Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Nate Snow, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor
Paul Vallas has pledged to do to Bridgeport what he did to New Orleans. However, there is still time to stop him.
Paul Vallas was the CEO of the New Orleans Recovery School District of Louisiana from 2007 to 2011…
According to his resume, Vallas says he was responsible for “developing, implementing and managing reform measures” for post-Katrina New Orleans. In that capacity Vallas says, among other things, that he:
(1) “raised test scores three consecutive years, at a growth rate that greatly exceeded that of the state” and
(2) “Implemented Response to Intervention (RTI) model, a three-tiered approach to ensuring the academic success of all students.”
So how is New Orleans doing today?
As Diane Ravitch recently noted on her blog, as a result of Vallas’ strategies, “New Orleans has a higher proportion of students in privately managed charters than any other district in the nation.”
Eighty-three percent (83%) of the schools in the New Orleans Recovery School District are now charter schools. According to the state’s school performance index, the Recovery School District of New Orleans is less than 2 points above getting a grade of F.
In fact, six years after Vallas began to promote his “Vallas Turnaround Model,” a Louisiana Education Research Group called Research on Reforms, determined that 79% of the charter schools in the Recovery School District were graded D or F by the state.
Meanwhile, another research group, The Cowen Institute of Tulane University, which has traditionally been a major supporter of charter schools, reported that 66% of the Recovery School District Charter Schools rated D or F.
The failing grades that hound Vallas’ charter school model is just the tip of a much larger record of failure when it comes to the broader “reforms” that Vallas implemented in New Orleans and now seeks to recreate in Bridgeport.
Teacher and Education Blogger, Mercedes Schneider, has written extensively on the real situation surrounding the “Vallas Miracle.” You can read her blog at: Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog
In one recent example she explored a favorite claim of the education reformers, who are fond of saying that their efforts dramatically improve the number of poor children who attend college.
According to the latest numbers, the percentage of children who qualified for the Louisiana TOPS program, which provides funds to academically proficient students who want to attend 4 or 2 year colleges stands at 42%;
TOPS eligibility for students in New Orleans is as follows:
Recovery School District state-run schools: 14%
Recovery School district Charter Schools: 29%
Orleans Parish direct-run schools: 38%
Orleans Parish Charter Schools 54%
All New Orleans schools: 37%
Louisiana schools overall: 42%
As Schneider explains, “Prior to Katrina in 2005, all New Orleans schools in the subcategories above belonged to Orleans Parish Public Schools. Now, one can see that in general, charter schools fare better than their corresponding non-charter counterparts regarding percentages of students eligible for TOPS. This is hardly surprising since students can be deselected from charters and returned to traditional public schools…The traditional public school must accept all students– this is both the glory and the burden of traditional public schooling.”
So, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, Vallas’ turnaround model has created a system in which the charter schools of New Orleans have “improved” TOPS eligibility while completely undermining the traditional public school system.
When the data is analyzed, the Vallas Turnaround Model is not a tribute to improving public education, but a lesson in privatization by replacing failing public schools with failing charter schools and creating a two-tiered education system where certain students get access to higher performing institutions, while leaving all the other students behind.
Vallas is moving forward with a similar strategy in Bridgeport. In just the last few weeks we’ve seen aggressive efforts to expand charter schools in Bridgeport including a new charter elementary school, a plan to turn over another elementary school to the FUSE/Jumoke Academy of Hartford and a proposal by the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Kenneth Moales, Jr. to create a boys-only charter school that would augment his present church affiliated school.
For the latest Bridgeport’s new charter school proposal see: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Charter-plan-draws-impassioned-arguments-4534361.php and http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Against-proposed-new-charter-school-4535321.php.
Of course, this all comes on top of continued expansion of the Achievement First Charter School in Bridgeport.
Education reformers are busy trying to replicate the New Orleans model around the country. Here in Connecticut, Paul Vallas has the strong backing of Governor Malloy and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
But unlike in New Orleans, and places like Chicago and Philadelphia, here in Connecticut there is still time to stop them before it is too late.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, suspensions
Evidence reveals that it is a common practice for Achievement First Schools in Connecticut to suspend children 6 and under.
