Hartford Courant Editorial just plain wrong on Charter Schools

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

In their editorial, the Courant wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


Bridgeport Public Schools vs. Achievement First – Bridgeport Charter Schools


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

Stefan Pryor expands his team of charter school advocates

As if Connecticut’s Alliance School Districts (the 30 poorest school districts in the state) weren’t having enough problems, Stefan Pryor has managed to pour even more salt into the wounds that are dragging down public education in Connecticut.

Over at the State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor got rid of Connecticut’s experienced Leaders in Residence and the team of experts who were dedicated to helping Connecticut’s Priority School Districts improve educational opportunities in the state’s poorest districts.

In addition to dumping the four Leaders in Residence, Pryor got rid of the three retired superintendents, all of whom had extraordinary, real world experience in Connecticut’s communities.

Malloy’s Commissioner of Education even transferred out the expert in English Language Learning and bilingual programs, the expert in helping schools create successful multi-cultural environments and the expert on reducing school bullying, making schools safer and improving school climates.

He replaced all of this expertise with a $1 million contract with an out-of-state corporate education reform company that sent in five inexperienced consultants to tell Connecticut’s education leaders what to do.

The result has been chaos with many Alliance Districts unable to get the money and help that Malloy and the Connecticut Legislature promised them.

To make matters worse, a majority of the MassInsight company consultants have left and been replaced by even less experienced individuals.

With Alliance Districts twisting in the wind, Stefan Pryor brought in a new Director for his “Turnaround Office,” a principal from one of Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc. charter schools.

Morgan Barth is noteworthy in his own right.  He says he worked as an Achievement First, Inc. teacher in Connecticut for six years.  However, it appears that he was in those classrooms illegally because despite a state law mandating that all teachers be certified by the State Department of Education, Barth never bothered to become a Connecticut certified teacher.

Ironic that Morgan Barth, who refused to follow the laws of the State Department of Education, is now a senior manager at that very state agency.

But if it wasn’t already clear enough, Stefan Pryor has now proven that he is completely and utterly tone-deaf to the anger and frustration that is building up around the Malloy administration’s handling of public education policy in the state.

This week Morgan Barth proudly pronounced that Nasir Qadree, an Education Pioneer Fellow, Class of 2013, has joined Pryor’s “Turnaround Office.”

Nasir Qadree is new to the education management industry.

According to his bio, Qadree has been working in the “Investment Manager Services sleeve” of State Street Corporation where he was “responsible for covering North American Business Development and Sales.”  Nasir worked with prospective clients to “review and align their current operations with State Street’s servicing model.”

Before that, “Nasir worked in the Institutional Equity Sales Research group of State Street Global Markets (SSGM). In this role, he introduced portfolio managers, analysts, and traders to SSGM’s proprietary macro and quantitative research.”

And “Prior to joining State Street, Nasir worked at Goldman Sachs in New York where he worked as an operations analyst on the Fixed Income Sales desk. At Goldman Sachs, he supported municipal bond and money market sales traders.”

Nasir Qadree received a B.S. from Hampton University in Marketing and reports that he did some tutoring in New York City.

It is unclear who is paying Nasir Qadree’s salary.  He doesn’t show up (yet) on the state’s payroll but State Department of Education hasn’t gone through the necessary steps to take him on as a non-paid employee.

According to Morgan Barth though he is a “New Team Member,” with Barth writing, “Please join me in welcoming Nasir Qadree to the turnaround team. Nasir joins the SDE as an Education Pioneer Fellow…Nasir will initially support several projects pertaining to the Commissioner’s Network and charter schools.”

And rest assured that Nasir Qadree likes charter schools and charter school advocates;

Among his recent social media texts and posts were the following;

“I love this. Tireless KIPP teachers showing how much they care for the future of their KIPPsters (students), all through Hip-Hop.” (KIPP being one of the biggest charter school chains in the country).


@CoryBooker excited to be begin working for your former colleague Stefan Pryor in CT, focusing tirelessly on #schoolturnaround.”  To which Cory Booker responded, “He is a great man.”

Last week Qadree also tweeted, “Excited to participate in the Northeast Charter School Conference. #StudentsFirst.”

