the role of public schools in their communities.
Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.”
Diane’s observation was 100 percent accurate. It was not only a perfectly appropriate thing to say, but others have said the same thing. Certainly Wait What? readers have read very similar sentiments here, albeit put less eloquently.
But what is so interesting is that over the last 48 hours, dozens of veteran education reformers and TFA advocates have been on the war-path, purposely misleading people about the post, while condemning Dr. Ravitch and through her the rest of us who have been speaking out and paying tribute to the extraordinary teachers of Newtown Elementary School.
David Rosenberg, of Teach for America tweeted, “The latest post by @DianeRavitch on #Newtown is truly reprehensible. She should retract it”
And “education reform” champion, RiShawn Biddle, who has listed himself as a consultant to at least one education reform group here in Connecticut, wrote, “Over the past few years, Dropout Nation has had plenty to say about once-respectable education historian Diane Ravitch… she discredits herself with every tweet and blog post, there has been more than enough evidence to show that the Camille Paglia wannabe doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously by anyone. So it isn’t shocking that Ravitch debases herself further with a piece on her eponymous site on last week’s massacre of 26 teachers and children in Newtown, Conn., that shows her to be the kind of intellectual opportunist that would take advantage of tragedy to score points.
“Ravitch decided to spend much of the piece defending traditionalist thinking, as well as arguing against Nutmeg State Gov. Dan Malloy’s school reform efforts (including the expansion of charter schools, Ravitch’ s bogeyman of late).”
“As your editor, I’m not even going to dissect her arguments or her insinuations because it is not the right time for all that at all. Nor am I going to do some pearl-clutching, or call for Ravitch to be banished to some imaginary hinterland. I’m not even happy to be commenting on this piece at all. What I will say is that Ravitch is engaging in pure intellectual demagoguery in obituary form. This is absolutely, positively inappropriate to do. Not even Fleet Street writers, whose tradition of skewering the deceased in obituaries is legendary (and often admirable in a way), would defend this. Certainly Ravitch could have found a more-appropriate topic through which she could argue for her positions. She could have even devoted her piece to discussing how the Newtown massacre is an opportunity for all of us to build caring cultures for our children. Yet Ravitch has proven incapable of such decency or logical thinking. And this fact speaks loudly about Ravitch’s capacity for thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and decency.”
So let’s get this right. Diane Ravitch correctly points out that these teachers were career professionals that all belonged to a union, some of them had tenure, while others were working toward tenure…AND THAT ALL OF THEM were negatively impacted by legislation proposed by Governor Malloy. In return she is described as someone who is incapable of decency or logical thinking.
Diane Ravitch’s comments were absolutely and totally correct. These teachers were career professionals, they did belong to a union, some did have tenure and some were working toward tenure AND ALL OF THEM WERE negatively impacted by Governor Malloy’s “education reform” plan.
You can defend Malloy’s plan if you want, but you can’t say Connecticut’s new “education reform” bill didn’t impact these heroes and all the other teachers and school professionals in Connecticut!
Mr. Biddle, it is you who should take a look in the mirror. Then you’ll see what someone unable to engage in telling the truth or logical thinking looks like. Your politics of hate is not welcome in Connecticut. It wasn’t welcome when you supported Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher, anti-union proposal last spring and it certainly isn’t welcome here as we grapple with the unimaginable horror of December 14, 2012.
Yes, there are people trying to capitalize on the tragedy, but it certainly isn’t those of us who are providing our readers with the truth. It is the people like the TFA leadership and this Mr. Biddle who are the ones who should be ashamed of themselves.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Corporate Viewpoint, Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence, Malloy, Michelle Rhee, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst, Teach for America, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Tenure Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence, Malloy
It started with Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
Then came the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), the Connecticut Coalition for Advocacy Now, (ConnAD), Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst (calling itself the Great New England Public School Alliance, GNEPSA) and Students for Education Reform (SFER, an off-shoot of 50-CAN, which, in turn, grew out of ConnCAN)
When Governor Malloy proposed his “education reform” legislation earlier this year, these groups, funded by millionaire and billionaire hedge fund owners, along with the Gates, Walton and Broad Foundations, engaged in the most costly lobbying, advertising and public relations effort in Connecticut history.
