Is Stefan Pryor or the Connecticut Council for Education Reform breaking the law?

As Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and his agency must adhere to the Connecticut ethics laws that apply to public officials and public agencies.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a corporate funded lobbying and advocacy group that is working to support Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives.  As a lobbying group, CCER must adhere to the ethics laws that apply to lobbying organizations.

But when it comes to the relationship between the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Pryor’s state agency, something is significantly amiss.

CCER was part of the $6 million record-breaking lobbying effort that led to the passage of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative in 2012.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Board of Directors includes the retired Chairman and CEO of The Hartford Insurance Company, the President and COO of the Travelers Companies, the President and CEO of Yale New Haven Hospital, a Managing Director at First Niagara Bank, the Lead Director at Webster Bank, the Chair of Nestle Waters North America, former gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont and others.

The Executive Director of CCER is a registered lobbyist and the organization retains one of  the state’s better known lobbying companies.

When it comes to their rhetoric and propaganda, CCER stays true to the corporate education reform industry’s agenda. Recently CCER put out a press release stating,

 “We will oppose any delay in implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”

But as reported earlier this year on Wait, What? this education reform lobbying group has been playing an increasingly significant role in the internal functioning of the State Department of Education.

At last month’s State Department of Education’s quarterly Alliance District Convening meeting, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Jeffrey Villar, was a lead presenter at a session entitled, “District Strategic Planning.”

The meeting agenda read:

“CCER will share best practices and tools for district-wide, long-term strategic planning. This will include strategies to establish Board of Education goals, develop district indicators of success, and design a process to monitor implementation. Districts will also learn about how the CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”

Katie Roy, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Chief Operating Officer also presented to the group of local school administrators, teachers and parents.

This means that at an official meeting between the State Department of Education and officials from Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, participants were told that the lobbying group known as CCER “can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”

A lobbying organization can “help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications”?

That is more than a bit odd…

First off, CCER is a corporate funded lobbying group and has no expertise with Alliance Districts, the State Department of Education or the Alliance District and Priority District funding grants.  Their expertise is trying to persuade legislators to support Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts.

Second, what makes the whole situation even stranger is that as a result of a series of Freedom of Information requests filed with the appropriate state agencies, it turns out that there is NO CONTRACT between the State Department of Education and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

So how did CCER get the job of “helping” Alliance Districts and who is picking up the tab for these “services.”

The State of Connecticut isn’t paying CCER, but if the lobbying group is “donating” the services to school districts then that raises a slew of ethics and legal issues.

And to make matters even more suspicious, the lobbying reports that the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has submitted to the Office of State Ethics doesn’t come close to showing the time and costs CCER has already devoted to the task of “helping” Alliance Districts.

Stefan Pryor’s State Department of Education has instructed Alliance Districts that a lobbying group with no expertise is available to help them prepare grant applications that will then be approved or rejected by Pryor and the State Department of Education.

In the real world we call that a conflict of interest.

It is time for the Malloy administration and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to come clean on exactly what role CCER is playing at the State Department of Education and whether Commissioner Pryor or CCER are violating any Connecticut laws in the process.

Malloy dishes students, parents and teachers in political maneuver

Earlier today, Governor Malloy had the opportunity to make a meaningful statement about whether he was willing to make a real commitment to Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and our public schools.

Instead he decided to stick with Commissioner Stefan Pryor and the education reform initiatives that are undermining Connecticut public schools.

For more than two years, teachers, parents and public school advocates have been warning Malloy and Connecticut legislators that Commissioner Pryor and Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative was undermining local control, destroying the teaching profession and turning our state’s public school students into guinea pigs for a destructive, profit-oriented Common Core Smarter Balanced Testing scheme that has gone amok.

Instead of admitting the time had come to suspend Malloy’s reform initiative, send Stefan Pryor packing and develop a better plan for Connecticut’s public schools, Malloy proposed little more than a fraudulent effort to make teachers, parents and public school advocates think he gave a damn.

Malloy’s plan is to keep the absurd, unfair and faulty teacher evaluation program in place, but just push its implementation off until after this November’s gubernatorial election.  He wants to make it effective January 1, 2015 – 60 days after Election Day.

And second, despite mounting evidence that the Common Core and its associated massive standardized testing program is misguided and counter-productive, Governor Malloy urged that a subcommittee of a committee be formed to serve as a Task Force to look  at the problem.

