Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme

The charter school front groups, ConnCAN and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, with the help of the Connecticut School Finance Project, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) – the latter two groups which are funded through local school budgets and are supposed to be advocating for public schools – have proposed a set of principles for a new school funding formula for Connecticut that will undermine the state’s public school districts and drain local municipal budgets.

The new pro-charter school plan is based on the school funding formula in Rhode Island and it is a classic “Money Follows the Child” system that would mean that, in addition to collecting about $110 million a year from the State of Connecticut, the state’s privately owned and operated Charter Schools would grab an additional $40-$50 million a year in public funds from the local schools in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, Hamden, Norwich and Manchester.

The operative language in the new charter school sponsored formula reads;

“A combination of state and local funds should be allocated to schools of choice on a per student basis, so that the total per-pupil funding for these students will go to the schools or districts of choice.”

This public money “follows the child” plan is particularly appalling and inappropriate because charter schools are not accountable to elected local board of education.  Local school districts have no say in whether charter schools are created, where they are located, which children they educate or refuse to educate, nor do local boards of education have control over any other charter school policy or practice.

The operative question is why should local taxpayers pay for a school that is utterly unaccountable to the local community?

In addition, Connecticut’s charter schools are notorious for discriminating against Latino students, students who require additional help learning the English language, children who need special education services and those who display disciplinary problems.

Furthermore, charter schools in Connecticut do not face the same costs as public schools since,  among other things, they refuse to allow educators to unionize and in most cases only half the teachers (or even fewer) have been certified under Connecticut’s strict teacher preparation programs.

The truth is that Connecticut charter schools also DO NOT pay for transporting students to or from their school nor do they pay for any special education costs associated with their students – those costs are already picked up by the local school districts.

Although pro-charter school Governor Malloy will undoubtedly use this plan as his proposed formula when he announces his school funding plan next month, the plan is bad for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

His efforts to privatize public education in Connecticut know no bounds and the charter school industry’s newest proposal is simply a stunning money grab from school districts that are already massively underfunded.

A cost study conducted in 2005 found that Connecticut was underfunding its schools by approximately $2 billion a year, leaving schools without the resources they need to close the achievement gap and help all students succeed.  A new cost study – which is sorely needed and which the school funding advocates (CCJEF) are calling for —one done to reflect current costs, taking into account all our new mandates and standards,  and current student demographics and need – will undoubtedly show a similar if not even larger gap in state funding.

This incredible pro-charter school funding proposal would make the situation even worse for Connecticut’s urban districts.

The plan is being put forward by:
CT Association of Boards of Education (CABE)
CT Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS)
CT Association of Schools (CAS)
CT Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN)
CT Council for Education Reform (CCER)

Finally, the reality that CABE and CAPSS are joining the charter school industry in promoting such a disastrous funding plan is a disturbing indictment of their failure to represent the citizens of Connecticut and a gross violation of their mission, purpose and nonprofit status.  Compounding their dereliction of duty is the fact that these two groups are part of the CCJEF coalition yet their scheme harms the very children, parents, public and schools and poorer towns and cities that CCJEF has been fighting so hard and so long to help.

For more about how charter schools are seeking to undermine Connecticut’s public schools read, Draining dollars from our students by Wendy Lecker

In her column, Wendy Lecker wrote;

Compounding the damage to public school funding, Malloy’s allies intend to “reform” Connecticut’s school funding formula to drain more public dollars from public schools — toward privately run charter schools.

As the Malloy administration recently acknowledged, district public schools are the vehicle the state chose to discharge its constitutional responsibility to educate children. Although the state must ensure adequate funding, in reality the state and municipalities share the financial burden. State education funding never covers the full cost of education. The state provides a portion and the local municipality fills in the rest, with the federal government contributing a small amount. When the state fails to pay its fair share, municipalities must to make up the gap.

Successful school funding reforms start with an analysis of what it costs to educate children. Once the cost is determined, states find they must increase school spending. Those increases have been proven to improve educational and life outcomes, especially for poor children.

To begin serious reform, Connecticut must assess what it costs today to bring an adequate education within the reach of all students.

However, Malloy’s charter allies do not want to discuss the cost of education. Their agenda is simply to get the legislature to include charter schools in any new school funding formula. Why? So local districts would be required to fund charters from local budgets.

State charter schools are considered independent districts. Local districts do not receive state allocations for students attending charter schools nor are they required pay the local contribution for children in charter schools. The host district has no say over the charter schools located within its borders. State law does require local school districts to pay for transportation and special education costs for children attending charter schools. Aside from that, charters are funded by state allocations, federal funds and private donations.

Charters are not funded like district public schools because they differ from public schools. They are statutorily created and can be discontinued anytime. They need not serve all grade levels nor provide the same services as public schools, and do not have to hire certified teachers. They are also exempt from other state mandates and accountability.