Since then, many of the same organizations funded Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s record spending effort to eliminate Bridgeport’s elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor.
Now, with the next session of the Connecticut General Assembly only a few weeks away, comes that news that a group called “Educators 4 Excellence” is opening operations here, as the corporate reformers seek to continue their efforts to privatize and undermine Connecticut’s public education system.
Educators 4 Excellence is a two year-old organization, funded by the Gates Foundation (among others) and set up by the corporate education reform trifecta of Education Reform Now (ERN), Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA) and Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Most recently, these groups were among the primary funders behind the multi-million-dollar, anti-teacher, anti-union television advertising campaign that ran during this year’s Chicago teacher’s strike.
This week Educators 4 Excellence announced that it is hiring a “Founding Executive Director” for a new Connecticut chapter.
Educators 4 Excellence is headed by two former Teach for America (TFA) recruits. Their stated goal is to create, “an elevated, prestigious teaching profession in which educators are leaders both in and outside of their classrooms to drive positive outcomes for students.”
In order to achieve that goal, Educators 4 Excellence campaigns to end seniority, institute merit pay and replace tenure with what the group calls “earned tenure,” in which teachers who are able to push up standardized test scores are provided with greater job security and financial bonuses.
Based in New York City, Educators 4 Excellence has already created chapters in Los Angeles and Minnesota, with Connecticut being their next target.
According to their advertisement, “Reporting directly to the Co-Founders/Co-Chief Executive Officers and serving as a member of E4E’s senior leadership team, the Founding Executive Director, Connecticut will help launch Educators 4 Excellence-Connecticut (E4E-CT). The Founding Executive Director will have strategic and operational responsibility for E4E-CT staff, programs, growth, and execution of its mission to elevate the voices of teachers in Connecticut state and local education policy.”
The organization has been growing quickly, if not in members, at least in resources. Thanks to unnamed donors, the Educators 4 Excellence budget skyrocketed from $339,000 in 2010 to $1.9 million in 2011.
Or, as Educators 4 Excellence put it, “In just one year, we have grown into a national movement of teachers leading the charge to change our education system.”
Last year the group primarily focused on supporting Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to destroy tenure in the New York City Schools, writing, “We applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to make tenure decisions more meaningful.” This year, the group has also been one of the most vocal supporters of New York’s new, ill-fated teacher evaluation system.
Wait, What? readers may remember that here in Connecticut, the corporate education reformers ran television ads blasting the teacher unions and suggesting that legislators were modifying Malloy’s proposals in order to sell out to the unions.
Perhaps it is only an uncanny coincidence, but during the recent battle in New York, the Educators 4 Excellence partners, Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform ran television ads that included one parent saying, “Albany’s listening much too much to the teachers union,” and a second parent, looking to the camera and saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”
In Connecticut, some of the most offensive, anti-teacher ads that were run in support of Malloy’s education reform bill were paid for by ConnCAN’s sister organization, ConnAD. Those ads were produced by a company called SKD Knickerbocker.
In the small world department, SKD Knickerbocker is the very same company doing the anti-teacher ads, but in this case they were paid for by Educators 4 Excellence’s allies, Education Reform Now and Democrats for Education Reform.
The connections don’t stop there, but we’ll cover the next piece in a future blog post…
Bridgeport, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Mayor Bill Finch, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, StudentsFirst, Teach for America Diane Ravitch, Education R, Excel Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch, Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst
The country’s leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, has a post on her blog today with the news that Kevin Johnson, the Mayor of Sacramento California, and husband of education reformer Michelle Rhee, has been fined $37,500 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, for failing to report donations of at least $3.5 million to a number of his personal initiatives, including his Teach for America education reform effort and his “Think Big Arena Task Force”.
Among the unreported donations was $500,000 from the pro-education, ultra-conservative Walton Foundation, operated by the family that owns Wal-Mart. The Walton Foundation has also provided funds to education reform groups active in Connecticut.
