Fewer Teachers, More Administrators: Education Reform the Adamowski Way

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While Bridgeport is getting the headlines (and the loans), in Windham, at the other end of the state, “Special Master” Steven “where is my pension” Adamowski continues to implement a turnaround strategy that relies on fewer teachers and more administrators.

Not satisfied with simply having a $225,000 “Special Master” and a $140,000 Superintendent of Schools (as well as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools), the Windham Board of Education will announce tonight that a Manchester Elementary School principal will become Windham’s new Deputy Superintendent of Schools.

Because, as we’ve noted before, you just can’t have too many superintendents!

In addition to the regular cadre of administrators, principals, vice principals and the like, Adamowski has also created two new administrative titles, two new people who will be called “Headmasters” and two new people who will be called “Dean of Students.”

Oh, and don’t forget the “Special Master’s” decision to create the position of  “Special Administrative Manager (SAM)” whose job it will be to oversee Windham’s  high school (which Adamowski has renamed an Academy.)

Meanwhile, when it comes to actually educating children;

70 percent of Windham students are minority, but only one in ten who work for Windham’s schools are minority.

Nearly three-quarters of Windham’s students come from households that are so poor that they receive free or reduced school lunches.

60 percent of Windham’s students are Latino and more than a third of the students aren’t fluent in English.

And 16 percent of the students receive special education services, nearly 50 percent more than most towns.

So what did Adamowski do when he arrived?

Of the first dozen teachers he laid off, three (3) were bi-lingual or English as a Second Language teachers and three (3) were special education teachers.

Instead Adamowski signed a contract with Teach For America, and although they bring tremendous energy and commitment to a school, TFA could not guarantee how many, if any, of the temporary teachers would be bi-lingual and none would be certified to provide special education services.

The notion that it is better to look good then feel good may be an acceptable strategy in Hollywood, but calling your high school an academy, your principals headmasters and having a couple of “Dean of Students” walking around doesn’t take the place of a functioning education program.

Malloy Not Alone: Last Minute Corporate Contributions from StudentsFirst to Missouri Democratic Legislators pays off

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A few readers have complained that it’s been unfair to single out Governor Malloy for his support of “education reform.”  Despite the fact that he proposed the most anti-teacher, anti-union proposal of any Democratic governor in the nation, these apologists claim that there are lots of Democrats supporting Michelle Rhee and the corporate reformers.

Well, these Malloy defenders will be happy to hear that a few days ago a small group of Democratic state legislators joined their Republican colleagues in Missouri to pass a ‘reform” package there that includes outlawing the use of seniority when it comes to teacher contracts.

The bill passed by a vote of 83-78 (one vote more than constitutionally required in Missouri).

Democratic Minority Leader Mike Talboy, one of a group of legislators who had recently received campaign contributions directly from StudentsFirst switched sides providing the “reformers” with the votes necessary to pass the bill.  Not only are corporate contributions allowed in Missouri, but corporations can give unlimited amounts to political campaigns and can do so during the legislative session.

According to published reports from Missouri, “the bill initially did not have the required constitutional majority of 82 votes, but the voting board was held open for nearly fifteen minutes while House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones and other caucus leaders walked the floor, pressuring representatives to change their votes. Eventually, enough votes were changed to pass the bill by a vote of 83-76, one more than the required majority and the board was closed.”  Representative Jones was another one of the legislators to recently receive a campaign contribution from StudentsFirst.

Originally the bill also required that 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation must reflect the standardized test scores of their students.  In Missouri, the mandated link between evaluations and standardized test score was removed prior to the final passage of the legislation, whereas in Connecticut, Malloy’s plan now provides for a 10 district pilot program linking evaluations and test scores before the concept is spread statewide.

Considering test scores are linked to many factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as poverty and language barriers, neither the Malloy Administration nor the Republicans in Missouri have been able to articulate how linking evaluations and test scores will work.

For example, is a 5 percent improvement in a low-income district the same as a 1 percent change in a high income district?

Alternatively, if a teacher with 20 students has four special needs students and four students who aren’t proficient in the English language, is a 2 percent improvement in test scores the same as a 2 percent improvement for a teacher with 22 students of which five have special education needs and two face language barriers?

As we know from their work here in Connecticut, the most effective way reformers improve test scores is by removing the lowest performing students from taking the test at all.