The charter lobby’s proposal would require local districts to pay for any costs for charters not covered by the state. Local taxpayers would now pay for charters like they pay for their own schools; without having any voice in charter schools and without charters following the same rules as public schools. As the state decides to expand charters, more local dollars will be drained from public schools toward these independent schools. In Rhode Island, where this system exists, districts lose tens of millions of dollars annually to charters.

Draining more money from impoverished school districts will not improve education for Connecticut’s neediest children. If our leaders are serious about school funding reform, they must start with assessing the true cost of providing every child with an adequate education. Only then can we have an honest discussion about how we can serve the educational needs of all our children.

Connecticut Charter School Industry spends another half a million dollars on lobbying elected officials

According to the latest lobbying reports filed with the Connecticut Ethics Commission, the charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies spent another $555,000 during this year’s legislative session in their ongoing effort to support Governor Malloy and persuade Connecticut legislators to divert even more public money to the privately owned and operated charter schools in the state.

While Governor Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly instituted the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy and the Democrat’s new budget actually increased the amount of scarce public funds going to the charter schools.

At the same time, the charter school front groups were working with Malloy to fight off efforts to fix Connecticut’s flawed teacher evaluation program.

Malloy and the charter schools are intent on keeping the scores that student receive on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC standardized tests as a prominent factor in determining teacher quality, despite the fact that every major academic study has revealed that individual teachers have an extremely small impact on how individual students do on standardized tests.

Rather than develop a teacher evaluation system based on how well that educator is actually doing, Malloy and the education reformers want to stick with a faulty system that will unfairly judge teachers on factors beyond their control.

Meanwhile, as Wait, What reported earlier this year, the charter school industry and their corporate funded front groups have spent in excess of $9 million on lobbying since Governor Malloy took office in 2011.  See: Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

The latest ethics reports indicate that, once again, the New York based Families for Excellent Schools continue to spend the most on lobbying in Connecticut, having reported an additional $300,000 in lobbying expenditures since the beginning of this year’s legislative session.  The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) took the 2nd and 3rd spots on the charter school lobbying chart.

While Families for Excellent Schools and the entire charter school industry continue to expand their lobbying efforts, Neil Vigdor, of the Hearst Media Group, reports that Families for Excellent Schools and other so-called education reformers have set up another Political Action Committee that they will be using to reward and punish candidates who support or oppose their agenda.

In Charter schools step up political action Vigdor reports;

The charter school movement — backstopped by a billionaire club that includes Michael Bloomberg, Paul Tudor Jones and Ray Dalio — wants to put its stamp on the Legislature in Connecticut.

CT Forward, a newly launched nonprofit advocacy group, will survey House and Senate candidates across the state on their support for public charter schools. The litmus test will determine which candidates receive financial and grassroots support from the group’s dues-paying members, who will be made up heavily of parents.

Families for Excellent Schools, which has wrangled with Bridgeport administrators over education reform, is behind the election-year initiative.

[…]

For giants of the hedge fund industry such as Jones and Dalio, both Greenwich residents, charter schools have become a favorite cause. Each has contributed to Families for Excellent Schools, which reported $17.6 million in contributions and grants for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, to the IRS. [FES Director] Kittredge’s compensation was $222,297 for that time period, more than Connecticut’s state education commissioner and New York City’s schools chancellor.

A spokesman for Jones declined to comment. Multiple requests for comment were left for Dalio, whose Westport hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, is the largest in the world. Bloomberg has not contributed directly to FES, but has been strongly linked to the charter school movement.

Lobbying legislators, handing out campaign cash…it is all part of the effort to privatize public education in Connecticut and across the country.

Can Jennifer come out and play?  How about Jeffrey?

Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) gets paid a lot of money to be the spokesperson for the Connecticut charter school industry and their corporate education reform allies.

Doing that job earned her $224,000 in salary and benefits in 2014. Her board of corporate elite even gave her a $25,000 bonus that year, all so that she could continue to push their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher political agenda.

However, while Jennifer Alexander spends plenty of time inside the Capitol lobbying legislators and working with the Malloy administration, she has refused, to date, to accept an offer to debate the real problems and issues facing Connecticut’s public school children, parents, teachers and schools.

Not that long ago, UConn actually invited me to participate in a panel discussion about the very issues facing Connecticut’s public schools.  Other participants were to include both Jennifer Alexander and Jeffrey Villar, the highly paid executive of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, another charter school industry front group.

However, within 48 hours of the invitation being sent, UConn suddenly cancelled the panel.  And when it was rescheduled months later, no invitation to me was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly, while Connecticut’s public schools are being hit with the deepest cuts in state history, Malloy and his administration are shoveling even more scarce taxpayer dollars to privately owned and operated charter schools that have consistently refused to educate their fair share of children who require special education services or those who need extra help learning the English language.  These charter schools even allow a significant number of uncertified teachers and staff to “educate” the children they claim to serve.