Well, we’ve finally found proof that charter schools do outperform their public school counterparts…In the percentage of children 6 and under who get suspended from school.
When Achievement First Hartford’s “suspension rate” for children 6 and under is 63.7% it is time for an investigation [Compare that to 6.8% in the Hartford School System].
When Achievement First Bridgeport’s “suspension rate” for children 6 and under is 55.6% it is time for an investigation [Compare that to 7.9% in the Bridgeport School System].
When Achievement First New Haven’s “suspension rate” for children 6 and under is 29.3% it is time for an investigation [Compare that to 2.7% in the New Haven School System].
Why schools would suspend children 6 and under on a regular basis is bad enough, but a new report reveals that suspension of 6 year olds is an extremely common practice in the kindergarten and first grades at Achievement First schools in Connecticut.
In a stunning story that was posted on the CT Mirror website Friday, the CT Mirror’s Jacqueline Rabe examines a new report that revealed that, “at least 1,967 students age 6 and under were suspended last school year – almost all of them black or Hispanic.”
Rabe writes, “According to a report from the Connecticut Department of Education, the number of students suspended is actually higher, but privacy issues restrict the state agency from releasing information that could identify unique student information.”
The CT Mirror goes on to write that after unearthing the data, Connecticut’s new Child Advocate explained, ’That’s a lot of kids… I do not think that [suspension] is an appropriate response’ to students behaving poorly at school.”
Jamey Bell added that, “Excluding such young children from the classroom ‘seems to me a non-educational, non-therapeutic response for those who are way too young to be culpable.”
Most disturbing of all is where the suspensions were taking place. Not only were nearly all the suspensions targeted to low income, minority children, but there was an extraordinary difference between how district schools handle the behavioral problems of little children and how charter schools handle those problems.
While the CT Mirror included a chart listing the total number of suspensions by town, for purposes of comparison, I’ve added the total number of students in the grade range for 6 year olds (kindergarten and first grade), which allows for a more appropriate apples to apples comparison to be made. The percentages are actually higher since some 1st graders are 7 years old.
District or School
Number of Suspensions for children 6 or under
Total number of children 6 or under in district or school
Percentage of suspensions compared to total number of students
Achievement First – Bridgeport
Achievement First – Hartford
New Haven Schools
Achievement First – New Haven
Amistad, Elm City
While data does not reveal whether it is the same children being suspended multiple times, what is clear is that suspension is used far more often in Connecticut’s charter schools.
Readers will recall that Achievement First, Inc. is the charter school management company that was co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
The CT Mirror story is an absolute must read.
The story includes quotes from Joette Katz, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families and Governor Malloy’s criminal justice policy advisory, Michael Lawlor.
Katz tells the CT Mirror, “I was shocked…Clearly when children are being suspended, something else is not being attended to.”
Lawlor said, “These high suspension rates are an indicator of weak leadership…It has to do with the culture in a school…It’s not about the kids at that school. It’s about the policies in those schools.”
The most important conclusion is that something is very, very wrong with the way discipline is being handled at Connecticut’s charter schools.
The Department of Children and Families, the State’s Child Advocate and the State Department of Education must begin an immediate investigation into these practices and they would do well to bring in Connecticut’s Attorney General to determine whether Connecticut laws are being violated.
You can read the full CT Mirror Story here: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/hundreds-kindergarten-students-suspended-school
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Christina, Hartford, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Joined by the Chairman of the Hartford Board of Education, Hartford Superintendent of Schools and “education reformer protégé,” Christiana Kishimoto, began her annual “State of the Schools” speech by presenting Governor Malloy with the Hartford State of the Schools Award “to thank him for education reform and its impact on Hartford.”
Then, Kishimoto announced that she was throwing her support behind the creation of yet another Achievement First charter school for Hartford.
What a surprise! The company co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, has the support of Hartford’s superintendent, despite the fact that Achievement First, Inc. has completely failed to educate its fair share of non-English speaking students, students who go home to households where English is not the primary language or students who require special education services.
