New Haven (& CT) Taxpayers to subsidize Achievement First’s corporate development plan?

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Second in a series on the attempt by Achievement First Inc. to collect even more money from Connecticut’s taxpayers.  Part 1 can be found here: Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

As the New Haven Board of Education considers approving the deal to hand over money to help fund Achievement First Inc.’s new Elm City Imagine school, a question that arises is who exactly is behind the proposal to divert scarce taxpayer funds from New Haven and Connecticut residents to subsidize Achievement First Inc.’s effort to create the Elm City Imagine School in New Haven?

If you ask the corporate education reform industry executives who are pressuring the New Haven Board of Education to vote yes they will tell undoubtedly tell you that they are doing it – “For the Children!”

But when you begin to pull back the curtain, you’ll find a very different story.

Here is just part of the reality facing the people of New Haven;

The Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors is chaired by William Berkley, the Chairman and CEO of W.R. Berkley Corporation of Greenwich, Connecticut and Doug Borchard, the Chief Operating Officer of New Profit, Inc., a financial investment company that “invests” in companies and entities associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Pulling in over $219 million in salary and compensation over the past five years from his insurance company, the Chairman of Achievement First Inc. ranks #29 on Forbes’ highest paid CEO list and Berkley is the #1 highest paid CEO in the insurance industry.  Berkley was recently appointed to head New York University’s Board of Trustees, where the tuition and fees are now in excess of $75,000 a year.

One of William Berkley’s claims to fame in Connecticut is the controversy surrounding Berkley’s role in giving free plane trips to disgraced Governor John Rowland and the curious appearance fees his company gave to Rowland’s wife while Berkley’s company had state contracts with the Rowland administration.   Bloomberg.com puts Berkley among America’s billionaires club.

Achievement First’s Vice Chair may not be in the same financial league yet, but he is a well-recognized force in the corporate education reform industry thanks, in part, to his leadership role at New Profit, Inc.

It turns out that Achievement First, Inc. is a particular darling of the New Profit Corporation.

In their most recent annual report, New Profit Inc. brags that Achievement First Inc. is a key investment for New Profit Inc, telling investors that its relationship with Achievement First Inc. goes back a number of years and noting that Achievement First Inc. already collects in excess of $130 million a year in revenue from its charter school operations.

According to New Profit, Inc.

“Achievement  First has grown into a network of 22 public charter schools in New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, CT, and Brooklyn, NY, serving 7,000 students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Over the next five years, Achievement First plans to grow to a network of 38 schools serving more than 12,000 students.”

And who exactly is New Profit Inc?

The Chairman of the New Profit Inc. Board of Directors is Josh Bekenstein, a managing director of famous, or infamous, Bain Capital.  The Board includes two other senior corporate officers of Bain Capital, the Global CEO of Deloitte Touche, the President of Carlin Ventures Inc., the Chairman and Managing Director of Raptor Capital Management and a variety of other corporate elite.

New Profit, Inc. also “invests” in a variety of other corporate education reform industry companies and front groups including Educators 4 Excellence, a New York based anti-union advocacy group that recently opened offices in Connecticut; the Kipp Charter School Chain, a company that runs well over 100 charter schools around the nation; the “Achievement Network” and “Turnaround for Children,” two other corporate education reform organizations.

New Profit also “invests in “New Leaders,” the education reform entity that was formerly known as “New Leaders for New Schools,” which claims that since 2001, it has “trained more than 800 principals and vice principals who now serve more than 250,000 students…Principals trained by New Leaders fundamentally improve school and student achievement through innovative and results-based leadership.”

One of New Profit’s most recent “investments” is in “New Classrooms Innovation Partners,” a company that bills itself as an on-line, personalized learning technology company that will serve as an “innovative partner for learning.”

New Classrooms Inc. is led by Joel Rose, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer.  Rose previously worked as the Chief Executive Officer of School of One, “an initiative within the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) that uses a mix of live, collaborative, and online instruction in order to provide students with instruction customized to their unique academic needs and learning styles.”  Rose also worked as senior executive at the massive public education privatization company known as Edison Schools where he served as the company‘s Associate General Counsel, Chief of Staff, General Manager, and Vice President for School Operations

The Board of Directors for this company not only includes corporate education reform industry champion Mike Bezos of Amazon, but none-other-than Doug Borchard, the executive at New Profit Inc. and Vice Chair of Achievement First Inc.

Meanwhile, as Achievement First, Inc. continues to claim that they need the scarce funds from New Haven in order to help the City, the company stays mum on its multiple relationships with the billions of dollars associated with the corporate education reform industry.

Achievement First Inc.’s Board of Directors also includes James Peyser, a senior official at the NewSchools Venture Fund; Jonathan Sackler whose family owns PurduePharma (the maker of Oxycontin); Elisa Villanueva Co-CEO for Teach For America; and Ariela Rozman the CEO of TNTP ( The New Teacher Project.)

Sackler, who financed the creation of Achievement First, Inc. ConnCAN and 50CAN coincidently also serves on the Board of Directors of the NewSchools Venture Fund, while the TFA Board includes such notables as one of Connecticut’s other billionaires, Stephen Mandel, who not only donated more than $50 million to Teach for America and serves as the Treasurer of the TFA Board but is also a major donor to Achievement First Inc., ConnCAN and Excel Bridgeport, the pro-charter lobby group that has been working with Mayor Bill Finch to divert Bridgeport’s public funds to Achievement First, Inc. – Bridgeport and other charter schools in that city.

And the inter-relationships go on and on.