One would think that being paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year would give Jennifer Alexander the courage and conviction, or at least the obligation, to actually come out and debate the issues.

But in Malloy’s Connecticut, honesty and transparency are useless terms and those paid to defend his positions choose to remain hidden inside their golden temples.

Thus, I renew my request and offer.

Ms. Alexander, we’re waiting with baited breath.  Come out and debate.

Or perhaps Mr. Villar would be willing to defend the reformers’ indefensible positions.

How about it Jen or Jeffrey?

This is an important election year, why not accept my challenge and debate the issues so that Connecticut’s voters have the information they need to make informed decisions.

Charter School Industry “invests” more than $9 million in Connecticut lobbying

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy has been able to count on the consistent and lucrative support of the charter school industry and their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher corporate education reform allies.

In addition to being one of Malloy’s largest sources of campaign cash during his 2014 re-election campaign, the owners and operators of Connecticut’s charter schools, along with the corporate elite who support Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have dumped more than $9 million into the lobbying effort to support Malloy’s agenda to undermine public education in Connecticut.

This lobbing frenzy makes the corporate education reform effort the most expensive lobbying campaign in Connecticut history.

Funneling money through a variety of different organizations and front groups, the charter school advocates have been able “transform” public education in Connecticut by promoting Malloy’s plans to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in scarce public funds to privately owned and operated charter schools.

While Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly are instituting unprecedented cuts to public schools, thanks to the  “reformers” lobbying effort, more than $110 million in public dollars will be handed over to charter schools this year alone.

In addition, these groups have spent their millions pushing the Common Core and Common Core testing scheme, a program designed to label a vast number of Connecticut’s children, teachers and schools as failures.

The following chart highlights the Step Right Up, Buy Public Policy organizations that have lobbied on behalf of Malloy’s charter school and anti-public education agenda.

Organization Lobbying Expenses
A Better Connecticut (ConnCAN front group)  $2.3 million
ConnCAN  $1.9 million
Families for Excellent Schools  $1.8 million
GNEPSA (StudentsFirst/Michelle Rhee)  $891,000
CT Council for Education Reform  $349,000
Students for Education Reform  $16,000
Achievement First  $422,000
NE Charter School Network/Charter School Network  $132,000
Bronx Charter School $35,000
CT Business & Industry Assoc. (CBIA)  >$1.2 million
TOTAL $9 Million+

This past legislative session, these charter school and education reform entities spent in excess of $500,000 successfully persuading legislators to cut their own district’s public school funding, at the same time they were sending even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s charter schools, despite the fact that these private institutions have traditionally refused to educate their fair share of students who need special education services, children who require help learning the English Language or those who have behavioral issues.

More taxpayer money for the private sector, less public funds for public schools.

Malloy and the Democratic controlled General Assembly should be sent packing and replaced with people who will put our children ahead of political and private interests.

Did your CT legislators support students, parents and teachers or Malloy and the Common Core testing mania?

Earlier this month, the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned without even voting on one of the most important pieces of legislation being considered.  It was called Senate Bill 380 – AN ACT CONCERNING THE EXCLUSION OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE RESULTS ON THE MASTERY EXAMINATION FROM TEACHER EVALUATIONS.

Opposed by Governor Dannel Malloy, charter school advocates and the corporate education reform industry, the bill would have required the state to fix its flawed teacher evaluation law and reduce the state’s obsession with Malloy’s massive standardized testing scheme.

Instead of keeping the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) as part of the state’s flawed teacher evaluation program, the proposed law would have required Connecticut to adopt a system that is based on the real factors that determine whether a teacher is successfully doing their job in the classroom.

But Malloy and his allies, including the two major charter school lobby groups, ConnCAN and CCER, demanded that legislators defeat the bill and keep the existing shameful system in place.

Doing Malloy’s bidding, rather than what was right for Connecticut’s children, parents, teachers and public schools, the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut State Senate and Connecticut House of Representatives refused to even bring this important bill up for a vote, thereby killing the legislation.

Malloy and the corporate lobby group’s reach was even evident when the bill was voted on by the Education Committee.

A handful of legislators actually sided with Malloy and the big money charter school lobbyists to VOTE AGAINST the own constituents!

Legislators voting against Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools included Democratic State Representatives;

Juan Candelaria (New Haven),

Jeff Curry (East Hartford, Manchester, South Windsor),
Henry Genga (East Hartford),
Doug McCrory (Bloomfield),
Brandon McGee (Windsor)
Patricia Miller (Stamford) and
Jason Roja (East Hartford, Manchester)

There were few recorded votes this year that provided citizens with such a stark contrast between right and wrong.