In conclusion, it is certainly clear that Governor Malloy reiterates his commitment to undermining Connecticut’s teachers, schools and our state’s system of public education.

(Updated) Superintendent Kishimoto’s “end justified the means” form of a School Redesign Analysis

According to Hartford Superintendent of Schools Kishimoto, a key issue behind her decision to close Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First is because of “Declining Enrollment”

Declining Enrollment?

In 2012, the 8th grade class at Clark Elementary has lost 7% of its students since 5th grade

In 2012, the 8th grade class at Achievement First had lost 22% of its students since 5th grade

Meanwhile, in preparation for a rush vote to close Hartford’s Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First, Inc., Hartford Superintendent of Schools Christina Kishimoto has provided the Hartford Board of Education with a “School Redesign Analysis” that attempts to justify her proposal by literally selecting only those measurement criteria that will bolster her fraudulent claims.

The memo explains, “In order to make a redesign recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools, a performance analysis was carried out on three (3) of our district’s Northeast Neighborhood schools. The analysis was conducted in accordance with the district’s redesign/repurposing policy, which seeks to provide all children with high performing schools. The analysis was based on the following data points:

  • District OSI scores
  • Enrollment Data (Five-year trend)
  • Socio Economic Status percentages (Five-year trend)
  • School Attendance Rates (Five-year trend)
  • Student Retention Rates (Five-year trend)
  • School Building Capacity

Note that there is absolutely no reference to the fundamental issues associated with students that face language barriers, students that require special education services or issues related to having qualified teachers who have the experience and skills to face those vitally important issues.

If a graduate student at an institution of higher education tried to submit a paper with such a flawed analysis they would be given an “F” and sent packing.

To suggest that a school re-design analysis can be done without considering students’ language barriers and special education needs is beyond incompetent.

Here are just a few of the criteria NOT INCLUDED in the Superintendent’s analysis that wrongfully concludes that it is in the best interest of Hartford’s students to close the Clark School and hand it over to Achievement First, Inc.

The number of students coming from households where English is not the primary language.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 26% 8%
2010-2011 26% 5%
2009-2010 26% 5%


The percentage of students requiring special education services.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18% 7%
2010-2011 16% 8%
2009-2010 14% 8%


The number of experienced Special Education Teachers and Special Education Paraprofessionals.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 19.5 2
2010-2011 17.5 1.5
2009-2010 14.5 1.5

The one thing we know about dealing with the issues associated with poverty, language barriers and special education needs is that students need teachers who have the training, experience, ability and willingness to step forward and teach in some of the most complex and challenging classrooms in the country.

And when it comes to identifying successful teachers, here are just two measures of the difference between what is available to the students of the Clark School versus the students who attend Achievement First, Inc.

Teachers: Average Number of years of experience in education.

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 18.9 years 2.4 years
2010-2011 16.2 years 2.2 years
2009-2010 13.2 years 2.0 years


% of Teachers with Master’s degree or above

Year Clark School Achievement First
2011-2012 76% 40%
2010-2011 72% 34%
2009-2010 70% 28%


How the Hartford Board of Education responds to Kishimoto’s flawed “re-design analysis” will signal Hartford parents, teachers and citizens about whether they have a Board of Education that is interested in what is best for Hartford’s students or whether they are more dedicated to handing Hartford’s schools and the soul of Hartford’s public education system over to the corporate education reform industry.

The Board of Education should start by ordering Superintendent Kishimoto to provide the board with a “redesign analysis” that is not misleading and intellectually dishonest.

Did Connecticut’s Director for School Turnaround illegally teach in the State of Connecticut?

The question has been asked before, but it is worth re-stating… Did Connecticut’s Director for School Turnaround illegally teach in the State of Connecticut?

Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, have repeatedly claimed that Connecticut must improve the quality of its teachers.

As part of that effort, Malloy and Pryor have proposed tougher standards for enrolling in teacher preparation programs at Connecticut’s colleges and universities.

Apparently they believe that tougher certification requirements will lead to having “better teachers.”

Their argument is particularly ironic considering how hard they have worked to keep Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s non-certified, faux superintendent of schools in his post.

Equally astonishing is their decision to put a non-certified individual in charge of Connecticut’s school turnaround program.