Yet with all of these billionaires and multi-millionaires and investment companies and corporate elite, Achievement First, Inc. is claiming, with a straight face, that it can only help reduce class sizes in New Haven’s Public Schools if the public school system hands over more money to fund the company’s expansion plans.

Now just who is zooming who in this charade?

Check back tomorrow for more on Achievement First’s money grab.

Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

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Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

After spending record amounts of money lobbying for Governor Dannel Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Initiatives, Connecticut’s corporate funded education reform advocacy groups continue to spend millions of dollars misleading parents and policy makers, denigrating teachers and the teaching profession and promoting the discriminatory, inappropriate and unfair Common Core and Common Core testing scheme.

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Inc. (CCER) are two of the leading entities behind the wholesale assault on public education in Connecticut.

As the paid ambassadors for those seeking to profit off of our children and our public schools, these so-called “education reformers” have constantly and consistently resorted to misleading statements and outright lies to back up their anti-public education agenda and rhetoric.

Unfortunately for Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, public schools and taxpayers, these apologists for Governor Malloy and his corporate education reform agenda have gone unchallenged.

That situation has got to stop.

Today I am asking WNPR’s Where We Live, WFSB’s Face the State, FOXCT’s The Real Story, CT Report with Steve Kotchko and other appropriate news forums to host a debate between myself and any one of the leaders of these corporate advocacy fronts such as Jeffrey Villar, the Executive Director of Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Jennifer Alexander, the Chief Executive Officer of ConnCAN.

The people of Connecticut deserve the truth and a discussion on television or radio about the truth behind the corporate education reform industry’s efforts will provide Connecticut’s citizens with the information they need to tell fact from fiction.

Jonathan Pelto

Education Advocate

Education Blogger

Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

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[This is the first in a series of articles about Achievement First Inc.’s proposed New Haven Elm City Imagine School]

Aka – The Charter School Industry’s step by step dismantling of public education in Connecticut.

This Wednesday, February 18, 2015, Governor Malloy will play his hand as to whether he will insert taxpayer funds into next year’s state budget in order to fund Steve Perry’s dream of opening a privately-owned, but publicly-funded charter school in Bridgeport.  An out-of-state company is also counting on Malloy to come through with the cash needed to expand their charter school chain into Stamford, Connecticut.

Both charter school applications were vehemently opposed by the Bridgeport and Stamford Boards of Education.

However, despite that opposition from the local officials responsible for education policy and despite the fact that Connecticut doesn’t even fund its existing public schools adequately and the fact that the State of Connecticut is facing a massive $1.4 billion projected budget deficit next year, Governor Malloy’s former Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education approved four new charter school proposals last spring.

Initial funding for two of the four applications was included in this year’s state budget, New Haven’s Booker T. Washington charter school and yet another charter school for Bridgeport.

Now the charter school industry is counting on Malloy to divert even more scarce public funds away from the state’s public schools so that Steve Perry can start pulling in a $2.5 million management fee from a charter school in Bridgeport and the out-of-state company can open up a revenue stream from a new charter school in Stamford.

While most public education advocates are focused on the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to privatize public education via policies at the state level, the politically connected Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain is using a completely different approach as it seeks to pull off a deal in New Haven that would shift existing funds away from New Haven’s public schools and into the coffers of the Achievement First operation.

Of course, Achievement First Inc. is the charter school chain founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s former commissioner of education.

Achievement First Inc. is also the charter school chain that gets the lion’s share of the $100 million in public funds that are already diverted to charter schools in Connecticut.

Achievement First’s latest gambit is called the Elm City Imagine School.  Achievement First already owns and operates the following taxpayer-funded New Haven Charter Schools;

Amistad Academy Elementary School

Amistad Academy Middle School

Amistad Academy High School

Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School

Elm City College Preparatory Middle School

Achievement First Inc. also owns charter schools in Hartford, New Haven, New York City and Rhode Island.

With the New Haven proposal, Achievement First, Inc. is attempting to side-step the entire state charter school authorization process.  They are trying to use a mechanism whereby state and local taxpayer funds would be allocated by the New Haven Board of Education directly to Achievement First’s new “experimental school.”

The only hurdle that Achievement First Inc. needs to overcome is getting the approval of the New Haven Board of Education…and it appears that they are well on the way to do just that as early as their February 23, 2015 meeting.

The New Haven Board has scheduled a second and final public hearing on the proposal tomorrow, Tuesday 2/17 at 5:30, nicely timed to take place during school vacation.

The New Haven Board of Education is not democratically elected by the citizens of New Haven.  It is one of the only boards of education in Connecticut to be appointed by the mayor of the community.

In this case, the New Haven Board of Education is appointed by Mayor Toni Harp – who, thanks to an earlier sweetheart deal – happens to sit on the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors for the Amistad Academy schools.

Another member of the New Haven Board of Education is Alex Johnston who is the former CEO of ConnCAN.  Johnston now, “develops and implements strategies for philanthropists on education reform advocacy and political initiatives.”

ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that is not only associated with Achievement First Inc. but it is the entity that led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying campaign in support of Malloy’s 2012 Corporate Education Reform Initiative.

ConnCAN is also the charter school advocacy group that recently held a rally on the New Haven Green to “save kids trapped in local failing public schools.

And ConnCAN is the charter school advocacy group that was created by Jonathan Sackler, who is the multi-millionaire who played such a pivotal role in helping Stefan Pryor with the creation of Achievement First Inc.

Sackler now serves on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Inc.  and the Board of Directors for ConnCAN

Most recently, Sackler and his family were the largest contributors to Malloy’s re-election effort, pumping well over $100,000 into the various committees that paid for the Governor’s campaign activities.

Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine

Achievement First’s Elm City Imagine (designed to become a K-4 school) will be Achievement First Inc.’s initial foray into the “Greenfield” model. The model designed with the help of the inventor of the computer mouse.”

Achievement First Inc. is also using public funds to insert the “Greenfield Model” into its Elm City College Prep Middle School.

Among the many controversies associated with this new proposal is that Achievement First Inc. has successfully prevented the unionization of its schools and is now looking to use even more public funds to hire employees who would have no collective bargaining rights.

Achievement First Inc. is also notorious for relying on Teach For America recruits in an effort to promote the churning of staff to keep expenses down and limit the likelihood of unionization.

Alex Johnston, the former ConnCAN CEO who and member of the New Haven Board of Education is quoted as saying

“We need statewide policies that allow educational innovations like Teach for America or Dacia’s schools [The Achievement First Inc. Charter School chain] to spread far and wide.”

[Article Update at 3pm 2/16/15 – Johnston has announced the due to the conflict of interest he will not be voting on application, although it doesn’t change much considering the political dynamics surrounding the project.]

Of course, Achievement First Inc. also made national news when it was reported that their “zero-tolerance” discipline policies led to an extraordinary number of kindergartners being suspended.

Check back for the next installment of this series.

You can also read more about the Achievement First Inc. plan via the following New Haven Independent articles;

Teachers, Parents Organize Against Charter Deal

The School Of The Future Gets A Dry Run
Teachers Union Prez Pens “Imagine” Critique
Charter Plans Detailed; Parents Weigh In
Elm City Imagine Sparks Debate
NHPS, AF Team Up On Experimental School
Elm City Charter Eyed For Futuristic “Conversion”
City’s Charter Network Hires San Francisco Firm To Design The K-8 Public School Of The Future

 

Forces behind effort to eliminate democratically elected Bridgeport Board of Education donate to Kenneth Moales Jr.

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Let’s hear it for less democracy!

Just days before the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s bizarre 2012 proposal to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the Mayor, millionaire charter school champion Jonathan Sackler quietly wrote a personal check for $50,000 to help pay for the final set of mailings and advertisements designed to persuade Bridgeport voters to give up their right to vote for those who oversee their City’s public schools.

Now Jonathan Sackler and many of the same pro-charter, anti-public education, pro-corporate elite are pumping money into Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.’s campaign for State Senate with the goal of helping Moales qualify for a taxpayer-funded state campaign grant that he would use to pay for his campaign in the February 24th 2015 state senate special election.

It won’t come as any surprise to those who have watched the ongoing effort to undermine and denigrate the people of Bridgeport that the very same individuals and groups that worked so hard to take away democracy in Bridgeport and keep Paul Vallas in charge of Bridgeport’s schools are now working overtime to put Moales – a Malloy/Finch ally and disgraced former chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education – into the Connecticut State Senate.

The corporate elite, education reform industry and charter school advocates know that Kenneth Moales Jr. will be a safe vote for their anti-public education agenda, even if it means hurting the people of Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler, whose pharmaceutical company makes OxyContin, is a founding member of Achievement First, Inc., the large Charter School Management Company with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Sacker is also the corporate education reform industry advocate who formed ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.  Sackler was one of the largest donors to Finch’s anti-democracy effort and now he tops the list for Moales as well.

Another key player for Moales is Andy Boas, the Chairman of the Board for Achievement First – Bridgeport, a member of the ConnCAN Board of Directors and the founder of The Charter Oak Challenge Foundation.  In 2012 Boa was also one of the largest contributors to Finch’s campaign to do away with an elected school board in Bridgeport.

And now Boas and his wife, like Sacker and his wife, have both donated the maximum amount to Moales’ campaign.

In total, more than half a dozen of Moales’ largest campaign contributions have come from members of the Achievement First, Inc. or ConnCAN Boards of Directors.

Yet another major player in Finch’s failed charter revision effort was Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the corporate funded education reform group that lobbied for the illegal state takeover of Bridgeport’s schools and then dumped more than $101,000 to support of Finch’s charter revision effort to do away with a democratically elected board of education.  Excel Bridgeport’s founder, Megan Lowney, who is also one of Malloy’s political appointees, recently gave Moales the maximum donation allowed under law.

Others who helped pay for Finch’s failed anti-democracy campaign and are now stepping up with donations for Moales’ campaign include;

Paul Vallas and his wife (now re-located back to Illinois)

Robert Trefrey

Trefrey is the former President/CEO of Bridgeport Hospital.  Trefrey chaired the illegal board that was handed control of Bridgeport’s schools by Governor Malloy’s administration.  When the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Malloy’s attempt to take over the Bridgeport Schools was illegal, Malloy appointed Trefrey to the State Board of Education’s Committee that oversees the state’s technical high schools.  Bridgeport Hospital gave Finch’s charter revision campaign the maximum allowable donation, even at a time it was laying off staff.  Trefrey has not given Moales the maximum allowable contribution.

Jeremiah Grace

Grace is the Connecticut State Director of the Northeast Charter School Network.  The organization not only lobbies for more charter schools but helps private charter school management companies develop applications to get public funds.

Lee Bollert

Bollert was an education advisor to Mayor Bill Finch and helped create Excel Bridgeport, Inc.

William McCullough

McCullough serves with Moales on the Board of Directors of Steve Perry’s proposed Bridgeport charter school.