Take at a look at the data
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who are not fluent in the English language (ESL):
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who go home to households where English in not the primary language:
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Hartford vs. Achievement First – Hartford: Servicing students who have disabilities that require special education services:
||Hartford Public Schools
||Achievement First – Hartford
Imagine, a city where one out of five students are fluent in English, a city in which more than 6 in 10 students go home to households where English is not the primary language and where more than 1 in 10 students need special education services…and that city’s superintendent of schools supports the expansion of a charter school management company that fails to provide appropriate services to those students!
Instead of working to ensure that all of Hartford’s students are serviced, Hartford’s “education reform” superintendent is pushing for even more seats and more funding for Achievement First, Inc.
Sadly, this insulting action doesn’t come as a surprise.
When Governor Malloy nominated Stefan Pryor for the position of Commissioner of Education, Wait, What? readers had the opportunity to learn all about Steven Pryor and Achievement First, Inc.
Readers may even recall the post that read:
In 2010, Achievement First’s Board of Directors adopted an aggressive strategic plan to grow Achievement First. The plan, which is outlined in their 2010 Annual Report, is designed to increase the number of Achievement First charter schools from 20 schools to 35 schools in the next few years. Instead of serving 5,400 students, Achievement First plans to serve more than 12,000 students.
If they utilized the present “Management Fee” system, Achievement First, Inc. would be collecting nearly $10 million a year in taxpayer funds.
Recall that Achievement First Inc. noted in their plan that when that strategic plan is implemented, Achievement First “will serve more students than 95 percent of school districts in the United States.”
Meanwhile, Achievement First has also been working to successfully change Connecticut law to allow the company’s existing schools to expand over their statutory limits.
A 2010 law eliminated the grade limit of 85 students per grade and REQUIRED that the State Department of Education “waive the overall enrollment limits,” if these particular charter schools wanted to expand.
Instead of requiring the Connecticut State Board of Education to weigh the costs and benefits of allowing these charter schools to expand, the new law required them to allow the expansions.
The net effect was that Achievement First, already the largest charter school company in Connecticut, has an automatic green light to expand.
Achievement First Hartford, which had 593 students in 2010-2011, will reach 797 by 2012-2013 and will still expand even further in subsequent years. Achievement First Bridgeport will go from 410 in 2010-2011 to 672 in 2012-2013, and smaller expansions will be taking place at Achievement First Amistad Academy and at Achievement First’s Elm City College Preparatory school.
So let’s put Christiana Kishimoto’s proposal in perspective. At the very moment that Hartford is undermining its existing schools, Hartford’s superintendent is supporting a proposal to divert even more funds to a company that fails to provide educational services to a significant portion of Hartford’s children.
It is what a normal person would call an outrage!
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Ben Barnes (OPM Secretary), Budget Cuts, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, State Budget, Stefan Pryor Ben Barnes, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Budget, Stefan Pryor
On February 6, 2013 Governor Dannel Malloy gave his Bi-annual budget address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly. On the issue of public education he said, “We’re turning around struggling schools by growing our Commissioner’s Network, with funding for 17 more schools…We’re continuing to broaden the range of educational opportunities by maintaining our support for magnet schools, agricultural-science schools, and other high-quality options, including funding for additional state charter schools.”
It was just two weeks earlier that ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, conducted a public opinion survey designed to show broad-based public support for Malloy and Malloy’s education reform initiatives.
Interestingly, although the poll was conducted from January 23 until January 27, ConnCAN didn’t report their $35,800 expenditure on the survey until their March State Ethics Filing. By waiting a month to report the cost of their persuasion survey, they ensured that media coverage of the survey was confined to results and not the excessive amount of money ConnCAN spent to create the impression that Malloy’s actions were politically popular.
The strategy played itself out on February 13, 2013. While Malloy’s controversial budget proposals floated out there, a week after he delivered them, the Global Strategies Group, a political and public relations company released a “polling memo” declaring that the public was strongly behind the Governor and his education proposals.
Global Strategies Group is the company that Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s former chief advisor, rejoined after leaving the Governor’s side on the first of this year.
The Global Strategies Group memo claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year… Support for reform crosses party lines… and demographic groups… Men and women… parents and non-parents… younger and older voters… and white and non-white voters… all support continuing reforms.” The memo also claimed that “86 percent say improving the quality of public education is a high priority, including 49 percent who say it is a top priority that needs to be addressed by the governor and the state legislature.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire story is the pattern of communications that was taking place behind the scenes.