Morgan Barth, who was recently appointed to serve as the Director of Malloy’s Turnaround Program, reports that in 2004 he became a founding teacher at Achievement First’s Elm City Preparatory Academy in New Haven and then went on to serve as a principal there and then a principal at Achievement First Bridgeport’s Middle School.

However, Morgan Barth does not hold state certification to serve as a teacher or an administrator in the State of Connecticut.

As Wait, What? readers know Connecticut law was changed on July 1, 2010 to allow Connecticut’s charter schools to have up to 30 percent of their employees uncertified.

But prior to that date, Connecticut law (Section 10-145) required that all teachers and administrators, even those working in charter schools, be properly certified.

So, according to the information provided by Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth was legally obligated to hold a teacher or administrator certification between 2004 and 2010.

It is a simple question that has yet to be answered….

Mr. Barth did you or did you not illegally serve as a teacher and school administrator during those six years?

Child Abuse in the form of the “No Excuses” education model

The new Jumoke Academy at Dunbar (AKA The Paul Dunbar School, A FUSE Family Urban Schools of Excellence) recently posted job announcements that it was looking for four new teachers.

Putting aside why Jumoke, the charter school management company that was hired to take over and run the Dunbar elementary school is looking for four new teachers, over a month into the new school year, the job posting announces that the charter school company wants educators who will “sweat the small stuff” and are committed to “embracing the challenges facing urban schools with a mantra of ‘No Excuses’ and a willingness to do ‘Whatever it takes.’”

In this case, the phrase “sweat the small stuff” is a euphemism that explains that anyone unwilling to implement Jumoke’s “get tough, ”No Excuses” education model need not apply.

The “No Excuses” approach to education has become a rallying cry for the corporate education reform industry.

Many parents, teachers and proponents of schools, education and learning might mistakenly think the term “no excuses” describes the obligation society, government, schools and parents have to ensuring that every child in America gets a quality education.

But the term “No Excuses” is really a placeholder for a militaristic, highly disciplined, autocratic system in which children are forced to understand that discipline, conformity and following rules is the fundamental cornerstone that leads to academic achievement.

The adherents of the “No Excuse” model believe that the best route to creating safe, healthy and productive school environments is to ensure that children don’t deviate from the rules and that the price of non-compliance is punishments that are so disproportionate that the children  learn to comply or leave the school for good.

The fact that we are dealing with children or that the United States is constitutionally bound to the principle of individualism rather than fascism or collectivism is nothing more than a concept to be overlooked.

Most “No Excuses” schools actually lose more than half their students along the way.

At the Harlem Success Academy Charter Schools, CEO Eva Moskowitz has created a system in which, “New students are initiated at ‘kindergarten boot camp,’ where they get drilled for two weeks on how to behave in the “zero noise” corridors (straight lines, mouths shut, arms at one’s sides).”

Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor and owns and operates charter schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island utilizes the draconian techniques of excessive school suspensions and a “re-orientation” room.

As we learned earlier is year, “The incidence of suspension of kindergartners and first graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy last year was an estimated nine times the rate in Hartford public schools.

Put another way, an estimated 11.7 percent of kindergartners and first-graders at Achievement First Hartford Academy were suspended last year an average of 5.4 times each. In the Hartford public school system, 3.3 percent of kindergartners and first-graders were suspended an average of 2.1 times.”

At the time, Achievement First’s Dean of School Culture told the Hartford Courant that they instituted, “a very high bar for the conduct of our students and that’s because we’ve made a promise to our scholars and our families that we are going to prepare them for college.”

It figures it would take someone with the title of “dean of school culture” to come up with a phrase that brings together kindergartners, a high bar of conduct and preparing them for college.

At these “No Excuses” schools, the strategies to force conformity follow the children all the way through their primary and secondary education.  At Achievement First’s Hartford high school, “Rolling one’s eyes at a teacher will get a freshman sent to the school’s Reorientation Room where…’they get the extra culture they need.’”

As parents and children at Bridgeport’s “new” Dunbar School will come to find out, the discipline policies at the schools run by FUSE/Jumoke are similar in scope to those used by Achievement First, Inc.  Jumoke also relies on the suspensions and a “reorientation” room, although at Jumoke it apparently goes by a different name.