Given the opportunity to ensure that Connecticut reduced Malloy’s fixation with the Common Core testing scam and that it adopted a fair and appropriate teacher evaluation system, these legislators picked Malloy and the charter school industry over their constituents.

Remember this issue when voting in November 2016

The following chart indicates how legislators on the Education Committee voted and who co-sponsored this important piece of legislation.

What is missing is an explanation from Democratic legislators as to why they allowed their leadership to prevent the bill from even coming up for a vote.

Connecticut citizens deserved much better!

 

STATE SENATOR District  Party  Education Committee Co-Sponsor Status
Bartolomeo, Danté S13 D VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Boucher, Toni S26 R VOTED YES  
Bye, Beth S05 D VOTED YES  
Cassano, Steve S04 D    
Chapin, Clark J. S30 R    
Coleman, Eric D. S02 D   CO-SPONSOR
Crisco, Joseph J. S17 D    
Doyle, Paul R. S09 D    
Duff, Bob S25 D    
Fasano, Leonard A. S34 R   CO-SPONSOR
Flexer, Mae S29 D   CO-SPONSOR
Fonfara, John W. S01 D    
Formica, Paul M. S20 R    
Frantz, L. Scott S36 R    
Gerratana, Terry B. S06 D   CO-SPONSOR
Gomes, Edwin A. S23 D   CO-SPONSOR
Guglielmo, Anthony S35 R   CO-SPONSOR
Hartley, Joan V. S15 D    
Hwang, Tony S28 R    
Kane, Robert J. S32 R    
Kelly, Kevin C. S21 R    
Kennedy, Ted S12 D    
Kissel, John A. S07 R    
Larson, Timothy D. S03 D    
Leone, Carlo S27 D    
Linares, Art S33 R VOTED NO  
Looney, Martin M. S11 D    
Markley, Joe S16 R    
Martin, Henri S31 R    
Maynard, Andrew M. S18 D    
McLachlan, Michael A. S24 R    
Moore, Marilyn S22 D   CO-SPONSOR
Osten, Catherine A. S19 D    
Slossberg, Gayle S. S14 D VOTED YES  
Winfield, Gary A. S10 D VOTED YES  
Witkos, Kevin D. S08 R   CO-SPONSOR

 

 