As if to drive home just how disingenuous Governor Malloy was being, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-corporate education reform advocacy group issued a statement late today that made it clear the Malloy’s plan was simply a ploy to get him past the next election.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform wrote:

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation and support system is a sound and balanced system that is designed to provide educators with the professional development and supports that they need to be evaluated and to improve. It’s also an important accountability measure for educators who aren’t doing a good job and aren’t able to improve. The system uses several factors to evaluate educators; and all of the components of the evaluation system (including test scores, which only count for 22.5% of an evaluation) are important in order to keep it balanced.

Similarly, implementation of the Common Core State Standards is an important process that should move forward. The Common Core State Standards were adopted by Connecticut in 2010, so districts have already spent several years working on establishing curricula and instruction that are aligned to them. At this point, schools should be teaching curricula aligned to the Common Core and students should be working on adjusting to these new standards. Any pushback on implementation is both unnecessary and counter-productive.

Corporate funded non-education groups like CCER have been Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s greatest cheerleaders.  The proponents of Malloy’s “education reform” initiatives have spent more than $6 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s plan.

It is certainly noteworthy that when Malloy was claiming he “heard” the concerns of teachers, parents and public school advocates, his backers were quick to say that the faulty teacher evaluation system was fine and that any “push back” on the implementation of the Common Core and the Common Core testing scheme was “unnecessary and counter-productive.”

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s statement could not be clearer.

Governor Malloy has decided to say what he thinks he needs to say to trick Connecticut’s teachers, parents and public education advocates but as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, once Malloy makes it past the election, it is full steam ahead for Malloy, Pryor and those seeking to destroy Connecticut’s public education system.

You can read more about today’s developments through the following links:

CT Newsjunkie:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/malloy_would_delay_teacher_evaluations_state_wont_spend_1m_to_promote/ and http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/separating_teacher_evaluations_common_core_is_not_political/

CT Mirror: http://ctmirror.org/house-gop-teachers-union-want-to-revisit-common-core-standards/ and http://ctmirror.org/teachers-upset-with-rollout-of-new-evaluation-system/

Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-common-core-push-back-0128-20140128,0,4058443.story and http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-teachers-unhappy-0123-20140122,0,539177.story and http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-page-pdf-read-gov-malloys-letter-on-teacher-evaluations-20140129,0,8182.htmlpage

CT Post: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Teacher-evaluations-using-student-test-scores-are-5185060.php

Malloy administration action raises more ethics questions…

Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, is no stranger to ethics issues.

Pryor and his operatives at the State Department of Education are now engaged in activities that raise even more potential ethics violations.

As reported yesterday in a post entitled, “Pryor schedules Corporate Education Reform Industry Lobby Group for Alliance District Meeting,” Commissioner Pryor has added the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), a corporate funded lobby group, to his operation at the State Department of Education.

School officials and community members from the 30 Connecticut school districts receiving funds through Malloy’s Alliance District program will be meeting this week at the State Department of Education’s “Alliance District Convening Meeting”

At the meeting participants will hear from the Executive Director and the Chief Operating Officer of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), an organization that has spent over $160,000 lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” initiative.

According to the meeting agenda, “Districts will also learn about how the CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”

In addition, along with an out-of-state consultant, “CCER will also discuss their joint collaboration to perform a school district funding analysis for a[n] Alliance District and how they can help your district.”

But CCER is a lobbying entity and Jeffrey Villar, CCER’s Executive Director, is a registered lobbyist.  Their communication with state officials is strictly regulated — or at least it is supposed to be strictly regulated.

Under Connecticut law “a lobbyist is any person who either expends or agrees to expend, or receives or agrees to receive, $2,000 or more in a calendar year to communicate directly or to solicit others to communicate with any public official or their staff in the legislative or executive branch…”

According to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)’s most recent official lobbying report, Villar only spent $370 worth of his time communicating with the Malloy Administration in November and $740 worth of his time in December.

At Villar’s salary, this amount would only cover a handful of hours, far fewer than Villar and Pryor and his staff would need to concoct this new scheme to allow the corporate lobbying group to provide services to Alliance District school systems.

If Villar and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform spent more time engaged in communicating with Pryor and his staff than they actually reported then they have violated Connecticut law.

In addition, as noted above, this week’s Alliance District Convening Meeting will also feature CCER’s Chief Operating Officer.  However this person isn’t even registered as a lobbyist which could be another ethics violation for both CCER and the individual.