Kadisha Coates 

Coates is a charter school advocate, member of Families for Excellent Schools and is the newest member of the Bridgeport Board of Education. Coates and her husband are both donors to Moales.

Liz Torres

Torres is a member of the Great Oaks Charter School Board of Directors.

Joshua Thompson

Thompson is the former Finch aide and Vallas assistant who posted on his on-line resume that he was the Deputy Mayor for Education in Bridgeport, even though he was no such thing. Thomson is now an executive New Leaders Fund, a corporate education reform advocacy group in New York City.  Brandon Clark, who ran on the Finch slate for Board of Education with Moales in 2013 but lost, also works with the New Leaders Fund with Thompson and also recently donated to Moales’ campaign.

Other Moales donors include a number of employees, lobbyists and consultants associated with ConnCAN, Achievement First, Inc. and other charter schools organizations in Hartford, New Haven and out-of state.

In order to get the full taxpayer funded grant of Moales has filed the paperwork to get a state taxpayer funded grant.  In order to get the money he must raise a total of $11,250, of which 225 must come from people living in Bridgeport or Stratford.  Depending on the number of signatures collected, Moales could receive a public grant of up to $71,000

Although Moales submitted the paperwork to get a grant last Friday, a review of his public financing report reveals a variety of problems and suspicious donations that could prevent him from qualifying for the public funding.

Note:  A special thanks to Maria Pereira who also researched Moales’ recent campaign finance report and provided her findings to the “Only in Bridgeport” blog.

When the Corporate Education Reform Industry tramples the 1st Amendment

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Fellow Education Blogger and Public Education advocate Marie Corfield (From New Jersey) has a blog today that will concern everyone in the battle to push back the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Marie is a mother, artist, teacher, education activist, former NJ State Legislature candidate and is “that” teacher in the infamous Chris Christie You-Tube video of the thug bashing teachers.

Her blog is about the incredible maneuver being taken by the New Jersey Charter Schools Association and it highlights the despicable and UnAmerican actions being taken by the charter school industry and the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

Here in Connecticut there are a number of charter school front groups including ConnCAN, Northeast Charter Schools Network, Families for Excellent Schools, the Coalition for Every Child, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Excel Bridgeport, Achieve Hartford and others.

Marie Corfield writes;

When the facts aren’t on your side…

When you’re up against the wall…

When you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar…

You take the cheap shot.

That’s what the New Jersey Charter Schools Association did last week when they filed ethics charges against Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin who, along with doctoral student Mark Weber (aka. Jersey Jazzman) published this study on the segregationist practices of the state’s charter schools which concludes what we already knew (from JJ’s post):

New Jersey’s charter schools do not serve nearly as many children in economic disadvantage, who have special education needs, or who are English language learners as their host districts’ schools. 

Here’s the crux of the NJCSA’s complaint:

As an association of educators [more on this below], the NJCSA embraces the right of all educators to speak on matters of public debate. But the NJCSA and its members will not stand by as Dr. Sass Rubin devalues the reputation of our State University, a reputation that has been earned over years of excellence in research and academic achievement, to endorse her personal opinions and advance her personal advocacy interests. Because Dr. Sass Rubin has promised two further ‘studies,’ the NJCSA has filed this complaint today to ensure appropriate corrective action is taken before Dr. Sass Rubin releases her personal views as Rutgers research and creates further embarrassment for Rutgers University. (emphasis mine)

Does anyone besides me find it interesting that this press release is not on the NJCSA’s website? I mean c’mon, this is big ‘reformy’ news! Sadly, I found it on the uber-‘reformy’ and always entertaining (for its sheer lack of veracity) NJ Left Behind blog.

Why? Maybe because the NJCSA knows it got caught red handed. Maybe because they know these are not Julia and JJ’s personal opinions. The data they presented is right out there for the whole world to see on the NJ DOE website—data that the charter schools themselves reported. There was nothing to OPRA. Any 5th grader who knows how to do a simple web search can easily find it.

Ooops.

They’re backed into a corner and have nothing left to do but pull a trick out of the bag of their biggest cheerleader: Gov Christie. They launched a personal attack. They skirted the real issues and went for the low-blow. Educator/blogger Peter Greene reports

The NJCSA is behaving like a punk, and like a weak punk at that who lacks the tools or the skills to come at Rubin and Weber directly. And they have more work to do, because as Weber points out on his own blog, the conclusions have already been acknowledged as the truth by [‘reformy’ Newark Superintendent] Cami Anderson and [‘reformy’ Camden Superintendent] Paymon Rouhanifard, so NJCSA better start ginning up a full scale job-threatening division for the entire state.

You should read Marie’s full post.  It can be found at: http://mcorfield.blogspot.com/2015/01/njcsa-attacks-1st-amendment-rights.html

Today’s MUST READ PIECE – Where’s the Accountability? Anyone? By Sarah Darer Littman

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Quite simply it is the single best assessment of the issues surrounding the Jumoke/FUSE charter school scandal.

The article, written by Sarah Darer Littman is called, “Where’s the Accountability? Anyone?” and it can be found in its entirety on the CTNewsJunkie website – http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

Read it and ask yourself…. Where is the accountability?

Sarah Darer Littman open with;

Dumping embarrassing news on the eve of a holiday is becoming a habit for the Malloy’s administration — and there’s been plenty of it to ring in the inauguration of his second term.

Late last Friday it was the release of the FUSE/Jumoke investigation report, which revealed financial mismanagement, nepotism, and misuse of public funds by a charter operator lauded by the Malloy administration. But the most disturbing part of this whole affair is that it reveals how millions of our taxpayer dollars are being handed out to private entities with little or no due diligence based on the recommendation of a closed, closely entwined loop of foundations, political allies, and corporate beneficiaries.