When Windham’s Special Master, Steven Adamowski, was superintendent of schools in Hartford, he won renown for increasing test scores by 4 to 5 percent.  It was only later that researchers discovered that the success in raising test scores was statistically due to the fact he removed 10 percent of Hartford’s lowest performing students from the pool of students who even took the Connecticut Master Tests.  You have to give them an A for ingenuity.

Surprisingly, despite a major report on the maneuver published this year by Connecticut Voices for Children, Governor Malloy overlooked the facts when his “education reform” road show stopped in Windham.  There, Malloy publicly applauded Adamowski’s track record in getting Hartford test scores up.

Meanwhile, none of these issues seem to bother the corporate “reforms” who continue to “invest” in the blossoming education reform industry.

Here in Connecticut “education reformers” spent over a million dollars in the last three months to support Malloy’s “education reform.”  It should come as no surprise that in states like Missouri, where corporations can donate directly to legislators, groups such as StudentsFirst successfully used that strategy, handing out checks in the days immediately leading up to the vote on the reforms they were supporting.

Now Wait Just A Minute; Are we for or against longer school days?

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Hartford, Connecticut:  Monday Night, May 7, 2012:

Governor Dannel Malloy holds a 10pm press conference to declare victory on “education reform”.  As an example of his success, the Malloy Administration points out that as a result of the bill, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, can now require the lowest performing school districts to offer preschool, summer school, extended school days or year.   (Although the bill makes no mention of how or where the money for these improvements would come from.)

Bridgeport, Connecticut:  Monday Night, May 7, 2012:

Meanwhile, just down the road, Bridgeport’s Interim Schools Superintendent, Paul Vallas, addresses the Bridgeport School Board about options to deal with the school budget deficit.  According to the Connecticut Post “one option the district is exploring is to shave three days off the school year and furlough the staff for those days.”  The paper also notes that “since district teachers and administrators have a 183-day school schedule built into their contracts, it is unclear how that would save the district money.”

When asked by a board member about that issue, Vallas apparently said that “he might balance the budget by ordering the three-day furlough, and then pay staff for those days in the new fiscal year that starts in July.

Ah, okay…

Just to understand the pattern, before arriving here to save Bridgeport’s schools, Vallas ran the school system in Chicago, served as CEO of Philadelphia’s Public Schools, “rebuilt” the New Orleans school system and then went off to fix the schools of Haiti.

In Philadelphia, Vallas claimed that he saved the school system by closing or privatizing at least 40 schools, while in New Orleans he fired every single teacher and closed more than 100 schools as part of his “citywide charter school experiment.”

As to his success in saving Philadelphia’s schools?

Last week it was announced that the Philadelphia school system will now be closing 40 more public schools next year and a total of at least 64 by 2017.  Their strategic plan is based on transferring 40% of the city’s current enrollment to charter schools.

 

Note:  For those of you who believe something like that can’t happen here, you may want to stop by the Teach For America regional summit on May 19th at the Bushnell Center in Hartford were the whole gang of reformers will be meeting including Governor Malloy, Bridgeport’s Paul Vallas, Windham Special Master Steven Adamowski, Achievement First’s Doug McCurry, the Executive Director of Excel Bridgeport and many more.

No Conflict, No Conflict, Keep Moving; Nothing to See Here…

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What is it about these Malloy appointees and their notion of what constitutes a conflict of interest.  Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor seems to be adding to the list on a daily basis and now we’ve got “Special Master” Steven Adamowski.

When it comes to conflicts of interests; you’ve got your straight up “conflict of interest”, your “appearance of a conflict of interest” and then your “just keep moving – I don’t see anything – conflict of interest.”

Now mind you – just because there is a potential conflict of interest doesn’t mean the action is inherently bad, but it is imperative that people be open and honest so that a fair decision can made by all those involved that a specific conflict of interest does not negate the validity of a particular choice.

But apparently, secrecy not transparency is the new world order these days.

And that is what brings us back to Special Master Steven Adamowski and, in this case, the Windham Board of Education’s decision to hire Leadership Greater Hartford to conduct training for the community’s School Governance Councils.

Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) is a well-known, thirty-five year old organization that is headed by Hartford’s Ted Carroll.  LGH provides leadership training to community leaders and organizations.   In addition to its own year-long leadership training program called Quest, Leadership Greater Hartford also provides a variety of consulting services and training to different organizations including School Governance Councils.

The group’s Hartford Public Schools’ initiative, created at the request of then Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, brings together parents, community members, school administrators and teachers to work together in each of Hartford’s 35 public schools, developing strategies aimed at enabling local governance of those schools.