Even the most casual observer will recognize that the “No Excuses” education model drifts into the realm of what reasonable people would call child abuse.

Perhaps the most disturbing point of all is that while people like Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor, Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski tout the “No Excuses” model, not one of them would ever suggest that such a model be used in Connecticut’s suburban communities.

It is quite a commentary that here we are in the 21st century and  we’ve got “mainstream” political leaders who promote policies that are essentially child abuse….as long as those policies only apply to children who are attending urban schools that serve our minority and poor students.

Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students

Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here: http://educationresearchreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-gap-special-education-and-new-york.html

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

Achievement First Inc. pushing Finch/Vallas slate in Bridgeport Democratic Primary

Bridgeport’s Democratic Primary to select Board of Education candidates will be held tomorrow and campaign finance reports filed last week reveal that Achievement First Inc., the charter school management company co-founded by Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, continues to play a dominant role in the effort to control Bridgeport’s public education system.

The latest effort in support of the candidates loyal to Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, is being directed by Andrew Boas, the founder and principal investment officer of the Carl Marks Management Company and its related entity, Carl Marks Strategic Investments LP.  Boas’ claimed expertise is making money from “distressed investment activities.”

When not picking clean the bones of people and projects that have fallen on hard times, Boas is a major player on behalf of the corporate education reform industry and one of Achievement First’s most important supporters.

Boas is a long-time member of the Achievement First Board of Trustees.  He presently presides as chairman of the Achievement First – Bridgeport Academy Board.  He also serves on the Charter Oak Challenge Foundation, one of the vehicles that the corporate reformers have used to funnel money to Vallas and Bridgeport privatization efforts.

Most recently, Boas has been rounding up money for the Finch endorsed slate of candidates.

In one email Boas wrote,

“We need your help. The landscape for education reform in Bridgeport will be forever altered by the Board of Education (BOE) elections slated for this November.  We have several hurdles to overcome, including an unexpected Democratic primary on September 10, 2013.”

“I need your help in getting Katie Bukovsky, Brandon Clark and Rev. Dr. Simon Castillo selected as the Democratic candidates in the upcoming primary election.  The other democrat challengers running have been handpicked by the teacher union, and I believe will not serve the best interests of the children and families of Bridgeport.”

“If we lose, the opposition wants to make sure the Union contract is not touched in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement and they want to ensure high performing programs like Achievement First and turnaround models cannot expand in our City”

Boas went on to ask his friends and colleagues to give up to the maximum legal limit to the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and to also give the maximum to a political action committee that he helped create called Citizens for Students.

So who responded to his call to give money to Citizens for Students?

The list of new donors is headed by Jonathan Sackler of Achievement First, ConnCAN and 50CAN and Sackler’s wife, who each threw in $1,000.  Sackler, Wait, What? readers will recall, donated $50,000 of his own money to Finch’s failed attempt charter revision campaign to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.

Other donors to Citizens for Students included the City of Bridgeport’s Parks Director and the City’s Personnel Director, each of whom donated $500.

Another $500 showed up from Megan Lowney, the founder of Excel Bridgeport and assistant to billionaire Stephen Mandel.

Joshua Thomson, Finch’s “education adviser,” who used to call himself Deputy Mayor for Education but now reports that he is Bridgeport’s Director of Education and Youth Policy also responded to Boas’ call for donations.

And the latest Citizens for Students campaign finance report included a contribution of $500 from Attorney Ed Maley.  Maley is rather famous in the circles of Connecticut government.  Not only does he bill the City of Bridgeport for legal work but as the Democratic Legislative Commissioner for the Connecticut General Assembly he collects $56,000 a year on top of his Connecticut State pension of $111,000.

Lest anyone miss the message, as Bridgeport voters prepare to vote in tomorrow’s Democratic Primary, the corporate reform buzzards circle.

Oh, and as if the flow of money wasn’t enough to show how Finch and the corporate education reformers control the endorsed slate, in a weekend editorial entitled, CT Post Endorses Baker, Gardner, Hennessey in Tuesday’s Primary for Board of Education, the City’s paper endorsed the challenge slate writing;

“But one thing voters should expect from their elected officials is a degree of independence. No one wants school board members who will simply enact the policies desired by the city’s political powers, whether that’s a mayor or a party boss. There is good reason to believe the endorsed slate would be unable to offer that independence.