According to materials released as a result of a Freedom of Information request, in late December 2012, ConnCAN’s acting CEO, Jennifer Alexander, wrote to Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, asking for a meeting to discuss the state budget. Twenty minutes later Barnes wrote back accepting the request.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January 11, two weeks before the ConnCAN public opinion survey began, but had to be postponed due to the special deficit mitigation session.
When the meeting was postponed until after the date of the Governor’s budget address, ConnCAN’s CEO wrote on January 10, 2013:
I saw that our scheduled meeting for tomorrow was cancelled…I really do need to meet with you before the end of next week… Is there any chance we can meet sooner?
All the best,
On January 16, 2013 Alexander followed-up with a letter that included a statement that read, “I’m writing, therefore, to ask that your team come out as strongly as possible in the budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, most notably charter schools, the Commissioner’s Network, and educator evaluation. Specifically, we ask that you hold firm to fully fund: the charter per-pupil increases currently set in statute: 10 new state charter schools; all 25 of the legally allowed commissioner’s Network Schools; and the full statewide rollout of the educator evaluation program”
The ConnCAN CEO ended with, “To summarize, we know that some members of the General Assembly are not where the Governor and you are on reform. ConnCAN and others are here to help, and it will be easier for us to rally strong support if the administration comes out strong in your proposed budget on the key pillars of the Governor’s reforms, including charters, the Commissioner’s Network, and talent development.”
As we now know, Governor Malloy did “come out strong” in his budget address for the charter schools and the ConnCAN/OPM meeting was held on February 20 at 3 p.m., a week after ConnCAN released their poll backing the Governor and his reform proposals.
A sure indicator of the access ConnCAN has into Governor Malloy and the Office of Policy and Management was that when the meeting was held, it not only included OPM Secretary Ben Barnes, but the other participants appear to have been Paul Potamianos, OPM’s Executive Budget Officer; John Noonan, OPM’s Section Director for Education; Leah Grenier, the OPM budget analyst for education and Liz Donohue, Governor Malloy’s Policy Director.
The level of staff attention granted ConnCAN is impressive. ConnCAN had the top four education budget officials at the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s policy director? Most Connecticut advocacy groups would be happy to get one fifth of that group to hear them out.
Then again, we are talking about ConnCAN.
The same ConnCAN that spearheaded the multi-million dollar lobbying campaign on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” bill.
The same ConnCAN that helped raise more than $40,000 for Prosperity for Connecticut PAC, the political action committee associated with Governor Malloy that held a fundraiser at the home of Jonathan Sackler, last year, with national and state education reform leaders.
And the same ConnCAN that was founded by members of the Achievement First, Inc. Board of Directors; Achievement First being the charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and where Pryor served as a Director until he resigned to take on the role of Malloy’s Education Commissioner.
What’s that quote about it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters?
Adam Goldfarb, Charter Schools, Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Adam Goldfarb, Charter Schools, Conflict of Interest, Ethics, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Add one more item to the list of real or perceived conflicts of interest surrounding Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education and Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts.
It turns out that in addition to serving as Chief of Staff for Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Adam Goldfarb has been serving as Vice President of the People’s Preparatory Charter School Board of Directors in Newark, New Jersey. Goldfarb also served as an intern for Steven Pryor when Pryor served as the Director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
Adam Goldfarb was Pryor’s first hire when Malloy’s new Commissioner arrived in Connecticut.
Despite purportedly making $75,000 as a senior policy advisory for Pryor at Newark’s Brick City Development Corporation, Pryor asked Malloy’s Chief of Staff if he could hire Goldfarb as his Executive Assistant at a rate of $99,000 a year plus benefits.
That was just fine with Malloy’s office.
And soon, Goldfarb’s title was changed to Chief of Staff.
And while Connecticut deals with the destructive ramifications of inadequate funding for its schools, Goldfarb’s salary is now up to $106,000 plus those valuable benefits.
But perhaps the most interesting piece of news is that while serving as the Chief of Staff for the Connecticut Department of Education, Goldfarb has been serving as an officer for a charter school in Newark, New Jersey.