Underlying this latest development is the fact that Commissioner Stefan Pryor has diverted millions of dollars in state funds to out-of-state consultants.

This week’s Alliance District meeting is a shocking reminder that taxpayer funds continue to flow out-of-state when there are plenty of qualified, talented and available education professionals right here in Connecticut.

Adding to that insult is the fact that Pryor is now handing State Department of Education responsibilities and operations over to a corporate education reform industry lobby group that may not even be following Connecticut law.

You can learn more about the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s political agenda by going to their website:   http://ctedreform.org/.  Their Board of Directors includes:

Steve Simmons, Chairman
Chairman, Simmons/Patriot Media & Communications
 
Ramani Ayer, Vice-Chairman
Retired Chairman & CEO, The Hartford Insurance Company
 
Roxanne Coady, Secretary and Treasurer
President & Founder, RJ Julia Booksellers
 
Marna Borgstrom
President & CEO, Yale New Haven Hospital System
 
John Crawford
President, Strategem, LLC Lead Director of Board of Directors, Webster Bank
 
Mitchell Etess
CEO, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority
 
William Ginsberg
President & CEO, The Community Foundation of Greater New Haven
 
Kim Jeffery
Chairman, Nestle Waters North America
 
Ned Lamont
Founder & Chair, Campus TeleVideo
 
Brian MacLean
President & COO, The Travelers Companies, Inc.
 
Garrett Moran
President, Year Up
 
John Rathgeber
President & CEO, Connecticut Business & Industry Association
 
David Ring
Managing Director, Enterprise Banking, First Niagara
 
Peter Salovey
President, Yale University
 
Dudley Williams
Director of Corporate Citizenship & Diversity, GE Asset Management

Pryor schedules Corporate Education Reform Industry Lobby Group for Alliance District Meeting

And that is just the tip of the iceberg…

Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his sidekick and aide, former Achievement First principal Morgan Barth, are pushing the ethical envelope ever further while telegraphing where Malloy really stands when it comes to teachers, parents and public education in Connecticut.

While Malloy is touring the state claiming that his goal is to “win back” the respect of teachers, parents and public school advocates, later this week, Commissioner Pryor and SDE Turnaround Director Morgan Barth will be handing the microphone over to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a corporate funded lobby group that has spent over $160,000 lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s “education reform” initiative.

The event is this Thursday’s State Department of Education’s “Alliance District Convening Meeting,” a publicly funded event for school officials and community members from the 30 Connecticut school districts receiving funds through Malloy’s Alliance District program.

According to the agenda, Pryor and Barth have scheduled the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) to, “share best practices and tools for district-wide, long-term strategic planning.”

CCER’s Executive Director, Jeff Villar, who once served as the superintendent of schools in Windsor, left his position there three months ago to become the six-figure executive director and lobbyist for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

Apparently the CCER lobbyist’s presentation will include, “strategies to establish Board of Education goals, develop district indicators of success, and design a process to monitor implementation. Districts will also learn about how the CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications.”

REALLY?  How CCER can help districts workshop their Year 3 Alliance and Priority School District consolidated applications??

Beyond the fact that “help districts workshop their applications” is a bizarre concept, what the hell is a registered corporate education reform lobbying group doing instructing school districts on how to work with the State Department of Education?

Has the system become so corrupt that the Department of Education has turned to a corporate lobbying group to help Connecticut’s school districts fill out their applications to the state agency?

The ethical issues surrounding such a move are significant and extremely serious.

But Pryor and Barth’s actions also raise extraordinary political questions.

Over the last two years, some of the most anti-teacher, anti-union and anti-public education rhetoric has come out of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) public relations operation.

Allowing this industry lobbying group the opportunity to speak to all the Alliance District participants without giving equal time to those opposed to the corporate education reform industry’s agenda is unfair, insulting and a clear and concise indicator where Governor Malloy really stands on these issues.

Handing state functions over to CCER is even more stunning.

Malloy famously said teachers need only show up for four years and they get tenure…. The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has been lobbying, from the beginning, to do away with tenure altogether.

Malloy also added that he didn’t mind having teachers teach to the test as long as test scores go up… The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has been one of the most outspoken proponents of more standardized testing, the absurd common core testing scheme and pushing the unfair concept of using standardized test scores as part of Malloy’s teacher evaluation program.

Malloy can claim his anti-teacher position has “changed”  or “evolved” but actions speaks far louder than his words.