Upon meeting with Post editors last week, the three endorsed candidates were joined by Joshua Thompson, who works in the mayor’s office and is charged with carrying out City Hall’s education policies. The message, far from implicit, was that the mayor will be watching. If the mayor has worthy ideas for the future of the school system, by all means, the school board should listen. That’s a far cry from putting in place elected officials who will do the mayor’s bidding.

The city held a vote on mayoral control of the school board. It failed.”

It reminds everyone that above all else, it is fair to say that the concept of “finesse” is clearly not a strong point when it comes to Finch, Boas and the rest of the people trying to undermine Bridgeport’s public education system.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  The original version of this blog post identified Andrew Boas as a member of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and reported that the Fund was part of the effort to funnel money to cover Paul Vallas’ expenses.  Although his bio reports that Boas remains active on these local boards, he actually left the Bridgeport Public Education Fund Board in 2011.  More importantly, for over three decades the mission of the BPEF has been “to develop programs and mobilize the community for quality public education in Bridgeport.”  The work of the BPEF has been highly recognized nationally by the Public Education Network. The Annenberg Foundation, The Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda.  The Funds work has been focused in three areas that ALL support the work of the Bridgeport Public Schools – teachers and students.  I apologize for suggesting that the BPEF was part of the education reform debate that is now swirling through Bridgeport.

I meant to reference the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund and the Good Schools Bridgeport Fund both of which are products of the corporate education reform effort in Bridgeport.

You want the truth, read the Real Hartford blog

Blogger and policy advocate, Kerri Provost, writes a powerful, insightful and extremely interesting blog which can be found at: http://www.realhartford.org/.

Today’s post, which is entitled Hartford Board of Ed: Out of Order is a must read for anyone interested in how education reform policy, charter schools and Hartford politics are all intertwined.

Kerri Provost writes,

The abuse of power by some on the Hartford Board of Education was called into question after politicking and bullying behaviors ruled and dissenting voices were silenced at last week’s regular public meeting.

Upon arriving, it was evident this would be another dog-and-pony show, as a bus had been chartered to bring dozens of Achievement First supporters to the meeting. Gathering supporters and having them pack meetings is nothing new in Hartford.

Letting children see and participate in decision-making can be educational, but the nature of this particular action raises questions about who funded the bus and t-shirts, along with whether or not it is age-appropriate for elementary school children to be expected to sit still and quiet for hours on end.

Yet, the Board — at least on paper — claims that decorum is needed for its meetings.

Anyone who knows children can attest that unless their spirits have been utterly broken, they are going to be antsy in about twenty minutes, especially when the environment is freezing cold and the chairs are hard plastic.

No effort was made by the Board to remind the children that this was a solemn, public meeting, but then, it is unclear if the Board understood that either.

All night, cell phones rang in the audience without reminders from the Board to silence them. As the public spoke during the comment period, there was loud cheering and applause, booing, continuous snapping of fingers, and derisive remarks made by the audience toward members of the Board; those remarks were primarily dismissive of Board member Brad Noel, who several audience members referred to as “the white woman.” When Board member Robert Cotto spoke, there were audience members dismissing him for not being a parent; no such criticism was levied against other Board members — most of whom do not have children currently attending Hartford Public Schools — who happened to be in favor of approving plans for a new charter school. For minutes on end, audience members stood, blocking the view of those behind them.

Two individuals attending the meeting told Real Hartford that since the Board was doing nothing to quiet the audience; they took the responsibility to ask that those around them lower their voices, as it quickly became difficult to hear comments by both the public and the Board. In both of those cases, instead of being apologetic and speaking more softly, the intervening residents were met with verbal hostility.

Currently, there is no clear mechanism in place that would enable members of the audience to inform the Chair that a call to order is desired. Security guards stand between the audience and the Board of Education. Alerting via text message would require the Board have their cell phones out; it would also require that schools open their Wi-Fi so that everyone with the technology to do so can have equal access. Neither of these tactics is especially practical, but there must be some way to communicate needs for order without creating more disruption.