STATE REPRESENTATIVE District  Party  Education Committee Co-sponsor Status
Abercrombie, Catherine F. 83 D   CO-SPONSOR
Ackert, Tim 8 R VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Adams, Terry B. 146 D   CO-SPONSOR
Adinolfi, Al 103 R    
Alberts, Mike 50 R    
Albis, James 99 D   CO-SPONSOR
Alexander, David 58 D   CO-SPONSOR
Altobello, Emil 82 D    
Aman, William 14 R    
Arce, Angel 4 D    
Arconti, David 109 D   CO-SPONSOR
Aresimowicz, Joe 30 D    
Baker, Andre F. 124 D VOTED YES  
Baram, David A. 15 D   CO-SPONSOR
Becker, Brian 19 D    
Belsito, Sam 53 R VOTED YES  
Berger, Jeffrey J. 73 D    
Berthel, Eric C. 68 R VOTED NO CO-SPONSOR
Betts, Whit 78 R    
Bocchino, Mike 150 R   CO-SPONSOR
Bolinsky, Mitch 106 R VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Boukus, Elizabeth A. 22 D    
Brycki, Paul 45 D    
Buck-Taylor, Cecilia 67 R    
Bumgardner, Aundré 41 R VOTED YES  
Butler, Larry B. 72 D   CO-SPONSOR
Byron, Gary 27 R    
Camillo, Fred 151 R   CO-SPONSOR
Candelaria, Juan R. 95 D VOTED NO  
Candelora, Vincent J. 86 R    
Carney, Devin R. 23 R   CO-SPONSOR
Carpino, Christie M. 32 R    
Carter, Dan 2 R VOTED YES  
Case, Jay M. 63 R    
Conroy, Theresa W. 105 D   CO-SPONSOR
Cook, Michelle L. 65 D    
Currey, Jeff 11 D VOTED NO  
D’Agostino, Michael 91 D VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
D’Amelio, Anthony J. 71 R    
Dargan, Stephen D. 115 D    
Davis, Christopher 57 R    
Demicco, Mike 21 D    
Devlin, Laura 134 R    
Dillon, Patricia A. 92 D    
Dubitsky, Doug 47 R    
Esposito, Louis P. 116 D    
Ferraro, Charles J. 117 R    
Fleischmann, Andrew 18 D VOTED YES  
Floren, Livvy R. 149 R    
Fox, Daniel J. 148 D    
France, Mike 42 R    
Frey, John H. 111 R   CO-SPONSOR
Fritz, Mary G. 90 D    
Genga, Henry J. 10 D VOTED NO  
Gentile, Linda M. 104 D    
Giegler, Janice R. 138 R    
Godfrey, Bob 110 D   CO-SPONSOR
Gonzalez, Minnie 3 D    
Gresko, Joseph P. 121 D   CO-SPONSOR
Guerrera, Antonio 29 D    
Haddad, Gregory 54 D   CO-SPONSOR
Hampton, John K. 16 D   CO-SPONSOR
Harding, Stephen G. 107 R    
Hennessy, John “Jack” F. 127 D   CO-SPONSOR
Hewett, Ernest 39 D   CO-SPONSOR
Hoydick, Laura R. 120 R    
Janowski, Claire L. 56 D   CO-SPONSOR
Johnson, Susan M. 49 D VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Jutila, Ed 37 D    
Kiner, David W. 59 D   CO-SPONSOR
Klarides, Themis 114 R    
Kokoruda, Noreen S. 101 R VOTED YES  
Kupchick, Brenda L. 132 R    
Labriola, David K. 131 R    
Lavielle, Gail 143 R VOTED YES  
LeGeyt, Timothy B. 17 R VOTED YES  
Lemar, Roland J. 96 D VOTED YES  
Lesser, Matthew 100 D   CO-SPONSOR
Lopes, Rick 24 D   CO-SPONSOR
Luxenberg, Kelly J.S. 12 D    
MacLachlan, Jesse 35 R    
McCarthy Vahey, Cristin 133 D VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
McCarty, Kathleen M. 38 R VOTED NO  
McCrory, Douglas 7 D VOTED NO  
McGee, Brandon L. 5 D VOTED NO  
McGorty, Ben 122 R    
Megna, Robert W. 97 D   CO-SPONSOR
Miller, Patricia Billie 145 D VOTED NO  
Miller, Philip J. 36 D    
Miner, Craig A. 66 R   CO-SPONSOR
Morin, Russell A. 28 D   CO-SPONSOR
Morris, Bruce V. 140 D    
Mulligan, Gayle J. 55 R VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Mushinsky, Mary M. 85 D    
Nicastro, Frank N. 79 D    
Noujaim, Selim G. 74 R   CO-SPONSOR
O’Dea, Tom 125 R    
O’Neill, Arthur J. 69 R    
Orange, Linda A. 48 D   CO-SPONSOR
Pavalock, Cara Christine 77 R    
Perillo, Jason 113 R    
Perone, Chris 137 D    
Piscopo, John E. 76 R    
Porter, Robyn A. 94 D    
Randall, Christine 44 D   CO-SPONSOR
Rebimbas, Rosa C. 70 R    
Reed, Lonnie 102 D    
Reyes, Geraldo C. 75 D    
Riley, Emmett D. 46 D   CO-SPONSOR
Ritter, Matthew 1 D    
Rojas, Jason 9 D VOTED NO  
Rosario, Christopher 128 D    
Rose, Kim 118 D   CO-SPONSOR
Rovero, Daniel S. 51 D    
Rutigliano, David 123 R    
Ryan, Kevin 139 D    
Sampson, Robert C. 80 R    
Sanchez, Robert 25 D VOTED YES  
Santiago, Ezequiel 130 D    
Santiago, Hilda E. 84 D   CO-SPONSOR
Sayers, Peggy 60 D    
Scanlon, Sean 98 D    
Scott, John F. 40 R    
Serra, Joseph C. 33 D    
Shaban, John T. 135 R    
Sharkey, J. Brendan 88 D    
Simanski, Bill 62 R    
Simmons, Caroline 144 D    
Smith, Richard A. 108 R    
Sredzinski, J.P. 112 R    
Srinivasan, Prasad 31 R    
Stafstrom, Steven 129 D    
Stallworth, Charlie L. 126 D    
Staneski, Pam 119 R VOTED YES CO-SPONSOR
Steinberg, Jonathan 136 D    
Tercyak, Peter A. 26 D   CO-SPONSOR
Tong, William 147 D    
Tweedie, Mark 13 R   CO-SPONSOR
Urban, Diana S. 43 D   CO-SPONSOR
Vail, Kurt 52 R    
Vargas, Edwin 6 D   CO-SPONSOR
Verrengia, Joe 20 D   CO-SPONSOR
Walker, Toni E. 93 D   CO-SPONSOR
Willis, Roberta B. 64 D   CO-SPONSOR
Wilms, Fred 142 R    
Wood, Terrie 141 R    
Yaccarino, Dave W. 87 R   CO-SPONSOR
Zawistowski, Tami 61 R    
Ziobron, Melissa H. 34 R    
Zoni, David 81 D   CO-SPONSOR
Zupkus, Lezlye 89 R  

No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’

In a commentary piece entitled, No evidence standardized testing can close ‘achievement gap’, and first published in the CT Mirror, Connecticut educator and public education advocate James Mulholland took on the absurd rhetoric that is being spewed by the corporate funded education reform industry.