What investigating attorney Frederick L. Dorsey left out of his report, perhaps because he was hired by the state Department of Education, is how the department and the state Board of Education and so many others enabled Michael Sharpe in his unethical endeavors.

Take for instance, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who appointed former FUSE Chief Operating Office Andrea Comer to the state Board of Education. Or the state Ethics Commission, which ruled that there was no conflict in having Comer, the chief operating officer of a charter management company benefiting from millions of dollars of public funds, serving on the board that grants them. Then we have our state legislators, who unanimously confirmed Comer to the position. Maybe they were too busy playing solitaire when the vote was taken.

What about Stephen Adamowski, Paul Vallas, and the members of the Bridgeport Board of Education who voted to bring FUSE to Bridgeport as part of the Commissoner’s Network? The Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr. said he was “honored” to have Sharpe and FUSE in the district. Moales, of course, has — according to education reform critic Jonathan Pelto — had his own ethical challenges when it came to overbilling the state for daycare slots.

And she then closes with;

Last April, the state Board of Education voted to authorize the Booker T. Washington/FUSE charter school in New Haven. Perhaps they were influenced by glowing letters of recommendation from well-known political figures in the state: New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, and ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander, to name a few.

With messaging consistency that would make Republican pollster and messaging guru Frank Luntz proud, both Mayors DeStefano and Harp opened with exactly the same phrase: “I enthusiastically support the application for the Booker T. Washington Charter School, here in New Haven, CT. The proposed school will teach our young moral character, self advocacy, and common core standards, in order to impact their success in our diverse global environment.”

Having read Attorney Dorsey’s report on what took place at Jumoke Academy, there are definitely lessons to teach our young, but “moral character” isn’t the one that springs to mind.

Here’s ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander: “Two key reasons for my support for the Booker T. Washington [school] is its collaboration with a proven high-quality provider, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) . . . FUSE has a track record of success.”

That depends on your definition of “success,” doesn’t it? If “success” constitutes feathering your own nest at the expense of taxpayers, behaving unethically, and acting in such a way that even the parents at your own school “have questions about accountability for the financial piece,” as stated in the FUSE Board of Trustees minutes dated Oct. 10, 2013,  I guess FUSE did have that track record.

Listening to these same enablers say that “it’s for the kids” while they fleece the public purse is infuriating. But what really enrages me is knowing that there are so many fine educators in classrooms across this state trying to teach and help children day in and day out while being deprived of basic resources, while politicians are allowing our taxpayer dollars to be siphoned off by crooks.

The commentary piece written by Sarah Darer Littman is, as they say, “on point.”

Go to CT Newsjunkie right now and read the complete article at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_wheres_the_accountability_anyone/

 

Malloy brags about raising test scores in his Inaugural Speech

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During his 2015 inaugural address, Governor Malloy gives himself credit for rising standardized test scores. But the 2nd term governor fails to address the oncoming Common Core Testing debacle, commit to holding charter schools more accountable or announce that he will fix his unfair Teacher Evaluation program by decoupling it from the unless Common Core Test scores.

Yesterday, after being sworn in to a second term as Connecticut’s Governor, Dannel Malloy gave his State of the State Address to a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly.

Malloy outlined what he deemed to be his accomplishments to date and spoke of plans for the next four years, much of which appears to be focused around improving Connecticut’s deteriorating transportation system.

Interestingly, considering how much attention public education issues received during the recent gubernatorial campaign, this vital topic did not get much play in Malloy’s speech, although the governor – who once said that he didn’t mind schools teach to the test, “as long as test scores went up,” – did proudly proclaim that his first term accomplishments include that fact that his administration had “raised test scores” in Connecticut.

Considering the turmoil caused by Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda, Malloy’s comment was a rather callous reminder that the governor and his pro-charter school allies remain fixated on producing an education system driven by test scores.

Other than announcing that “We’ve built better schools, raised test scores, made college more affordable, and put Connecticut on a path toward universal pre-kindergarten,” Malloy made no mention of the massive Common Core testing scheme that will be swamping Connecticut’s public schools this year, neither did he explain why his administration supported the Common Core “cut scores” that are designed to ensure that the vast majority of public school students and teachers are deemed failures.

See:  Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

For parents, teachers and public school advocates who were looking to see if Malloy was going to soften his pro-corporate education reform industry agenda, there was no sign that the governor intended to hold Connecticut’s charter schools accountable for their use of public funds nor was there a suggestion that the Malloy administration was going to fix their unfair “Teacher Evaluation” program by decoupling the inappropriate Common Core Test scores from the evaluation process for Connecticut’s public school teachers.

While Malloy shied away from talking about education, his corporate-funded education reform supporters were much more vocal, holding a press conference yesterday calling for, among other things, more charter schools.

The press conference was organized by a new education reform front group called, “For Every Child.”  The new lobbying entity includes most of the same groups that spent in excess of $6 million lobbying for Malloy’s initial education reform initiative, including ConnCAN, the Achievement First, Inc. charter school management company, the Northeast Charter School Network and Families for Excellent Schools, another pro-charter group entity.

As reported in a New Haven Register article entitled, Connecticut education activists continue push to address ‘failing’ schools,” the group will be using their resources to push for more charter schools.

According to the Register’s article, the Rev. Eldren Morrison of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church, who received permission last year from the Malloy administration to open the Booker T. Washington charter school in New Haven, said, “The problem is that there are not enough (charters).”