California may not be the only state investigating alleged illegal activities by Mayor Johnson, Michelle Rhee or their related organizations.
Based upon a complaint I filed, Connecticut’s State Election’s Enforcement Commission has opened an official investigation into the alleged campaign finance violations of Residents for a Better Bridgeport, the political action committee that was created to support Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s unsuccessful effort to eliminate Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by himself.
The complaint identified a variety of alleged violations perpetrated by Residents for a Better Bridgeport including failure to reveal donations and expenditures, as required by law.
Last week, I filed two additional complaints, one against Excel Bridgeport and the other against the Great New England Public Schools Alliance, the front group set up by Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst.
According to the complaints, neither Excel Bridgeport nor GNEPSA came close to fulfilling its legal obligation to file reports on time or properly account for donations and expenditures related to their campaign activities for Finch and his referendum.
One of the additional issues raised in the complaints relate to who paid for Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s trip to Bridgeport where he campaigned with Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas on behalf of Finch’s anti-democracy referendum.
Neither Citizens for a Better Bridgeport, Excel Bridgeport or GNEPSA reported any expenses related to Mr. Johnson’s campaign swing through Bridgeport.
The complaints allege multiple violations of Connecticut law. Each of the three groups could face significant fines should they be found guilty.
You can find Diane Ravitch’s blog post here: Rhee’s Husband Fined for Ethics Violation
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Arnie Duncan, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst, Teach for America Achievement First, Education Reform, Stefan Pryor, StudentsFirst, Teach for America
Public education experts Diane Ravitch and Gary Rubinstein write about a recent letter from 30 plus “education reform” groups to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.
The “education reformer’s” message; standardized test scores should be used to measure the effectiveness of teacher training programs in the United States.
No don’t laugh, these people are for real.
Here is what they want. Colleges graduate teachers; teachers get hired; the teacher’s students take standardized tests; the standardized test score not only determine which teachers are retained and which are fired, but the scores are also used to determine whether the colleges that trained them should get more or less funding.
Their plan completely fails to take into consideration the role poverty, language barriers and special education needs play in influencing standardized test scores.
What will happen? Universities and colleges that push their teachers to teach in high income, low need areas will show their “worth” by having graduates that have students that produce consistently high test scores. Colleges and Universities that urge their students to tackle the most difficult teaching environments, poor, inner city schools, will run the risk of being labeled “failures,” because the students of those graduates won’t score high enough on standardized tests.
Who would even think of such a stupid plan, let alone work to get the Obama Administration to implement it?
A group of 30 charter school management companies…
And who is at the top of the list of organizations signing the letter.
Connecticut’s own Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management firm that was founded, in part, by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
And another group behind the effort, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby organization, that was set up by the directors of Achievement First.
And 50CAN, the national off-shoot of ConnCAN, also set up by Achievement First’s directors is pushing the absurd concept.
Other organizations behind the effort are “Teach for America, StudentsFirst, Democrats for Education Reform (the Wall Street hedge fund managers), The New Teacher Project, Jeb Bush’s rightwing Chiefs for Change and his Foundation for Educational Excellence.”
Read Diane Ravitch’s blog here: http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/04/talk-about-nerve/
And Gary Rubinstein’s blog here: http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/09/04/tfa-implores-obama-administration-to-hold-teacher-preparation-programs-accountable/
As Diane Ravitch notes, “these people and these organizations are wrong. They are driving American education in a destructive direction. They will reduce children to data points, as the organizations thrive…”
The time to stop the standardized testing madness is now.
Charter Schools, Education Reform, Michelle Rhee, Paul Vallas, Special Education, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Teach for America, Teacher Tenure Education Re
Today’s Maine Sunday Telegram newspaper leads with the headline, “Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine.” The reporting is a stunning tribute to what reporters can do when they look past the spin and the fancy press releases and really start digging.
It is also another shocking example about how public education is falling to the education reform industry.
Change the location from Maine to Connecticut and the term “virtual schools” to “education reform” and readers will recognize the patterns.
They are just as prevalent here in Connecticut.