Collecting their six figure incomes, these lobbyists for the Common Core, Common Core testing scam and the effort to privatize public education in the United States claim that more standardized testing is the key to improving educational achievement.

Rather than focus on poverty, language barriers, unmet special education needs and inadequate funding of public schools, the charter school proponents and Malloy apologists want students, parents, teachers and the public to believe that a pre-occupation with standardized testing, a focus on math and English, “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies for students and undermining the teaching profession will force students to “succeed” while solving society’s problems.

Rather than rely on evidence, or even the truth, these mouthpieces for the ongoing corporatization of public education are convinced that if they simply say an untruth long enough, it will become the truth.

In his recent article, James Mullholland takes them on – writing;

In a recent commentary piece, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, praises the Connecticut State Board of Education’s support for using student SBAC results in teacher evaluations. He claims, “The absence of such objective data has left our evaluation system light on accountability.” He further contends, “Connecticut continues to have one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation, the SBE appears committed to continuing to take this issue on.”

Contrary to Mr. Villar’s assertion, there is little, if any, evidence to support the idea that including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations will close the so-called achievement gap.

In some ways, it is a solution looking for a problem. Mr. Villar writes, “recently released evaluation results rated almost all Connecticut teachers as either proficient or exemplary. That outcome doesn’t make much sense.”

Other education reform groups express similar disbelief that there are so many good teachers in the state. In her public testimony during Connecticut’s 2012 education reform bill, Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN testified that too few teachers were being dismissed for poor performance: “When you look at the distribution of ratings in those systems, you again see only about two percent of teachers, maybe five max, falling at that bottom rating category.” (Transcript of legislative testimony, March 21, 2012, p. 178.)

Education reform groups seem dismayed that they have been unable to uncover an adequate number of teachers who are bad at their jobs and continue to search for a method that exposes the boogeyman of bad teachers. But that’s exactly what it is: a boogeyman that simply doesn’t exist.

Regardless of the methodology that’s used, the number of incompetent teachers never satisfies education reform groups. They see this as a flaw in the evaluation system rather than a confirmation of the competency of Connecticut’s teachers.

However, Connecticut isn’t alone. After both Tennessee and Michigan overhauled their teacher evaluation systems, 98 percent of teachers were found to be effective or better; in Florida it was 97 percent. The changes yielded only nominal differences from previous years.

Mr. Vallar believes that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will decrease the achievement gap. There is no evidence to support the belief that including SBAC scores in teacher evaluations will lessen the differences in learning outcomes between the state’s wealthier and less-advantaged students.

In 2012, the federal Department of Education, led by Secretary Arne Duncan, granted Connecticut a waiver from the draconian requirements of No Child Left Behind. To qualify for the waiver, the results of standardized tests were to be included in teacher evaluations.

However, the policies of the secretary, which he carried with him from his tenure as Superintendent of Schools in Chicago to Washington D.C., never achieved the academic gains that were claimed. A 2010 analysis of Chicago schools by the University of Chicago concluded that after 20 years of reform efforts, which included Mr. Duncan’s tenure, the gap between poor and rich areas had widened.

The New York Times reported in 2011 that, “One of the most striking findings is that elementary school scores in general remained mostly stagnant, contrary to visible improvement on state exams reported by the Illinois State Board of Education.”

Most striking is a letter to President Obama signed by 500 education researchers in 2015, urging Congress and the President to stop test-based reforms. In it, the researchers argue that this approach hasn’t worked. “We strongly urge departing from test-focused reforms that not only have been discredited for high-stakes decisions, but also have shown to widen, not close, gaps and inequities.”

Using standardized test scores to measure teacher effectiveness reminds me of the time I saw a friend at the bookstore. “What are you getting?” I asked. “About 14 pounds worth,” he joked. Judging books by their weight is a measurement, but it doesn’t measure what is valuable in a book. Standardized tests measure something, but it’s not the effectiveness of a teacher.

To read and comment on James Mulholland’s commentary piece go to:  http://ctviewpoints.org/2016/04/20/opinion-james-mulholland/

Education reformers and charter school industry are jacking our legislature.

Yeah, jacking…. As in car-jacking…

One month into the 2016 session of the Connecticut General Assembly and the various front groups that work for the education reform and charter school industries have already spent more than $157,000 lobbying legislators in favor of their pro-charter school, pro-Common Core, pro-SBAC testing and anti-teacher agenda.