People’s Preparatory Charter School was granted a charter by the New Jersey Department of Education in July 2011. The school started with 95 ninth graders in the fall of 2011 and is scheduled to reach its capacity of 380 students in 2014. It is co-located with two other schools in Newark.
According to documents filed with the State of New Jersey, Goldfarb has been with the charter school from the beginning and his term as a member of the People’s Preparatory Charter School Board runs through June 2013.
Of course, we have a Commissioner who co-founded Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company and only resigned his position on their Board to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education. In his capacity as Commissioner he is overseeing policies that are pushing millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to his former company.
More recently we’ve seen Governor Malloy nominate Andrea Comer, a high-ranking official from FUSE/Jumoke, Inc., another charter school management company, to the State Board of Education. FUSE/Jumoke, Inc. is also benefiting from millions in taxpayer funds.
And now we learn that even Pryor’s Chief of Staff is serving on a charter school board of directors.
It makes one wonder…
The list of real and perceived conflicts of interest associated with Commissioner Pryor and the Malloy Administration seem to grow on a daily basis. More to come, but we’ll leave the list as is for now…
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Children's Health, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
The Hartford Courant increased media attention on Andrea Comer, Governor Malloy’s nominee for the Connecticut State Board of Education yesterday with a story entitled, “Teachers Union Opposes Nomination Of Charter School Executive To State Board Of Education.”
Comer, who serves as the Chief Operations Officer of FUSE/Jumoke Inc., the charter school management company that owns the Jumoke Academy and the Jumoke Academy at Milner was nominated by Malloy to fill a spot on the State Board that oversees and approves Connecticut’s charter schools, along with setting policy for Connecticut’s public education system.
Prior to working for FUSE/Jumoke, Inc., Comer worked for more than two years for Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
According to the Courant’s education reporter, Kathy Megan;
“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s nomination of a charter school executive to the state Board of Education has met with a brushfire of opposition from a teachers union.
Earlier this month, Malloy nominated Andrea Comer, 47, chief operating officer for the charter school group FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence), the Hartford organization that manages Jumoke Academy.
“It is extremely disappointing that the governor would appoint a person so into charter schools as she is,” said Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers. “It’s just a slap in the face of every public school teacher. It’s terrible.’
“Once again, it’s the governor acting like the reformer that he’s not. It’s the governor and [State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor] wanting to get more reform people into the public sector.”
Eric Bailey, spokesman for the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “We don’t believe that her appointment to the state Board of Education represents the balanced approach necessary to ensure that the children of Connecticut are getting the kind of education they need.”
The best quote in the entire article comes from Governor Malloy’s spokesperson who sent an email to the Courant saying, “We believe the State Board of Education should reflect a diversity of opinion, and Andrea’s experience will add to the board’s diversity…” More
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Fuse, Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
Meanwhile, as Jumoke’s Chief Operating Officer waits for the Connecticut Legislature to vote to put her on the State Board of Education, the Hartford Board of Education voted last night to direct another $1,054,143 to the Jumoke Academy and $1,173,327 to Achievement First.
On a 5 to 1 vote, the Hartford Board of Education authorized the Superintendent to accept money from America’s #1 education reformer, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The majority of the money flows through to Hartford’s two largest charter school management organizations (Jumoke and Achievement First) and even the money going to the Board of Education is restricted in such a way as to force Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers to devote even more resources to the charter school industry.
Although the Gates Foundation money is a tiny portion of the Hartford School System’s total budget, by accepting the grant, the Hartford Board is committed to instituting more standardized testing (the NWEA MAP test), supporting the expansion of more charter slots (a gift for Jumoke and Achievement First) and attaching teacher evaluation results (From the Danielson/Teachscape programs) to the NWEA MAP and other standardized test data.
Adding insult to injury, thanks in no small part to Hartford’s Mayor, the Board of Education didn’t even vote to authorize the city to go after the funds. Instead, the pro-charter school administration cut the deal with the Gates Foundation and the members of the Board of Education had the choice of accepting or rejecting the entire package. Instead of sending the deal back for more negotiations and a fairer distribution of funds, the Board rubber stamped the package. The only no vote came from Working Family Party member Robert Cotto Jr. The Democrats, as a block, sided with the charter schools.