Putting the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) on this week’s Alliance District Convening Meeting agenda speaks volumes about where the Malloy administration really stands when it comes to teachers, unions and pro-public education advocates.

Oh and it gets worse… much worse…

After CCER’s Executive Director speaks, CCER’s Chief Operating Officer will be joining another out-of-state consultant in a session called, “School Budget Hold’em – Strategic resource use is the name of the game.”

According to the meeting agenda, “School Budget Hold’em is more than a game. It’s an interactive exploration of the thoughtful trade-offs school district leaders must make, especially in challenging budget times. It evolved out of ERS’ [the out of state consulting company’s] experience working with urban districts across the country. Hold’em helps change the conversation from “Where do we cut?” to “How can we best use each dollar to achieve our long term vision for student success?” Experience the game and see how you can use it in your district. Each participating district will get a set of “Hold’em” cards to take back to their district. ERS and CCER will also discuss their joint collaboration to perform a school district funding analysis for a Alliance District and how they can help your district.”

So there you go…

The Malloy administration’s approach to public schools;

(1) Hire out-of-state consultants and (2) hand over State Department of Education responsibilities and operations to a corporate education reform industry lobby group.

Commissioner Pryor, can you tell us which laws are “laws” and which are “bureaucratic technicalities”?

It looked pretty simple.   Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, wrote up a special law to allow Paul Vallas to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools, despite the fact that Vallas wasn’t certified to hold the position nor has he ever taken an education course.

The law required that Vallas works as an acting superintendent for one year and complete a “school leadership program” at a Connecticut university or college.

Instead of enrolling and completing a school leadership program, Paul Vallas took a single independent study course and pretended it was a program.

Last Friday, when Connecticut Judge Bellis ruled that Paul Vallas and Stefan Pryor had violated Connecticut law and that Paul Vallas did not have the credentials necessary to serve as a superintendent in Connecticut; Commissioner Pryor was one of the first to blast the judge and the ruling.

Pryor told the media “We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision…”

Although the law that Pryor helped write said “school leadership program” apparently in Pryor’s mind it meant an” independent study course” and rather than a school leadership program.

So clearly, some laws are meant to be laws and therefore, as a nation of laws, they must be followed while other laws are apparently more like technicalities or optional guidelines.

Since Stefan Pryor graduated from both Yale University and Yale’s Law School, perhaps he could shed some light on the issue for the rest of us.

Which laws are laws and which are bureaucratic technicalities.

For guidance he might want to rely on the pronouncements of other “education reformers.”

Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of the charter school advocacy group called the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) issued the following statement after the court ruling.

“Today’s ruling is unfortunate…it was made based on a bureaucratic technicality…We’re hopeful that in the end, justice will prevail and Superintendent Vallas will be able to continue his work to help ensure a better future for kids in Bridgeport.”

Maria Zambrano, the executive director of Excel Bridgeport, a corporate-funded Vallas fan club also released a comment after the ruling.

“This is an unfortunate ruling… As a community, we also need to have a conversation about what qualifications are necessary to lead a struggling urban school district. Is it a piece of paper declaring someone “certified?” Or is it a track record of results for improving the educational outcomes of students? We believe it to be the latter.”

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform wrote, “That’s why CCER advocates for changing Connecticut’s law to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the statutory requirements for superintendent certification to allow people like Mr. Vallas to help turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing school districts. The current statutory scheme serves to protect the interests of adults in our state, instead of prioritizing the interests of 200,000 children who attend schools in Connecticut’s lowest performing districts.”

The renowned chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Kenneth Moales, told the media;

“Only in Bridgeport would the likes of Mr. Paul Vallas not be qualified to serve as superintendent… This ruling crosses the line;”

And Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who described Vallas as a knight on a white horse and complained that people were throwing mud on the horse explained;

“We disagree entirely with the substance of the judge’s decision. We believe it goes against the great weight of facts presented at trial and the applicable law.”

So Commissioner Pryor, you testified at the trial.  You know the facts.  You know the applicable law because you helped to write it.

What again makes this law not a law?

And for those who want to read a bit about Vallas’ real “record of success,” check out some of the following links

Uh-Oh. New Orleans “Miracle” Crumbles

The Vallas Record in Philadelphia, Revisited

Why Is Philadelphia in Crisis?

Insiders’ Report on History of Chicago Teachers Union

Is Chicago a National Model for School Reform?