Led by a group that calls itself “The Big Six,” at least 25 registered lobbyists are working the State Capitol in favor of a political and policy agenda that includes diverting more scarce public funds away from public schools and to privately owned and operated charter schools.

Their legislative agenda also includes taking away local citizen control of public schools and supporting the Malloy administration’s effort to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of the parents opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme.

Not only do these “education reform” groups support the Common Core and the Common Core testing fiasco, they actively oppose the fundamental and inalienable right of parents to opt their children out of the SBAC tests.

These education reformers claim that SBAC testing is good for developing children’s “grit” and will determine if students are “college and career” ready – of course, the SBAC test is good for neither of those things.

In addition to their support for the massive and expensive standardized testing scam, the group supports using the SBAC test results to evaluate teachers, despite the fact that numerous academic studies have revealed that using standardized tests results is not an appropriate measure and should not be part of an effective teacher evaluation program.

“The Big 6” includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

In joint testimony this week, the lobbying alliance opposed a bill removing the discriminatory SBAC results from Malloy’s teacher evaluation program, claiming that they opposed efforts to “weaken” the system.

Weaken the system?

What about creating a system that actually services a mechanism to evaluate how well teachers are doing?

While “The Big 6” includes the state’s major charter school lobbying groups, it also includes three organizations that receive the majority of their funding from taxpayers.

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) and the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) all get their primary funding from membership dues that are paid for by local property taxpayers via local school districts.

You know the political system is truly broken when taxpayer funded lobby groups are lobbying to undermine students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Since Governor Malloy introduced his “education reform” initiative in 2012, the charter schools and their education reform allies have spent well in excess of $7 million dollars lobbying for his agenda, which is a record breaking amount.

In addition to “The Big Six,” other organizations that are presently lobbying Connecticut legislators in favor of the charter school and “education reform” agenda include the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, the North East Charter Schools Network , Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Families for Excellent Schools, the New York-based lobbing and political entity that bused in charter school students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston last year to rally in support of Malloy’s efforts to hand charter schools even more public funds.

In their most recent state budget plan, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman proposed giving charter schools more money while, at the same time, proposing the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public schools.  Malloy and Wyman are calling on the legislature to cut cut about $60 million from Connecticut’s public schools.

This while Connecticut charter schools already collect well over $100 million a year in Connecticut taxpayer funds.

Did the Achievement First Charter School Chain Cheat on the Connecticut SBAC tests?

The case has been repeatedly made that that the Common Core SBAC testing scheme is unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory.  Designed to fail students, many of the questions on the SBAC test covered material that students had not even been taught.

However, from day one, the charter school industry has been among the SBAC testing program’s greatest champions.  The Achievement First Charter School Chain, along with Connecticut’s two major charter school advocacy groups, ConnCAN and CCER, have spent millions of dollars lobbying in favor of the Common Core SBAC testing system and Governor Dannel Malloy’s “education reform” agenda.

In recent days, both charter school lobbying groups have written commentary pieces lauding the SBAC testing scam.

See:  For the sake of Connecticut’s children, embrace the SBAC data (By ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander) and Connecticut’s students must be challenged in school (By CCER’s Jeffrey Villar)

Now that Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration has finally released the results of the 2015 SBAC testing, parents, students and teachers and taxpayers can see just how unfair and discriminatory the massive and expensive SBAC testing program is.

But beyond the major underlying problems with the SBAC tests, an incredible issue immediately stands out when reviewing the SBAC test results.

The results “achieved” by the Achievement First charter schools chain of charter schools are extraordinarily different than the results from other schools across Connecticut.

Take a look the data…

Statewide, the number of students that met or exceeded the pre-determined “Achievement Level” in MATH ranged from 30.6% for 11th graders up 48% for 3rd graders.  This means that there was a total variation in the percent of students reaching the “Achievement Level”  of 17.4% across grade levels.

Total Variation:  48% – 30.6% = 17.4%

Grade Percent at Level 3 & 4:
Meets or Exceeds the Achievement Level
3 48.0%
4 44.2%
5 36.9%
6 37.3%
7 38.8%
8 36.8%
11 30.6%

 

The variation in the percent of students reaching “goal” across grade levels was even less in Connecticut’s major cities;

The MATH achievement by grade in the Hartford public school ranged by 6.7%

The MATH achievement by grade in New Haven public school ranged by 5.6%

The MATH achievement by grade in New Haven public schools ranged by 10%

But unlike Connecticut’s statewide data and the results from other urban school distrticts, the SBAC achievement results at Achievement First charter schools had incredible fluctuations between grade levels – differences that suggest that students in some grades may of had some “assistance” filling in the answers.