Until such a mechanism is in place, the Chair would need to be in touch with the vibes of the room so that he could run a meeting according to the Board of Education’s own guidelines.

The only call for order given between 5:30 and 8:30 was following the spectacle created when Board Chair Matt Poland had the mic cut for Councilman Larry Deutsch, who had signed up for public comment, waited his turn, and had only spoken for a few moments before being shut down. While others’ commentary exceeded five minutes, it was Councilman Deutsch’s desire to stand at an angle to address both the Board and the public, that allegedly made Poland declare the Working Families Party member to be out of order. Deutsch, who was attempting to share the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., said he felt it was rude to have his back to the public and wanted to speak in a way that was inclusive to the children in the audience. There is video of this incident circulating online; however, the video does not show the entirety of the incident nor does its producer provide any context needed so that the public who were not at the meeting have an accurate sense of what ensued. Councilman Deutsch did not rush the podium, did not speak out of line, did not exceed his three minutes, did not use any language that would be inappropriate for children to hear. He began by saying “We need to have the public involved. This is inspiring,” and was promptly cut off.

You don’t need a weatherman

Deutsch, who was to speak against Achievement First was escorted away from the mic by security, all the while Poland repeatedly used the Councilman’s first name instead of his title.

John Motley – who is the Chair of the Hartford School Building Committee, a financial supporter of Teach for America, and on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Hartford — gave a maudlin “not in front of the children, Larry!” cry. On Facebook, locals asked what was behind the Chair’s actions. One individual suggested that the Chair be removed from his position for his inability to properly conduct a public meeting.

When Councilman Deutsch moved from the center of the room to the doorway as supporters gathered, I asked if he had cursed on mic. I had not heard anything inappropriate, but I wanted to confirm. He said no.

Following this incident, Deutsch said on Facebook, “It honestly was a surprise to me that the Board of Ed chair thought it was a big deal that I stood to face the public/audience as well as the Board. Seems like common democracy and avoiding rudeness, don’t you think?”

Deutsch also said that he “thought it better as example for kids and parents, more than the Board, to continue to speak to them as well, rather than meekly sit down.”

You can read the rest of this amazing blog post at:  http://www.realhartford.org/2013/09/03/hartford-board-of-ed-out-of-order/

Malloy/Pryor’s new “Turnaround Director” violated Connecticut law by failing to get proper teacher certification

In what can only be described as a classic move of incredible arrogance, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has named a non-certified individual to head up Malloy and Pryor’s pet project; the Department of Education’s “Turnaround Office” which has responsibility for overseeing state support for Connecticut 30 “alliance” districts.

Pryor’s choice for the job, Morgan Barth, reports that he was a founding teacher at Achievement First’s Elm City Preparatory Academy in New Haven and then went on to serve as principal there and then a principal at Achievement First Bridgeport’s Middle School.

However, Morgan Barth has never held Connecticut certification to be a teacher or an administrator.

The news means that the time he spent working at Achievement First, Inc. prior to July 1, 2010 was in direct violation of Connecticut state law.

In an email that went out yesterday from Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Pryor wrote, “Mr. Barth will serve as the Division Director for Turnaround in the Turnaround Office.  He will guide all of the work of the division.  Mr. Barth brings a wealth of experience as an educator and school leader – particularly in school environments that are in need of intensive intervention.  Before coming to the SDE, he led improvement efforts at two of the lowest performing schools in the Achievement First Network, first at Elm City College Prep and most recently at Achievement First Bridgeport’s middle school.  At Elm City, he taught fifth and sixth grade reading for four years before becoming the principal and taught fourth grade in Arkansas before coming to Connecticut in 2004.”

But despite coming to Connecticut nine years ago, Morgan Barth never bothered to acquire certification under Connecticut’s teacher and administrator certification law.

In 2010, with the assistance of a $100,000 lobbying contract with one of Connecticut’s most influential lobbying firms, Achievement First, Inc. was able to convince the Connecticut General Assembly to pass a law that exempted Connecticut’s charter schools from Connecticut’s mandatory certification requirements.  As a result of the law, Connecticut’s charter schools could have up to 30% of their staff non-certified starting in July 2010.