The Gates Foundation grant directs that the money be given to Achievement First to set up a leadership training program for school administrators; that money be used to expand teacher evaluation, training and coaching program including the requirement that Achievement First play a leading role in that effort; provides funds to align Hartford’s school curricula to the new Common Core Standards; and provides funds to expand Jumoke Academy’s role as a “high performing charter school.”
It is ironic that the grant refers to Jumoke as a high performing charter school when it is clear that in a city with a high Latino population, a large non-English speaking student body and more than one in ten students needing special education services, Jumoke is a charter school company that has been completely unwilling to take on their fair share of Latino, non-English speaking and special education students.
Not surprising, but perhaps most insulting of all is that the grant must be used to “Develop Jumoke Academy’s capacity to successfully manage and implement the transformation of low-performing schools in Hartford.” This clearly indicates that some type of deal has or will be struck to hand even more Hartford schools over to the Fuse/Jumoke charter school management company.
No need to determine whether it would be more effective to develop Hartford’s own capacity to improve the existing public schools.
No need to determine whether there are other charter schools or organizations that would do a better job than Jumoke.
No need for an open, fair and competitive bidding process to determine whether Jumoke is the best private company to run those schools or whether taxpayers are getting the best rates.
No need to select a private vendor who has experience working with Latino and non-English speaking students.
No need to select a company that is experienced, willing and able to take on its fair share of special education students.
Nope, none of that.
Instead, Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and the corporate education reform industry will simply continue to move forward, playing by their own set of rules, exempting themselves from the laws that apply to everyone else whenever they deems it appropriate and leaving the vast majority of students, especially Latino, non-English speaking students and students who need special education services in the dust.
And what is Governor Malloy’s solution?
Put the Chief Operating Officer of Jumoke Academy on the State Board of Education so that these policies can be promoted across the state.
Charter Schools, Christina Kishimoto, Education Reform, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Hartford, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Education Reform, Fuse, Jumoke, Michael Sharpe, Stefan Pryor
(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)
The CTMirror has a story today about the situation surrounding the takeover of Hartford’s Milner School by the Jumoke Academy.
In an article entitled, The promise — and challenge — of rescuing Hartford’s Milner School, the CTMirror’s Robert Frahm reports developments surrounding the Jumoke Academy’s $345,000-a-year publicly funded contract to run Hartford’s Milner Elementary School, now called the Jumoke Academy at Milner.
The article reveals that despite claiming to be a Hartford public school, Jumoke’s student population is very different than the population at Hartford’s Milner School and that it is easy to talk about “improvements” when you are given unprecedented amounts of additional funds.
The CTMirror writes, “Among the most striking changes was the hiring of aides, known as “academic assistants,” to be paired with teachers in every classroom — a key strategy copied from the Jumoke model.”
The Jumoke administrators repeatedly brag about their smaller class sizes and their decision to have a teacher and assistant in every classroom, but neither the Jumoke administrators nor the CT Mirror reporter point out that Jumoke can afford these changes because the State of Connecticut gave the school an additional $1.5 million this year, on top of the $345,000 management fee.
Of course these so-called Commissioner’s Network schools can have smaller class sizes and better teacher/student ratios. As part of the “turn-around” program they are given significantly more money than other schools, even in the same community. In the case of the Jumoke Academy at Milner, not only is the school getting more money but it doesn’t even have to use school funds to pay for some of their administrative costs.
Michael Sharpe, Jumoke’s CEO simply skates over the truth that had the State of Connecticut given the Hartford Board of Education the extra targeted funds, instead of privatizing the school and handing its control over to private management company, these children would have had the smaller classes and better student/teacher ratios long ago.
In fact, smaller class size and lower student/teacher ratio are “reforms” public school advocates have been pushing for years-because they have been proven to improve student learning.
There is nothing innovative about these methods and nothing that requires a school be handed over to a privately-run charter school in order to “earn” the right to have smaller class sizes. What it does take is money and that’s why the state’s failure to provide its public schools with sufficient resources is such a travesty.
In addition to the class size issue, another stunning admission about the “Charter School” approach to education becomes apparent when Jumoke’s CEO complains about the requirement that Instructional Assistants have at least an Associate’s Degree to work in the classroom.