The LGH’s School Governance Council Training Program provides the organization with a growing source of revenue for its $1.1 million budget.

Superintendent Steven Adamowski started paying Leadership Greater Hartford for their services in 2009.

In 2010, Adamowski was awarded the Leadership Greater Hartford’s Polaris Award, the organization’s highest honor for community leadership.

And in January 2012, after leaving the Hartford school system, Adamowski was named to the Leadership Greater Hartford’s Board of Directors.

Then two weeks ago, upon the directive of “Special Master” Steven Adamowski, the Windham Board of Education hired Leadership Greater Hartford to conduct a new training program for that town’s School Governance Council.

There is certainly no question that Leadership Greater Hartford provides a quality service and that the contract for $36,000 plus additional work as needed doesn’t seem particularly high, but there is no evidence that Adamowski or Leadership Greater Hartford made it clear to the Windham Board of Education or the residents of Windham that Adamowski was a Director for the organization or that he had recently been honored by them.

A range of people directly related to Windham’s schools and local government claim they were never told about the potential conflict of interest and there was certainly nothing revealed in the public meetings or on the public documents leading up to the Board of Education’s vote.

In this case, as in others, the government official may not have a direct financial interest in the outcome but even the appearance of a conflict undermines the people’s faith in their government.

And here there was apparently no public pronouncement or public discussion that the person instructing the Board to hire this group had recently become a Director for the group that was getting the contract.

That, in anyone’s book should flag concerns about a conflict of interest.

In fact, what is particularly mysterious is that Leadership Greater Hartford actually has one of the most stringent conflict of interest policies around.  LGH requires board members to sign a declaration that they understand they must report any situation in which they provide “directive,  managerial, or consultative services to any outside constituent that does business with…Leadership Greater Hartford” and requires them to make “full disclosure of any situation….as to permit an impartial and objective determination” of the possible conflict.

It is hard to imagine that as Adamowski worked to get Leadership Greater Hartford a new contract that no one involved in the process raised the point that perhaps – just perhaps – someone should inform Windham that Adamowski was on the Board of the very organization to which he was directing a contract.

Don’t Let Any “Education Reform” Compromise Sweep the Illegal Activities and Arrogance Under the Rug

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Various Connecticut news outlets are reporting that Governor Malloy is proposing to compromise on his “Education Reform” bill in the hopes of having a “deal” by the end of the weekend.

Finding common group on strengthening Connecticut’s education system is certainly welcome news, but the Connecticut General Assembly has an obligation not too allow a “compromise” to end the efforts to investigate the arrogance, unethical and illegal activities that have surrounded Malloy’s “reform” package.

The latest Connecticut Mirror headline reads Education reform: Malloy offers compromise on tenure, while the Hartford Courant has a story that’s entitled Education Reform Compromise Could Be Close . (click on links to read)

While it remains unclear whether Malloy’s efforts are a genuine effort to move the debate to a reasonable resolution or part of some ploy to sneak in some of the worst aspects of his bill, Legislators need to make sure that any “agreement” is not used to derail the need to understand who engaged in what illegal or inappropriate lobbying activities.

These underlying issues are not about Malloy’s comments that a teacher only needs to show up to get tenure or that he supports “teaching to the test” if it will produce higher test scores.

The problem is that a significant number of organizations and people associated with Malloy’s “education reform” effort appear of have engaged in serious unethical and illegal activities.

Among the most serious issues are

(1)   StudentsFirst’s complete disregard for Connecticut’s ethics laws and the fact that Michelle Rhee’s group appear to have engaged in a massive number of ethics violations

(2)   A number of Individuals, and at least one organization, appear to have violated Connecticut laws in their efforts to persuade the state of Connecticut to take over Bridgeport’s Schools.  Although the state’s effort was itself illegal, concern has been raised about the particular lobbying efforts of a group called Excel Bridgeport and individuals associated with that group including Meghan Lowney (Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation) and Nate Snow (Connecticut State Coordinator for Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter).

(3)   The latest reports that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the Malloy Administration purposely sidestepped Connecticut’s competitive bidding requirements to hire out of state consultants to help with the development of Malloy’s proposal are also very serious.  The Connecticut Post discovered that Pryor and Malloy’s administration played the pivotal role in getting SERC, a quasi-state agency, to hire two New York consulting firms to help develop Malloy’s proposals.  Both groups had apparently worked with Pryor in the past.  With no state oversight and no review, state officials were able to hire one of the groups for $193,000 and the other for $65,000.