Achievement First Hartford Academy reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 48.2%

Achievement First Amistad reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 40.9%

Achievement First Elm City Prep reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 53.8%

Achievement First Bridgeport reported achievement scores by grade that varied by 35.3%

According to the data released by the Connecticut Department of Education on Friday, the variation between grades at Achievement First charter schools was massive, unusual and extremely suspect.

In fact, the Achievement First charter school results are so suspect that the State of Connecticut should take immediate steps to conduct an investigation into whether the large charter school chain instituted some mechanism or system to inflate test results in some grades.

The following is the data released by the Connecticut Department of Education.

  GR SBAC % PROFICIENT VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE
HARTFORD
Hartford School District 03 18.6%
Hartford School District 04 13.7%
Hartford School District 05 13.3%
Hartford School District 06 12.3%
Hartford School District 07 16.3%
Hartford School District 08 11.9%
Hartford School District 11 12.6%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     6.7%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 03 55.1%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 04 46.3%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 05 10.3%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 06 13.9%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 07 23.0%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 08 6.9%
Achievement First Hartford Academy Inc. 11 45.2%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     48.2%
NEW HAVEN      
New Haven School District 03 16.9%
New Haven School District 04 11.3%
New Haven School District 05 12.3%
New Haven School District 06 13.7%
New Haven School District 07 12.5%
New Haven School District 08 15.0%
New Haven School District 11 11.5%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     5.6%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 03 51.1%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 04 46.1%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 05 10.2%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 06 36.4%  
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 07 25.6%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 08 41.8%
Achievement First Inc. Amistad Academy 11 25.0%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     40.9%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 03 70.7%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 04 52.6%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 05 26.3%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 06 16.9%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 07 46.6%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 08 44.9%
Achievement First Inc. Elm City College Prep. 11 *
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     53.8%
BRIDGEPORT    
Bridgeport School District 03 15.0%
Bridgeport School District 04 7.2%
Bridgeport School District 05 <5%
Bridgeport School District 06 8.5%
Bridgeport School District 07 11.6%
Bridgeport School District 08 8.3%
Bridgeport School District 11 6.0%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     10.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 03 42.7%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 04 36.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 05 7.4%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 06 14.6%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 07 29.0%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 08 39.7%
Bridgeport Achievement First Inc. 11 22.2%
VARIATION IN SBAC SCORES BY GRADE     35.3%

 

NEWS FLASH on SBAC:  Beware the cozy relationship between Malloy and the Education Reform Industry.

Prior to the Malloy administration even announcing that they would be releasing the 2015 SBAC results today, the state’s two major corporate funded education reform lobby groups, ConnCAN and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), invited reporters to join a “media call” in which the groups would discuss the SBAC results.  Then, just as quickly, the call was cancelled.

As we learned this morning – Friday, August 28, 2015 – Governor Malloy’s administration is finally releasing the 2015 SBAC results this afternoon, but the super-secret nature of the information didn’t stop ConnCAN and CCER from announcing on Wednesday that they were holding a “press call” this morning so that the two pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing, pro-charter school, anti-teacher advocacy groups could discuss the SBAC results with the media — prior to those results actually being released.

And then, when questions arose about what communication had taken place between the Malloy administration and the two lobbing groups, ConnCAN and CCER quickly cancelled the media call, leaving one wondering whether the Malloy administration broke the law by refusing to give information about the SBAC results to the media and Connecticut citizens while actually providing the information to the two private lobbying entities.

Here is what ConnCAN and CCER sent out:

ConnCAN and CCER to Host Press Call and Outline Expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment Results

***Media Press Call on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 10:00 AM EST***
Please Click Here to Register for the Call
–Call-in number will be made available upon registration–
Media Participants Should Dial-In 5-10 Minutes Prior to Call Start Time

New Haven, CT — The Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) has teamed up with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to host a press briefing call, which will walk reporters through their organizations’ expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment results.

The briefing will be an opportunity for media to learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the benefits of the test, and each organization’s plans and expectations as the state prepares for the public release of the results.

Right now, the state has only released the results to district superintendents. The test results and data have not yet been widely released. The results are expected to be made publicly available within the next few weeks.

ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander and CCER Executive Director Jeffrey Villar will be available for questions immediately following the call. 

WHO:
Jeffrey Villar, CCER Executive Director
Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN Chief Executive Officer
Yamuna Menon, Director of Research and Policy, ConnCAN

WHEN:
Friday, August 28, 2015
10:00 AM EST

CALL-IN NUMBER: 
***Made available upon registration***

And then came this…

POSTPONED
ConnCAN and CCER to Host Press Call and Outline Expectations for the Smarter Balance Assessment Results
***Media Press Call on Friday, August 28, 2015 at 10:00 AM EST***
**Postponed until a later date**New Haven, CT —  Due to scheduling conflicts, the media briefing call regarding the Smarter Balanced Assessment results with the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) will be postponed until a later date.