At a time when Governor Malloy and the Connecticut Legislature are demanding stricter requirements for educators, including new requirements to even get into teacher training programs, Jumoke’s CEO tells the CTMirror about his “frustration over regulations such as those requiring classroom aides to have an Associate Degree, a rule that will disqualify” some of the aides he presently has in place.
The second major revelation that arises from this CTMirror article is the reminder that Jumoke has been educating a population that is very different than the one that attends Hartford’s district schools.
Over the years, Jumoke’s student body has been made up of children who don’t face language barriers, have far fewer special education needs and are less poor.
The truth is clear as the article reports that “Jumoke is “facing a much different, and more challenging, student population at Milner than at Jumoke, including many more special education students and children from non-English-speaking families.”
Even Sharpe, Jumoke’s CEO, admits the situation saying, “The amount of issues is just overwhelming. Any school that has the type of problems this one has requires just an intense focus. We’ve had to relearn … how you deal with a traditional public school setting…”
But even then Sharpe sidesteps the very real impact demographics have on test scores. Sharpe tells the CTMirror, “What Milner has been for the last 20 years is a chronically failing school, arguably the worst in the state” and repeats his misleading claim that Jumoke has achieved much better academic results, overlooking, as he always does, the fundamental difference in student populations.
The follow charts show just how different those two populations are;
|Percent of Students not fluent in English
|Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households
|Percent of Students with special education needs
Since poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services are the demographics that have the greatest impact on standardized test scores, perhaps these charts and the CTMirror article will remind the media and public officials that next time Jumoke claims that schools like theirs are such a success, and schools like Milner are such failures, they will look deeper into the different populations schools serve.
Finally, it should come as no surprise that Malloy’s Commissioner of Education tells the CT Mirror that, “We’re encouraged by what we see.”
As a strong proponent of privatization it isn’t surprising that Pryor would overlook the fact that additional resources drive smaller class sizes or the problems associated with Jumoke’s lack of experience with more diverse student populations.
The Commissioner doesn’t even mention that a December interim report found that Jumoke still hadn’t hired the bilingual teacher that the turnaround plan required.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Ethics, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Charter Schools, Conflict of Interest, Ethics, Fuse, Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)
A Conflict of Interest: A situation in which a public official’s decisions are influenced by the official’s personal interests.
From 2009 to 2011 she served as community outreach director for Achievement First, the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.
In 2012, after a short stint as spokesperson for Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, she went to work for the Jumoke Academy, the Hartford-based charter school.
In October 2012, the Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, named her to the post of Chief Operating Officer for FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence), the new charter school management company that Jumoke created to expand and “replicate” its schools.
According to a media report at the time, as COO of FUSE, her job would be to “core operations functions that support FUSE’s mission, overseeing organizational planning and serving as a member of the senior leadership team.”
Just six weeks ago, on February 21, 2013, she went before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to speak in favor of more funding for charter schools and Governor Malloy’s education reforms saying, “I am here representing Jumoke Academy and its charter management organization Fuse, as its Chief Operating Officer…”
And then, a few days after that Governor Malloy nominated her to the Connecticut State Board of Education.
In addition to serving as COO of a charter school management company, she would be voting on whether to expand existing charter schools, authorize new charter schools and move more taxpayer funds from public district schools to charter schools.
Yesterday, the legislature’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee held a public hearing on her nomination and then immediately voted in favor of her nomination.
Next step for Andrea Comer – the Connecticut House of Representatives – for a final confirmation vote.
Certainly her conflict of interest is obvious.
Under Connecticut law, “A ‘substantial’ conflict of interest exists if a public official or state employee has reason to believe or expect that he or she, his or her spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he or she is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by virtue of his or her official activity…”
And the law goes on to say that a ‘Business with which…associated’ is defined to include any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or state employee, or a member of his or her immediate family, is a director, officer…”
The language is simple and direct.
The conflict is obvious!
Jumoke Academy’s charter, the document that allows the school to exist, must be reviewed and reauthorized by the State Board of Education on regular basis. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.
Jumoke Academy’s request to expand is voted on by the State Board of Education. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.