And in what can only be considered an absolutely incredible moment of irony, the new charter school operator went on to complain about the “’grueling’ process for charter schools to open.”

Grueling process for charter schools to open?

As Wait, What? readers will undoubtedly recall, [now former] Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and Malloy’s appointees quickly and easily approved the application for The Booker T. Washington Charter School after Commissioner Pryor and his staff wrote an April 2, 2014 announcement that it was the highest rated charter school application.

How did Pryor and his staff determine that Booker T Washington Charter School should be approved?

Because in their words, the Booker T Washington Charter School was going to be managed and run by the Jumoke/FUES charterer school company.

The same Jumoke/FUSE charter school company that was given two no-bid contracts to run neighborhood schools in Hartford and Bridgeport.

The same Jumoke/FUSE that has now been disgraced, along with its charlatan CEO, the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe.”

Even a modicum of investigation on the part of Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education would have led to the denial of the Booker T. Washington Charter School, yet Rev. Morrison, who now has a lucrative five-year charter to run a private school with public funds has the audacity to claim that Connecticut’s charter school application process is “grueling.”

For more on Booker T. Washington Charter School read;

Malloy’s new charter schools – 1st up the Booker T. Washington Charter School in New Haven

Merging Church and State – The Booker T. Washington Charter School

“We need a school that’s going to promote God’s principles”  

 

IS THE TIDE TURNING FOR COMMON CORE? (Guest Post by Joseph Ricciotti)

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On October 6, 2014 retired educator Joseph Ricciotti had a commentary piece in the CT Mirror entitled, “Common Core takes the joy out of teaching.”

ConnCAN’s Jennifer Alexander, the paid spokesperson for Connecticut’s charter school industry, responded with a lame defense of the Common Core in yesterday’s CTMirror under the title of “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core.”

After reading ConnCAN’s corporate education reform rhetoric, I wrote “Connecticut – Our children are not stupid” for Wait, What?

Now Joseph Ricciotti takes on ConnCAN’s position even more directly in a thoughtful response called, “Is the tide turning for Common Core?”

Joseph Ricciotti writes;

I am pleased that my recent op-ed piece “Common Core Does Not Treat Teachers or Students with Dignity” has provoked the ire of Jennifer Alexander, CEO of ConnCAN, as I strongly believe what is needed in Connecticut is an honest debate concerning whether Common Core is appropriate for Connecticut students. It appears obvious that the corporate education reform advocates in Connecticut which includes Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN as well as Governor Malloy and his outgoing Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, are truly dismayed and rattled with the fact that Common Core throughout the country is a slowly sinking ship ready to join the failed corporate reform programs of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT).

What Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN has neglected to mention in her rebuttal concerning Common Core is the fact that parents have yet to be exposed to the devastating impact of numerous failures when the Common Core Smarter Balanced Consortium (SBAC) tests will be administered to Connecticut students, especially children in our urban school districts. As Jonathan Pelto cited with his insightful analysis in his op-ed commentary, “Connecticut – Our Children are not Stupid” that parents will “discover that approximately 70% of the states children are failing.” Hence, what is in store for Connecticut parents, according to Pelto, is what has already occurred in New York State where Pelto indicates “that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts Common Core tests.”

What corporate reformers such as Jennifer Alexander and Stefan Pryor apparently do not understand is what it means to a young child who fails one of the Common Core tests. What should be required reading of all corporate reformers is the recent New York Times article published this past June “ Common Core, In 9 – Year Old Eyes” in which the heartbreaking story of young Crispin Alcindor is told. Crispin attends P.S. 397 in Brooklyn, NY, a school of 350 students and a school where more than 70 per cent of the students did not pass the Common Core tests. ConnCAN would deem this a “failing school” and designate an “F”grade  as part of its ranking as what Common Core will  basically do is to rank schools and students. With this ranking, would Ms. Alexander like to see the school closed and replaced with one of ConnCAN’s so-called high achieving charter schools? However, the fact that 90 per cent of the children in P.S. 397 come from low income families would never be taken into consideration as the corporate reformers would have you believe that poverty is never a factor for low achievement.

The New York Times account of Crispin Alcindor is the story of a child who had been a model student in his school and at the top of his class until he had to take the Common Core state exams which placed him near the bottom of his class. Needless to say, his failure on the Common Core tests shattered him as failure was the catalyst that led the boy to cite, “If I don’t pass the test, I will feel miserable and never come out of my room.” Moreover, how many children in Connecticut schools destined to fail the SBAC will have similar feelings of failure as Common Core takes the joy out of learning for many Connecticut children?

Jennifer Alexander also cites in her commentary that most teachers in Connecticut support the Common Core but that is not the feedback I have received from teachers involved with implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The various surveys that Alexander cites concerning the popularity of Common Core with teachers are dubious to say the least, especially surveys conducted by the Gates Foundation. The recent election of Barbara Madeloni as president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association is symptomatic of teachers’ disenchantment with Common Core. A fierce opponent of neoliberal education reform, Madeloni believes that teachers today are “in an enormous amount of pain and that the joy in human relationships and the possibilities of teaching have been foreclosed by the “education deform” (Common Core) project.” Also, according to Madeloni, the use of SBAC test scores for the purpose of evaluating teacher effectiveness strips away what little remains of teachers dignity.

As Joe Ricciotti proves, yet again, the talking heads of the corporate education reform industry are no match for the educators who actually devote their lives to the well-being of our children.

Connecticut – Our children are not stupid

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However, that is EXACTLY what the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test is designed to tell us.