(4)   State officials must also explain how it came to pass that the entity that receives the single greatest financial benefit from Malloy’s “Education Reform” package is Achievement First, the charter school management company that Malloy’s education commissioner helped created and served as a Director for until he resigned that position to become Connecticut’s Education Commissioner.   Under Malloy’s bill, Achievement First receives more new money than the entire Hartford or New Haven or Bridgeport school systems.

(5)   The are also a number of unanswered questions about why Governor Malloy included language in Senate Bill 24 to give Steven Adamowski, Hartford’s former superintendent of schools and Malloy’s present “Special Master” for Windham’s Schools an extra four years for his state pension even though he didn’t meet the legal criteria to get those years.  In addition, it is not clear why or how that same quasi-state agency (SERC) signed a contract with Adamowski that attempts to let him get yet additional pension credits for his Windham work although he still doesn’t have the necessary certification that is required to get pension credits.  45,000 teachers have followed the law when it comes to pensions, as have 9,000 school administrators and yet this one Malloy Administration officials get two different special efforts to give him benefits that he doesn’t qualify for.

(6)   And the list of potential illegal or unethical activities goes on and on and on.

 

As more details about a “potential compromise” become available, that information will be published here at Wait, What?

NEWS FLASH: Today we see the ultimate example of Governor Malloy’s approach to making public policy.

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Earlier today, CTNewsjunkie posted an article entitled “Sausage Making Isn’t Pretty, But It Will Get Done” in which it was reported that “Gov. Dannel P. Malloy remained confident Thursday that once the legislature’s Education Committee finishes making revisions to his 163-page education bill ‘we will have a very robust educational reform package to act on’.”

In the article Governor Malloy finally addresses the special provision allowing Steven Adamowski to add to his pension even though he failed to meet the most basic requirements.  Adamowski is the former superintendent of schools in Hartford, the present “Special Master” in Windham and helped write Malloy’s “Education Reform” package.

You can find the CTNewsjunkie article by clicking: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/sausage_making_isnt_pretty/

I have written extensively about the section of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill that changes Connecticut’s pension law so that Steven Adamowski, can add to his state-funded pension despite the fact that only people who hold an education certificate can participate in the Teachers Retirement System.

Now, when CTNewsjunkie asked him about this issue, Malloy’s response was;

“I don’t think there’s an Adamowski provision…If we decide that it’s acceptable to get the best talent from other states to come into our state to be superintendents they should be treated as the talent in the state is being treated.”

FACT: Section 32 of Senate Bill 24, Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill, adds a sentence to Connecticut State Statute 10-183b (26) which defines who can participate in the Teacher Retirement System.

Starting on 3573 the bill expands who can participate in the Teachers Retirement System with the words “a superintendent employed by a local or regional board of education on or after July 1, 2007, pursuant to subsection (c) of section 10-157, as amended by this act.”

There is one, and only one, person in Connecticut, in fact there is only one person in the entire United States of America that matches that criteria and that one person is Steven Adamowski.

In Connecticut you cannot be a superintendent of schools unless you hold a valid certificate.

In 2007, Steven Adamowski got the legislature to pass a new law that allowed the commissioner of education to waive that requirement.

That provision of the law is now 10-157 and Connecticut’s commissioner of education used that provision for four years in a row to allow Adamowski to stay working in Hartford.

As superintendent, Adamowski made $225,000 a year plus benefits.

Now, even though he didn’t have a certificate and even though he made no effort to get a certificate, Governor Malloy’s Administration has added language which would allow this one person to be the ONLY non-certified person in the entire Teachers Retirement System.

There are 45,000 teachers and 9,000 school administrators who followed the rules, took the tests, are certified by the state of Connecticut and are therefore eligible to be in the Teachers Retirement System.

The Governor’s bill changes the law to allow one person to skip the rules and get a much larger pension. A pension that could eventually exceed $100,000 a year and Malloy’s answer is “I don’t think there’s an Adamowski provision…”

So, once again we are faced with a dilemma. Is Dan Malloy simply lying or does he actually not understand what is in the bill that he proposed and – and if not – how is that possible?

Whether it is this special deal for a big education reform supporter who helped him write this bill or one of the other equally inappropriate sections of this bill – how is it possible that the governor of Connecticut doesn’t know what is in his own bill.

It is a simple question with profound ramifications.

The Adamowksi Pension Farce: Part III

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The earlier details surrounding this incredible saga (Part I and Part II about the Adamowski Pension” grab can be found on Wait, What? or click on the links at the end of this post).