The Commissioner’s recommendations concerning The Jumoke Academy at Milner (part of the Commissioner’s Network of “turnaround schools”) is voted on by the State Board of Education. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.
Proposals to expand the number of Jumoke/Fuse schools in Connecticut are voted on by the State Board of Education. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.
Regulations and funding for charter schools is voted on by the State Board of Education. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.
Putting the COO of Fuse/Jumoke on the State Board of Education is inappropriate and wrong.
But wait just a second; on Wednesday she was given a letter from the Office of State Ethics saying that she doesn’t have a “conflict of interest.”
How is that possible?
Because it turns out that according to the Office of State Ethics, the Ethics Code defines the term “Business with which…associated” as “an entity of which you are one of the following: director, officer (i.e., president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer), owner, limited or general partner…”
Despite the fact that she has come before the legislature to call for more funding for charter schools, in general, and Jumoke Academy in particular;
Despite the fact that her job is to expand the number of Jumoke Charter School;
Despite she clearly has a real and perceived conflict of interest;
According to the Ethics Commission’s regulations, as COO, instead of “president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer” she isn’t prohibited from serving on the State Board of Education.
What an amazing travesty of justice.
If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quakes like a duck…
And perhaps most shocking of all is why Governor Malloy thinks this appointment is okay. Even if it doesn’t violate the absolute “letter of the law,” it so flagrantly violates the spirit of Connecticut law that it is an insult to everyone who believes in open, honest and transparent government.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Ethics, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Bridgeport, Charter Schools, Ethics, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor
One of the votes in favor of extending Paul Vallas’ contract as Superintendent of Bridgeport Schools tonight will certainly be Democrat Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr.
Unlike the spectacular “It Gets Better Project” which communicates to youth around the world that it gets better, and seeks to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them, Kenneth Moales Jr. is a sad reminder that when it comes to politics, sometimes it actually gets worse.
In August 2011, Kenneth Moales was appointed by the Malloy Administration to Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education. At the time, he was serving as Mayor Bill Finch’s campaign treasurer. As a member of the Democratic slate, Moales later won a seat on the democratically elected board.
Less than a year later, when Governor Malloy increased funding for early education slots in the state, Kenneth Moales and his family jumped at the opportunity to expand their daycare facilities. According to the CT Post, “Nearly half of the new preschool slots awarded by the state to the city are going to a program that is part of the ministry of Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr., a state-appointed city school board member.”
The article continued with the information that “Kingdom’s Little Ones Christian Academy, an East End daycare and after-school program run by Moales’ mother, Peggy Moales, and his sister, Kenya Moales-Byrd, is getting 60 of the 130 new slots awarded to the district and some $500,000 that goes with it.”
As Wait, What? readers may remember, an earlier post had focused on the fact that “Kingdom’s Little Ones in Christ, Inc., a company affiliated with Prayer Tabernacle Church of Love, Inc., [Moales’ church] had received approximately $600,000 in public funds for daycare and after-school services from the City of Bridgeport over the past year and more than $2.2 million since 2006.
As if the extra half a million a year wasn’t enough, just two months ago, Kenneth Moles Jr. took an additional step and submitted an application to open a new charter school.
According to Moales, his Bridgeport Prestige Academy College Preparatory Charter School for boys would “prepare young men in grades 3-8 for admission to and success in demanding college preparatory high schools.”
Despite no background in education, except for the fact that he owns daycare centers with his mother and sister, Moales has now positioned himself to collect another $1 million a year in state funds if Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and the State Board of Education select his proposal in the coming months.
As Vice Chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education and chair of the Board’s Finance subcommittee, Moales has been one of Paul Vallas’ strongest supporters.
As we know, Vallas is fond of making it clear to anyone who will listen that he was brought to Connecticut by Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. As Bridgeport’s Superintendent of Schools, Vallas will also play a crucial role in the selection of which Bridgeport charter schools get funding.
Will it be Pryor’s own Achievement First that gets more public funds?
Will it be Kenneth Moales, Jr. new charter school?
Tonight’s effort to extend Vallas’ contract is just one more piece of a much bigger puzzle.
It is a puzzle that spells the demise of Connecticut’s system of public education, with some “education reformers” getting rich in the process.