Corporate education reform front blasts special Paul Vallas statutory provision that they helped pass

The overarching question is:  Are they that stupid or that ethically bankrupt?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), a corporate-funded education reform group that was created to support Governor Malloy’s education reform initiative has done the impossible.  It has taken the debate surrounding Paul Vallas to a new level of absurdity.

And their action leaves one to wonder whether these privatization advocates really think Connecticut citizens will fall for their outright lie or whether they are so incompetent that they actually don’t know that the very law that Paul Vallas and Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, violated was part of the legislation written by the Malloy administration.

In his case, the statutory language that they are blasting was actually written specifically to help Paul Vallas get around Connecticut’s superintendent certification law.

Here are the facts:

Tthe Connecticut Council for Education Reform sent a statement in an email to their lists that they explained was in response “to the superior court ruling that Superintendent Paul Vallas must be removed from office.”

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform wrote:

 “Sadly, Bridgeport’s 20,000 school children were dealt a major blow on Friday when Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas must be “removed from office” because he has not met the statutory certification requirements necessary to serve as a superintendent in Connecticut.

Worst of all, Judge Bellis ruled properly: under current Connecticut state law, Mr. Vallas, despite his extensive experience and track record of success, arguably does not meet Connecticut’s statutory requirements. And that’s a problem.

 That’s why CCER advocates for changing Connecticut’s law to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the statutory requirements for superintendent certification to allow people like Mr. Vallas to help turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing school districts. The current statutory scheme serves to protect the interests of adults in our state, instead of prioritizing the interests of 200,000 children who attend schools in Connecticut’s lowest performing districts.”

Wait, What?

Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor and the Malloy Administration were the ones who proposed the changes that are now contained in the very statute that the Connecticut Council for Education Reform is “complaining” about.

The old statute allowed the Commissioner of Education to waive an individual’s need for superintendent certification if they were certified as a superintendent in another state and meet other provisions of the law.

But Vallas’ problem was that he was never certified to be a superintendent in another state.

In fact he never took a single education course and has never been certified for any job in a public school.

So in response to Vallas’ complete inability to meet the existing statutory requirement to his need for certification waived, Governor Malloy proposed and the General Assembly adopted language which significantly watered-downed the state laws to accommodate Paul Vallas.

The new statutory language allowed Commissioner Pryor to waive Vallas’ need for certification if he served for as an acting superintendent for a year and completed a school leadership program at a Connecticut institution of higher education.

The law took effect on July 1, 2012 and Vallas could have picked any number of school leadership programs that exist at Connecticut public and independent colleges.

In February 2013, more than seven months after the law specifically written for Vallas went into effect; Vallas approached the University of Connecticut to see if he could enroll in their Education Leadership Program.

However, Vallas did not have the necessary credentials to get into UConn’s well-known training program.  The program required students to have at least 15 credits beyond a Master’s Degree.

And Vallas had none.

With the semester already well underway, rather than explore whether he could get into and complete a school leadership program at a different university, Vallas and a UConn professor concocted a three-credit independent study course to take the place of the 13-month intensive training program that every other student had to complete in order to work as a superintendent in Connecticut.

A month later, upon the recommendation of Commissioner Pryor, the State Board of Education approved a “school leadership program” for Vallas, attaching the three credit course outline rather than the curriculum of UConn’s existing Leadership Program.

And six weeks after that, long after grades were due for the UConn semester, Vallas “completed the course.”  Vallas testified, under oath, that the course required seven to ten days-worth of work to complete the curriculum.

Lest we forget…the Connecticut law was written for Paul Vallas.

Yet he didn’t even begin to explore his options for more than seven months and then only completed a three-credit independent study rather than the required 13-month Leadership Program.

And now the Connecticut Council for Education Reform has the audacity to write that, “Sadly, Bridgeport’s 20,000 school children were dealt a major blow on Friday when Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas must be “removed from office” because he has not met the statutory certification requirements necessary to serve as a superintendent in Connecticut…[and that]…CCER advocates for changing Connecticut’s law to allow the Commissioner of Education to waive the statutory requirements for superintendent certification to allow people like Mr. Vallas to help turn around Connecticut’s lowest-performing school districts. The current statutory scheme serves to protect the interests of adults in our state, instead of prioritizing the interests of 200,000 children who attend schools in Connecticut’s lowest performing districts.”