The shocking, truth is that parents who do not opt their child out of the unfair, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing regime this year will “discover” that approximately 70% of the state’s children are failing.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

In a CT Mirror commentary piece entitled “Don’t let misinformation destroy the promise of Common Core,” Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Connecticut’s charter school lobbying group goes to great length to actually MISLEAD Connecticut’s parents about the false promise of the Common Core.

This pro-Common Core cheerleader and leading apologist for Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry agenda claims that,

…we must continue to implement consistent high standards like the Common Core across every classroom, every school, and every district in our state. It is a necessary step toward our goal of providing a high-quality education for every Connecticut child.

But what Jennifer Alexander, Governor Malloy and the other proponents of the Common Core fail to tell parents, and the public, is that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to ensure that only about one-third of our state’s public school students get passing marks.

How is that possible?

Because the Common Core Test uses what is called the NAEP “proficient” level as its passing grade.  NAEP is The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a national testing entity.

According to NAEP, the “proficient” level is a standard that is equivalent to what is deemed “high performance,” rather than what would be considered grade-level performance.

So, in reality, the Common Core Test is not designed to determine whether our children are learning what is expected at that grade level, but is purposely designed to pretend that all students should be “higher performers.”

Of course, as every parent knows, while all children can learn and thrive with the right support, not all students are academic “high performers” each step of the way.

But proponents of the Common Core testing system like Jennifer Alexander and Governor Malloy won’t tell parents that their children will be deemed failing if they don’t score at the “high performer” level.

When New York State implemented the Common Core Test, student scores across the state dropped by nearly 50 percent from the scores those same students had received in previous, more grade level-oriented, standardized tests.

The result of the Common Core Test was that only 31 percent of all public school students in New York State got a “passing score” on the math and English language arts  Common Core tests.

Did New York students suddenly become stupid?

No, of course not!

Even worse, the Common Core Test design is particularly unfair to African American and Latino American students.  In New York State, only about one in five Black and Latino students “passed’ and the Common Core test design ensured that only 3% of the English Language Learners achieved passing scores under the new Common Core scheme.

To put it bluntly, the Common Core Test is designed to send students of color, students who have English Language barriers and students with special education needs home with a report that indicates that they are failing.

The underlying problem with the Common Core Testing is not a secret, although many politicians wish that it was.  As has been widely reported, the Common Core Test gives fifth graders questions that are written at an 8th grade level.

The harsh reality is that the “cut score” or passing number on the Common Core Test has been purposely set so that approximately 30 percent of the test takers pass and 70 percent fail.

Jennifer Alexander, who is paid a six-figure income to speak for the charter school industry, doesn’t reveal that the real reason the corporate education reform industry loves the Common Core Testing is because it produces an almost unlimited list of failing schools.

And thanks to Presidents George W. Bush and Barak Obama, federal law provides that failing schools can be handed over to charter school management companies…and with it hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds going to private charter school corporations to run public schools.

For the truth about the Common Core Testing system one need only go back to a 2011 article in the Washington Post in which James Harvey, the executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable, explains what the NAEP proficient level really means.

Harvey says,

“Proficiency remains a tough nut to crack for most students, in all subjects, at all grade levels. NAEP reports that only one third of American students are proficient or better, no matter the subject, the age of the students, or their grade level

[…]

NAEP’s benchmarks, including the proficiency standard, evolved out of a process only marginally better than throwing darts at the wall.

That’s a troubling conclusion to reach in light of the expenditure of more than a billion dollars on NAEP over 40-odd years by the U.S. Department of Education and its predecessors. For all that money, one would expect that NAEP could defend its benchmarks of Basic, Proficient, and Advanced by pointing to rock-solid studies of the validity of its benchmarks and the science underlying them. But it can’t.

Instead, NAEP and the National Assessment Governing Board that promulgated the benchmarks have spent the better part of 20 years fending off a consensus in the scientific community that the benchmarks lack validity and don’t make sense. Indeed, the science behind these benchmarks is so weak that Congress insists that every NAEP report include the following disclaimer: “NCES [National Center for Education Statistics] has determined that NAEP achievement levels should continue to be used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

So the Common Core score is tied to a system that even the United States Congress admits should be “used on a trial basis and should be interpreted with caution”

Harvey goes on to explain,

“Proficient Doesn’t Mean Proficient.

Oddly, NAEP’s definition of proficiency has little or nothing to do with proficiency as most people understand the term. NAEP experts think of NAEP’s standard as “aspirational.” In 2001, two experts associated with NAEP’s National Assessment Governing…made it clear that:

“[T]he proficient achievement level does not refer to “at grade” performance. Nor is performance at the Proficient level synonymous with ‘proficiency’ in the subject. That is, students who may be considered proficient in a subject, given the common usage of the term, might not satisfy the requirements for performance at the NAEP achievement level.”

Despite the mountains of evidence about the problems with the Common Core and Common Core testing, corporate elitists like ConnCAN have the chutzpah to say we should implement the Common Core and the unfair Common Cores tests because, “many national studies that show wide support for clear, high standards to help ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, are ready for the challenges of college and career.”

As parents of public school children, we all recognize that there is nothing wrong having “clear, high standards.” Standards are good and Connecticut has its own process for updating and enhancing our state’s academic standards.

Yet rather than using Connecticut’s process and respecting the values inherent in the local control of education, the Common Core was developed using a system that did not include the full involvement of teachers, parents and the community.

Governor Malloy, ConnCAN and the corporate education reform industry have thrown their support behind an inappropriate set of national standards that were not developed by teachers, parents or those who know what is developmentally appropriate for children.