Before going into the latest developments, I find that the overarching question is (1) Do these people really believe that they are entitled to what they are trying to grab or (2) do the political and business elite in this state and country really believe that the law applies differently to them than it does to the rest of us or (3) has America reached the stage that the “people at the top” (whether on Wall Street or in government) simply believe that the rest of us are just too stupid to understand what is going on.

Now to the latest developments…

As readers will remember, this began when we discovered that deep inside Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill is special language that retroactively gives Steven Adamowski an extra four years of retirement credit for the time he served as Superintendent of Schools in Hartford – even though he was not certified for the job and there is a legal requirement that one must be certified in order to get retirement credits.

Now comes the newest bizarre twist.  Upon leaving the Hartford superintendent’s job last summer, the Malloy Administration named Adamowski as the “Special Master” responsible for taking over the Windham School System.

As part of this effort, the State Department of Education signed an agreement with SERC (formerly known as the Special Education Resource Center) to hire Adamowski for the “Special Master’s” job.  SERC is a nonprofit agency primarily funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education and one would assume that the Commissioner of Education used  SERC  in order to bypass some of the more cumbersome advertising and hiring issues that would have developed had Adamowski been hired directly by the Department of Education itself.

Although the Agreement clarifies that “Dr. Adamowski will be an employee of SERC,” it also includes language that “the Commissioner [of Education] will be the person primarily responsible for overseeing Dr. Adamowski because Dr. Adamowski will be the agent of the CSBE” [Connecticut State Board of Education].

And while the contract provides that  “Dr. Adamowski will be allowed access to the same benefits as stated in the SERC Employee Handbook that other eligible SERC employees are offered” it goes on to provide him salary and benefits that are far in excess of what SERC employees get.  More

Steven Adamowski, Governor Malloy and Perfecting the Art of Inflating Test Scores

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The “moment” of Education Reform is upon us.

The biggest “Education Reform” groups in the nation are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising and lobbying into Connecticut in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill.  Maybe you’ve seen their ads or received a phone call from one of their paid phone banks asking you to contact your legislators.

Even Michelle Rhee, the controversial anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-parent spokesperson for those who want to turn America’s schools over to corporations, showed up in Hartford last week. The claim is that business minded people, using standard business practices, will do better job for our children than educators will because they know how to “run things.” Rhee’s performance at a rally supporting Malloy’s legislation was to inform us that “the whole nation is watching what Connecticut does.”

Hartford was their backdrop, not only because it’s the home of the State Capitol, but it is also where Hartford’s former superintendent of schools, Steven Adamowski, instituted some of the “reforms” that Malloy and Rhee claim successfully elevated Hartford’s standardized test scores.

ConnCAN, the “Education Reform” lobby group likes to claim that Hartford has had the “greatest gains on state assessments of any Connecticut City.”

So let’s take a real look at what happened to test scores in Hartford and how Steven Adamowski’s fame was achieved.

First let’s start with an analogy.  Imagine opening up a new deck of 52 cards.

  1. Count the face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings)
  2. Face cards = 12.  Divide the # of face cards by the # of cards.
  3. 12/52 = 23 percent… So face cards make up 23 percent of the deck of cards
  4. Now, with Aces low, take out the cards with the two lowest numbers (Aces and Twos)
  5. How many cards are left  52-8 = 44
  6. Now what is the percent of face cards in your deck?
  7. Divide # face cards by the # of cards
  8. 12/44 cards = 27 percent… take out 8 cards and face cards now make up 27 percent of the deck.

Lesson:  As you take non-face cards out of a deck of cards, the percentage of face cards left in the remaining deck goes up.

Now let’s head to Hartford and see what Steven Adamowski and the education reformers have done there with the Connecticut Masterly Test (CMT).

Adamowski was named Hartford’s Superintendent in November 2006, so the baseline for assessing his success is the 2006-2007 school year. We’ll use the 8th grade CMT Mathematics test to see what happened.

School Year % of students taking standard CMT % Moved to the Modified Assessment Test % at or above proficient % at or above goal
2006-2007 91.7   0 47.8 22.7
2010-2011 84.6 9.8 60.1          +12.3 31.8          +9.1

Adamowski’s and his supporters claim that during his years in Hartford, the percent of students testing at or above the proficient level went up 12.3 (Column 4: 60.1 – 47.8 percent) and that there was a 9.1 percent increase in number who scored at or above goal (Column 5: 31.8-22.7 percent).

But hold on just a minute. More