Are you ******* kidding me?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform should immediately withdraw its outrageous statement and provide the media and the people of Connecticut with the correct information, along with an apology for misleading people on this issue.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Board of Directors is made up of the following people.  Let’s see if any of them have the ethical decency to ensure that their organization takes the appropriate action

CCER Board of Directors:

Steven J. Simmons, Chairman, (Chairman & CEO, Simmons/Patriot Media & Communications)

Ramani Ayer, Vice-Chairman, (Retired Chairman & CEO, The Hartford)

Roxanne Coady, Secretary & Treasurer (President & Founder, RJ Julia Bookstore)

Mary Barneby (CEO, Girl Scouts of Connecticut)

Marna Borgstrom (President & CEO, Yale New Haven Hospital System)

John Crawford (President, Strategem, LLC; Lead Director of Board of Directors, Webster Bank)

Mitchell Etess (CEO, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority)

William W. Ginsberg (President & CEO, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven)

Kim Jeffery (President & CEO, Nestle Waters North America)

John R. Koelmel (President & CEO, First Niagara Financial Group)

Ned Lamont (Founder and Chairman, Campus TeleVideo; Distinguished Professor, Central Connecticut State University)

Brian MacLean (President & COO, The Travelers Companies, Inc.)

John R. Rathgeber (President & CEO, Connecticut Business & Industry Association)

Peter Salovey (Provost and President-Elect, Yale University)

Jim Torgerson (President & CEO, United Illuminating Holdings Corporation)

Dudley N. Williams, Jr. (Director of Corporate Citizenship & Diversity, GE Asset Management Group)

And if any of the members of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Board of Directors aren’t aware of the facts surrounding the Vallas court case, they might want to read up about it at the Washington Post or any number of other media outlets including the following:

A truly historic victory over the education-industrial reform complex… (from Wait, What?)

Or the Connecticut Post: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/School-s-out-for-Vallas-4637246.php

CT Mirror:  https://www.ctmirror.org/story/judge-rules-bridgeport-superintendent-not-eligible-run-school-district

Hartford Courant:  http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-judge-orders-vallas-out-0629-20130628,0,861011.story

Connecticut Post Editorial:  http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Vallas-ruling-just-the-latest-failure-4637077.php

It’s about time legislators stopped listening to propaganda and started paying attention to research” (Sarah Darer Littman)

The sentence comes from columnist and fellow education advocate Sarah Darer Littman latest commentary piece in this weekend’s CTNewsjunkie.

The topic:  Education Reform in Connecticut

Compared to what is actually taking place in Hartford and state capitols around the country, she might have begun her piece with the term, “when pigs fly” or “when Hell freezes over” or any number of other adynata. [Turns out the phrase is called an Adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole that is taken to such extreme lengths as to suggest a complete impossibility].

Sarah Darer Littman’s piece stands as a beacon of truth compared to the drivel Rae Ann Knopf, the executive director of the corporate driven, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, had published on CTNewsjunkie earlier in the week.  The two pieces should be read in tandem to get the full effect.  Read Knopf’s corporate education reform argument and then Sarah Darer Littman’s piece entitled Legislate Based On Research, Not Hyperbole.

The corporate education reform advocates falsely claim that not only will Malloy’s education reform legislation be good for children and our schools, but the cost of these unfunded mandates will be negligible, when such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

As Darer Littman writes,

“One hopes our legislators have been paying attention to the experience of our neighbors in New York as they listen to advocates from the Big Six (ConnCan, CCER, CBIA, CAPSS, CAS, and CABE). According to March report by the New York State School Boards Association and based on an analysis of data from 80 school districts, the districts outside the state’s five largest cities expect to spend an average of $155,355 on the state’s new evaluation system this year.

That’s $54,685 more than the average federal Reach To the Top grant awarded to districts to implement the program.

“Our analysis . . . shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” says Executive Director Timothy Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”

At a time when Connecticut’s towns and cities already face the potential for significant state aid reductions based on Gov. Dannel P.  Malloy’s proposed budget, is it any wonder that the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities testified in favor of delaying a system that is proving costly and problematic elsewhere?”

Darer Littman then turns her attention to the even more important point that Malloy’s entire teacher evaluation system is a farce and insult to the notion of creating better schools and ensuring that our state’s children are provided with the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Calling Darer Littman’s piece a “must read” piece is a truly an understatement.