Furthermore, had the proponents of the Common Core been genuinely interested in enhancing educational standards in the United States they would have developed those standards using the appropriate people and then phased in those goals over a period of ten years, thereby allowing our schools to ramp up what we expect of our children and our public education system.

Instead, in a grotesque effort to grab as much public funding as possible for the testing companies and the rest of the education reform industry, these people, with the help of our government officials, mandated the Common Core standards and then mandated that our children be tested against those standards immediately.

So what have we been given?

Connecticut has been served up a system that is designed to tell 70 percent of our students that they are failures.

And that is nothing short of child abuse.

Rather than pushing the flawed Common Core testing program on our students, teachers and public schools, Governor Malloy, Education Commissioner Pryor, and Connecticut’s public school superintendents and principals should be standing up and protecting our children from this unwarranted abuse.

But since they won’t, it is up to parents to take on the task of stopping this abuse by opting our children out of the absurd Common Core Standardized Testing program.

And if your school district tells you that you can’t opt out your child, remind them that this is America and that there is absolutely no federal or state law that revokes your parental rights when it comes to standardized testing in our public schools!

The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them.

In this case, the Malloy administration and the proponents of the Common Core and its related testing apparatus are nothing short of bullies —– and they must be stopped before they do any more damage to our children and our public schools.

The charter school industry’s commentary piece in today’s CTMirror is a clear reminder.

The time is now to tell your school district that your children will not be participating in this year’s Common Core Testing.

Malloy’s administration to tout Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda at National Conference

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While wooing teachers with false promises of a change in policy here at home, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration continue to trumpet their Corporate Education Reform Industry Agenda far from the gaze of Connecticut voters.

Next month Connecticut taxpayers will pick up the tab to send the Connecticut delegation to the annual meeting of the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting in Colorado. Of course, ever year, the taxpayers also pick up the tab for Connecticut’s membership in the organization.

The National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE) claims that it “exists to serve and strengthen State Boards of Education in their pursuit of high levels of academic achievement for all students.”

How do they go about doing that? Well just last year the NASBE accepted an $800,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spend the next two years pushing the Common Core with state boards of education and other “stakeholders” involved with running public education around the country.

So while Malloy will spend his October trying to persuade Connecticut teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is “softening” his pro-corporate education reform stance, his delegation will be jetting off to Colorado to showcase Malloy’s “record of success” when it comes to dramatically increasing the use of standardized tests, expanding the role of charter schools and undermining the role and rights of parents, teachers and school boards.

One session at the NASBE national conference is entitled “State Policy and Practice for Turnaround Schools.” Lead presenters include Morgan Barth, one of Stefan Pryor’s top appointees at the State Department of Education and State Board of Education member Stephen Wright.

Barth is the former Achievement First Inc. employee who, with no state certification, illegally taught and worked at Achievement First for at least six years before Achievement First’s lobbyists managed to get the law changed to allow charter schools to have up to 30% of their teaching and administrative staff be non-certified.

Although repeatedly warned by the State Department of Education that Barth’s lack of appropriate certification meant he was teaching illegally, Achievement First, Inc. kept him on the payroll and in the classroom the entire time.

When Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc. became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Pryor hired Barth to play the key role in the SDE’s “turnaround office” where he has spent his time getting Alliance Districts to turn over their schools to charter companies, most notably, to the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain.

Connecticut’s other representative at the National Association of State Boards of Education annual meeting is Steven Wright, a Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education who served as chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education.

Wright has been one of Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s strongest allies and safest votes on the State Board of Education.  Reporting on another national conference earlier this year, the conference wrote,

“Wright hailed the state’s work to adopt Common Core standards, saying the standards are the best thing for students and teachers…’They are empirically superior and age-appropriate — developed by educators,’”

And in 2012 when the Trumbull Education Association refused to accept an “award” from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, Wright, in his role as Chairman of the Trumbull Board of Education, attacked the union saying,

“I read with no small measure of disappointment the letter of the Trumbull Teacher’s Association rejecting the prestigious recognition the high school received from ConnCAN… through an obvious display of ignorance of the goals of ConnCAN and an undertone of an elitist attitude, the authors of the letter have managed to alienate trusted allies and provided the missing ingredients that will sway those who were on the fence with the education reform legislation to side with the Governor and give wholesale support to the reforms proposed in Senate Bill #24.”

And if Barth and Wright’s participation wasn’t telling enough, another speaker at the October National Association of State Boards of Education will be a senior corporate officer from Global Strategies Group, the political consulting group that serves as Malloy’s lead campaign consultant while running the public relations program for Connecticut’s corporate education reform groups.

In the past year or so, Global Strategies Group has collected at least $297,000 from the Malloy campaign and his shadow political operation at the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

During the same period, Global Strategies Group has billed ConnCAN and A Better Connecticut, Connecticut’s two leading education reform groups, more than $2.5 million for consulting services and media costs.  Global Strategies produced and broadcast nearly $2 million in television advertisements “thanking Governor Malloy” for his leadership on the education reform effort.

And what will the Global Strategies Group representative be speaking about?

“What’s in Store on Election Day and What Does It Mean for Education?”

One wonders how many times he’ll mention Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, the most pro-education reform, anti-teacher Democratic governor in the nation.

But one thing will be certain — While Malloy’s operatives will be singing his praises at the NASBE meeting in Colorado, Malloy himself will be here, at home, telling teachers, parents and public education advocates that he has “seen the light” and will spend his second term supporting teachers and Connecticut’s public education system.

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