In Maine it is being perpetrated by a tea-bag governor and his ultra-right hacks, and the lack of finesse and sophistication shows. Here, in Connecticut, it is being designed and implemented by Democrats, so it appears more sophisticated and legitimate. However, many of the goals and outcomes are exactly the same.
Read the article from the Maine Sunday Telegram. Book mark it. Hold on to it. We’ve seen some of it already here in Connecticut; we’ll see more of it, if Connecticut legislators don’t stand up and put a stop to it.
The Maine Sunday Telegram’s core findings are eerily familiar.
Education Reform: Guided by people and organizations, many of whom stand to profit from the changes.
Out of State Connections: Individuals within government, our schools and education reform groups that are part of a broader coalition of people seeking to undermine public education.
Follow the Money: The flow of lobbying dollars from out of state, leading to the flow of taxpayer funds from Connecticut and our schools districts to education companies…and then back to some of the very people who are making the decisions to privatize our education system.
Behind the Scene Deals: Every Freedom of Information request, here in Connecticut, like those in Maine, reveal more and more behind the scene meetings and efforts to push education reform forward with as little public input as possible.
And to top it all off, all the money going toward systems that fail: The Education Reform advocates claim success after success, but the most basic research reveals that their claims are nothing more than lies.
Charter schools who cream off the best students, refusing to take their share of the poor, those with language barriers or students who need special education services. Or bait and switch techniques, such as those used in Hartford, to make it appear test scores and graduation rates were up.
Feeding on the fears and desires of parents and communities to improve their education system, many of these “education reformers” are little more than white-collar crooks, stealing and wasting scarce public resources.
For the Maine Sunday Telegram Story See: http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html. More here: http://media.kjonline.com/images/virtualschoolsfull.jpg
Education Reform, Stefan Pryor, Teach for America, Windham Education Reform, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski, Windham
At last week’s Windham and New London Board of Education meetings, concerned parents and public school advocates handed out flyers educating citizens about the damage Steven Adamowski did when he served as Hartford’s superintendent of schools and warning Windham and New London residents, now that Adamowski has been put in charge of their school districts.
Earlier this year, Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, appointed Steven Adamowski Special Master of Windham’s Schools and then expanded his authority as the Special Master of New London’s Schools. In a no-bid contract, Pryor gave Adamowski a compensation package of $225,000 per year plus benefits.
Adamowski, who along with Paul Vallas, is considered one of the country’s leading “education reformers,” has long sought to claim credit for increasing standardized test scores and graduation rates in Hartford.
Wait, What? readers will recall that the claim that he increased standardized test scores overlooked the fact that the improvement was primarily due to his decision to remove ten percent of the lowest performing students from actually taking the Connecticut Mastery Tests.
The flyer that was given out at the recent board meetings focused on Adamowski’s claim that he also improved graduation rates.
However, as the flyer noted, the truth is that Adamowski “imposed a minimum failing grade of 55 for all students, whether or not they attended classes.” By demanding that teachers give a grade of no less than 55, including forcing teachers to go back and change grades that were lower than that, Adamowski created a situation in which students could pass a course by only attending classes for one marking period, since all they needed to do was get their grade up to a 60 to pass. That change, along with a few other gimmicks, meant that students who were once failing were suddenly passing, thereby increasing Hartford’s “graduation” rates.
For full coverage of the parent action and the response from the Chairman of the Windham Board of education go to: http://www.remindernews.com/article/2012/08/26/parents-teachers-oppose-special-master-methods
As I said in the article and will repeat here,
“Steven Adamowski represents the new breed of corporate school administrators, people driven by privatizing public education, reducing teacher input and implementing programs that target scarce resources to the ‘best’ students while undermining educational opportunities for the vast majority…. His claim to fame is creating the appearance that he increased standardized test scores in Hartford, when what he really did was stop giving the test to the 10 percent of students most likely to have lower scores. Removing them created the illusion that students across the board scored better. It was a gimmick that has now become a ‘tool’ of education reformers who believe it is better to make things look good, than actually change the quality of education.” - Jonathan Pelto