You can find it here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_legislate_based_on_research_not_hyperbole/

Will someone speak up for Latino students? Corporate reform group overlooks the truth in effort to bolster charter schools.

Will someone speak up for Latino students?

Corporate reform group overlooks the truth in effort to bolster charter schools.  

Rae Ann Knopf, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform recently took issue with a commentary piece written by Wendy Lecker (recent commentary) that was published in the Stamford Advocate and Connecticut Post and then reposted here at Wait, What?

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a business group that was one of the biggest supporters of Governor Malloy’s” Education Reform” proposal.  The organization’s board of directors is made up of a number of corporate executives including the Presidents, CEO or COOs of United Illuminating, First Niagara Bank, The Travelers, Nestle Waters North America, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the Retired Chairman & CEO of The Hartford.

In her commentary piece, Wendy Lecker reminded readers that as part of Malloy’s education reform effort, Hartford’s Milner School, a school where 40 percent of the students go home to households where English is not the primary language, was given to a nearby charter school management organization Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), despite the fact that FUSE has never had a non-English speaking student attend their Jumoke Academy schools.

Rather than devote the time and resources to help the Milner School succeed, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education gave the school, the students and millions of taxpayer dollars to a private entity that has no experience teaching bi-lingual students.  Not surprisingly, according to a recent report to the State Department of Education, the Jumoke Academy has failed to take the necessary steps to strengthen its bi-lingual program and the number of students attending the Milner School has dropped.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform’s Rae Ann Knopf came to the Jumoke Charter School’s defense writing, “Observing that enrollment at Milner, a school partnering with Jumoke Academy, has gone down, Ms. Lecker writes, “we can already see that Jumoke’s Milner is not the same as last year’s Milner.” (see Knopf’s response here)

Knopf adds, “Well, we certainly hope not. Over the last three years at “last year’s Milner”, students scored an average of 32.8 on the School Performance Index (SPI). Put in lay terms, that means most Milner students were not even scoring at the “Basic” level on their CMTs. In contrast, Jumoke students scored a three-year average SPI of 80.1 (which is close to the statewide achievement target of 88). That score indicates that many Jumoke students had “Advanced” and “Goal” CMT scores. As measured by test scores, students at Jumoke were more than twice as successful as students at Milner. There’s nothing unreasonable about the hypothesis that a partnership between Milner and Jumoke should advance student learning at the former Milner School.”

Once again, the education reformers will go to any length, even misrepresent the facts, to defend their school privatization agenda.

Rae Ann Knopf claims, “As measured by test scores, students at Jumoke were more than twice as successful as students at Milner.”

Even the education reformers recognize that the three most powerful factors determining test scores are poverty, language barriers and the number of students who need special education services

So what are the facts?

Percent of Students not fluent in English Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

20%

0%

 

Percent of Students going home to non-English speaking households Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

39%

0%

 

Percent of Students with special education needs Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

11%

2%

 

Percent of Students qualifying for Free or Reduce Lunch Milner School Jumoke Academy

2010

100%

72%

 

So if the students attending the Milner School are significantly more poor, have far greater language barriers and a far greater number need special education services, is it surprising that test scores are lower at Milner than at Jumoke?

Of course not!

So do you then give the Milner School, its students and its taxpayer funds to a school that doesn’t have any experience with a major portion of the community?

Of course not!   Unless you are part of Governor Malloy’s education reform plan.

And what happens when you transfer all that money to an entity that doesn’t have any experience?

According to the Commissioner’s Network Midyear Operations and Instruction Audit for the Thurman Milner School;

Four months into the year, Jumoke still hadn’t hired a bi-lingual teacher

And “Some teachers described an ELL push-in model and others describe a pull out model, so it is assumed that both approaches are used.  While classroom teachers have had training in instructional strategies to use in teaching ELL students, some report that they could use more training in that area.”

Wait, What??

One in five Jumoke-Milner students are not fluent in English and 40% of the students go home to households that don’t speak English and Jumoke still hasn’t hired a bi-lingual teacher and the teachers report that they DON’T KNOW if the Jumoke Administrators are using a “push-in or pull out” model of teaching English Language Learners?

Not only is CCER’s Executive Director overlooking the facts by defending the Jumoke Academy but the Commissioner’s Network Program and Governor Malloy’s education reform plans are failing to provide the most vital services to the children of the Milner School and especially the schools large Latino population.

If that is what the Connecticut Council for Education Reform considers a success, it is a sad day in Connecticut.