The law stemmed from an extremely critical report that the State Department of Education wrote in 2009 about Achievement First.  The State Department of Education wrote that;

“The pattern of employing non-certified teachers at [Achievement First, Inc.] is a significant cause of concern.  The Connecticut State Department of Education has worked with [Achievement First] for a considerable period of time to resolve its teacher certification violations.  Despite ongoing discussions with the school on the vital importance of upholding the state law on teacher certification, the issues had not been completely corrected.  The Connecticut charter school accountability process is designed to ensure compliance with state and federal law and administrative regulations.  Amistad Academy’s [and AF’s Elm City Prep] chronic noncompliance on teacher certification compromises the principles of charter school accountability.”

In response, Achievement First, Inc. worked to get the law changed to allow them to have some non-certified teachers and administrators.

However, Morgan Barth’s employment with Achievement First pre-dated the legislative change meaning that Barth was illegally serving as a teacher and/or administrator at Achievement First Elm City.

With the recent Connecticut Court ruling that Paul Vallas does not have the right to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools because of his lack of proper certification, it is truly incredible that Malloy and Pryor would show such amazing disdain for Connecticut law.

There are over 45,000 active public school teachers who have meet Connecticut’s certification law and nearly an equal number of retired teachers who meet the law, a law which includes getting the proper education, taking the proper tests and paying the proper fees.

Connecticut’s 8,000 plus school administrators (except Paul Vallas) also managed to acquire proper state certification.

But now Malloy and Pryor have chosen to put Connecticut’s “alliance districts” in the hands of an individual who has consistently failed to do what is legally required of other teachers and administrators.

Meanwhile, as noted previously, with only days to go until the start of the new school year, Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, the thirty poorest school districts in the state, still haven’t heard whether they are getting the additional funds that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly promised them for this year.

Oh and how is it possible that Malloy and Pryor would pick a non-certified Achievement First teacher/administrator to oversee Connecticut’s “alliance” districts when there are truly thousands of far more qualified people who have managed to follow Connecticut law?

Readers will, of course, remember that Commissioner Pryor co-founded Achievement First, the charter school management company and served on their board of directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

For those who want to know more about Pryor and Malloy’s choice, here is Morgan Barth, speaking as principal of Achievement First, Bridgeport Middle School. http://www.excelbridgeport.org/national-ed-reform/eb-board-member-morgan-barth-tonight-on-your-tv/

Just when Connecticut’s “Alliance” Districts thought it couldn’t get worse…

With only days to go until the start of the new school year, Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, the thirty poorest school districts in the state, still haven’t heard whether they are getting the additional funds that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly promised them for this year.

But Malloy and Pryor’s pet project, the State Department of Education’s “Turnaround Office” is getting a new director.

His name…Morgan Barth.

So what is Morgan Barth’s experience when it comes to having the expertise to oversee the state-wide effort to turnaround Connecticut’s most challenging public schools?

He did a stint with Teach for America followed by some time with Achievement First Elm City and then Achievement First Bridgeport’s Middle School.    

According to an internal email from Education Stefan Pryor,

“Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, Mr. Barth will serve as the Division Director for Turnaround in the Turnaround Office.  He will guide all of the work of the division.  Mr. Barth brings a wealth of experience as an educator and school leader – particularly in school environments that are in need of intensive intervention.  Before coming to the SDE, he led improvement efforts at two of the lowest performing schools in the Achievement First Network, first at Elm City College Prep and most recently at Achievement First Bridgeport’s middle school.  At Elm City, he taught fifth and sixth grade reading for four years before becoming the principal and taught fourth grade in Arkansas before coming to Connecticut in 2004.  Chief Academic Office Dianna Roberge-Wentzell will continue to oversee the Turnaround Office.”

Pryor’s use of poetic license has apparently turned Barth’s teaching and administrative experience with Achievement First into something that is now defined as having “led improvement efforts at two of the lowest performing schools in the Achievement First Network.”

Interestingly, Morgan Barth’s wife is the principal of Achievement First Bridgeport’s elementary school.

So Connecticut’s “Alliance” Districts may be twisting in the wind when it comes to getting the funding they need but at least they’ll have Achievement First telling them what to do with the limited resources they do have.

Readers will, of course, remember that Commissioner Pryor co-founded Achievement First, the charter school management company and served on their board of directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.